Lesson video

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- = Hello, I'm Mr. Sellin.

Welcome back to this third lesson on Martin Luther and the European reformation.

As always, pen, something to write on, no distractions and a correct title, which is: Printing, Pamphlets and Peasants Good alliteration there, huh? I'm quite proud of myself.

And if you need to go back to the start of the video to check the spelling of those, then do it now.


Let's get started.

We're starting with this picture of Luther right here.

It's not the best picture of him really, is it? He doesn't look his very best.

I think if I had paid someone to make a portrait of me and this is what they came up with, I'd probably want my money back.

But I think it just shows that I'm a shallower and more vain person than Martin Luther.

The point of this picture is not to make Luther look beautiful.

In fact this is designed to make him look normal designed to make him look like a man of the world.

And to make him look different toward the very beautiful, or at least quite polished pictures of other rulers and other Catholic priests and saints and powerful people in Germany and in Europe that were popular in the 1520s.

This was just designed to make him look relatable, look normal.

And that's what Martin Luther wanted he wanted people to look at him and ago, he looks like my neighbour.

He looks like a guy that I could talk to.

He looks like someone who might have a good idea.

And this is what Luther was trying to do.

He was trying to make himself look more appealing, and his message, look more appealing.

Because remember our big question, What was Luther trying to achieve? It shifted now, he's not just looking for a debate, he's not just looking to stand up to the pope himself.

He's trying to get other people to join in.

Okay, on with the story.

You remember that Luther had to escape from the 1521 Diet of Worms. Where he stood up against Emperor Charles V and said, "Yes, I agree with these things, "call me a heretic "here I stand I can do no more." And then had to be kidnapped secretly by his supporters, Frederick the Wise's soldiers and hidden away in Wartburg Castle.

Luther was now an outlaw.

His teachings were now made illegal by Charles V, he was worried, Charles, that Luther's teachings were going to spread and cause more disruption in Germany, especially because Luther's ideas suggested that the Pope, and the Catholic Emperor had too much power, but it was in Wartburg Castle that Luther spent a lot of time writing.

And one of the first things that he started to write was his translation of the Bible.

He started with the New Testament, which is the second half of the Bible where the stories of Jesus are discussed, and in 1522.

it was released and printed.

This is an original copy of the Luther Bible, and it's written in German.

German was an important language for the Bible because the vast majority of people were not able to read previous Bibles because they've been written in Latin, only those who knew Latin, which conveniently were many people who worked for the church were able to understand this.

And so by putting it into German working hard to go back to the original texts translate from the original Greek into German Luther was able to increase the number of people in Germany who could understand the Bible.

We call this the vernacular language, vernacular just means of the local people over common language.

So in Germany the vernacular is German, in Britain it would be English, in Italy it will be Italian, so on and so forth.

The vernacular allowed more ordinary people, or at least people who could read and write, to understand the Bible, and this was important, for Luther, because he said the church has been getting it wrong, and the Bible is what you need to be reading.

But there were lots of people who could read, but they didn't necessarily have the money to afford a full Bible, or perhaps their reading wasn't so good that they wouldn't understand all the different parts of the Bible.

By the way, the 1534 date is when the full Bible with the Old Testament was finally released.

And so Luther also created these things called catechisms. A catechism is almost like a written statement of belief, a few memorable statements, almost like a little speech, and then like a poem almost that you could read, memorise, and then test yourself.

Remember, recall, recite, chant.

A catechism was written for adults and a catechism was also written for children and Lutherans, the people who started following Luther began to have copies of this catechism in their houses, they would test each other on it, they'd make sure that they've chanted it daily.

And it was a simple statement of their beliefs.

It allowed educated people who could read and write, but weren't perhaps as rich as the nobles to afford an entire Bible for themselves, or maybe they just weren't able to have a Bible for whatever reason, and a catechism would work well they could be produced quite cheaply, they can be printed and a lot of them flooded Germany.

There was a lot of them going around the towns, the cities, the educated folk in Germany.

But then there's also the peasants, the peasants got a chance to hear Luther's views as well.

