"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up"Pablo Picasso


Who is Martin Luther?

Who is Martin Luther?

Martin Luther (born November 10, 1483 in Eisleben, original surname Luder, February 18, 1546 ibid) was the theological author and teacher of the Reformation. As a theology professor belonging to the Augustinian monks, he wanted to eliminate undesirable developments in the Catholic Church by focusing exclusively on Jesus Christ as the Incarnate Word of God. His discovery of the grace of God, his sermons and writings - especially his Luther Bible - had a wide impact. They were used by the principalities of the 16th century to push back the central powers of Pope and Emperor, and changed the medieval society sustainably. Under her influence, contrary to Luther's intentions, a division of the Church, the formation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and other denominations of Protestantism occurred.


Luther's parents were the farmer, miner, mine owner and later councilor Hans Luder (1459-1530) and his wife Margarethe, b. Lindemann (1459-1531), who came from Möhra. Luther was born as her first or second son in Eisleben. On the following Martinstag (11 November 1483) he was baptized in the name of the day's saint. He grew up in neighboring Mansfeld, where the father acquired modest prosperity as a metallurgical master in copper shale mining. Both "Luther cities" are located in Mansfelder Land and today in the district of Mansfeld-Südharz in Saxony-Anhalt and had at that time a few thousand inhabitants.

Luther experienced a then normal, strict fatherly, but also loving education. His parents were faithful to the church, but not overly pious. From 1488 to 1497 he attended the Mansfeld city school and then for a year the Magdeburg cathedral school. There, the brothers taught him the common life, a late medieval revival movement. In 1498 his parents sent him to the Franziskanerstift Eisenach, where he received a musical-poetic education. He was considered a very good singer.


From 1501 to 1505 Luther studied at the University of Erfurt in Thuringia and received the "Magister Artium" of the Faculty of Philosophy: This included a basic education in Latin in the subjects of grammar, rhetoric, logic, ethics and music. Here he acquired an exact knowledge of the teachings of Aristotle, who since Thomas Aquinas had dominated medieval scholasticism, but were already in Erfurt in the critique of nominalism.

On his father's request, Luther began his law studies after obtaining his doctorate. But on July 2, 1505, after his parents' visit to Mansfeld on the way back to Erfurt near Stotternheim, he was struck by a severe thunderstorm, was mortally afraid, and called out to St. Anne, Mary's mother: St. Anna, help! If you let me live, I will become a monk. Why the young Luther took just this vow and then took a church life, explains neither his education nor his fear of death entirely. In any case, he entered on 17 July 1505 against the will of his father in the monastery of the Augustinian Hermits in Erfurt.

Here he practiced the rules of the Order in exemplary austerity, so that he was ordained a priest on February 27, 1507. Despite daily penances Luther suffered great conscience. His main question was: how do I get a gracious God? The question was not aroused by abuses of ecclesiastical practice, but by the sacrament of penance, the prerequisite of which was sincere repentance for love of God, not fear of God's punishment, and the confession of all, even the most secret, self-unconscious sins. Luther took these demands very seriously and therefore plunged into desperate salvation knowing whether he could fulfill this condition or whether he would incur eternal damnation with an invalid absolution. He experienced his inability, out of love, not afraid to fulfill God's demands, so that he also doubted the promised forgiveness.

His confessor, Johann von Staupitz, the Vicar General of the Congregation, then recommended Luther to study theology and in 1508 sent him to Wittenberg. In the local monastery school he got to know the theology of Ockham, who emphasized God's freedom as well as the human free will, in addition the church fathers, above all - mediated by the "Sentenzen" of the Peter Lombardus - Augustin. A year later, he also earned his doctorate baccalarius biblicus (Professor of the Bible), who mastered Greek and Hebrew, and had now in addition to moral philosophy and biblical subjects to teach.

In 1510, Luther traveled to Rome to protest, on behalf of his convention in Erfurt, to which he had meanwhile returned, against the above-ordered union of the stern "Observants" with the more liberal Augustinian monasteries. He participated in a General Confession and slid up the "Holy Stairs" on the Lateran on his belly to obtain forgiveness of sins for himself and his relatives. At that time he did not yet doubt the practice of repentance in Rome, but he was already appalled by the wretchedness and moral decay which he encountered in Rome.

