with No Comments

The Early Life of Luther



1483 November 10 Luther is born at roughly 11:00 p.m. in Eisleben to Hans and Margaretta Luther.  On November 11 Luther is baptized in the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul.
1484 Hans Luther, disappointed with business prospects in Eisleben, moves to Mansfeld, hoping to make a living in the copper mines there.
1491 Hans Luther leases a smelter from the count of Mansfeld. The family’s financial security improves.  Later Hans becomes very successful owning a number of smelting businesses.  In March, Luther begins school at the Mansfeld Latinschule.
1497 Luther begins boarding school in Magdeburg where he boards with the Brethren of the Common Life.
1498 Luther begins attending the parish school of St. George in Eisenach.
1499 Luther moves in with Heinrich Schalbe, one of the leading men of the city and father of one of Luther’s classmates.
1501 May Luther begins studying liberal arts at the University of Erfurt, one of the best universities at the time. His father picked the school and paid the tuition. Erfurt: Population, 20,000. 22 monasteries, 23 churches, 36 chapels, 6 hospitals.
1502 Elector Frederick the Wise founds Wittenberg University.  In September, Luther takes the baccalaureate exams  at Erfurt and finishes 30th in a group of 57 and receives his Baccalaureate degree.  He begins studying for his Masters.
1505 January Luther receives his Masters degree at the University of Erfurt. His father gives him a copy of Corpus Iuris and arranges for his entry into law school. Luther is planning to be a lawyer. In May Luther begins law school at University of Erfurt. He is required to teach philosophy for the Liberal Arts program.
1505 July 2 Luther, on his way back to Erfurt from parents’ house, is caught in a bad thunderstorm. He is nearly struck by lightening and thrown to the ground. He vows he will become a monk if St. Ann will save him.
1505 July 17 Luther enters the Black Monastery in Erfurt, joining the Augustinian Hermits, a strict but not terribly austere order of mendicant monks. His friends walk him to the door crying. His father, who wants him to be a lawyer, is furious.
1506 July Luther takes his monastic vows
1507 Luther begins to study theology at the University of Erfurt.  In April, Luther is ordained to the priesthood.
1508 Luther teaches during winter semester at the new Wittenberg University. As part of his university duties he has to teach Aristotle.  He hates it!  This is important since it reminds us that the whole of the Western Tradition has varying relationships to Plato and Aristotle.  We remember that Abelard adored Aristotle.  Now we meet a theologian who detests Aristotle.  In other words, the 1800-year reign of Aristotle is now coming to an end.  Other thinkers will join Luther in rejecting Aristotle: Descartes and Galileo.
1509 October 1 Luther returns to Erfurt from Wittenberg.
1511 January Luther in Rome. A delegation of Luther’s Augustinian Order goes to Rome to discuss affairs of the order.  Luther is invited to go.  Thus 28-year old Luther spends one month in Rome at the same time that Michelangelo is painting the Sistine Chapel and Raphael is painting the “School of Athens.”
1511 April Staupitz arranges that Luther come to Wittenberg to stay.  He moves into the newly constructed (Augustinian) Black Cloister.
1512 Professor at University of Wittenberg. In May, Luther begins teaching again at the University of Wittenberg.  In October, Luther becomes a Doctor of Theology at the University of Wittenberg, at a very young age, (not yet 30).
1513 August Luther begins lecturing on the Psalms.
1515 May Paul’s’ Epistle to the Romans. Luther begins a year of lectures on the Epistle to the Romans.  These lectures are crucial in his intellectual development and creates a bond between him and Paul that is at the center of his intellectual revolution. In a certain sense, one can see the whole of the Reformation as the triumph of Paul.
1516 October Luther begins a year of lectures on Galatians.
1517 The Ninety-Five Theses. Johann Tetzel begins selling indulgences on the borders of Saxony. Among his customers are Luther’s parishioners. He finds out about Tetzel’s activities and begins preaching against indulgences.
1517 October 31 Luther posts the Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church.  His intent is to spur debate. He also sends copies of the theses to a few bishops and some friends. The work is an instant success and is translated from the Latin to German and printed and circulated widely.
1518 The Debate Begins. The Disputation at Heidelberg. It is a debate of Luther’s ideas at a meeting of the Augustinian chapter.
1518 Summer The Papal Court begins an inquisition in Rome in response to Luther’s ideas. Luther is tried in his absence on charges of heresy.
1518 August 7 Luther is summoned to Rome within sixty days to answer charges against him.
1518 October 12 Luther begins his interview with Cardinal Cajetan in Augsburg (in lieu of going to Rome). Cajetan tells him to recant.
1518 October 20 Luther flees from Augsburg in fear of his life.
1518 October 30 Luther arrives back in Wittenberg and places himself under the protection of Elector Frederick III (“Frederick the Wise”) of Saxony.
1518 November 8 Pope Leo X issues Cum Postquam, outlining the church’s doctrine of indulgences.
1518 December 18 Luther is ready to go into exile. But Frederick decides not to banish him, despite requests by the pope (via his representative Carl von Miltitz) to do so.
1519 The Leipzig debate. March, Luther writes a Letter to Pope Leo X. In the letter he states that it was not his intention to undermine the authority of the pope or the church.  Attempting some rapprochement with the papacy.
1519 June 27 The Leipzig Debate.  Luther debates Johann Eck in Leipzig. At the heart of the debate is the issue of indulgences and the unique authority of the pope and the Roman church.  The debate is huge event with hundreds of students flooding in to Leipzig to watch.  It goes on for days and both debaters talk for hours with no notes.  Result of the debate is to explode the Lutheran issue into a national event.
1520 Martin Luther Versus Pope Leo X.
1520 January 9 Rome restarts the inquisition against Luther and his ideas.
1520 March 15 Rome sends a letter to Staupitz,  the vicar of Luther’s order and Luther’s good friend and mentor telling him to restrain Luther or be dismissed.  Staupitz resigns his position two months later.
1520 May Luther writes his Treatise on Good Works.
1520 June Luther writes The Papacy in Rome.
Luther writes The Open Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation.
Luther receives an offer of protection from 100 knights.
1520 June 15 Pope Leo X issues Bull of Excommunication against Luther. It is entitled Exsurge Domine
(“Arise, Lord, and defend thine own vineyard against the wild boar that is
devouring it.”) Luther has 60 days to recant.
1520 July 20 Luther finishes writing Appeal to the German Nobility.
