Important Dates in Luther’s Life
1483 Luther was born on November 10 at Eisleben, Germany to Hans and Margarethe Luther –nine years before Columbus discovered America. He was baptized the day after his birth.
1487 Luther attended a school for boys in Mansfeld from the time he was five years old until he was fourteen, but he was never taught the love of God to poor sinners in Christ Jesus.
1496 After a year of high school in Magdeburg, Luther was sent to finish his secondary and junior college education at St. George’s, a school in Eisenach.
1501 Luther entered the university in Erfurt, intending to study law. After receiving his bachelor’s degree one year later, he went on for his master’s degree, which he earned three years later.
1505 After a brush with death in a thunderstorm, Luther vowed to St. Anne that he would become a monk and give his life to the Roman Catholic church in return for his deliverance. He gave away his earthly possessions and entered the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt. He thought that by making this sacrifice he would earn peace with God. He was 21.
1507 Luther was ordained a Roman Catholic priest, endowed by the Pope (he thought) with the awesome power to forgive and retain sins and to administer the sacraments. Surely now he would find peace with God for his troubled conscience.
1508 Luther began to teach philosophy at the University of Wittenberg. His career was blooming, but he continued to be troubled by his sins and saw no solution to his guilt and no way to satisfy God’s justice but through his own works of merit, sacrifices, and penances.
1510 Luther made a pilgrimage to Rome, traveling on foot some 850 miles, hoping there to have his doubts of salvation removed. But he was shocked by the abuses he saw there and returned to Wittenberg more confused than ever.
1512 Luther earned the degree of Doctor of Theology, the highest degree for a student of the Bible. Yet he really knew nothing because he had no understanding of the Gospel of God’s grace in Christ.
1514 Finally, when he was thirty years old, Luther, in his study of the Scriptures, came to realize that poor sinners could never find peace with God by their own works and that God, in Christ, had done everything to save them as His free gift to the undeserving. This gift was received only by faith, only by confidence in God’s mercy, without the deeds of the Law; and even saving faith itself was God’s gift through the means of the Gospel. After vainly searching for it in the Church of Rome, Luther found the way to heaven in God’s precious Word, Romans 1:16-17.
1517 Luther nails 95 Theses or statements to the church door in Wittenberg, questioning the church’s sale of forgiveness in letters of indulgence. It was October 31, 1517, the date which we today recognize as the beginning of the Lutheran Reformation.
1520 Because Luther continued to write and to preach about errors in the church of Rome and refused to be silenced by warnings and threats, the Pope excommunicated him from the church, branding him a false teacher, a traitor, and a heathen. Luther publicly burned the letter in open defiance of the Pope and his claim of power over God’s Word.
1521 The emperor, Charles V, thought that he could solve the problem by hauling Luther before a conference of princes, dukes, and bishops of the Church in the city of Worms. At this meeting, the Pope’s representative demanded that Luther take back everything he had written and gave him 24 hours to think it over. The penalty for refusing would mean death for Luther. Luther refused, saying that his conscience was captive to God’s Word. On his way back to Wittenberg, under sentence of death, Luther was kidnaped by friends and hidden away safely in a castle called the Wartburg near Eisenach. There he stayed in disguise for almost a year and translated the New Testament into German for his people.
1522 Luther returned to Wittenberg to restore order to a reformation in chaos. Some of those who followed him became fanatics and began to vandalize churches, destroy works of art, and cause hysteria. This was followed by the Peasants’ War of rebellion against the rich nobility and civil authority, in which Luther sided with the princes.
1525 Luther married Katherina von Bora, a former nun, with whom he established under God a Christian home and Lutheran parsonage. Their marriage was blessed with six children.
1529 Frustrated by the lack of diligent teaching on the part of the pastors and by the lack of interest in learning on the part of the people, Luther wrote two catechisms, his Small Catechism or Enchiridion for the instruction of children and those new to the faith, and his Large Catechism for the people in general, and for pastors and teachers who themselves needed further instruction in order to teach others.
1530 The Augsburg Confession was written by Philip Melanchthon for the Lutheran theologians as a testimony of their doctrinal position over against the papists. This was presented to the emperor with Luther’s blessing, even though Luther, still an “outlaw,” was not permitted to attend the meeting.
1534 Luther’s translation of the entire Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, into the German language of his people was finally completed and published.
1537 Luther drafted the Smalcald Articles in order to address the errors of the Reformed and Crypto-Calvinists. These articles were signed by the Lutheran theologians assembled at a meeting in Schmalkalden, even though they were not officially received into the Book of Concord until later.
1546 In the raw winter early in the year, Luther, who had been in ill health for some time, was called upon to come to Eisleben to settle a controversy among the princes of Saxony. After getting them to reconcile, Luther was too sick to return to Wittenberg. He died in the town of his birth on February 18, confiding in his Savior and in the doctrines of God’s Word that he had preached.