Biography of Martín Lutero (1483-1546)

Theologian and propeller, religious reformer of the Protestant Reformation in the bosom of the Christian Church; born on November 10, 1483 in Eisleben, Saxony (Germany), and died February 18, 1546, in the same locality.

Luther. Lucas Cranach, 1522.

Luther was the main promoter of the religious reformation that split Christianity in many churches and sects. Crucial figure in the modern age, the whole of his theories and doctrines (Lutheranism) extended beyond religion, since it covered politics, economy, education, philosophy and other cultural fields.

Childhood, youth and religious formation

Member of a family of peasant origin, his father, Hans Luther, got the lease of a copper and a workshop foundry in Mansfeld mine, which meant that the family could enjoy a comfortable economic situation. Subjected to cruel punishment by his severe father and educated under the strictest fanaticism by his mother, also of peasant Margarita Ziegles, the personality of Luther is dynamic since his early years in an environment of rigorous discipline and religious severity. Possibly the origin of the proverbial stubbornness and rebellious character that Lutero would show since her teens until his death are in those first years of life so unfortunate.

After studying at the school of Mansfeld, at the age of fourteen he/she went to Magdeburg, where he/she spent a year with the brethren of the common life, which made him discover the Bible. Magdeburg moved to Eisenach, where acquired a solid musical training until, in 1501, with eighteen, he/she entered the University of Erfurt in order to study law and become a jurist, as wished his authoritarian father. Twenty was Bachelor, and the twenty-two master of Arts, with a splendid future ahead. But, after an apparent cheerfulness and delivery to the studies, Lutero began to worry about finding answer to one of the questions that you came around the head for quite some time: the meaning of life and existence. In a sincere impulse of religiosity, Lutero abandoned studies to the dismay of friends and strangers to enter as a novice in the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt. This sudden determination, including through his father, anger was due to two main causes: the death of a fellow struck down by lightning in their presence while they performed a journey and, more important, by existential concern that he/she would sum up with the pathetic question of "do I get a merciful God?".

After a year of novitiate in Erfurt in which behaved as a great monk, since he/she was serving strictly all the rules imposed by the order and even exaggerating in their always desire to seek perfection, in the autumn of 1506 pronounced their vows of obedience and, the following year, was ordained a priest. May 2, 1507, Lutero gave his first mass, in which had wishes, according to his own words, flee from the place and leave the priesthood by find it too heavy the Majesty of God that felt on her body to the point of paralyzing him completely. But, despite that first stumble, the superiors of the order followed trusting a monk so applied and above all full of so much spirituality and hunger of God.

In order to study theology and to take up a Chair in one of the many German universities governed by the Augustinians, in 1508 his friend and spiritual adviser Johan von Stanpitz, then vicar general of the Augustinians, sent him to the University of Wittenberg to study a course on the Aristotelian ethics; the following year graduated in theology and graduated as Baccalaureus Biblicus, empowered him to practice biblical exegesis publicly. It was around this time when Lutero came into contact with the writings of St. Paul, in whose Studio fought passionately for thinning of the first conclusions that would end its dramatic dissent with religious orthodoxy imposed from Rome: the justification in the grace of God, generously granted by the creator with independence of the works, that gets the salvation and the fact that only faith and not the merits can save the man.

In 1510, Lutero took a trip to Rome in the company of another Augustinian to present to the general of his order certain complaints about strict observance of monastic rule. The result and the impressions of the trip might not be most harmful for the restless and rebellious soul of Luther. The immediate consequence was the create on it a definitive aversion toward the capital of Christianity, the atmosphere of corruption and relaxation of the Roman clergy, the decline that had fallen around the Vatican, with prelates and popes more outstanding material aspects to spiritual and excessive pomp and wealth that had held the papacy. Back in Germany, Lutero returned to be sent to the University of Wittenberg to his PhD in theology, in 1512, after which he/she assumed the Chair of Biblical theology which would retain until his death. Named also, much to his regret, subprior of the convent of Wittenberg, Lutero began to teach at the University in which they played and studied the Scriptures, with special interest Pauline work, time which ended up shaping and polishing what would be its cornerstone theological, justification by faith, according to which the Christian could savenot by their own efforts or merits, but for the gift of the grace of God, accepted only by faith in Christ el Salvador. Likewise, Lutero also came to another conclusion just as important and crucial for the future of his reform: total submission to the Holy Scriptures, and its rejection of any other interpretation coming from abroad, since this could not be reliable per se, whereas the Gospels had been directly inspired by God. Suspicious of the authority of the Pope as Supreme Head of the Church and infallible person there was all in one for Luther.

