Holly Hausler

When people here the name Martin Luther they think about the religion of Lutheranism. Some people might even think about his ninety-five theses he wrote against the catholic church and the indulgences they sold. (My peer Miranda Johnson researched in depth about the ninety-five theses, here)  Which he later nailed these theses to the church doors in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther was a monk for a large amount of his life as well as a widely known theology professor who was a huge part of the Protestant Reformation. (My peer Anna McClosky wrote more in depth about Luther as a monk, here). Luther was a very intelligent man who published many writings during his life span. He influenced many people, and was the first person to truly leave the catholic church. Most people are only aware of Luther’s adult life, but very few know of his childhood due to the limit of historical documentation about it. Luther’s childhood, family life, and education as a young boy is important to understand because they explain Luther’s characteristics later in life.

Hans_and_Margarethe_Luther,_by_Lucas_Cranach_the_Elder
Portrait of Hans Luther, Luther’s father/ Portrait of Margaretha Luther, Luther’s Mother  Portraits by Lucas Cranach, 1527, Source (My peer Sarah Lude goes into further detail about Cranach, here).

Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483 to Hans and Margarethe Luder in Eisleben, Germany. The very next day, November 11, 1483, Luther was baptized a Catholic on the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, which is who he is named after. Luther’s parents were hard workers. His mother, Margarethe was a “hardworking woman of trading-class stock and middling means”.[1] His father Hans, “was a leaseholder of mines and smelters”.[2] Both of his parents had a huge impact on Luther. They taught him values of hard work as would any other parents in this time. Luther wrote later in life about his mother, “remembering her as someone who could punish him severely”.[3] His father was a very respectable man, he served “as one of four citizens who represented others before a town council”.[4] He, just like Margarethe, was a “harsh disciplinarian, but – as Martin also said of him – Hans had meant heartily well”.[5] Luther lived a good life as a child. In Martin Luther Visionary Reformation, the author states, “archeological finding from the large homesite [Hans] purchased suggest that during Martin’s childhood the Luther family lived comfortably”.[6] Hendrix goes on to say there were remains of marbles suggesting Luther might have played a game called silver pennies. Bones of animals found with the same remains of marbles suggest how well the Luther family might have ate.[7] Many accounts say that Luther’s family was considered poor, but that does not mean that they did not live a good life. Luther’s parents worked to provide Luther and his siblings with the necessities they needed to grow up correctly. Luther grew up in a normal home with a normal family, “not even the strict discipline, implies that Martin’s childhood was abnormal or that he was reared in a dysfunctional family”.[8] In Hendrix’s book, he has a list of who is believed to live in the Luther house hold in Mansfield, Germany where they later move to before Luther is school age. The list is as follows,

“Hans Luder, Martin’s father, d. 1530, Margaret[e] Lindemann [Luder], Martin’s Mother, d. 1531, Martin Luder/Luther, [1883]-1546, Barbra Luder, Martin’s sister, d. 1520, Dorothy Luder, Martin’s sister, married Mackenrot, Margaret Luder, Martin’s sister, Married Kaufmann, ? Luder, Martin’s sister, married Polner, [and] Jacob Luder Martin’s brother, d. 1571”.[9]

Marty mentions Luther was very close to one of his siblings who he remembers playing with, this was Jacob.[10] Luther grew up as any other child would have during this time. Hendrix describes Luther’s childhood as “comfortable, stable, and religious in the customary manner”.[11] Luther’s father was big on education, not just for Luther, but for all of Luther’s siblings. Luther’s father sent Luther away to school at a young age.

Per Marty, “seven years after his baptism, his prudent parents sent Martin to Latin school” in his hometown of Mansfield.[12] Then later he was sent to school in Magdeburg, the last school he attended was in Eisenach.  Latin schools were the grammar schools of the 14th century in Europe.[13] Luther was good at school, but it was not his favorite thing about growing up. Luther later described his schooling years as the same as hell.[14]

“Those three schools were literally “trivial,” which meant devoted to trivium, because       teachers drilled three subjects into the heads of urchins: Grammar served Luther well as he produced writing that now fill about one hundred mammoth volumes. Rhetoric, the second discipline, helped him become the influential writer and speaker whose words   affronted and charmed multitudes for decades. The boy made much less of the third logic, though it did help him survive philosophy courses later at the university”.[15]

