Biography of Messiahs and Prophets Martin Luther Part 2

About the famous religious figure Martin Luther, biography and history of the leader of the Protestant movement.


MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546)

"Luther is a drunken German," remarked Pope Leo X when the news reached him. "He'll feel different about it when he sobers up."

But Luther did not feel different. So he was called before an ecclesiastical court and ordered to recant. He said he would not, could not. He was summoned to answer charges at two higher tribunals. Still he refused to knuckle under. For good measure Luther said that in the eyes of God the pope was no better than "any other stinking sinner." Leo issued a papal bull of condemnation and burned Luther's writings. Luther burned Leo's bull. Leo excommunicated Luther.

The reformer repaired to Wartburg castle to compose his thoughts and his strategy. There he wrote "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" and several other Protestant hymns and began translating the Bible into vernacular German. The translation was one more way to undercut the authority of the clergy and to proclaim the "priesthood of all believers."

In the emerging Lutheran church, monasteries were abolished. Priests grew their hair long and shed formal vestments. They also married. Luther ran a kind of Underground Railroad to help nuns escape their convents. One of them, Katharina von Bora, became Luther's wife and bore him six children.

When Luther returned to Wittenberg, he found that German peasants had taken to heart the democratic spirit of the Protestant Reformation. They were for throwing off not only the authority of the pope and local priests, but also the taxes and civil infringements imposed by the German nobility.

Luther was horrified. He backed the princes in a year-long bloody war against the upstart commoners. In the end, 5,000 peasants were slain, and their leaders were tortured and beheaded. The revolt was thoroughly crushed. If there was any doubt which side God took in the struggle, Luther declared: "Nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful, or devilish than a rebel. He that shall be slain on the side of law and order is a true martyr before God... he that perishes on the side of rebellion is doomed eternally to hell."

In the end, the son and grandson of peasants-the quintessential revolutionary-was the staunchest defender of the establishment's butchery of revolutionary peasants. Partly as a result, the religion that bears his name became the officially sanctioned state religion throughout northern Germany and in the Scandinavian countries. And the moral leadership of the Protestant movement passed to other hands.

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