But not because they could read or write of course they couldn't read or write instead things called woodcut pictures were made.

A woodcut is a particularly cheap version of printing, rather than using a metal plate with your text or your picture on metal that you could then coat with ink and stamp onto the page, a woodcut used wood instead, It was cheaper.

It was more crude, you couldn't as finer detail but it was useful for making cheaply produced pictures, and pictures were very useful because they appeal to people who couldn't read or write.

And a lot of peasants enjoyed looking at these wood cuts.

This woodcut here, it's not a particularly nice picture really it's Luther with a big stick, beating back and defeating lots of Catholic priests.

He is being presented as Hercules the Greek hero, and defeating his enemies just like an ancient Greek warrior.

And that's the message that the peasants received that Luther was this almost mythological hero, that was going to defeat the enemies of the world the enemies from within the church even and bring a better world through out the peasants.

Printing was a big business, and by 1530, there were over a million copies of Luther's writing circulating around Germany.

Think about it.

In 13 years since the publication of the 95 theses there were a million copies of catechisms, wood cuts, the Luther Bible, the 95 theses themselves.

They were spreading around Germany, people were reading Luther and they were understanding Luther.

This was a big deal.

And therefore it's important that we get the correct definitions down in our book.

You need to sort these things out and let me just explain what I mean, this column here are the three things that we've just looked at, Luther Bible, Luther's catechisms, and the woodcut images of Luther.

The first thing to do is to work out for whom these three things were made, and so match up the Bible, the Catechism, and the images of Luther to the target audience either peasants or nobles or townsfolk Once you've worked that out.

You then need to match it to the extra information in the 3rd column.

Okay, so you will end up with three rows.

So you've got an audience, and some extra information, three rows, give it a go now.

If I've not explained it very well I'm sure you'll be able to work it out.

Pause the video now and then work it out.

Good, we'll go through the answers now.

The correct answers are these; Luther's Bible translated into German was designed for nobles, the richest, and sometimes the more educated types.

It was translated into German, the New Testament was released in 1522, and the full book was released in 1534.

Luther's catechisms were designed for townsfolk slightly more educated than ordinary peasants but not as rich as nobles, and they were statements, questions and answers designed to replicate Luther's sermons.

Those are the things that you've memorised to make sure that you understand this message.

And lastly the woodcut images of Luther were designed for peasants, they were mass produced due to many people in Germany being unable to read.

Good work.

If you haven't got those down correctly, make sure you do that now, because this is important for our work later in the lesson.

Very good.

We're going to use this information now to do a little bit of writing.

So, you might want to put this as a subtitle explaining Luther's intentions in the 1520s.

You can use these sentence starters if you'd like, but you don't need to.

We're just trying to explain what was Luther trying to do in the 1520s, while he was stuck in Wartburg Castle and doing a lot of writing.

So, if you'd like to use these sentence starters; In the 1520s Luther wrote a lot of.

And you might want to give some examples.

For example, he.

And you might want to talk about the three different examples that we've just looked at.

What was his intention? We're using that last sentence starter there that might be the majority of your paragraph.

What was he trying to do? Pause the video.

Write down your thoughts, spend a few minutes on it, and then come back here.


So we know that there's lots of Luther's ideas written down in print, presented through pictures circulating around Germany.

So what happens next? Well, one of the major things that happens, was the German peasants' war, what was the German peasant's war? Well, let me explain.

The German peasants had for a long time lived pretty unfortunate unhappy lives.

In recent years they had had high taxes to pay, their harvest had been poor so they hadn't got as much money from selling crops and life really wasn't great.

They didn't have political representation, which means that even though they wanted changes they couldn't get any.

No one was listening to them, there was no representation in any sorts of Parliament.

Life was tough.

And a lot of peasants through the use of wood cuts but also through travelling preachers people who perhaps following Luther's ideas would travel from village to village spreading Luther's ideas.

They started looking ideas, and the peasants thought, maybe now's the time to fight back, maybe now is the time to use Luther's ideas to suggest that God is on our side and we should not fear fighting back and fighting back is what they did.

They collected together forces of peasants in 1524.