In 1511 Staupitz brought him again to Wittenberg and made him in 1512 as a doctor of theology to his successor. With the Thomistic thought that his conscience was caused by God himself, to awaken true humility in him, he could alleviate Luther's conscience, but not solve. Nevertheless, their friendship continued until Staupitz's death in 1524.

In the following years, Luther gave lectures on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles, some of which have preserved original manuscripts or verbatim copies. By this one can understand in detail his development to break with the Roman Catholic teachings. At first he followed the pattern of the "fourfold sense of Scripture" and allegorically interpreted the Old Testament to Christ. He adhered to the traditional interpretation of the Bible Ockhamism, Neo-Platonism, mysticism or the "Devotio moderna", but they were already completely on the faith of the individual to. His hopeless loss he already faced the immediate grace of God, even without thinking about their mediation through the Church and the sacraments. Significantly, themes such as the papacy and the virgin birth did not play a role here.

Reformatory Turn

In Luther's research it is disputed when Luther discovered the righteousness of God sola gratia (by grace alone). From the dating of the Reformation discovery depends on their substantive definition and meaning for the beginning of the Reformation with.

In a later self-statement, Luther described this turning point as an unexpected enlightenment, which he experienced in his study in the south tower of the Wittenberg Augustinian monastery. Some date this tower experience to the years 1511-1513, others around 1515 or around 1518, still others assume a gradual development of the Reformation turn. It is undisputed that Luther felt his experience as a great liberation. In the lonely meditation on the Bible verse Rom 1:17 EU, he suddenly discovered what he had been looking for in vain for a decade.

For therein is revealed the righteousness which is before God, which comes from faith and leads to faith; As it is written (Hab 2,4 EU): The righteous will live by faith.

This Bible verse sooner or later led to his new understanding of the Scriptures: God's eternal righteousness is a pure gift of grace given to man only by faith in Jesus Christ. No personal contribution can force this gift. Even faith, the acceptance of the appropriate grace, is not a humanly possible work.

Thus Luther's entire medieval theology was broken with its artful balance between human capacities and divine revelation (synergism). From now on, he took an increasingly critical look at the Church, which, in all its forms and contents, saw itself as a mediation center for the grace of God in man.

Luther's new understanding of justification by grace of God is already formulated in the 1515 LDS letter, albeit blended with the schemata of Augustine and the mysticism of Johannes Tauler. In 1516 he also published the Theologia deutsch, the work of an unknown mystic (called the "Frankfurter"), which encouraged him in his growing rejection of external ecclesiastical rites.

With the change of his last name from Luder to Luther - after the Greek word ελευθερός (eleutheros: "liberator", "free") - he signaled since 1517 also externally his inner transformation.

Indulgence and 95 Theses

Luther had already met penitential practices during his trip to Rome, which he internally rejected. The sale of indulgences was intended to finance the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Letters of indulgence should certify to the faithful a money allowance for them or for relatives who have already died, but were sold as a remission of sins for money: when the money sounds in the box, the soul jumps out of purgatory. Exactly one year before the theses in Wittenberg Luther first publicly preached against it.

In the summer of 1517 he received the Instructio Summarium, written by Mainz Cardinal Albrecht, an instruction for the indulgence preachers who were traveling around the country. With part of this revenue, the archbishop wanted to pay his debts, which he had with the Fuggers. These had financed his electorate. He also sent the indulgence preacher Johann Tetzel to Saxony.

Luther first published 97 theses on September 4, 1517, only for his faculty colleagues, in order to start a dispute on all scholastic theology among them. A literal copy of it was recently found in the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel. Only then did Luther write the series of ninety-five theses that directly referred to the indulgence, and which - if one takes the tradition of Philip Melanchthon - struck him on October 31 at the main portal of the castle church in Wittenberg. Whether the theses have really happened this way is controversial in research.

These theses found the great public response that triggered the Reformation. In it Luther protested less against the financial practices of the Catholic Church than against the repentance expressed in it. The sale of indulgences was for him only the external occasion to demand a fundamental reform of the whole church "on head and limbs". He did not attack the pope directly, but saw his task in intercession for all believers. In 1518, for the broader population, he wrote the sermon of indulgence and grace in a simple, understandable manner.