On the weekends at Latin schools, “one of the older pupils was appointed “lupus,” wolf, and had to keep the “wolf book” registering all violations of school rules”.[16] If the students were recorded as breaking the rules, then they received physical punishment.  Luther was not the best student; it is said that “Martin’s teachers did not consider him a model pupil”.[17] Strict punishment was used at school just like when Luther was a young boy at home. There was one thing that Luther was good at though, “Martin savored the music that filled the chapel during masses”.[18] Luther and his school mates would sing door to door welcoming small donations and bread crumbs. Luther did learn a lot during these years at school. He later grew up to write high level academic papers and published many writings.  Luther’s father pushed Luther to further his education after he finished the Latin grammar schools. He wanted him to pursue a vocation of law.

400px-Luther_as_monk
Martin Luther as a Monk. Engraving by Lucas Cranach, 1520, Source (My peer Sarah Lude goes into further detail about Cranach, here).

Luther’s father wanted this of Luther either in the church or for the public.  Luther on the other hand was not interested in law, but theology. At first Luther was not sure if he was interested in anything at the university, but to please his father Luther went to the University of Erfurt, “he proceeded directly in to the faculty of law”.[19] At the university Luther “proved to so adept at disputations that he earned the nickname “The Philosopher”.[20] In July of 105 Luther decided to make a dramatic change in his academic career. Luther said farewell to his friends saying, “This day you see me, and then, not ever again”.[21] Later this month Luther was struck by lightning bolt, promising St. Anne if he lived he would devote his life to the church and become a monk. These events lead up to Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses against indulgences and the catholic church.

Luther was always a religious individual, from a young age until the day he died. Luther was instilled in the catholic religion when he was baptized the day after his birth. His parents taught him morals of life from a young age, and made sure that education was a priority in his life. Luther was a well-educated man who sought out to understand the meaning of Christ and the church. Without Luther breaking away from the catholic church, who knows where we would be today.  Luther’s childhood and education shaped who he became as an adult later in life. The experiences Luther had in church later in life led him realize the way the church ran was not the way God intended it to. Luther later came up with the idea that we are saved through Faith Alone. With this idea Luther changed the way people saw the church and good works. (My peer Emma Gresh explains Luther’s Faith Alone more in depth, here). Luther’s childhood was a crucial component of him becoming the leader of the reformation. While Luther was attending Latin grammar school he was able to develop his skills in reading and writing. Largely focusing on grammar discipline and logic, Luther was able to master the rhetoric of his time. Without the experiences and life lessons he gained during his childhood, school life, and life at the university, he would have never had the courage to write and publish his ninety-five theses.

Resource List

Hendrix, Scott H. Martin Luther: Visionary Reformer. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2015.

Kittelson, James M. 1992. “The accidental revolutionary.” Christian History 11, no. 2: 9. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed April 8, 2017).

Marius, Richard. Martin Luther: The Christian between God and Death. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Marty, Martin E. Martin Luther: a life. New York: Penguin Book, 2008.

Oberman, Heiko. Luther: Man Between God and the Devil. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.

Wikipedia contributors, “Latin school,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Latin_school&oldid=773133777(accessed April 8, 2017).

Footnotes

[1] Marty, Martin E. Martin Luther: a life. New York: Penguin Book, 2008, 1.

[2] Marty. Martin Luther, 2.

[3] Marty. Martin Luther, 1.

[4] Marty. Martin Luther, 1.

[5] Marty. Martin Luther, 1.

[6] Hendrix, Scott H. Martin Luther: Visionary Reformer. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2015, 19-20.

[7] Hendrix. Martin Luther, 20.

[8] Hendrix. Martin Luther, 20.

[9] Hendrix. Martin Luther, XVI.

[10] Marty. Martin Luther, 3.

[11] Hendrix. Martin Luther, 20.

[12] Marty. Martin Luther, 2.

[13] Wikipedia contributors, “Latin school,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Latin_school&oldid=773133777(accessed April 8, 2017).

[14] Marty. Martin Luther, 2.

[15] Marty. Martin Luther, 2-3.

[16] Oberman, Heiko. Luther: Man Between God and the Devil. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989, (94)

[17] Oberman. Luther, 94.

[18] Marty. Martin Luther, 3.

[19] Kittelson, James M. 1992. “The accidental revolutionary.” Christian History 11, no. 2: 9. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost.

[20] Kittelson. “The accidental revolutionary.”

[21] Marty. Martin Luther, 6-7.

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