Essential facts about Martin Luther, as well as a very extensive reading list! 

Born November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Saxony (now Germany). 3 brothers, 4 sisters. Father: ambitious, successful miner. Mother: pious but superstitious. Raised Roman Catholic in Mansfeld. Childhood distinctions: academic achiever. 1497 sent to Magdeburg for further schooling. 1498 sent to Eisenach for further schooling. 1501-1505 through Masters degree at Un. of Erfurt. 1505 Augustinian monk at Erfurt. 1507 ordained priest. 1508 Vicar Staupitz pushs him as scholar at Frederick the Wise’s Un. of Wittenberg. 1510-1511 trip to Rome. 1512 Doctor of Theology. October 31, 1517, posted 95 Theses against granting indulgences for money. 1518 Frederick the Wise protected him from angry church and secular powers. 1519 debated Eck at Leipzig. 1520 at Wittenberg published Address to the German Nobility, publicly burned pope’s decree. 1521 in April confronted emperor at Diet of Worms. May 1521-March 1522 hid as Junker Georg (Knight Georg) at Wartburg castle where he translated New Testament into German. 1522 at Wittenberg resumed role of pastor and founder of ‘Evangelicalism’. 1525 opposed peasant uprising, married Catherine von Bora, with whom he had 3 sons, 3 daughters. 1526 boarded students who over many years compiled 6000 conversations as Table Talk. 1527 at 44 rapid decline in health caused more reliance on colleague Philip Melanchthon. 1532 finished complete Bible in German. 1530’s Evangelicalism swept German-speaking world. 1539 Norway and Sweden adopted Evangelicalism. 1544 Sweden adopted Evangelicalism. February 18, 1546 died at 62 in Eisleben.

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Major Collections

Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, 2 volumes, translated and edited by Preserved Smith and Charles M. Jacobs, Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1913, 1918.
Luther's Works: American Edition, 55 volumes. Edited by Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut T. Lehman, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House and Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1955-1986.
Among individual volumes of 'Luther's Works' known available are these:
Lectures on Genesis/Chapters 1-5 (Luther's Works Vol. 1) HC
Genesis Chapters 6-11 (Luther's Works Vol. 2) HC
Lectures on Genesis/Chapters 15-20 (Luther's Works Vol. 3) HC
Lectures on the Psalms I/Chapters 1-75 (Luther's Works Vol. 10) HC
Selected Psalms I/Chapters 2, 8, 19, 23, 26, 45 and 51 (Luther's Works Vol. 12) HC
Selected Psalms II (Luther's Works Vol. 13) HC
Lectures on Isaiah/Chapters 40-66 (Luther's Works Vol. 17)  HC
Luther's Works Lectures on the Minor Prophets I (Luther's Works Vol. 18) HC
Lectures on Minor Prophets III (Luther's Works Vol. 20) HC
Sermons on Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16 (Luther's Works Vol. 24)  HC
Lectures on Galatians/Chapters 1-4 (Luther's Works Vol. 26) HC
Lectures on Galatians/Chapters 5-6 (Luther's Works Vol. 27) HC
Selected Pauline Epistles/1 Corinthians 7, 15; 1 Timothy (Luther's Works Vol. 28) HC
Lectures on Titus, Philemon, Hebrews (Luther's Works Vol. 29) HC
Catholic Epistles (Luther's Works Vol. 30) HC

Major Collections in German

Dr. Luther's Sammtliche Werke, ('Complete Works') 67 volumes. Weimar: Hermann Bohlaus Nachfolger, 1883-1997.
Dr. Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, Deutsche Bibel, (Critical Edition, German Bible) 12 volumes. Weimar: Hermann Bohlaus Nachfolger, 1906-1961.
Dr. Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, Tischreden, (Critical Edition, Table Talk) 6 volumes. Weimar: Hermann Bohlaus Nachfolger, 1912-1921.
Dr. Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, Briefwechsel, (Critical Edition, Correspondence) 15 volumes. Weimar: Hermann Bohlaus Nachfolger, 1930-1978.

Individual Works

The Bondage of the Will  PB
Christian Liberty    PB
Commentary on Galatians  PB 
Commentary on Peter & Jude PB 
Commentary on Romans
Daily Readings from Luther's Writings
Discourse on Free Will (with Erasmus) PB 
Large Catechism of Martin Luther  HC
Luther's Large Catechism: A Contemporary Translation With Study Questions  PB
Luther's Ninety-Five Theses  PB 
Luther's Prayers  PB 
Luther's Small Catechism With Explanation    HC
Martin Luther's Christmas Book PB
         30 compelling Christmas excerpts from his sermons
          edited by major biographer Roland Bainton
Martin Luther, Selections from His Writings. PB 
         representative selection from Luther's extensive writings
The Schmalkald Articles PB 
A Simple Way to Pray    HC 
Table Talk ?HC
         Selected anecdotes of the larger collection edited by William Hazlitt, 1848.
Theologia Germanica  PB
Three Treatises PB 
         To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation,
         The Babylonian Captivity of the Church,
         & The Freedom of a Christian.
The 1529 Holy Week and Easter Sermons of Dr. Martin Luther PB