Cardinal Albrecht now announced Luther in Rome; Tetzel responded with counter-theses to the disputation series of September, in which he supported the Ingolstadt theologian Johannes Eck. In April 1518 Luther was allowed to explain his theology in the Heidelberg Disputation on behalf of Staupitz before the Augustinian Congregation. Here he sharply demarcated the exclusive relation of grace to faith against Aristotle and human free will. He won a number of followers who later became reformers, including Martin Bucer, Johannes Brenz, Sebastian Franck. In August, the University of Wittenberg also appointed Philip Melanchthon, who soon became Luther's closest friend and pupil.

The Roman Process

In June 1518, the Curia summoned Luther to Rome to investigate the threat of heresy in a trial. Even before the appointment, the accusation was changed to notorious heresy: spies in Luther's Wittenberg lectures had denounced him with fake theses. He requested for health reasons a hearing in German territory, where he relied on the Gravamina German nation. The Saxon Elector Frederick the Wise, who was to extradite him, supported him.

Thus, Luther's process was involved in political interests: Pope Leo X. needed the Elector for the upcoming election of the emperor and gave his objection in August 1518 therefore. Cardinal Thomas Cajetan was to interrogate Luther at the Diet of Augsburg. From October 12 to 14, 1518, Luther spoke there. He refused to revoke unless he was rebutted out of the Bible. For Cajetan he was thus convicted as a heretic and should have been handed over. But Friedrich continued to reject this. Luther escaped the threat of arrest on the night of 20 to 21 October 1518 by escaping from Augsburg.

In January 1519, Emperor Maximilian I died: He had intended the Spanish King Charles I as successor. The Pope wanted to prevent this, because he feared because of Charles's possessions in Italy, an encirclement of the Papal State. Therefore, he initially left Luther's process to rest and commissioned Karl von Miltitz to win the Elector for a peaceful solution. The Roman ambassador achieved Luther's silence.

During the process break Eck theses for a debate with Luther's Wittenberger fellow lecturer Andreas Bodenstein (called Karlstadt) on. These were directed so clearly against Luther, that this broke his silence and from 4 to 14 July 1519 personally participated in the Leipzig Disputation. There, Eck pointed the conflict to the question of the Pope's authority; Luther now ventured the thesis that the Pope had been the leader of Christianity only for 400 years - the Decretum Gratiani, the papal equivalent to canon law.

Eck then attempted to convict Luther as a follower of Jan Hus, who had been burned as a heretic 100 years earlier; Luther accused Rome in return of the secession of orthodoxy. He now also subordinated the Council of Constance to the authority of Scripture. Although this had ended the juxtaposition of three popes, but the question of authority - Council or Pope - not clarified. In this context, Luther's sentence fell: Even councils can be wrong. In doing so, he placed the individual freedom of conscience in listening to the Bible also through authoritative consensus decisions of the bishops. This was the break with the Catholic Church.
Title page of the first edition of "Exsurge Domine"
Title page of the first edition of "Exsurge Domine"

After Karl had been elected Emperor on June 28, 1519, the curia resumed Luther's trial. After another unsuccessful interrogation before Cajetan, the Pope issued on June 15, 1520 the bannister Exsurge Domine. It condemned Luther's sentences, which had been taken out of context and partly distorted, without explanation and refutation, setting a deadline of 60 days for submission and threatening him with an excommunication.

Reichstag to Worms

Nevertheless, in October 1520, Luther dedicated Pope Leo his treatise On the Freedom of a Christian and Appealed to a New Council. On December 10, however, he completed the definitive break by responding to burns of his books with the burning of the bull and some writings of scholasticism and canon law before the Wittenberg Elstertor. He was then excommunicated on January 3, 1521 with the bannubulet Decet Romanum Pontificem.

This and his Reformation main scriptures now made Luther known throughout the kingdom. The book printing, the general social dissatisfaction and political readiness to reform helped him to an extraordinary journalistic success: By the end of 81 single and font collections had appeared by him, often translated into other languages, in a total of 653 editions. In many countries similar reform efforts began to take shape, which were now very much determined by political tensions between principalities and central powers.

