1526-1537

January 1526 (age 42) Luther published Deutsche Messe und Ordnung Gottis Dientis (German Mass and Order of Divine Service), a collaboration by Luther, Conrad Rupff and Johann Walther. It was written in German for common people and was based on the Catholic service. But everything that hinted of sacrifice was omitted. It allowed for a longer sermon; communion included both bread and wine. Luther blasted those who criticized his concept of real presence in the communion elements:

It is precisely the same devil who now assails us through the fanatics by blaspheming the holy and venerable sacrament of our Lord Jesus Christ, out of which they would like to make mere bread and wine as a symbol or memorial sign ...They will not grant that the Lord's body and blood are present, even though the plain, clear words stand right there: Eat, this is my body, Drink, this is my blood.

June 7, 1526 - Johannes Luther II, known as Hans, was born. Per ancient custom, Hans was bound in a tightly wrapped cloth. Luther said, "Kick little fellow. That is what the Pope did to me, but I got loose."

Hans is beginning to cut his teeth and making a joyous nuisance of himself. These are joys of marriage of which the Pope is not worthy.

August 1526 - The Imperial Diet of Speyer made Protestant reforms legal. Local rulers were able to decide how much reform they wanted within their own territories. The Diet temporarily suspended the Edict of Worms and its condemnation of Luther, who saw it as a reprieve on the charge of heresy. The action of the Diet, along with an ongoing feud between Emperor Charles and Pope Clement was highly favorable to the Reformation.

Luther suffered heart problems and dizziness (possibly Meniere's disease) in addition to his perennial digestive and intestinal difficulties. He attributed his poor health to the severity of his life in the monastery.

April 1527 - Luther wrote Whether these Words: This is My Body.

May 1527 - Instead of fighting the Ottoman Turks, mutinous Spanish troops and German mercenaries of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V marched against Pope Clement VII who joined Francis I of France in founding the League of Cognac, an alliance of France, Milan, Venice, Florence and the Papacy that opposed Charles. With their pay in arrears, Charles' troops looted Rome. An estimated 6,000 to 12,000 people were killed and many of the soldiers who remained in city died from diseases caused by the large number of unburied corpses. During the attack, Clement sought refuge in the Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome and then lived outside the city for almost a year.

The sack of Rome marked damaged the papacy's prestige and freed Charles V to act against the Reformation in Germany and against those German princes who sided with Luther, who commented:

"Christ reigns in such a way that the Emperor who persecutes Luther for the Pope is forced to destroy the Pope for Luther."

1527-1529 - Sometime between 1527-1529 Luther wrote the music and lyrics of "A Mighty Fortress is our God" (German, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott). The words are a paraphrase of Psalm 46. (Luther is credited with thirty-seven hymns.) The hymn was popular with the common people of reformation Germany, being sung continually in the streets and chanted by martyrs as they awaited their grim fate. One writer said that Luther provided the hymn so that the people could answer God in their songs.

The Devil hates music because he cannot stand gaiety, and Satan can smirk but he cannot laugh; he can sneer but he cannot sing.

Handwritten draft of A Mighty Fortress is Our God signed by Luther.

Mid summer 1527 - Plagued by ill health Luther suffered from depression. He felt powerless to help those of his followers suffering for their faith.

August 2, 1527 - Black death struck Wittenberg. Elector John evacuated the university to Jena, but Luther remained in Wittenberg to minister to the plague victims. His son Hans contracted the plague but survived.

December 1, 1527 - Elisabeth Luther was born, but she was not well, possibly because of Katharina's exposure to the black death while pregnant.

By the end of 1527, Saxony was, for all practical purposes, entirely Protestant.

May 4, 1528 - Elisabeth Luther, 7 months old, died. Katharina wrote:

"The good Lord gave me a little girl, the sweet little Elisabeth. I am happy and grateful to the Lord! Here, the plague is dead and buried. However, it seemed as if the terrible scourge had marked the child, even before she was born. After seven months, the sweet little Elisabeth said goodbye to her father and her mother to go to Christ, passing through death into life."

And Luther wrote to a pastor in Zwickau:

“My little daughter, my little Elisabeth, has died. It is marvelous how this grieves me; it has left my spirit almost womanish, so much am I moved by compassion. I never could have believed before that parents’ spirits could be so tender toward a child.”

