An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Luther, Martin

(Nov. 10, 1483-Feb. 18, 1546). Founder of the sixteenth-century Reformation in Germany. He was born in Eisleben, Thuringia, Germany. Luther was baptized on Nov. 11, 1483, the Feast of St. Martin of Tours, and named after the saint. He received his M.A. in Feb. 1505 from the University of Erfurt. On July 17, 1505, he entered the cloister of the Order of St. Augustine in Erfurt. He was ordained priest on Apr. 4, 1507. In 1511 Luther transferred to the monastery in Wittenberg. In the next year he was named Professor of Holy Scripture at the University of Wittenberg. In 1514 he had an experience which enabled him to understand the righteousness of God in a totally new way. He came to believe that righteousness is a gift of God and that a merciful God justifies us by grace through faith. On Oct. 31, 1517, Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. This date is regarded as the beginning of the Reformation. On June 15, 1520, Pope Leo X signed the papal bull, Exsurge Domine, condemning 41 of Luther's teachings. One of Luther's major contributions was translating the Bible into German. He was a musician and wrote numerous hymns. Seven of Luther's hymns are used in The Hymnal 1982, including “Savior of the nations come!” (Hymn 54), “When Jesus went to Jordan's stream” (Hymn 139), and “A Mighty Fortress is our God”(Hymn 687). He wrote the music used in “Before thy throne, O God, we kneel” (Hymn 575) and the musical setting that was the basis for S 283, Te Deum laudamus. Luther died in Eisleben. He is commemorated in the Episcopal calendar of the church year on Feb. 18.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.