The 95 theses in Wittenberg: the beginning of the Protestant Reformation

But, despite being embargoed by the absolute certainty of his reformist spirit and not have any doubt about the very serious doctrinal and theological errors in which the Church of Rome had fallen, Lutero left to spend several years until, at last, saw arrived the right time to be heard by all Christians. In 1517, Lutero was appointed to replace temporarily the pastor of the largest church of Wittenberg, which gave him the opportunity to attend the campaign authorized by Rome at the request of the Archbishop of Mainz, Brandenburg Alberto (indebted with the banker Jacob Fugger), consisting in the sale stunned by all Germany, conducted by the Dominican Juan Tetzel, a series of indulgences with the aim of achieving salvation and whose product was destined to cover the costs of the construction of the basilica of San Pedro in Rome.

Scandalized by what he/she considered a poisoning and spiritual swindle of the simple people, Lutero tried to put on notice the German ecclesiastical authorities, but, faced with the most absolute silence at all levels, Lutero decided to act on their own completely just. Luther was inspired by a famous phrase of San Agustín, saying "what the law demands, gets it the faith", and wrote his famous 95 theses against the sale of indulgences that nailed with determination on the most visible site of the city, in front of the portico of the Church of all Saints in Wittenberg, October 31, 1517. Incendiary theses, replete with diatribes and direct attacks on the Church of Rome and the Pope, were first written in Latin, to, soon, be translated into German and reproduced by the press at the same time spread with extraordinary speed through the work of the students.

The resonance of the event was huge while Lutero from the pulpit and classroom tried in vain soften the situation that had been created by appealing to a traditional doctrine accepted in the Church, by which the nullity of indulgences was accepted to save souls, since this prerogative only racing God. The Dominicans, responsible for the Inquisition, denounced Luther to Rome, so it was ordered, the following year, to arise in the eternal city to answer the charges that were made against. Luther was a great political cunning and managed to involve the political power in the dispute asking the Prince Federico, the wise, elector of Saxony, to intercede with the Pope to get judgment against her was held on German soil, just as well as it did. In the month of October 1518, Lutero went to the city of Augsburg to discuss their stance with the Pontifical legacy Tomasso Vio (Cayetano), who had in his possession a brief from Pope León X for which Lutero should retract publicly his serious mistakes or, otherwise, be carried to Rome arrested. Under the political protection of Prince Federico, Lutero extended discussion with the papal legacy four days without that nowhere sagged in their respective positions. Moreover, Lutero toughened his stance saying that the infallibility of the scriptures were above the of the own Pontiff, he/she denied it repeatedly. Although the final breaking still not occurred, Lutero thereafter adopted an attitude of intransigence that was not reduced to mere rejection of indulgences, but it meant something much more serious: the direct contempt of papal authority.

The final rupture

Leave undamaged Augsburg, after Lutero sent to disseminate an appeal under the title of the misinformed Pope better informed Pope, which appealed to a Council presided over by the Pope to express their reformist ideas. From his safe retreat of Wittenberg, Lutero managed to gather a kind of lower in the Leipzig City Council, held from June 27 to July 16, 1519, in which Lutero said that although the desired Council did not give the reason, not is it retractaría since it was subjected to the only legitimate authority of Holy Scripture. Leo X response was swift. On June 15, 1520, the Pope commanded Luther the bull Exsurge Domine that provoked it last to retract under the penalty of excommunication. Luther, after an attempt at wasteland by ask the Pontiff to this celebrated the long-awaited Council, on 10 December of the same year solemnly burned the bull along with a copy of the Corpus Iuris Canonici in the presence of students and citizens of Wittenberg. Likewise, Lutero replied to the Pope with the Bull of Antichrist libel. With such an Act, Lutero symbolically expressed its complete break with the Church of Rome. On January 3, 1521, León X wrote the bull Decet Romanum Pontificem, why Lutero was definitively excommunicated. According to the ecclesiastical law, ecclesiastical excommunication should be executed by the secular arm, a task that fell on the newly elected Emperor, Carlos V of Germany and I of Spain. The emperor took advantage of the meeting of courts in the city of Worms, in April 1521, to quote Luther in it, where it is intimidated to make it retract, but the wayward Augustinian monk followed empecinado in his heterodoxy, and faced all the Imperial and ecclesiastical dignitaries gathered there against her, totally convinced that awaited him the same fate as JanHus. Carlos V, pressured by the unsettled political situation in Germany and by fame and predicament that the heretical monk, had already acquired only limited to prohibit the new faith and practice to declare outcasts to Luther and his followers, already by that then called Protestants.