February 21, 1529 (age 45) - Second Diet of Speyer (held through April 22) set aside the first Diet's judgment. The Catholics believed it to be a fair compromise. The Lutheran princes felt that "Christ was again in the hands of Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate." They refused to accept the decree and drafted a document that began:

"We protest by these presents, before God, our only Creator, Preserver, Redeemer, and Savior, and who will one day be our Judge, as well as before all men and all creatures, that we and for our people, neither consent nor adhere in any manner whatsoever to the proposed decree, in anything that is contrary to God, to His holy word, to our right conscience, to the salvation of our souls."

From this statement the terms "Protestant" and "Protestantism" became associated with the Church Reform movement.

Teaching the Faith

March 1529 - Luther published the Small Catechism to help families learn the basic truths of the Christian faith. It contained explanations of the Apostles' Creed, Ten Commandments and Lord's Prayer.

The deplorable condition in which I found religious affairs during a recent visitation of the congregations, has impelled me to publish this Catechism, or statement of the Christian doctrine, after having prepared it in very brief and simple terms. Alas! What misery I beheld! The people, especially those who live in the villages, seem to have no knowledge whatever of Christian doctrine, and many of the pastors are ignorant and incompetent teachers. Martin Luther, Wittenberg, 1529

April 23, 1529 Luther's Large Catechism published for use by teachers and preachers. It covered the same ground as his Small Catechism, but in greater detail.

May 4, 1529 - Magdalena Luther born. She was the third child but first surviving daughter. Luther reported to Nicholas von Amsdorf that Katharina had gone into labor and after three hours, had delivered, without any difficulties, a perfectly healthy baby daughter. She was a much loved child and she was nicknamed Lenchen. Luther also asked Amsdorf to be godfather to "the little heathen and to help her [enter] holy Christendom through the holy, precious sacrament of baptism."

October 1-4, 1529 - Marburg Colloquy (conference) convened. Luther met with Ulrich Zwingli at Marburg Castle. German and Swiss theologians attempted to hammer out a theological statement they both could agree on, hoping for unity between the Protestants.

After agreeing on 15 articles of faith (infant baptism, the word of God, grace, confession, etc.), the discussions focused on the nature of the Lord's Supper. Luther maintained that the consecrated bread and wine were united to the true body and blood of Christ for all participants to eat and drink "this is my body, this is my blood"). Zwingli considered bread and wine only symbols of the body and blood of Christ.

(How could anyone deny infant baptism after watching their own child die unexpectedly, as Luther had to do with his 7-month-old daughter Elisabeth}.

The conference ended without an agreement, but did lead the way to later agreements, for example, the Schmalkaldic League of 1531 and the Wittenberg Concord of 1536.

Augsburg Confession

April 1530 (age 46) - In an effort to restore church unity and rally support against a Turkish invasion, Emperor Charles V called on the German Princes to present a summary of Lutheran beliefs at the Diet of Augsburg. 

Elector John of Saxony directed Martin Luther, Justus Jonas, Johannes Bugenhagen and Philipp Melanchthon to meet in Torgau and present a summary of Lutheran beliefs to be presented to the Holy Roman Emperor at the diet. This summary was called the "Torgau Articles." On April 3, the elector and the reformers left Torgau and, on

April 23, reached Coburg Castle, about 56 miles south of Erfurt. There, Luther was left behind because he was an outlaw according to the Edict of Worms.

May 1, 1530 - While Luther was at Coburg he received word that his father Hans had died.

This death has certainly thrown me into sadness, thinking not only of nature, but also of the very kind love, for through him my Creator has given me all that I am and have.

May 2, 1530 - The reformers, minus Luther, reached Augsburg. On the journey, Melanchthon worked on a draft using the Torgau Articles and sent it to Luther at Coburg on May 11 for his approval. On May 13 Luther wrote to Elector John: "I have read through Master Philipp's Apologia (as the Augsburg Confession was first known), which pleases me very much; I know nothing to improve or change it." On June 23, the final form was adopted.

