Time Line of Key Events in the Life of Dr. Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Luther Posting 95 Theses

Martin Luther posted his controversial “95 Theses” on the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral on October 31, 1517 — this one event changed the history of the world and ushered in the Protestant Reformation! 

Who was Martin Luther? Certainly he must be remembered as that preeminent Protestant Reformer who recovered the true Gospel and rescued the Christian Church from its slavery to the “traditions of men.” He began his religious career as a well-meaning, but misguided Augustinian monk. God had endowed him with a remarkably curious mind that searched after truth–not just philosophical truth, but “true truth” that would actually make a difference in changing lives. He found that “true truth” in the pages of Holy Scripture. There he learned that all men and women are inveterate sinners who are unable to help themselves. He also learned that God had graciously sent forth his Son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for sins, and that he had also provided the “gift of faith” so that we could believe and trust in the work of Jesus Christ. This discovery brought about a fundamental change in Luther’s life so that he shed his guilt, was justified on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, and dedicated himself to live to the glory of God. The Lord used him to begin a spiritual revolution in Germany, which spread throughout Europe and (in time) to the rest of the world. Hugh T. Kerr, a scholar of the Reformation, wrote this following tribute:

There is virtual unanimity among historians and theologians as to the unique importance and significance of Martin Luther. He was not only the outstanding hero of the Protestant Reformation, but his influence was such that subsequent history cannot be understood without taking him into consideration. Even those who do not subscribe to his views are forced to admit that he brought about a transformation, if not a reformation, in life and thought as well as in religion…Surely he is one of the pivotal personalities of history, and he has always been acknowledged as such. His appeal is universal, and if books about him mean anything he grows in importance with the passing years. That is why he belongs not to one branch of Protestantism, but, we may say, to Christian theology. (Hugh T. Kerr ed., A Compend of Luther’s Theology, Philadelphia, The Westminster Press, Forward)

Hence we study the life of Martin Luther, not because he was a greater and wiser man than the rest of us, but because he was an earthy and ordinary man, whom God used to accomplish extraordinary deeds for the kingdom of God. And for this one fact, we can all be thankful! Soli Deo Gloria!


 His Early Years & Preparation: (1483-1501)

1483 – Born on November 10th in Eisleben; baptized on November 11th

1484 – The Luther family moved to Mansfield, where Hans Luther works as a silver miner

1492 – Enrolled in the Latin School of Mansfield

1497 – Attended the Latin School of Magdeburg run by the “Brethren of the Common Life”

1498 – Attends the School of St. George in Eisenach; befriended by the Cotta and Schalbe families

In Erfurt: Life as a Student & Monk (1501-1511)

1501 – Graduated from High School and began studies at the University of Erfurt

1502 – Bachelor of Arts Degree awarded in September (30th out of 57 graduates)

1505 – Master of Arts Degree awarded in January (2nd out of 17 graduates)

1505 – At the encouragement of his Father, he began legal studies at the University of Erfurt in May

1505 – Caught in a thunderstorm near Stotternheim (July 2nd); Luther impulsively vows to become monk and enters the Augustinian cloister in Erfurt (July 17th)

1507 – Ordination and 1st Mass (April 3rd)

1509 – Awarded two theological degrees: Biblical Baccalaureate and Sententiarius in March

1510 – Sent to Rome on business for the Observant Augustinians

1511 – Returned from Rome, Luther is transferred by his superior, Johann von Staupitz, to Wittenberg

In Wittenberg: His First Tower Experience (1511-1521)

1512 – Doctor of Theology Degree awarded at Wittenberg on October 19th

1513 – Began lectures on the Psalms during the Fall and realized that the “righteousness of God” is a gift from God imputed to every believer (cf. Psalm 31:1 “…in Thy righteousness deliver me.”).

1514 – Began lectures on Romans during the Spring and confirmed in his 1st Tower experience the thesis that the “righteousness of God” is graciously given through Christ to each believer (cf. Romans 1:16-17 “…For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.”).

1515 – He began lectures on Galatians during the Fall

1516 – He began lectures on Hebrews during the Fall

1517 – Posted The 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg in opposition to the selling of Indulgences by Johann Tetzel (October 31st)

1518 – The Heidelberg Disputation before his fellow Augustinians on April 26th

1518 – Travels to Augsburg and argues theology with Cardinal Cajetan (October 12-14)

1519 – Leipzig Debate with Johann Eck of Ingolstadt

1520 – Offered armed assistance from Ulrich Von Hutten & Franz Von Sickingen

1520 – On the Papacy at Rome (June 11th)

1520 – On June 15 Pope Leo X issues a papal bull, Exsurge Domine, giving 60 days to submit

1520 – Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation (August)

1520 – The Babylonian Captivity of the Church (October 6th)

1520 – On the Freedom of a Christian (November)

1520 – Burning of the Exsurge Domine and canon law in a public bonfire at Wittenberg

At Worms: His Second Tower Experience (1521)

1521 – Luther excommunicated by Pope Leo X (January 3rd)

1521 – Luther is summoned to the Diet of Worms; “safe passage” is promised (March)

1521 On April 16-18 Luther is questioned in two hearings at the Diet of Worms

1521 – During a night of prayer Luther has a 2nd Tower experience, delivering his famous words the next morning, “…I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted, and my  conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen.”