1520 September Johann Eck posts the bull of excommunication throughout Saxony
1520 October Luther writes The Babylonian Captivity. It attacks the denial of the cup to laity, the mass as a sacrifice, and the seven (as opposed to two) sacraments. It sets Luther irrevocably against Rome.  This is his most radical publication to date since now he was attacking the entire structure of the Roman Catholic Church and its power in its role as administrator of the many sacraments throughout the Christian life.
1520 October 10 Luther receives the papal bull, though he probably knew about it as early as late September.
1520 Mid-October At the University of Erfurt, students rip up a copy of the papal bull and throw it into the water. University officials take no action against them.
1520 November 12 Luther’s books are burned in Cologne. Burning of his book in other cities follows shortly thereafter.
1520 November 20 Luther writes Freedom of the Christian Man and publishes it along with an open letter to Pope Leo X.  In the letter Luther apologizes to the pope personally, but continues to denounce what he sees as false doctrine and corruption. In the treatise he speaks of the freedom a Christian gains with justification.  He attacks directly the whole Roman Catholic Church position on good works and salvation and thus attacks the whole structure of intercessions, prayers and offerings for the dead through the church.
1520 December 10 Luther burns Exsurge Domine  and other papal documents under a large oak outside the walls of the city. He also burns books of church law and books written by his enemies.
1521 January 3 The Diet of Worms. Luther is excommunicated in the bull Decet Romanun Pontificem.
1521 February Elector Frederick the Wise demands Luther not be outlawed or imprisoned without being given the chance to defend himself at a hearing.
1521 March 6 The Emperor Charles V summons Luther to appear before the Diet of Worms
1521 March 8 An edict mandating the sequestration of Luther’s books is issued at the Diet of Worms.
1521 April 6 Luther begins The Journey to Worms, stopping along the way to preach in Erfurt, Eisenach, Gotha, and Frankfurt.  This event has taken on a special significance in the history of the Protestant church since it is viewed as a spectacularly courageous act on Luther’s part: confronting the Emperor and all the power of the Empire and the Papacy in his one lonely person.
1521 April 15 Luther enters Worms in triumphal procession. A crowd has gathered to cheer him.
1521 April 17 The first hearing of the Diet of Worms begins. An official of Trier points to a table of books and asks Luther if he is willing to recant. Luther sees that some of the books are his writings on Scripture. These he is unwilling to recant. He asks for a recess.
1521 April 18 During the second hearing of the Diet, Luther says, “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason– I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other– my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me.”
1521 April 19 Emperor Charles V sides with Rome, wants Luther condemned immediately. The imperial estates want to give Luther a few more days to recant.
1521 April 24 Elector Frederick the Wise tells his brother about his decision to support Luther.
1521 April 25 Diet of Worms is dismissed. Luther leaves the negotiations room and says, “I am finished.”
1521 April 26 Luther leaves Worms as quietly as possible.
1521 May 4 Luther is captured by “bandits” on his way home from Worms. He is taken to safety in Wartburg. Luther knew about the capture beforehand.  The ruse allows Frederick to escape charges of harboring a heretic.
1521 May 10 Luther arrives at Wartburg castle, near Eisenach. He hides there for 11 months (from 5/4/1521 to 2/29/1522). During that time, he grows his hair and a beard and calls himself Junker JÃrg (Knight George).
1521 May 26 Edict of Worms is signed by the emperor and issued. It formally condemns Luther’s teachings and places him under the ban of the Empire.
1521 December Luther begins work on Sermon Postils, a collection of sermons, and on the German New Testament
1521 December A ban is issued against Luther and his followers.
1522 Luther at Wartburg.
While Luther is Wartburg, a number of changes take place in Wittenberg. Monks first refuse to say private Mass, then begin leaving the Augustinian congregation until it is finally disbanded. The minister at the castle church marries. Students destroy the altar at the Franciscan monastery. An Evangelical Lord’s Supper begins to be celebrated with the liturgy in German and the cup offered to the laity.  These developments show how widespread was the support for Luther’s position.  He was not alone.
1522 February The ban on Luther and his followers is lifted.
1522 March 1-6 Luther leaves Wartburg and travels to Wittenberg accompanied by several knights. Upon
arriving in Wittenberg, he immediately preaches in the parish church.  Luther begins two years of
preaching. He travels throughout central Germany, including Erfurt and Weimar.
1522 August 4 Martin Luther writes Contra Henricum Regem Anglicum, a response to King Henry VIII of England’s Assertio septem sacramentorum adversus Martinum Lutherum (Defense of the Seven Sacraments  Luther was neither subtle nor tactful, and his encounter with Henry cost him most of his support in England.
1522 September 21 Luther publishes the German New Testament.
1523 March 6 A New Mass.
The General Council of the Diet of Nürnberg orders Luther and his followers to stop publishing. It outlaws the preaching of anything other than established Roman Catholic doctrine.
1523 June 1 Luther publishes his first Forma Missae et Communionis, a description of the Mass as it is celebrated in Wittenberg. It is in Latin, and is largely the traditional Mass with a few Evangelical touches. Congregational singing and the sermon are in German, but everything else is Latin. Luther expresses the hope that the Mass will soon be celebrated solely in the vernacular. He calls on poets and musicians to develop the appropriate settings.  This move is the beginning of the transformation of the Roman Catholic service into a new Protestant vernacular service.  A parallel movement is going on in England and will soon create the Book of Common Prayer.
1523 July 1 The first Protestant martyrs are burned in Brussels.
1524 Luther and Erasmus.  Renaissance and Reformation.
The Third Imperial Diet of Nuremberg renews the banishment of Luther. By this time, however, he is so popular it is unlikely he would be arrested.  He continues his life and work in Germany. Luther begins two years of argument with Desiderius Erasmus. It causes bad feelings and a minor split with the humanists, who had previously welcomed Luther’s ideas. This relationship between Luther and Erasmus raises one of the most central issues in understanding the Reformation: what did the humanists whether in Italy or elsewhere in Europe contribute to the coming of the Reformation.  In other words, what is the relationship between the Renaissance and the Reformation?