In the Confession Melanchthon sought to defend Lutherans against misrepresentations and to provide a forceful statement of beliefs that would be acceptable to the Roman Catholics, and thus be the basis for reconciliation between the Lutheran Reformers and the Roman Church.

June 25, 1530 - The Lutheran princes insisted on a public reading of the confession, as opposed to presenting it to the Emperor. Two Saxon chancellors, one with the Latin copy, the other with the German, stepped into the middle of the assembly, and against the wish of the emperor, the German text was read. The reading lasted two hours and allegedly was so distinct that every word could be heard by those outside the chapel were the meeting took place.

Over the next three months, Johann Eck and other theologians wrote the Confutatio Pontificia stating the Catholic position on the 28 articles of the Augsburg Confession. Eck's first draft was so wordy and "vicious" that the Catholic princes refused to submit it to Emperor Charles until it was twice edited and toned down.

On August 3, 1530, the revised version of the Confutation was read at the Diet. It rejected the statements of the Augsburg Confession. The Emperor declared that it properly presented the Catholic faith. 

Melanchthon hastily wrote a lengthy argument, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, supporting the Augsburg Confession and refuting the arguments made in the Confutation. It was presented to the Emperor but he refused to accept it.

November 19, 1530 - The Diet of Augsburg ended without achieving a compromise. Emperor Charles V declared that the Lutheran confession had been repudiated and reinstated the Edict of Worms, which condemned reform and outlawed those who advocated it. He threatened military force if the reformers failed to consent to return to Catholic practices by April 15, 1531.

After Melanchthon returned to Wittenberg, he obtained a copy of the Confutation and rewrote and expanded his Apology to more clearly and completely explain the faith of the Reformers. A Latin edition was completed in April or May and a German translation by Justus Jonas was published in the autumn of 1531.

Luther spent 165 days at Coburg Castle during the Diet of Augsburg, strikingly parallel to his 11 months at the Wartburg. But now he had a family. While at the Coburg, his "kingdom of the birds," Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German and the writings of Aesop, he wrote to his family and Philipp Melanchthon and composed more than a dozen treatises. He also steadied the Lutheran participants at the Augsburg Diet and kept them from rash decisions. He pressed Philip of Hesse to stand firm and avoid compromise on the meaning of the Lord's Supper, lest it throw the Lutheran cause into reverse. On May 20, 1530, he wrote to Elector John Frederick, urging patience and strength in the midst of what must be "a tiresome situation." Indeed it must have been an often irksome situation; on the one hand, the theologians, led by Melanchthon, were forever changing the wording of the Augsburg Confession. On the other hand, everyone had to wait patiently for the emperor's arrival as he dallied in Italy and then in Innsbruck. The stay in Coburg became one of the most productive times of Luther's life.

Coburg Castle

Summary of the 28 statements of belief of the Augsburg Confession

The first twenty-one articles outline what the Reformers believed were the most important teachings in Lutheranism, based on the Bible. The last seven articles identify some of the wrongs and abuses of the Roman Catholic Church and provide arguments for needed reforms.