And in 1525 attempted a violent revolution.

This violent revolution went really badly, quite wrong for the peasants.

They collected together about 300,000 peasants, but within a few months, over 100,000 of them had become casualties that's on injuries or deaths.

There were certain cases where peasants would gather together arming themselves with farmyard tools like sides and spades and shovels and pickaxes, and they would fight against professional noble armies.

And they would lose 10,000 peasants and the nobles would lose three soldiers or something horrific like that.

This was a fight out of desperation.

Peasants desperately trying to change their lot in life.

And ultimately, failing.

So, this picture here represents the German peasants war it's a woodcut image of what a scene from the war would have looked like Just a bit quite complicated to have a look at all the different details but you can see that this peasant here has got a fork whereas this chap here seems to have some armour, and much more fighting ability.

They seem to have actually surrounded him so I don't know how long this guy's going to last.

But the peasants, did not succeed.

They were badly beaten thousands of peasants were killed.

And let's think about Luther's reaction, knowing that they were using Luther's ideas to challenge the authority of the local rulers, what would Luther think about these peasants? Well, we know what Luther thought, because in classic Luther style, he wrote it all down, and in classic Luther style, he does make his opinion quite obvious.

Here's what he wrote, or at least an adaptation of it, it's translated into English and I've removed some of the bits because he does go on a bit.

I don't want you to try and understand every single word, I don't want you to try and write anything, I just want you to read along and listen.

You might actually want to close your eyes, if it helps you picture it better, but if you're watching then read along.

"The peasants have committed three terrible sins, "for which they deserve death in body and soul.

"In the first place, "they've want to be submissive and obedient to their rulers, "because they are breaking disobedience "and are fighting against the higher powers "willfully and with violence, "they deserve death in body and soul.

"In the second place, "they are starting a rebellion and violently robbing "and plundering monasteries and castles which are not theirs "rebellion is not simple murder, "but it is like a great fire, "which attacks and lays waste a whole land.

"Thus, rebellion brings with it a land full of murder "and bloodshed makes widows and orphans "and turns everything upside down, "like the greatest disaster.

"In the third place.

"They claim this terrible and horrible sin "is encouraged by the Bible, "calling themselves Christian brethren.

"Thus, they are serving the devil "under the outward appearance of the Bible.

"Thus, earning death in body and soul 10 times over.

"I have never heard of a more hideous sin." That's taken from Luther's publication against the robbing and murdering hordes of peasants.

And just take a moment.

What's his overall opinion of the peasants? It's pretty negative, isn't it? And it's not just negative, it's absolute flagrant hatred of the peasants he is horrified by what they are doing here.

He thinks they are committing the very worst sin, the very worst crime by taking his views taking Lutheran ideas, and using it to justify violence.

And in fact he goes on to say that nobles should kill the peasants as quickly as possible.

He encourages anyone to fight back against the peasants, to give them death in body and soul.

Okay, we'll do a bit of writing.

What I'd like you to do is write each of these four statements, these quotes from Luther's work, and in your own words, try and explain what did Luther mean by this.

Don't worry if you don't get it exactly right, it is slightly complicated language, write them down, give it a go.

Pause the video now.

Let's go through some answers.

And Luther wrote that they deserve death in body and soul.

I've described that as the peasants deserve to be killed and not to gain salvation.

The body killed is on earth, and the death of the soul is to not gain salvation, not to get into heaven.

If you don't get exactly the same words as me, don't worry, as long as you get the general sense of what Luther means.

When Luther said 'that they have sworn to be submissive and obedient 'to their rulers,' I described that as a peasant's duty is to not fight back against their rulers.

When Luther said, 'they claim this terrible and horrible sin 'is encouraged by the Bible.

' I've described that as the peasants believe they are supported by God.

And when Luther wrote, 'I have never heard 'of a more hideous sin.

' I've described that as Luther was shocked and states the peasants were committing evil acts.

This is full on from Luther, he is saying, really quite severe things about these peasants he thinks they've got it utterly and totally wrong.

So let's think about his intention.

Why did Luther oppose the peasants, so strongly? Well, a lot of it is to do with a belief called the Great Chain of Being.