              Agricola, Georgius.
De re metallica. Germany, 1566. Latin translated by Herbert Clark Hoover and Lou Henry Hoover, London, 1912. [Mammoth classic on German mining] PB
              Althaus, Paul.
The Theology of Martin Luther. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966 translation by Robert C. Schultz of 1963 German original. PB
              Bainton, Roland H..
Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. New York: Abingdon Press, 1950. [Major American biography] PB 
              Brecht, Martin.
Martin Luther: His Road to Reformation, 1483-1521, 3 volumes. German, followed by English translation by James L. Schaff, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981 through 1993. [Exhaustive classic German biography] PB V.1 PB V.2 PB V.3
              Erikson, Erik H..
Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History. New York: W. W. Norton, 1958. PB
              Denifle, Heinrich.
Luther and Lutherdom. Somerset, Ohio: Torch Press, 1917 (Translation by Raymund Volz of original in German: Mainz, 1904-1906). [Vitriolic attack by Catholic scholar always quoted by Luther-haters]
              Durant, Will. The Reformation: A History of European Civilization from Wyclif to Calvin: 1300 to 1564 (Vol. VI. The Story of Civilization). New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957. HC
              Euricius Cordus.
Epigrammata. Germany, 1520, ed. by K. Krause, Berlin, 1892.
              Febvre, Lucien.
A Destiny: Martin Luther. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1930 (Translation by Roberts Tapley of original in French: Paris, 1928). HC
              Friedenthal, Richard.
Luther: His Life and Times. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970 translation by John Nowell (original in German: R. Piper & Co., 1967). ?PB
              Haile, H. G. Luther: An Experiment in Biography. Princeton Univ. Press, 1983.
[Only for advanced Luther buffs]PB
              Kung, Hans.
Great Christian Thinkers: Paul, Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Schleiermacher and Barth. New York: Continuum Publishing, 1994. PB
              Marius, Richard.
Martin Luther: The Christian Between God and Death. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press (Harvard University Press), 1999. [extremely unfriendly and biased treatment by one who considered Luther a 'catastrophe'] PB HC
              McGiffert, Arthur Cushman.
Martin Luther: The Man and His Work. New York: The Century Company, 1910, 1911. ?PB
              Melanchthon, Philip.
A History of the Life and Actions of the Very Reverend Dr. Martin Luther. Translation of the original in Latin (Germany, 1549). [Biography by his closest colleague] PB
              Oberman, Heiko.
Luther: Man between God and the Devil. Germany, 1981. English edition: Yale University Press, 1989. PB
              Schulze, Hagen. Germany: A New History. Harvard University Press, 1998. Translation by Deborah Schneider (original in German, 1996).
['New' is euphemism for 'Brief'] HC
              Siggins, Ian.
Luther and His Mother. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981. ?PB
              Smith, Preserved.
The Life and Letters of Martin Luther. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1911,1914. [Major scholar of Luther]

Note this reading list can not be truly exhaustive. Why? Because the volume of literature by Luther and about Luther is rivaled only by the mountains of literature on Jesus, Napoleon and Lincoln!

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         Martin Luther's rages and violent rhetoric recorded in print often obscure the fact that most of the time he was either a quiet, pious pastor or a boisterous, fun-loving Saxon. An example of his humor is a letter he showed his hired man Wolfgang Sieberger in 1534. Wolfgang was also a 'fowler', a person who captured birds by using nets. The letter was 'from the birds'.
         Martin's letter 'from the birds' read:

We thrushes, blackbirds, finches and all other pious, honorable birds, who migrate this autumn over Wittenberg, have been reliably informed that one Wolfgang Sieberger has conceived a great wicked plot against us, and has bought some old, rotten nets to make a bird trap--out of anger and hatred toward us.  He plans to rob us of the freedom God has given us to fly through the air. All this, as you yourself can imagine, is a great danger and worry to us poor birds, who have neither houses nor barns nor anything else. He doesn't even put corn in his nets. We humbly request you restrain your hired man. If he will not do this, we will pray to God to send (instead of us birds) frogs, locusts, and snails into the bird trap by day and mice, fleas, lice, and bugs into the bird trap at night! Why does Wolfgang not use his wrath and industry against your local magpies, crows, ravens, mice, and rats?  They do you much harm, rob and steal corn, oats, and barley, whereas in passing we only eat crumbs and a stray grain or two of wheat.  We leave our case to your just reason whether Wolfgang is not doing us wrong...Consider Matthew 6:26: 'Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them...'>
         Of course the letter was just a joke to tease Wolfgang. Fortunately for the birds Wolfgang was not a very good fowler.

[Sources: Smith,
The Life and Letters of Martin Luther; Holy Bible NIV version.]