Elector Frederick the Wise reached through tenacious negotiation that Luther was allowed to explain and defend his position before the next Reichstag. This shows the decline of the medieval power of the Pope and Emperor: Charles V was the last emperor crowned by a pope. On April 17, 1521 Luther stood before the Diet of Worms, was interrogated before the assembled princes and imperial estates and last called for revocation. After a day of reflection and knowing that this could be his death, he declined with the following reason:

Since ... my conscience is trapped in the words of God, I can not and do not want to revoke anything, because it is dangerous and impossible to do something against the conscience. God help me. Amen. 6

The often quoted statement Here I stand, I can not help it, God help me, Amen is historically not guaranteed. On it the Reichstag imposed on 26 May 1521 the dated back to the 8th of May, signed by the Emperor Worms edict about him: 7 It banned the custody of the pope throughout the empire to support or support Luther, his Scriptures to read or print, and commanded to arrest him and deliver him to the Emperor. However, the imperial power was only communicated to the estates after the official Reichstag, so that their validity was often denied. Even so, everyone could have killed Luther without being prosecuted: he was now "outlawed." In accordance with the promise to his elector, however, he received safe conduct. Later, Charles V regretted this promise, because the following Reformation destroyed the unity of his empire.

The outlaw was secretly abducted by Friedrichs soldiers on the way home near Altenstein Castle near Bad Liebenstein on the evening of May 4, 1521, and arrested on the Eisenach Wartburg to escape danger.

Bible Translation

At the Wartburg, Luther remained incognito until 1 March 1522 as "Junker Jörg". On the advice of Melanchthon, he translated the New Testament into German in just eleven weeks in the fall of 1521. As a template served him a copy of the Greek Bible of Erasmus of Rotterdam, along with its own Latin translation and the Vulgate. Luther's translation of the Bible appeared in September 1522. In 1523 Luther's first partial translation of the Old Testament appeared; Both together experienced 22 authorized editions and 110 reprints by 1525, so that up to a third of all reading Germans had this book. 8 In 1534 Luther also translated the rest of the Old Testament from the manuscripts of the Masorets, which had been rediscovered at that time; Both testaments together form the famous Luther Bible.

This made Luther biblical content accessible to the common people. Although there were already 14 High German and four Low German printed Bible editions. But these translations were based on the Vulgate, which was the basis of the Greek Septuagint: So they had at least two translation steps behind them. Luther, like the humanists, sought a translation of the Hebrew and Greek original texts as directly as possible. He translated less literally, but tried to translate biblical statements according to their literal meaning (sensus literalis) into German. He wanted to "look the people in the mouth" and therefore used a strong, rich in images, popular and generally understandable language. But he also put them out according to his conception of what Christ is doing (God's grace in Christ as the goal and center of the whole Scripture).

The linguistic form was the East Middle German of his homeland, in which North and South German dialects had already merged before Luther. But only through his translation of the Bible did this dialect develop into common High German. It is also considered poetically as a great achievement, as it was thought through into the syllable rhythm in. 9

Protestants use the Luther Bible with several revised editions (most recently in 1984) to this day. It is also an important base of church music, whose texts are used for chorales, cantatas, motets, etc.

Even Luther's sermons and writings were written in a strong and popular language, where he did not disdain vulgar expressions. Many heartfelt quotes became known as: From a happy ass comes a happy fart.

Reformation in Wittenberg

In Wittenberg Karlstadt preached meanwhile for far-reaching divine service reforms: u. a. against the monasteries, sacrificial prayers, pictures in churches and for the sacrament with the lay cup. From 1522, the city council implemented the changes and also adopted measures against poverty and fornication, as proposed by Luther in his writings of 1520. But the tumult did not ebbten: Many nuns and monks now left the monasteries in Saxony. The "Zwickau prophets", who took action against the infant baptism under the visionary Nikolaus Storch and the Luther student Thomas Müntzer and who had therefore been expelled from Zwickau, aggravated the unrest.

Then Luther followed the call for help of the city fathers and returned in March to Wittenberg. With daily sermons he convinced the citizens within a week of more moderate reforms. Love, not external things are decisive; Picture removal is unnecessary, because pictures do not hurt. Except for the sacrificial prayers, he left the Roman Messordnung unchanged, but introduced next to the Protestant sacrament. This restored calm, and Karlstadt left the city.