The Great Chain of Being, as you can see in this picture here is this idea that God's design of the world is his plan.

And it's perfect.

His chain of being is a link from the very top, which is God, through the angels, through heaven, and there's a link, almost like a chain going down through earth with people with animals, with fish, with parts of foliage trees even, stones, rocks, all the way down into hell.

There is a line connecting all of it.

And within the people rank.

Then there is order that God has wanted the world to have.

That there are kings and rulers at the top, there are educated, nobleman, there are townsfolk there are peasants at the bottom, if God wants you to be a king, he will make you a king.

If God wants you to be a shoemaker, he will make you a shoemaker, if you try and change that if you're a peasant who says, "I don't want to be a peasant.

"I want something different." You're not just fighting against your ruler, you're fighting against God.

You're fighting against God's plan.

Luther looked in the Bible, and he realised that there was a commandment: 'Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's.

' What this means is, give your respect, your loyalty to Caesar, to your ruler, because he is ordered.

God has commanded Caesar to rule, the king to rule, the Emperor to rule, your local Lord to rule, and you need to obey them.

That is God's plan.

And so, again, Luther's intention is shifting.

He knew that authority was complicated.

He knew that you should follow God.

And if God said the Catholic Church was wrong.

You should be allowed to fight back against the Catholic Church, but then he at the same time said, "Don't fight against your rulers.

"If it's your Emperor or your Lord, "because the Bible says to follow those." And so do you follow more? Do you follow God? Do you follow your rulers? Do you find.

What happens if they disagree with each other? It's all quite complicated and Luther's intention during the peasants' war was to prevent violence from spreading out.

We've seen him want to spread his message, but he doesn't want violence to spread.

Luther actually risked his life.

He left Wartburg Castle and he travelled around Germany, and he preached saying, "Please do not fight.

"Unless the fighting that you're doing "is killing the peasants who "are fighting you." So that's quite a lot for today.

You've done really well so far.

and what I'd like you to do now is pause the video, read the slides on the next page and answer the comprehension questions and once you've done that, come back and we'll finish the lesson off.


Let's go through the answers to the comprehension questions.

Question one: Why was the Luther Bible, written in the vernacular? An acceptable correct answer would be: So it couldn't be understood.

But a good answer with a little bit more detail and in full sentences might say something like the vernacular, which in this case was German was used for the Luther Bible so that more people can read and understand it.

Previous Latin Bibles were read by very few people, remember the vernacular is whatever the local common language is.

Question two.

What invention allowed the Luther Bible to be distributed across Germany in great numbers? An acceptable answer would be, the printing press, and a good answer might say something like the printing press allowed copies of the Luther Bible to be made in great numbers.

This was because a machine could print copies, rather than needing to be hand written.

Question three: Why were catechisms and woodcuts produced? Acceptable answer is to spread Luther's message.

And a good answer would be something like catechisms and woodcuts were both cheaper than complete Bibles, so more people were able to buy them.

Furthermore wood cuts were pictures that represented Luther's fights against the Pope, and were popular with those who could not read.

The example that we saw today was the peasants.

Question four: What was Luther's reaction to the peasants war of 1524 and '25? Acceptable answer: He hated the peasants.

A good answer will be something like: Luther believed that God's plan for the world should be respected and therefore peasants should obey their rulers.

When the peasants used his message to justify their violence, he said they were committing an awful sin and stated that they should be killed.

And so again we come back to this same issue.

Luther knew authority was complicated, if you had a Catholic ruler, but God put him there for a reason, do you obey him? Cause you're meant to obey your rulers but he's a Catholic so therefore, the Bible suggests that he's doing the awe.

It's all complicated.

And what made it even more complicated was that Luther was not the only person with ideas.

Our next lesson, we're going to look at how Luther became a figure in Lutheranism, the religion that he began.

And we're going to answer our big inquiry question: What was Luther.

Oh, it is the wrong way.

What was Luther trying to achieve? Until then, Allah in my left and right.

You'll continue thinking about Luther.

I'm Mr. Sellin.

Bye for now.