In the Wartburg: Life as an Outlaw (1521- 1522)

1521 – Luther is “kidnapped” by friends and kept in protective custody in the Wartburg (early May)

1521 – Luther grows a beard and goes by the name of “Junker Jorg”

1521 – Commentary on the Magnificat (May)

1521 – On Confession: Whether the Pope Has the Authority to Require It (June 1st)

1521 – Against Latomus (June 20th)

1521 – On the Abolition of Private Masses: On Monastic Vows (November)

1521 – An Admonition to All Christians to Guard Themselves Against Insurrection (December)

1521 – Luther begins translation of the New Testament into German using The Greek New Testament by Erasmus (1516 edition)

Return to Wittenberg: Mid-Career (1522-1530)

1522 – Luther suddenly returns to Wittenberg on March 6th

1522 – Advent Church Postils (March)

1522 – Publication of Luther’s translation of the New Testament in German (September)

1523 – That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew

1523 – On Temporal Authority: The Extent to Which It Should be Obeyed (March)

1524 – Letter to the Princes of Saxony Concerning the Rebellious Spirit

1524 – To the Municipalities of Germany…On Founding Schools (February)

1524 – Arguments with a fellow reformer, Andreas Carlstadt, on the Lord’s Supper

1524 – Erasmus publishes his On the Freedom of the Will (September)

1524 – On October 9th Luther abandons his religious habit

1524 – To the Christians at Strasbourg against the Enthusiasts (November)

1525 – Against the Heavenly Prophets (January)

1525 – Admonition to Peace Concerning the 12 Articles of the Peasants (April 19)

1525 – Against the Murderous and Thieving Hordes of Peasants (May 5)

1525 – On June 13th Luther marries the former nun, Katharina von Bora

1525 – An Open Letter against the Hard Book against the Peasants (July)

1525 – Luther’s reply to Erasmus, On the Bondage of the Will (December)

1526 – The 1st of six children is born—Johannes Luther (June 7th)

1526 – German Mass and Order for Public Worship

1527 – Whether These Words, “This Is My Body” Still Stand against the Fanatics (April)

1527 – The 1st of four Diets at Speyer—refusal of the German princes to enforce the Edict of the Diet of Worms to stop the spread of Lutheranism (mid-summer)

1527 – Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague (November)

1527 – Elisabeth Luther is born on December 10th (dies on August 3rd, 1528 at 8 months)

1528 – Great Confession on the Lord’s Supper (March)

1528 – During a period of physical illness and spiritual depression— Anfectungen—Luther composes his great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” (August)

1529 – On War Against the Turk

1529 – Luther begins writing The Small Catechism and The Large Catechism

1529 – His 3rd child Magdalena Luther (“Lenchen”) is born (dies at age 13)

1529 – Marburg Colloquy and the heated debate with Zwingli over the Lord’s Supper (October 1-4)

1530 – At the Coburg Castle during the Diet of Augsburg (April to August)

1530 – To the Clergy Assembled at Augsburg (mid-May)

1530 – Meetings begun at Schmalkalden resulting in a defensive alignment of German Princes against Roman Catholic incursions, known as the Schmalkald League

In Wittenberg: Consolidation of the Church (1530-1546)

1531 – Students begin to copy down Luther’s remarks during meals (Table Talk)

1531 – His 4th child, Martin, is born

1531 – Warning to His Beloved Germans (April)

1531 – Commentary on Galatians (May)

1531 – On Infiltrating and Clandestine Preachers (January)

1533 – His 5th child, Paul, is born

1533 – About Private Mass and Ordination

1534 – Publication of the complete German Bible (Old and New Testaments)

1534 – His 6th child, Margaret, is born (December 17th)

1535 – Lectures on Genesis

1536 – The Wittenburg Concord on the Lord’s Supper (May)

1537 – The Schmalkald Articles are adopted (February)

1538 – Letter against the Sabbatarians (March)

1539 – The bigamy of Philip of Hesse becomes public and the ensuing controversy

1540 – Colloquy of Hagenau (June-July)—Philip Melanchthon represents Luther

1541 – Diet of Regensburg (April)—Philip Melanchthon represents Luther

1542 – Death of Magdalena (“Lenchen”) Luther on September 20th

1543 – On the Jews and Their Lies (January)

1544 – Short Confession on the Holy Sacrament (September)

1545 – Against the Papacy at Rome, Founded by the Devil (March)

1546 – On February 18th Martin Luther dies in the town of his birth and baptism, Eisleben

1546 – On February 22nd Luther’s funeral is held at Wittenberg with a sermon preached by his closest friend and supporter, Philip Melanchthon

Copyright September, 2017   Dr. Marcus J. Serven, ThM and DMin
Used by Permission.  All Rights Reserved.

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