The efforts that were made then to make change of opinion to Luther were useless. On 26 May, Carlos V signed the edict of Worms which upheld the penalty of banishment for Luther and ordered the burning of all his writings.

Precisely, the year prior to the sentencing, Lutero brought to light, in German and helped by the powerful propaganda machine turned out to be the press, his three fundamental works: on the freedom of the Christian, no doubt his work better elaborate and written, in which outlined clearly the pillar on which was based the new religion, salvation by faith in Christ; To the Christian Nobility of the German nation, which appealed to the nobility that it assumed its role as protector of the people and joined the cause of Lutheran, in addition to instituting the three basic Evangelical principles of Protestantism (universal priesthood, intelligibility of the Sacred Scriptures and responsibility of all the faithful in the Church Government), and, finally, prelude to the captivity of Babylon, to theologians work, in which analyzed rigorously process of perversion which had reached the sacraments, that, according to him, only had to survive two, baptism and the supper (discarding the transubstantiation). With these three works, Lutero set out his line of battle at the same time that outlined the first foundations of a future Evangelical Church.

The triumph of Protestantism

Federico, the wise, in order to protect the person of Luther, faked his kidnapping and illegally hid him in Wartburg Castle, in Thuringia, where the exmonje found the peace and atmosphere of retreat to surrender fully to a frantic literary activity. Luther wrote numerous letters continued with several Psalms, wrote ecclesiastical glosses, wrote a piece dedicated to the confession, another on the monastic vows and many more. But, in the little year that remained at Wartburg (from may de1521 until March of year 1522), Lutero held his literary production more important and significant for the final implementation of the new faith: he/she left the Greek text published in 1516 by Erasmus of Rotterdam, he/she translated into German the New Testament, to be called the September Bible, by have appeared in that month, and thus placed at the disposal of the German people the quintessential sacred text. The work would be such a success that in December had to print many more copies.

Disorders arising in Wittenberg by his more radical followers, who had begun to take drastic measures in liturgical matters, such as the abolition of the celebration of the mass, forced Luther to leave their gentle removal of Wartburg and return to Wittenberg, where he/she returned to take the reins with prudence and moderation, but without panicking and with determination. Luther was in command in the Organization of new Evangelical communities were emerging everywhere across Germany.

From Wittenberg, Lutero opened another front in the fight against the nobility and especially farmers social and national liberation movements. The first did not let pressure to this constituted a German national church, while the latter, encouraged by the free interpretation of the Scriptures advocated by Luther, sought their support to alleviate the conditions of misery and subjugation in which they lived, so radicalizaban their positions into a political issue which dragged the own Luther. The peasant wars (1524-1526), led by a former Lutheran pastor, Thomas Münzer (founder of the sect of the Anabaptists), were the climax of the situation of tension which had introduced the reform undertaken by Luther in Germany. Throughout the bloody war of the peasants against their Lords, Lutero failed in their attempts to appease the spirits with his pen, so, although ultimately he/she supported a large number of their demands, when they resorted to violence against the population as a whole, did not hesitate a moment appeal to Lords so that they withheld the order established with weaponswhich gave coverage to a bloody repression of peasants as never seen in Germany. The conflict, which resulted in a genuine indiscriminate killing, played down popularity Luther between the most deprived masses, but at least saved to reform one more than safe disintegration.

