Martin Luther was a German theologian and religious reformer, who started
the Protestant Reformation, and whose vast influence during his time period
made him one of the crucial figures in modern European history. Luther was
born in Eisleben on November 10, 1483 and was descended from the peasantry,
a fact that he often stressed. Hans Luther, his father, was a copper miner.
Luther received a sound primary and secondary education at Mansfeld,
Magdeburg, and Eisenach. In 1501, at the age of 17, he enrolled at the
University of Erfurt, receiving a bachelor's degree in 1502 and a master's
degree in 1505 . He then intended to study
law, as his father had wished. In the summer of 1505, he abandoned his
studies and his law plans, sold his books, and entered the Augustinian
monastery in Erfurt. The decision surprised his friends and appalled his
father. Later in his life, Luther explained his suprising decision by
recollecting several brushes with death that had occurred at the time,
making him aware of the fleeting character of life.
In the monastery he
observed the rules imposed on a novice but did not find the peace in God
he had expected. Nevertheless, Luther made his profession as a monk in
the fall of 1506, and his superiors selected him for the priesthood.
Ordained in 1507, he approached his first celebration of the mass with awe.
After his ordination, Luther was asked to study theology in order to
become a professor at one of the many new German universities staffed by
monks. In 1508 he was assigned by Johann von Staupitz, vicar-general of
the Augustinians and a friend and counselor, to the new University of
Wittenberg (founded in 1502) to give introductory lectures in moral
philosophy. He received his bachelor's degree in theology...