Thank God for Martin Luther

It was a backwater German town called Eisleben on November 10, 1483—today marks 525 years.

There Martin Luther had his inauspicious beginning. He was born a poor boy, son of a coal miner. And by a strange providence, Luther died in the same town 62 years later on February 18, 1546, even though he spent barely any of his life there.

In the intervening 6 decades, the world changed—and Luther, under God, was the chief catalyst.

The pope excommunicated Luther in January of 1521, making him a marked man. For the last 25 years of his life, he lived with the awareness that each day could be his last. He often expressed surprise that he was still alive.

To the right is a 1526 painting by Lucas Cranach, which may be the most authentic portrait we have of Luther. And, so that you can join us in celebrating Luther’s 525th, below is a timeline of his life, highlighting some of the most significant events of his 62 years.

Thank God for Luther—simultaneously righteous and sinful.

Timeline of Luther’s Life 

1483, November 10 - Born to Hans and Margaretta Luther in Eisleben
1484, Summer - Luther family moves to Mansfeld
1501, May - Enters university at Erfurt (age 17)
1502, September 29 - Receives Bachelor of Arts (age 18)
1505, January 7 - Receives Master of Arts (age 21)
1505, July 2 - Vows to become a monk
1505, July 17 - Enters the monastery in Erfurt
1507, May 2 - Celebrates his first mass as a priest (age 23)
1510, November - Journeys to Rome and is disturbed by its corruption (age 26)
1511, April - Transferred to Wittenberg to teach at the university
1512, October 19 - Receives his Doctor of Theology (age 28)
1517, October 31 - Posts his 95 theses (age 33)
1518, April 26 - Defends his theology at Heidelberg
1519, July - Debates prominent theologian John Eck at Leipzig
1520 - Publishes Address to German Nobility, Babylonian Captivity, and Freedom of the Christian; breach with Rome now irreparable
1521, January - Excommunicated by the pope (age 37)
1521, April 18 - Gives “Here I stand” response to the emperor at the Diet of Worms
1521, May - Kidnapped and hidden at Wartburg to preserve his life; begins translating the New Testament into German
1522, March - Returns to Wittenberg to lead the Reformation
1522, September - Publishes his German New Testament
1524, November 30 - Writes that he has no intention to marry
1525, June 13 - Marries escaped nun Katherine von Bora (age 41)
1525, December - Responds to Erasmus’ Freedom of the Will with The Bondage of the Will (which J. I. Packer calls “the greatest piece to come from Luther’s pen”)
1527, Summer - Composes “A Mighty Fortress” during a season of sickness and deep depression
1529, October - Meets Zwingli at Marburg and is unable to come to agreement on the Lord’s Supper
1534 - Publishes the complete German Bible (age 50)
1546, February 18 - Dies while traveling in Eisleben (age 62)

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.