With Luther's demarcation from the "Schwarmers" fell a preliminary decision for the course of the Reformation: The radical break with Catholic forms of worship remained as well as simultaneous profound social reforms. Luther now received support from the Bohemian brothers and the Utraquists (moderate Hussites).

Marriage and Family

Katharina von Bora had fled together with eight other nuns at Easter in April 1523 from the monastery Nimbschen (Cistercian nuns) and lived since then in Wittenberg. Luther became engaged to her on June 13 and celebrated his wedding on June 27, 1525. The marriage corresponded to his teachings, since he no longer understood her as a sacral sacrament, rejected celibacy and demanded the dissolution of the monasteries.

Katharina was a great help to him in his personal problems. By harboring students who wrote down many of Luther's sayings, she bent on economic needs. Luther had six children with her: John (born June 7, 1526 in Wittenberg, † October 27, 1575 in Königsberg (Prussia)), Elisabeth (born December 10, 1527 in Wittenberg, † August 3, 1528 in Wittenberg), Magdalena ( Born May 4, 1529 in Wittenberg, † September 20, 1542 in Wittenberg), Martin (born November 7, 1531 in Wittenberg, † March 4, 1565 in Wittenberg), Paul (born January 28, 1533 in Wittenberg, † March 8 1593 in Leipzig) and Margarethe (born December 17, 1534 in Wittenberg, † 1570 in Mühlhausen / Ostpreussen).

Luther's coat of arms was the "Lutherrose". 11 In a letter of July 8, 1530 he described it this way (picture):

The first should be a cross - black - in the heart, which would have its natural color. For if one believes from the heart, one becomes righteous ... Such a heart shall stand in the midst of a white rose, indicating that faith gives joy, comfort and peace ... therefore the rose shall be white and not red; because white color is the ghost and all angel color. Such rose stands in the sky-colored field, that such joy in spirit and faith is a beginning of heavenly joy in the future ... And around such a field a golden ring, that such blessedness in heaven lasts eternally and has no end and also delicious over all joy and goods how gold is the noblest and most delicious ore ...

Attitude to the German Peasants' War

The medieval feudal order also led, as a result of many wars, that the princes imposed more and more charges on the peasants, increasingly restricting their customary rights (for example, hunting, fishing, wood cutting) and forcing them into serfdom. This led already in the 15th century to a series of peasant uprisings, first in Switzerland. In German areas it came from 1524 to 1526 to the Great Peasant War. Based on Swiss, Swabian and Baden farmers, the uprisings spread like wildfire. Some cities also joined, as dissatisfaction with princes and bishops had generally become very great.

The 12 articles gave their demands a unified approach: they ranged from the mere restoration of their customary rights to the abolition of serfdom and basic democratic rights. They invoked the "divine law" and Luther's writing principle sola scriptura. Like him, they agreed to drop their demands as soon as they were proved wrong by the Bible. This gave their already religiously based hopes for social liberation their first impact.

Luther was aloof from the 12 articles because of their misguided appeal to the Bible. In April 1525, however, in a pamphlet he sought a friendly settlement and a balanced judgment, seized upon some legitimate demands of the peasants, and dismissed them as well as the princes. But after some peasants had murdered a count and his companions (Weinsberg bloodlust), Luther wrote his writing Against the murderous rotting peasants. This condemned the rebellions now as the work of the devil and called on all princes - regardless of their denomination - to suppress the peasants with all necessary force. As a result, the princes, who had Luther's word for weight, strengthened their counterparts.

In 1525, the uprisings also reached Thuringia and Saxony. Here Thomas Müntzer had become the spokesman for the peasants. At first he had tried, as Luther did, to win the country princes for reforms. After Luther had encouraged the Elector to reject Müntzer's demands, his independent reform attempts were banned in Allstedt. Now Müntzer took over the leadership of the peasant army and wanted to lead it to Mansfeld in order to disempower the resident count. At Bad Frankenhausen his army was provided by the Fürstenheer and surrounded. The peasants were armed only with flails and scythes and had little combat experience. Müntzer was not a military leader, but an eloquent preacher. After sham negotiations, the mounted soldiers dispersed the peasants and set up a bloodbath in which about 5,000 peasants were murdered. Müntzer was caught a few days later and beheaded.

