Erasmus was a Dutch Humanist, Catholic priest, scholar and theologian. He lived during the early years of the Reformation, and was known to be critical of abuses within the church, and an advocate for reform. He was in fact, the illegitimate son of a priest. As a reformationist theologian, he was a different sort from his more radical contemporaries. He kept Luther, Calvin, and other reformist agitators at arm's-length. He continued to observe the authority of the pope, and sought a more moderate approach to reform from within the church rather than through open hostility, and schism.
The Humanism of modern times has become a strictly secular, liberal philosophy, antithetical to Christian morals. During the renaissance period, however, and into the Reformation, Humanism was within the sphere of Christianity, combining Christian ethics and humanist philosophical principles of universal human dignity, and individual freedom as essential components of human happiness, harmonizing neatly with the teachings of Yeshua.
He was ordained in 1492, becoming, through long tedious study, an expert in Latin and Greek. He recognized that the Latin Vulgate of the church was a low quality translation, due largely to scribal
of a revised version of the New Testament in Greek in 1516. All of his writings were either in Greek or Latin and he made no attempt to translate texts into common vernacular, saving himself much of the scorching criticism of the Mother church.
Critics of Erasmus’ New Testament edition accused him of introducing changes to a sacred text and thus challenging the principle of inspiration. Erasmus denied these charges. On the contrary, he said, his edition restored the original text and corrected the errors introduced by translators and scribes. Theologians questioned Erasmus’ qualifications to tackle Holy Writ, but he insisted that editing and textual criticism did not require a degree in theology. There was an uproar also about his omission of the so-called Comma Johanneum at I John 5:7, one of the proofs for the divine trinity, for which Erasmus had found no evidence in the Greek manuscripts or support in the Fathers.
His second edition was published in 1519 and it was this edition that Luther used to translate the New Testament into German. Luther did not translate directly from Jerome's Latin Vulgate version, preferring the translations of Erasmus as superior.
The third edition was published in 1522 and it was this version that was used by Tyndale in his translation of the New Testament into English. The third edition was also used later by the translators of the Geneva Bible and the King James.
Erasmus dedicated all his work to Pope Leo X, remaining true to catholic doctrine all his life. As issues dividing the church and the Protestant Reformation movement grew into open conflict, Erasmus was urged to take sides. He chose however to remain neutral, as partisan willfulness was not in his nature. He was criticized by both sides for not taking a stand with either.
He had a great respect for Luther, and while Luther urged him to join the Lutheran movement, he declined, preferring a movement of pure scholarship. He agreed that many of the reforms Luther called for were badly needed, and in their early correspondence, Luther expressed his admiration of Erasmus's superior learning and his contributions towards a sound and reasonable Christianity. However, the stubborn position of neutrality that Erasmus held to, led Luther to anger. Erasmus
saw moral failings among the reformers and he wrote a letter, chastising Luther on several counts.
copying errors over time, of which he was very critical. He proceeded to gather as many manuscripts as he could of the Vulgate, and then as many texts as he could find of the older versions in the original Greek. He published his first edition
Erasmus may have been on to something. From the other side, Erasmus was accused by the monks that he had prepared the way, and was responsible for the likes of Martin Luther. They claimed that Erasmus had laid the egg, and Luther had hatched it. Erasmus dismissed the charge saying that Luther had hatched a different bird altogether. Questions about Erasmus’ orthodoxy persisted, however, even after his death in 1536. In the wake of the Council of Trent, which defined articles of faith more rigidly, Erasmus’ works were placed on the Index of Prohibited Books.
Erasmus died suddenly in 1536 from an attack of dysentery during a visit to Basel, Switzerland. He had remained loyal to the Papal authorities in Rome throughout his life, but it is noted that he did not receive the last rites. Whether or not he had asked for a priest is unknown.
"You declaim bitterly against the luxury of priests, the ambition of bishops, the tyranny of the Roman Pontiff, and the babbling of the sophists; against our prayers, fasts, and Masses; and you are not content to retrench the abuses that may be in these things, but must needs abolish them entirely...
Look around on this ‘Evangelical’ generation, and observe whether amongst them less indulgence is given to luxury, lust, or avarice, than amongst those whom you so detest. Show me any one person who by that Gospel has been reclaimed from drunkenness to sobriety, from fury and passion to meekness, from avarice to liberality, from reviling to well-speaking, from wantonness to modesty. I will show you a great many who have become worse through following it....The solemn prayers of the Church are abolished, but now there are very many who never pray at all....
I have never entered their conventicles, but I have sometimes seen them returning from their sermons, the countenances of all of them displaying rage, and wonderful ferocity, as though they were animated by the evil spirit....
Who ever beheld in their meetings any one of them shedding tears, smiting his breast, or grieving for his sins ?... Confession to the priest is abolished, but very few now confess to God.... They have fled from Judaism that they may become Epicureans. You stipulate that we should not ask for or accept anything but Holy Scripture, but you do it in such a way as to require that we permit you to be its sole interpreter, renouncing all others. Thus the victory will be yours if we allow you to be not the steward but the lord of Holy Scripture."
A GENUINE LINGUIST TAKES ON THE LATIN VULGATE
Desiderius Erasmus 1466 - 1536