Today marks the commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther (1483-1546). From Murray’s A Year with the Church Fathers:
Martin Luther, born on 10 November 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, initially began studies leading toward a degree in law. However, after a close encounter with death, he switched to the study of theology, entered an Augustinian monastery, was ordained a priest in 1505, and received a doctorate in theology in 1512. As a professor at the newly established University of Wittenberg, Luther’s Scriptural studies led him to question many of the Church’s teachings and practices, especially the selling of indulgences. His refusal to back down from his convictions resulted in his excommunication in 1521. Following a period of seclusion at the Wartburg castle, Luther returned to Wittenberg, where he spent the rest of his life preaching and teaching, translating the Scriptures, and writing hymns and numerous theological treatises. He is remembered and honored for his lifelong emphasis on the biblical truth that for Christ’s sake God declares us righteous by grace through faith alone. He died on February 18 1546, while visiting the town of his birth.*
Luther is perhaps most popularly famous for his “Ninety-Five Theses,” but as far as theological impact goes, his Small and Large Catechisms and German translation of the Bible are probably his most important works impacting the life of the individual Christian. It’s little wonder, then, that Playmobil gave their “little Luther” commemorative figure a copy of the Lutherbibel when the toy came out last year.
Of course, a little blurb about Luther isn’t enough to educate oneself about the whole of his life and work, and his complex personality (Luther could be very sharp-tongued in his treatises–the Lutheran Insulter has compiled some of his better wit), but if you want to peruse his writings, Project Wittenberg has a large collection of them online, including his hymn texts.
Here’s one of his more martial hymns, “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word”**:
Happy reading and listening!
* Scott R. Murray, A Year with the Church Fathers (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2011): 50.
** Luther’s original first stanza read,
“Lord, keep us in thy Word and work,
Restrain the murderous Pope and Turk,
Who fain would tear from off thy throne
Christ Jesus, thy beloved Son.”