In the peasant conflict, in 1525, Lutero married a Cistercian exmonja of closing, Katharina von Bora, twenty years younger than him, with whom he/she had six children. After the wedding, the Prince of Saxony gave the former convent of the Augustinians at Wittenberg, where together with his wife opened a guesthouse for students and continued tireless with their literary production with a view to underpin reform in all possible parts and to defend it from all attacks from both from the Church of Rome as well as within the reformist movementas shown with the emergence of the Anabaptists and other reformers that they had tried to separate from the Lutheran doctrines (Zwingli, Calvin , and Knox).

At this time would come to light following works: Opinion on the monastic orders, vibrant exhortation directed to religious to them to break the vow of chastity, which did almost all the religious with joy; Sayings of desktop, work fruit of talks maintained daily with the students of his pension on religious aspects after the lunch or dinner; The slave will book emerged as a retort to the work published Erasmo de Rotterdam in 1525 with the title over free will, where refuting some important considerations of Lutheranism and which would lead to the final rupture of Luther with Christian humanism advocated by the philosopher and religious Dutch; The duty of the civil authorities cope with the Anabaptists by temporal punishments, which contributed to hand them over to the secular arm; and, small and large catechism, in which Lutero put in order the entire theological and doctrinal reform in a clear and simple way so that it was understood perfectly by everyone; so he/she used the formula of questions and answers.

Lutero strengthens its work

As already indicated above, the additional efforts of Luther was the Organization of the Evangelical communities. Constantly conducting inspections, in which he/she preached, taught and explained the Scriptures. To 1529, the influence of the Reformation had spread to the North and the East of Europe, whose prestige helped make Wittenberg an intellectual center of the first order. The Defense so turned on that it made the independence of rulers and Princes with regard to ecclesiastical power, earned him the unconditional support of many princes, to the extent that those moments the reform went on to be more a matter of churchmen to Princes, just one of the things that had proposed Lutero from the outset.

To the be barred from attendance at the diet of Augsburg in 1530, Lutero delegated reformist defense by being excommunicated and unable to speak to the Emperor, in the person of his collaborator wanted and more prepared, the humanist Philipp Melanchthon, who presented to attendees of the Augsburg Confession, written text under the supervision of Martin Luther, in which expressed profession of Protestant faith, and twenty-eight points of final discrepancy with Catholicism. Two years later, the Emperor Carlos V, beset by fighting had been holding with the Turks in the Mediterranean, had no choice but to compromise with Lutheranism by signing the peace of Nuremberg, by which established the freedom to exercise freely and publicly the new cult in German territory.

When in 1536, the Pope Paul III decided to convene, belatedly, the Council of Trent, Luther, ensoberbecido and exalted, decided to dispense with him claiming the irreversible removal of both positions and that, ultimately, it would not for nothing. To strengthen even more a stance so uncompromising and dissident, Luther published the articles of Esmalkalda, which exhibited all the differences that had caused the separation of both churches, and placed special emphasis on the celebration of the mass (abominable and superfluous) for it and the role of the Pope as the sole responsible for the dire state in which the Christian Church had fallen.

His last years

In 1537, the health of Luther began to shatter so progressive and alarming for its followers. Even so, the tireless exmonje continued boldly their organizing and intellectual activity as demonstrated by publishing, in 1544, on the eve of his death, one of its most violent pamphlets on the occasion of the conflict emerged in the Council of Trent between the Emperor and the Pope, on the papacy of Rome founded by the devil. Causticity of such fierce attack on the papacy gained still greater relief thanks to the famous and grotesque caricatures against the Pope that made Lucas Cranach the elder to support the publication.

Luther spent his final years suffering from a painful lesion in coronary artery and deep depressions caused by the resurgence of the Papacy, the attempt of the Jews by reopening the question of the messiahship of Jesus and the more radical new regrowth of the reformist faction, the of the Anabaptists. Therefore, Lutero not could afford to resign until his death, who surprised him in full activity, the task of preaching as a missionary the nascent religion throughout the country. That's why, when in February 1547, Lutero returned to his beloved hometown of Eisleben to participate in an act of reconciliation between the counts of Mansfeld, death surprised victim of an angina pectoris. After have proclaimed their faith in Christ for the last time, on 18 February died the man who put an end to the unity of Christians: last words of Luther, on the table of the burial Chamber were found written in latin and German, which ended with a confession that summed up his life perfectly: "Wir sind bettler"", das ist walir ' ('we are beggars, it is the truth').


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