During Luther's lifetime a number of serious changes upset the once relatively stable political and ideological systems. Technical discoveries, such as the compass and the printing press revolutionized navigation and communication. Geographical discoveries, such as Columbus' voyage to the Americas in 1492, nine years after Luther's birth, changed the the way people looked at the world.
When such changes are concentrated within a short time period, they can't help but cause anxiety. This anxiety seemed dangerous to many people who felt it had to be combated - one only needs to remember the martyrdom of the so-called heretics.
Along with the changes came a new ideology which was simulateously the cause and the result of the change humanism (Humanism: latin, humanitas - humanity; meaning: the educated person).
All Humanist movements had the study of the classical literature as well as the learning of Greek and Latin in common. The guiding principle of the humanists is: "Ad Fontes!" - back to the source - back mainly to the original Greek writings from the classical period.
The influence of Humanism led Luther to design for himself an intensive study of the Bible. Humanism for him meant returning to the original texts of the Bible - Bible Humanism.
This movement, which went against the rigid scholastic educational ideals and provoked the resistance of the church with renewed force, counted a number of very important people (scholars, artists, etc.) as its leaders and followers.
Erasmus von RotterdammErasmus von Rotterdamm is probably the best known among the Humanists. Erasmus, known all over Europe as a great intellectual, initially welcomed the reforms started by the 'small' Augustinian monk Luther. After a disagreement with Luther, Erasmus and many other Humanists turned away from the reformation.
Luther's most important colleague was the Humanist Philipp Melanchthon who was educated by the Humanistic teacher Johannes Reuchlin and who as an intellectual always had contact with other Humanists, an in particular Erasmus.