The Reformation at 500: Luther’s Stay at the Wartburg (Part 2)

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Those who love holding a Bible in their hands—which they can read in their own language—should be aware of and grateful for the monumental importance of Dr. Martin Luther’s 10-month stay at the Wartburg Castle in 1521 and 1522.

It was during this time that Luther first translated the New Testament into German—in just 11 weeks! In so doing, he literally began the modern era of Bible translation.

In the providence of God, Luther was used to launch the Reformation in the wake of two events of inestimable significance. The first was Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, with movable type, in 1450, in Mainz, Germany. The second was the work of a courageous Dutch priest, Desiderius Erasmus, who first published the Novum Instrumentum in 1516, in Basel, Switzerland.

Erasmus compiled the Greek text of the New Testament, using the limited resources available to him, and also provided an original translation of the New Testament into Latin.

We know that Luther probed Erasmus’ text enthusiastically, and had access to it inside the Wartburg.

Erwin Lutzer states of Luther’s time there:

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The Reformation at 500: Luther’s Stay at the Wartburg (Part 1)

Wartburg Castle

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Why should we praise God—or, for that matter, even care—that Dr. Martin Luther has triumphantly “driven the devil away with ink”?1

For the benefit of those who do not follow this column regularly, let me back up and open with a brief word of explanation. Since beginning to write in this format in 2020, I have been producing an ongoing series, in which I follow the events of the Reformation throughout its 500th anniversary. The big event, of course, occurred on Oct. 31, 1517. Its anniversary took place before I began this column, but was just a month after my wife and I were privileged to be on a life-changing Reformation tour of Germany, including a stop at the Castle Church, where Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door. There will, of course, continue to be anniversaries of significant Reformation events, 500 years later, for the rest of my life.

I have been away from this topic for just about one year, and that was not by accident. This past year marked 500 years from Luther’s unplanned stay at the Wartburg Castle. He was there from May 4, 1521, to Feb. 29, 1522.2 Although we are late in commemorating his departure, the next six months were quiet for Luther, so I will attempt to catch up and summarize this entire period according to some vitally important themes.

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Are the Five "Solas" Still Important for the Church Today?

"They are particularly significant today because even professing evangelicals, to say nothing of the culture around us, are being tempted to abandon the gospel. Therefore, the church must recognize the dire need of not only defending the five solas but also celebrating them." - Ligonier

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The Protestant Reformers and the Natural Law Tradition

"Although it is decidedly true that they championed a particular understanding of grace and faith that took issue with their Roman Catholic counterparts, . . . they assumed the natural law as a part of the fabric of the created order and therein maintained continuity with those across the Reformation divide." - Public Discourse

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After the Darkness, Light

Wartburg Castle

If you had asked me, as a young boy, what holiday we celebrate on October 31, I likely would have responded, “Reformation Day.”

Sure, I was intrigued by ghosts, ghouls and goblins as much as the next kid—but not for their own sake. I, instead, preferred to think of them as the backdrop, set in place by hundreds of years of darkness, against which the light of Reformation shone crystal clear from the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

You see, being raised confessional Lutheran, the significance of Luther’s bold act of Reformation on Oct. 31, 1517, was drilled into me from my earliest days. Granted, it was a bit of a cartoonish view of those events that was taught to us as back then as small children. But it stuck in my mind for a lifetime.

By the time I finished Lutheran high school, however, I thought I’d had enough of the Reformation. What I did not realize initially, though, was that my own life was following the very trajectory—in terms of the progressive development of doctrine—that I would later find fascinating in relation to church history.

As I began studying what I would come to understand as dispensational theology, and attending a Bible church, my focus was much more on the future—my own, but also the prophetic future—than the past. I actually minored in social studies in Bible college and had several outstanding history classes, but church history, specifically, was not emphasized overall.

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Understanding Sola Scriptura

"This conviction of sola Scriptura— the Scriptures alone are the Word of God and, therefore, the only infallible rule for life and doctrine—provided the fuel needed to ignite the Reformation. Indeed, it was regarded as the 'formal cause' of the Reformation (whereas sola fide, or 'faith alone,' was regarded as the 'material cause')." - Ligonier

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