Luther, with Johann Walther’s assistance, publishes the Wittenberg Gesangbuch, a songbook for church use. Luther writes some of the words and tunes, adapts others from popular music.

Luther writes Letters to the Princes of Saxony Concerning the Rebellious Spirit. Luther and his fellow reformers are worried about the relationship between religious rebellion and social rebellion.  Most of the early reformers are NOT social radicals.  They hope to reform the church at the same time that they maintain traditional social order.

Luther writes To the Councilmen in All Cities in Germany that they Establish and Maintain Christian Schools

Peasants rise up in southwest Germany. They cite Luther’s teachings as authority and demand more just economic conditions.  They are ready to overthrow the authorities if necessary.  This is exactly what Luther and other reformers had feared:  that they would unwittingly end up leading a social revolution.

1524 October 9 Luther stops wearing the religious habit.
1525 The Peasant’s Rebellion. Luther writes Against the Heavenly Prophets.  In it he calls for a truly German Mass.
1525 April 19 Luther writes Admonition to Peace, a reply to the twelve articles of the Peasants in Swabia. 
1525 May 2 Frederick the Wise dies.  John the Steadfast becomes Elector of Saxony.
1525 May 5 Luther writes against the peasants in  Against the Murderous and Thieving Hordes of Peasants.
1525 May 13 Luther is betrothed to Katherine von Bora.
1525 May 15 The Peasants Rebellion.  At the Battle of Frankenhausen, 50,000 peasants are cut down.  Before the uprising is quelled, most of the year’s crops, hundreds of villages, 1000 castles and monasteries are destroyed.  Nearly 100,000 die.  Protestant ministers are hanged by Catholic princes.  The peasants believe that they were betrayed by Luther who refuses to join their rebellion.
1525 June 13 Luther marries Katharine von Bora.  They take up residence in the Black Cloister, the former Augustinian monastery in Wittenberg.
1525 July Luther writes Open Letter Concerning the Hard Book Against the Peasants.
1525 December Luther publishes De Servo Arbitrio (Bound Will), which answers Erasmus’ De Libero Arbit (Free Will).  Luther maintains that sin hinders human ability to work out their own salvation.  We all need God’s Grace to be saved. (Paul).
1525 December 25 Luther begins to use the German Mass.