Martin Luther (1483-1546) was the son of a copper miner, born at Eisleben, and the founder of the German Protestant Reformation.
After a traditional education, Luther entered an Augustinian monastery in 1505. He was ordained as a priest in 1507 and in 1512 earned the title of Doctor of Theology and Professor of Scripture at Wittenberg.
Luther became widely known as a reformer after visiting Rome in 1510-11, where he was appalled by the Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences. In 1517 he denied the Pope‘s authority to forgive sins by posting his 95 theses on the Church door at Wittenberg.
Apparently intended as a mere theological argument, intense controversy followed this inflammatory act.
Luther was called to Rome to defend his theses. He ignored the summons and continued to challenge the papacy even more forcibly, publicly setting to flames the papal bull that condemned his activities.
A Church order was issued to destroy his written works. Luther was called before the Diet at Worms and expelled from the Empire. His Augsburg Confession, where the character Melanchthon represents his own views, is a benchmark for the German Reformation (1530).
Quite the radical, Luther married a nun and had six children, one of whom died young. The marriage apparently was a happy one, despite recurrent concerns about money.
Martin Luther found peace when he married an ex-nun named Katharine von Bora, whom he had helped to escape from her nunnery in an empty fish barrel.¹
In later years he showed signs of antisemitism, which has made him controversial for another reason—not just for challenging Catholics, some of whom dislike his ideas to this day.
Luther wrote negatively about the Jews throughout his career…his attitudes reflected a theological and cultural tradition which saw Jews as a rejected people guilty of the murder of Christ…He considered the Jews blasphemers and liars because they rejected the divinity of Jesus. In 1523, Luther advised kindness toward the Jews in That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew and also aimed to convert them to Christianity. When his efforts at conversion failed, he grew increasingly bitter toward them.²
Johann Sebastian Bach, one of the greatest classical composers of all time, was a devout Lutheran. In Bach’s own words:
The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.³
And Paul McCartney with his usual whimsical genius, mentions Luther in the song Let ’em In:
Sister Suzy, Brother John
Martin Luther, Phil and Don
Brother Michael, Auntie Gin
Open the door, let ’em in
³ https://lutheranreformation.org/history/johann-sebastian-bach Another leading Christian composer – this time a Catholic – held similar views to Bach about music and God. Joseph Haydn suffered mentally and physically but aspired to make music that would soothe and uplift listeners’ spirits.