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Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) changed the course of Western civilization by initiating the Protestant Reformation. As a priest and theology professor, he confronted indulgence salesmen with his 95 Theses in 1517. Luther strongly disputed their claim that freedom from God's punishment of sin could be purchased with money. His refusal to retract all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms meeting in 1521 resulted in his excommunication by the pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the emperor.
Luther taught that salvation is a free gift of God and received only by grace through faith in Jesus as redeemer from sin, not from good works. His theology challenged the authority of the pope of the Roman Catholic Church by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge and opposed sacerdotalism by considering all baptized Christians to be a holy priesthood. Those that identify with Luther's teachings are called Lutherans.
His translation of the Bible into the language of the people (instead of Latin) made it more accessible, causing a tremendous impact on the church and on German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the translation of the King James Bible. His hymns inspired the development of singing in churches. His marriage to Katharina von Bora set a model for the practice of clerical marriage, allowing Protestant priests to marry.
Much scholarly debate has focused on Luther's writings about the Jews. His statements that Jews' homes should be destroyed, their synagogues burned, money confiscated, and liberty curtailed were revived and used in propaganda by the Nazis in 1933–45. As a result of this and his revolutionary theological views, his legacy remains controversial.
Quotes by Martin Luther
- If a man is in open rebellion, everyone is both his judge and his executioner. . . Therefore, let everyone who can, smite, slay, and stab, secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful, or devilish than a rebel. It is just as when one must kill a mad dog.
- -Martin Luther (Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants, 1525)
- Whoever wishes to be a Christian, let him pluck out the eyes of his reason.
- -Martin Luther (First Psalm Lectures, Luther's Works, Vol. 11, p.285)
- Christ wants to slay reason and subdue the arrogance of the Jews...
- -Martin Luther (Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, Luther's Works, V.22, p.320)
- Whoever wants to be a Christian must be intent on silencing the voice of reason.
- -Martin Luther (Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, Luther's Works, V.23, p. 99)
- A woman has no control over herself.
- -Martin Luther (Letter to Several Nuns, 6 Aug. 1524)
- We are at fault in not slaying them [the Jews].
- -Martin Luther (On the Jews and their lies, 1543)
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