After this defeat, all other insurrections were gradually suppressed. It is estimated that 75,000 to 130,000 farmers lost their lives in German-speaking countries. Only in some southern German cities and areas have some of their demands been met; In many cases, their burdens have even been exacerbated. After this first revolutionary attempt it took more than 300 years before feudalism, and 400, until the monarchy in Germany was overcome.

Behind Luther's rejection of the peasant uprisings was his disagreement with Müntzer. He had found impulses for the social revolution as a Luther student in the Bible. He believed that it was God's will to directly change the plight of the poor and to bring political conditions into line with the coming kingdom of God in order to make the uneducated ready to receive the Gospel. Luther, on the other hand, strictly rejected the immediate use of the Bible for political purposes, and in 1521 he resisted Ulrich von Hutten's objection to "arguing for the Gospel with violence and murder." He distinguished the "worldly" from the "spiritual" realm; although the Christian meets in both God's will, but in different forms. The biblical commandments apply only to the faithful; those who directly transfer them to politics endanger the gospel, which should free the consciences and not enslave them by new laws (see Two-Kingdoms Doctrine). Therefore, he welcomed Müntzer's end as a just punishment for the "devil" who had rebelled against God's order. Nevertheless, he felt responsible for the carnage, which had happened not least on his call. With his recommendation of the Weingartner contract, he continued to distinguish legitimate from unjustified reforms.

Consolidation of the Reformation

Since 1525, the Reformation lost its character as a popular movement and became a matter for the sovereign princes, who emerged strengthened from the defeat of the peasants. Thus the institutionalization of national churches began. The consequence of the two-kingdom doctrine would actually have been a complete rebuilding of the Protestant church on the sole basis of Reformation theology. However, Luther, like most of his contemporaries, considered that denominational diversity within a territory was impracticable and recommended that people of other faiths emigrate.

Since in the German-speaking areas at first no Catholic bishop joined the Reformation and an arbitrary exclusion of other faiths for Luther was forbidden by God's official assumption, he asked the Saxon Elector in 1525, as an outstanding member of the Church whose visitation -. the review of the clergy for faithfulness and governance in the spirit of the gospel - to order. This pragmatic and situation-based concept of distress soon became the rule in Protestant areas, where it favored the development of denominational national churches, which were protected by the princes but also guided and dependent. 14

When the Catholic imperial estates in 1529 at the second Diet of Speyer enforced the abolition of the previous partial tolerance of the Protestants, put the Protestant estates (five principalities and 14 cities from Upper Germany) the protest at Speyer. Since then, the Protestant Christians have been called Protestants. At the following Diet of Augsburg in 1530, Luther's followers wanted to have the Protestant faith recognized by the Reich. For this Melanchthon wrote the Protestant creed, the "Confessio Augustana", the Emperor Karl presented at the Augsburg Reichstag and was eventually tolerated by him. Luther could not participate as an outlaw and supported his followers from the fortress Coburg, but also criticized some of Melanchthon's compromise formulas as too accommodating.

Late Period

After the Augsburg Diet, Luther emerged only pastoral and journalistic. He held lectures in Wittenberg until 1545, but since 1535 almost exclusively on the history of creation. With various statements on theological and political issues, he continued to try to influence the progress of the Reformation, but with far fewer direct effects.

In the Turkish wars (1521-1543), Luther, like many other theologians, called upon the emperor and the imperial estates in 1529 to join in a common war of defense, but with a vehement rejection of the idea of ​​a crusade. Since 1535, however, he called in some scriptures to meet the "enemies of Christ" with the sharpest wrath. Thus he advocated against his principle to burn heretics is against the will of the Holy Spirit (1519) the persecution of the Baptist movement. In 1535, Catholic and Protestant princes together ended the Baptist kingdom of Münster. 1543 appeared "From the Jews and their lies" (s.u.), 1545 "Against the papacy at Rome, donated by the devil".

Despite a long-lasting heart condition he traveled in January 1546 over Halle to Eisleben to settle a dispute of the Count of Mansfeld. He died at the destination on 18 February 1546. His body was transferred to Wittenberg and buried on 22 February in the castle church.