  1. Christians believe in the Triune God and reject other interpretations regarding the nature of God.
  2. The nature of man is sinful, described as being without fear of God, and without trust of God. Sin is redeemed through Baptism and the Holy Spirit.
  3. Lutherans believe in the incarnation, that is, the union of the fully human with the fully divine in the person of Jesus. Jesus Christ alone brings about the reconciliation of humanity with God.
  4. Humans cannot be justified before God through our own abilities; we are wholly reliant on Jesus Christ for reconciliation with God. 
  5. Christ has established the office of the holy ministry to ensure that the gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed throughout the world, .
  6. Good deeds by Christians are the fruits of faith and salvation, not a price paid for them.
  7. There is one holy Christian church, and it is found wherever the gospel is preached in its truth and purity and the sacraments are administered according to the gospel.
  8. The Sacraments are always valid because they are instituted by Christ, no matter what the sins may be of the one who administers them.
  9. Baptism is necessary because Christ commanded it and that forgiveness and renewal are offered through it. Children should also be baptized so that they can receive God's grace.
  10. Christ's body and blood are truly present in, with, and under the bread and wine of the sacrament and reject those that teach otherwise.
  11. Private absolution should remain in the church, though a believer does not need to enumerate all of his sins as it is impossible for a man to enumerate all of the sins for which he should be forgiven.
  12. Repentance comes in two parts: in contrition for sins committed according to the Law and through faith offered by the Gospel. A believer can never be free from sin, nor live outside of the grace of God.
  13. The Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord's Supper) are physical manifestations of God's Word. The Sacraments are never just physical elements, but have God's word and promises bound to them.
  14. Only those who are "rightly called" can publicly preach or administer the Sacraments.
  15. Church holidays, calendars and festivals are useful for religious observance, but that observance and ritual is not necessary for salvation. Human traditions (such as observances, fasts, distinctions in eating meats) that are taught as a way to "merit" grace work in opposition to the Gospel.
  16. Secular governments and vocations are part of God's natural order; Christians are free to serve in government and the military and to engage in the business and vocations of the world. Laws are to be followed unless they are commandments to sin.
  17. Christ will return to raise the dead and judge the world; the godly will be given everlasting joy, and the ungodly will be "tormented without end." 
  18. We are free to choose and act in every regard except for the choice of salvation. Faith is not the work of men, but of the Holy Spirit.
  19. Sin is caused not by God but by "the will of the wicked," turning away from God.
  20. Justification by faith does not condemn good works; faith causes us to do good works as a sign of our salvation. They are not a requirement for salvation.
  21. Saints, are honored not as saviors or intercessors to God, but rather as examples and inspiration.
  22. Communicants should receive both bread and wine, not just the bread.
  23. Clergy should be permitted to marry because the early Church bishops were married. God blesses marriage as an order of creation, and because marriage and procreation is the natural outlet for human sexual desire.
  24. The Mass is only a public gathering for the purposes of community worship and the receiving of the Eucharist. It is not a "work" for salvation and monetary gain.
  25. Lutherans uphold the need for confession and absolution, but reject the notion that Confession should induce guilt or anxiety. Absolution is offered for all sin, not just those sins that can be recounted in a confession.
  26. Human traditions that fasting and special observances with dietary restrictions as a means of gaining favor with God are contrary to the gospel. While fasting and other practices are useful, they do not make us right with God nor offer salvation.
  27. We cannot achieve purity in isolation from the rest of the world in monasteries or convents. Perfection cannot be attained by any vow.
  28. The only power given to priests or bishops is to preach, teach and administer the sacraments. The clergy are not rulers of governments and the military by divine right.

First edition of the Augsburg Confession.

1531 (age 47) - Luther wrote Warning to his Beloved Germans, discussing the rightness of armed resistance to the emperor. He left the choice to take up arms to the Protestant rulers.

February 27, 1531 - Schmalkaldic League established by Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse, and John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony, the two most powerful Protestant rulers at the time. It originated as a defensive alliance, with the members pledging to defend each other should their territories be attacked by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. But, the League quickly became a territorial political movement when breaking from the Catholic Church offered significant economic advantages. In December 1535, the league admitted anyone who would subscribe to the Augsburg Confession.

Marketplace in Schmalkalden, today a town of some 18,000 in central Germany

June 30, 1531 - Margarethe Luther (Martin's mother) died.

November 9, 1531 - Martin Luther, Jr. was born. Luther said, "If you become a lawyer I will hang you on the gallows. You must be a preacher, baptize and dispense the sacrament, visit the sick and comfort the sorrowful." (Martin did study theology, but he devoted his time to scholarly pursuits and never had a regular parish call.)

1532 (age 48) - Religious Peace of Nurnberg granted German Protestants free exercise of religion until further notice.

1533 (age 49) - Luther helped reform the theology faculty at the University of Wittenberg.

January 1533 - King Henry VIII of England married Anne Boleyn. Three months later she gave birth to a daughter, Princess Elizabeth (future Queen Elizabeth I). Pope Clement VII responded to the marriage by excommunicating Henry.

January 29, 1533 - Paul Luther was born.

1534 (age 50) - After twelve years Luther finished translating the Old Testament into German.

There are some who have a small opinion of the Old Testament, thinking of it as a book that was given to the Jewish people only�but Christ says, 'Search in the scriptures, for they give testimony of me' ... therefore the Old Testament is to be highly regarded.

