Martin Luther's Humanism Education

Updated on December 13, 2016
RGraf profile image

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

Understanding Humanism

To understand Luther and the Protestant Reformation, one has to understand humanism. This Renaissance was a movement that would have man take control of their own lives and souls: “man was now the creator of his own destiny.” This was the first time in history that, on a large scale, man began to look deep within himself, becoming more aware of what he was like on the inside and what he could become. Humanism swept through the arts and writing, which would “help characterize the age as one of individualism and self-creativity.” Artists brought reality to their works. Sculptors created pieces that seemed to breathe. All of the art world brought their pieces to the masses in ways that everyone could relate to and ‘touch.’

Back to the Classics

Humanism also took the academic world back to the classics. The works of Plato, Aristotle, and others were read more and more. Instead of reading summaries of the classics or original literature, such as the Bible, students began to read the actual texts and study them. It was this aspect of humanism that was the foundation for Luther’s movements. Take this move to study the original texts with the fact that “the common people…sought a more personal, spiritual and immediate kind of religion – something that would touch them directly, in the heart” and there was no way the Protestant Reformation could have been avoided.


Into the Universities

It was “under Sixtus humanism prospered because it contributed to the Pope’s intention of establishing the papacy as a great secular power.” His help encourage the humanistic studies in the universities, including those that educated future church leaders. It was at Erfurt that “a fresh and vigorous impulse was being given to that study of classical antiquity, which gave birth to a new learning, and ushered in a new era of intellectual culture in Germany.” This fresh blood into the academic world gave the world “free movement of thought” and a “new world of ideas.”

Looking Deeper

Luther attended Erfurt and was largely impacted by the humanist movement. He “began to give himself to the studies of Greek and Hebrew, so that having learned the peculiar quality of the language and the diction, and doctrine drawn from its sources, he might be able to judge more skillfully.” Many of the scholars that were influenced by the humanist thoughts dove into the ancient texts. They desired to learn more of the foundations of the world and understand their own. They opened up the “original texts of the civilization which had included not only Plato and Aristotle and Cicero, but the establishment of the Christian church.”


Reading the original texts was big in leading Luther down the Reformation path. Christian humanists did not direct their studies “through medieval Latin commentaries” which was used to remind the students and readers “that the church represented an accumulation of interpretations as well as dogma.” Though Popes used humanism to advance their positions of power, it was humanism that was to undermine them and drain their power. The religious leaders saw dangers all around them that would topple them. What they did not see was that “the most serious [dangers] had their ground in the characters of the Popes themselves.”

At this time, the Church was full of what many considered unethical and immoral acts. Offices were sold, mistresses were kept, and greed was rampant. Those that criticized the church leaders said that they participated in “excessive pomp, political militancy manipulation of the college of cardinals, the sale of offices, and nepotism.” As Luther saw more and more of what was behind the Church’s lavish curtains, the more disgusted he became with how the Church was run. What he considered the true heart of Christianity had been murdered. All he wanted was a resurrection of these ideals. Luther wanted to bring back a faith that man could “throw itself, with inward longing and childlike trust, into the arms of God’s mercy, and so enjoy true forgiveness.”


Buckhardt, Jacob. The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. Ontario: Batoche Books, 2001.

Busak, Robert P. “Martin Luther: Renaissance Humanist?” podcast audio, .

D’Amico, John F. Renaissance humanism in papal Rome: humanists and churchmen on the eve of the Reformation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983.

Gersh, Stephen and Bert Roest, ed. Medieval and Renaissance Humanism: Rhetoric, Representation and Reform. Boston: Bill Academic, 2003.

Hale, J.R. Renaissance Europe 1480-1520. Malden: Blackwell, 2000.

Kostlin, Julius. Life of Martin Luther. New York: Amazon Digital Services, Kindle Edition, 2009.

Luther, Martin. “95 Theses.” Project Wittenburg. wittenberg/luther/web/ninetyfive.html (accessed February 20, 2011).

Mazzocco, Angelo, ed. Interpretations of Renaissance Humanism. Brill: The Netherlands, 2006.

Middle Ages Religion.” (accessed February 20, 2011).

“The Protestant Reformation.” (accessed January 19, 2011).

Vandiver, Elizabeth, Ralph Keen, Thomas D. Frazel, ed. Luther’s Lives: Two Contemporary Accounts of Martin Luther. New York: Manchester, 2002.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)