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The Early Years of Martin Luther

Martin Luther went to school and studied to become a lawyer to please his father

Hans Luther, a German peasant, and his bride, Margaret, who came from the middle class, committed their lives to each other. Though having different social backgrounds, Hans pledged to work his way up in life. He promised to provide for Margaret and their future family in the way she grew up.The Early Years of Martin Luther

Devout Catholics, Hans and Margaret welcomed their firstborn into the world on November 10, 1483. The couple baptized their baby the next day on St. Martin’s Day. It seemed fitting to give their son the name Martin.

As Hans worked in the mines, Margaret, a stern disciplinarian, taught little Martin the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostles’ Creed. The Luthers celebrated Mass each week. They instilled in Martin a love for singing, both in the church choir and at home with family.

Consistent with the Church’s teaching of the day, Martin learned of a Jesus who not only came to save but who also judged, demanding holy living and exacting a dreadful wrath over those who fell short. This tough teaching gripped Martin and caused him great agony for the first part of his life.

At eight years old, Martin started school. He learned Latin from strict teachers who governed with harsh discipline. Despite the school’s rigid setting, he performed well. At age thirteen and showing promise, Martin continued his education. He progressed through a series of schools, as was the practice of the day for students with potential. This prepared him for a professional job, possibly in law, which his father desired for his son. For the most part, Martin accepted his dad’s career preference. A highly respected occupation, a career in law would provide Martin with a good income.

But Hans could afford to pay for only part of Martin’s schooling. As the accepted practice of the day, the lad would try to make up the difference through begging and street singing. Despite this, Martin relished learning. He desired to honor his dad by becoming a lawyer, even though young Martin felt occasional pulls to serve God and the Church, a profession that lacked both the pay and the prestige of law. Martin Luther struggled to balance spiritual concerns with his father’s push to pursue law. Click To Tweet

At eighteen, Martin began the final phase of his education, which his dad could now fully cover. An excellent student, Martin soon earned his bachelor’s degree and then his masters two years later.

The Early Years of Martin Luther in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaanYet he continued to struggle to balance his personal worries about spiritual issues of sin and punishment, as taught by the church, with his father’s push for him to pursue law. Martin vacillated between honoring the wishes of his dad—a man he both loved and feared—and responding to God’s call. Despite not liking the legal profession, Martin chose to follow the wishes of his father.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses and the Fervor They Caused

Once the people read Luther’s 95 theses they pushed for a change he hadn’t intended

Though most Protestants know of Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses, few have ever read them. Here’s why:

First written in Latin and then translated into German, neither of these versions of Luther’s ninety-five theses helps us as English-speaking readers. Several English translations exist, but their formal language, complex sentence structure, and unfamiliar terms make them hard to understand. The fact that Martin wrote his original document five hundred years ago in another culture further complicates our ability to understand them today.Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses and the Fervor They Caused

So difficult to comprehend, few people invest the time to wade through Martin’s ninety-five points of contention. And most who try give up after the first few.

In considering Luther’s ninety-five points of debate, it’s important to remember that they don’t stand alone, with many building upon prior items. If some of his theses seem contradictory, it may be because there exists a fine line of distinction between what Martin opposed and what he approved or that we fail to grasp his subtle nuances.

When Luther’s followers distributed printed copies of his ninety-five theses, they essentially went viral and sparked a religious rebellion. Many mark this as the birth of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther stepped forward to post his ninety-five theses. Click To Tweet

However, aside from Martin Luther, many notable theologians and ministers breathed life into this movement, too. They helped advance the cause, of which Luther played a part. These include John Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli, along with William Tyndale, Jan Hus, Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe, John Knox, and George Wishart, among others. Some were peers, some preceded Luther, and others followed him, yet their common goal was reform.

Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaanIn determining a date for the onset of the Protestant Reformation, the most accessible one is October 31, 1517, the day Martin Luther stepped forward to post his ninety-five theses. As such, many assign this date as the beginning of the Reformation, and Luther, the man behind the list, as its chief advocate.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Tweeting Martin Luther

Martin Luther’s 95 concerns were distributed in printed form and essentially went viral

Martin Luther lived five hundred years ago. He was born at the dawn of the modern era. He became a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation. A key technology in birthing the modern era was the printing press.500 years ago, Martin Luthers' 95 theses went viral

The printing press also helped drive the Reformation. It propelled the spread of information. This moved a premodern society into the modern era. (A similar change occurs today, as the internet helps us move from the modern era into the postmodern era.)

This printing technology broadcast a message of spiritual enlightenment to a people poised for religious change. We politely refer to the transformation that emerged as the Protestant Reformation, but the word revolution might better describe the spiritual rebellion that followed.

The fuse that ignited this came from a list of ninety-five concerns that this German monk had about the abuse of one specific church practice: the sale of indulgences, which, at the risk of oversimplification, allowed people to buy their salvation. We call Luther’s talking points ninety-five theses. He wrote it in Latin, so the masses wouldn’t know about his concerns.

However, without Luther’s knowledge, well-meaning followers translated his ninety-five theses into German and printed copies for the people to read. This turned his handwritten list into a printable tract, which saw wide distribution throughout the country and spread his concerns to a much larger audience.

Though not all Germans could read German, they could understand it as others read to them. What they heard disturbed them, likely in part because many of them had paid for full indulgences, which Martin essentially outed as a scam.

Then others translated his ninety-five points into other European languages. This spread his message across the continent. Though five centuries prior to the internet, his list of ninety-five theses went viral—long before the information super highway and Twitter existed.The private discussion Martin Luther sought with Church leaders never happened. Instead... Click To Tweet

Outrage ensued. The private, internal discussion he sought with Church leaders never happened. Instead, a revolution resulted.

But Martin never wanted to lead a rebellion or become its figurehead, he didn’t intend his ninety-five points to attack the Roman Catholic Church, and he certainly didn’t mean to spark a revolt.Tweeting Martin Luther in 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaan

Martin wanted to work for change within the system. But the laity, now aware of his concerns, were poised to rebel against what they saw as an unsympathetic Church that exploited them and didn’t care about them or their plight. The people wanted a religious revolt, and that’s what they got.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

New Book! 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century

New book about Martin Luther

95 Tweets reveals our past so we can reform our present.

95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaanCelebrate the five-hundred-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, when Martin Luther nailed his list of ninety-five concerns to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517.

Most Protestants have heard of Martin Luther, but they know little more.

Discover what Luther said in his history-changing document that people talk about but have never read.

  • Learn what Luther’s ninety-five theses meant 500 years ago.
  • Understand the significance behind his work.
  • Explore how the ninety-five theses apply to us today.
  • Consider reformation as an ongoing effort.
  • Reassess your spiritual practices.

95 Tweets explains the meaning behind each of Luther’s ninety-five concerns. Then it updates the basic premise of each one, reframed as ninety-five tweets, complete with hashtags. 95 Tweets concludes with a present-day list of ninety-five tweets for the modern church. The intent is not to criticize her but to encourage ongoing reforms.

Get your copy of 95 Tweets today!


Peter DeHaan, PhD, writes about biblical spirituality. He urges Christians to push past the status quo and reexamine their practices. Many people feel church let them down, and Peter seeks to encourage them as they search for a place to belong. But he’s not afraid to ask tough questions or make people squirm. Peter earned his doctorate from Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary, awarded with high distinction.

Get your copy of 95 Tweets today!