1534 - Luther's first full Bible translation into German, including the Old Testament, was published in a six-part edition. It was a collaborative effort of Luther, Johannes Bugenhagen, Justus Jonas, Caspar Creuziger, Philipp Melanchthon, Matthius Aurogallus, and Georg Rorer. Before Luther died Hans Lufft printed thirteen editions of this Bible; 253 editions were published outside of Wittenberg. A completely revised edition appeared in 1541. The illustrations in some copies were later hand-colored. The initial printing of 3,000 sold out within three months.


 Martin Luther's German Bible Translation

Luther's Bible was not a word-for-word literal translation. Luther used the variant of German spoken in Saxony, intelligible to both northern and southern Germans. He intended to make the Bible accessible to everyday Germans, "for we are removing impediments and difficulties so that other people may read it without hindrance."

Germans everywhere bought Luther's Bible, not only for the salvation of their souls, but for prestige. It was the must-have book. Everyone read it or listened to it being read. Its phrasing became the people's phrasing, its speech patterns their speech patterns.

Hans Lufft, whose printing press was set up in the basement of the Luther home, published almost 100,000 copies of Luther's Bible translation. nearly 180 million pages! There were no copyright laws; Luther received no royalties.

1534 - Ignatius Loyola founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) with the purpose of preaching and winning over new converts to the Catholic church. Jesuits dedicated themselves to teaching and stressed the importance of preaching and obedience to the Pope; believed it was essential for Christians to unite and that Protestant theology was flawed.

September 25, 1534 - Death of Pope Clement VII.

October 13, 1534 - Clement was succeeded by Alessandro Farnese, who took the name Paul III.

March 21, 1536 (age 52) - Wittenberg Concord, a conference of Lutheran and Zwinglian theologians, meet at Luther's home. They achieved some compromise but very little understanding or

1537 (age 53) - In preparation for an intended ecumenical Church council Elector John Frederick "the Magnanimous" of Saxony asked Luther to prepare a summary of Lutheran beliefs for presentation at a meeting of the Schmalkaldic League.

February 9-20, 1537 (age 53) - Luther arrived in Schmalkalden for a meeting of the Schmalkadic League. Luther's patron, Elector John Frederick of Saxony, had asked him to prepare a summary of Lutheran beliefs in preparation for an intended ecumenical Council of the Church. John wished to determine what issues could be negotiated with the Roman Catholics and what could not be compromised. However, Luther became seriously ill with a severe case of kidney stones.

The Schmalkald Articles, as they became known, are divided into three sections.

The first section discusses the unity of God, the Trinity, the Incarnation and Christ. On these subjects Luther believed there was no real controversy between Roman Catholics and Protestants.

The second section dealt with Christ and justification by faith. Luther stated, "On this article rests all that we teach and practice against the pope, the devil and the world." This section also discusses the mass, monastic orders, and the papacy.

The third section discusses 15 articles that could be considered by Roman Catholics and Protestants. It includes such subjects as sin, the Law, repentance, the sacraments, confession, the ministry and a definition of the church.

The league chose not to adopt Luther's Schmalkald Articles because Philipp Melanchthon was concerned Luther's writing would be regarded by some as divisive. Instead, Melanchthon was asked to write a clear statement on the Papacy, which he completed

February 17, 1537. This document, the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, Tractate for short, was adopted as an appendix to the Augsburg Confession, which did not have a specific article dealing with the office of the Papacy.

Four statements from Melanchthon's Tractate:

  • The Roman Pontiff claims by God-given right to be above all bishops and pastors.
  • Secondly, he also claims by God-given right to have the authority to crown and depose kings, regulate secular dominions etc.
  • And thirdly, he says that belief in this is necessary for salvation.
  • These three articles we hold to be false, godless, tyrannical and pernicious to the church.

In Luke 22:25 Christ expressly says that no apostle should have supremacy over the rest.

Luther's Schmalkald Articles were highly prized by John Frederick who ordered they be made a part of his last will and testament. Though they were not adopted at the meeting of the Schmalkaldic League in 1537, they were widely read, and 44 theologians signed them as an expression of their personal faith. Subsequently they were incorporated into the Book of Concord, along with Melanchthon's Tractate.

Luther's Later Years>>