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         Martin Luther was savage in his rhetoric. But it was calculated. "I played Luther in the most disagreeable words," he wrote to a friend in 1535 after mercilessly goading a Catholic bishop into a rage. Martin in the early days believed if he had spoken in moderation no one would ever had paid him the slightest attention. "I see that whatever is treated mildly in our age falls into oblivion," he wrote a colleague in 1520. But even later as a legend in his own time his savagery never lessened against his 'enemies'.
         Martin became more and more flawed with age. In 1539 at 56 Martin participated in a deception. His strong ally and friend Philip of Hesse wanted to marry his mistress. But Philip was already married. Martin had always been against divorce. But he had never been against a man having more than one wife. So contingent upon the approval of Philip's first wife Martin approved the second marriage. But publicly he denied approval. In a letter he wrote, "the secret 'Yea' must for the sake of Christ's Church remain a public 'Nay'.
         But that was not the greatest of his flaws. Although very sympathetic to Jews in his youth he hardened after his break with Roman Catholicism. The indifference of Jews to his new Evangelicalism soured him. By 1543 he recommended all Jews be denied livelihoods by money-lending and be forced to take up agriculture. He would ban their Scriptures (Old Testament) in Hebrew as well. If they resisted these restrictions they would have to leave the country. After all, Martin fumed, Jews were completely banned in England, France, and Spain.
         Martin also hardened against Protestant groups other than his own. The Baptists were not only pious but winning many converts. But in many principalities they were prohibited. Martin ranted against them as they were persecuted--even murdered by those in authority. Finally by 1540 he advised Baptists to practice their faith behind closed doors in silence. So the one-time outspoken 'heretic' who feared death from the hands of the Roman Catholic church did himself indirectly advocate death for outspoken 'heretics' who disagreed with his form of Protestantism.
         Critics labeled Martin the 'Protestant pope'.

[Sources: Smith,
The Life and Letters of Martin Luther; Durant, Will. The Reformation: A History of European Civilization from Wyclif to Calvin: 1300 to 1564 (Vol. VI. The Story of Civilization), 1957.]

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         All of 1518 Martin Luther--still an Augustinian monk in Wittenberg--had squabbled in print with John Eck, a Dominican monk in Ingolstadt. Eck championed the supremacy of the pope. Martin believed the Bible was the supreme authority for Christians. Carlstadt, a colleague at Wittenberg, agreed with Martin and had finally stepped in to relieve him. The squabble between Carlstadt and Eck had crystallized into a debate scheduled for Leipzig. Yet Martin could not let Carlstadt take the brunt of what would surely be an all-out attack from the highest powers of the Roman Catholic church.
         On June 27, 1519, Martin and Carlstadt left Wittenberg for Leipzig, some 60 miles to the south. A professor at Leipzig described the 35-year-old Martin as "of medium height and slender form, with a body so wasted both with cares and study that you can almost count all his bones." But Martin's shrunken body was flesh enough to burn. For Martin worried that he would be abruptly condemned as a heretic and quickly burned at the stake. Blatant and noisy opposition to the pope--away from the protection of a king or prince--usually ended that way. John Hus had been burned in 1415 for voicing much the same ideas as Martin's. And Hus, like Martin this day, also had been guaranteed 'safe conduct'.
         In a black moment Martin despaired. Yes, he had pressed too hard. Within days he would be condemned and burned. He was nothing himself-but, oh, what humiliation he would cause his family. His father and mother had nourished him, helped him in every way. His brothers and sisters had always deferred to their scholarly brother. Now in his final act he would disgrace them all...

[Source: McGiffert, Arthur,
Martin Luther: The Man and His Work, 1910, 1911.]

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         Sometime from 1514 to 1519--scholars disagree on the exact time-- Martin Luther had what later came to be called the 'Tower Experience'. He was supposedly studying in his office, which was on the third floor of a tower built into the city wall of Wittenberg.  True or not, for a long time he had anguished over this passage from Paul's Letter to the Romans (1:16-18):

...the the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes...For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'...The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men...
         In 1519 Martin wrote the following:
I had a burning desire to understand Paul's Letter to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression…'righteousness from God' because I took it to mean that righteousness by which God administers justice and deals justly [but wrathfully] in punishing the unjust.  My situation was that, although a blameless monk, I stood before God as a sinner very troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that I was not one of the unjust.  Therefore I did not love this just but angry God. Instead I hated him and grumbled against him...Night and day I anguished until I saw the connection between the 'righteousness from God' and the statement that 'the righteous will live by faith.' Then I grasped that the righteousness from God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. All at once I felt myself to have been born again and to have gone through open gates of paradise itself. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the 'righteousness from God' had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love.  This passage of Paul had become to me the very gate to paradise...
         Many scholars believe that moment of revelation was also the birth of the Protestant Reformation.

[Sources: Holy Bible, NIV version; Luther,
Preface to the Complete Edition of Luther's Latin Works, 1545, modified to agree with NIV Bible; Bainton, Here I Stand, 1950; Marius, Martin Luther, 1992]

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List of all available writings on the Internet.
Worth  a look, although some links - supposedly updated regularly - are no good.

Interesting site about the town where Luther grew up.

Susan Lynn Peterson's Martin Luther Website
well-organized information (with other links as well)

KDG Wittenberg
Very nice Luther Website

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Sam Wellman's

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