GIVE AN ACCOUNT OF THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF DESIDERUS ERASMUS
Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus born 27 October 1466 – 12 July 1536), known as Erasmus of Rotterdam, or simply Erasmus, was a Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, social critic, teacher, and theologian.
Erasmus was a classical scholar who wrote in a pure Latin style. Amongst humanists, he enjoyed the sobriquet “Prince of the Humanists”; he has been called “the crowning glory of the Christian humanists”. Using humanist techniques for working on texts, he prepared important new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament. These raised questions that would be influential in the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation. He also wrote On Free Will, The Praise of Folly, Handbook of a Christian Knight, On Civility in Children, Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style, Julius Exclusus, and many other works.
Erasmus lived against the backdrop of the growing European religious Reformation; but while he was critical of the abuses within the Church and called for reform, he kept his distance from Luther and Melanchthon and continued to recognise the authority of the pope. Erasmus emphasized a middle way, with a deep respect for traditional faith, piety and grace, and rejected Luther’s emphasis on faith alone. Erasmus therefore remained a member of the Catholic Church all his life. Erasmus remained committed to reforming the Church and its clerics’ abuses from within. He also held to Catholic doctrines such as that of free will, which some Reformers rejected in favour of the doctrine of predestination. His middle road approach disappointed and even angered scholars in both camps.
The Renaissance was a period of great change, characterized by a revision of many concepts and a return to antique sources. One of the greatest scholars of this time was Desiderius Erasmus. He contributed to the Renaissance by revising ancient works and translating them into Greek and Latin. During his lifetime, Erasmus also contributed to the Reformation by calling for reform in the Church through his various satirical works. He was a prolific writer and exerted such great influence during his time that he was called “The Prince of the Humanists.” 1 Erasmus was a dedicated Christian who advocated reform within the Church, spread the idea of pacifism, and was a subject of controversy and criticism within his own era and in modern times; yet he never lost touch with his Christian convictions.
He was one of the greatest scholars of the renaissance time. Erasmus contributed to the Renaissance by revising ancient works and translating them into Greek and Latin such as the Bible. Erasmus also contributed to the Reformation by calling for reform in the Church through his various satirical works. He was a prolific writer and exerted such great influence during his time that he was called “The Prince of the Humanists.” When Erasmus was send to Paris, he was not impressed with their educational system. It was based largely on scholasticism, a philosophy that tried to reduce religious belief to logical analysis. Being a devoted Christian, Erasmus decided to spend some time traveling through France and the Netherlands. Beginning in 1499, Erasmus moved from city to city working as a tutor and lecturer, constantly searching out ancient manuscripts and writing. He supported education to a great extent.
The popularity of his books is reflected in the number of editions and translations that have appeared since the sixteenth century. Ten columns of the catalogue of the British Library are taken up with the enumeration of the works and their subsequent reprints. The greatest names of the classical and patristic world are among those translated, edited or annotated by Erasmus, including Saint Ambrose, Aristotle, Saint Augustine, Saint Basil, Saint John Chrysostom, Cicero and Saint Jerome.
Erasmus also wrote of the legendary Frisian freedom fighter and rebel Pier Gerlofs Donia (Greate Pier), though more often in criticism than in praise of his exploits. Erasmus saw him as a dim, brutal man who preferred physical strength to wisdom.
One of Erasmus’s best-known works, inspired by De triumpho stultitiae (written by Italian humanist Faustino Perisauli), is The Praise of Folly, published under the double title Moriae encomium (Greek, Latinised) and Laus stultitiae (Latin). A satirical attack on superstitions and other traditions of European society in general and the western Church in particular, it was written in 1509, published in 1511, and dedicated to Sir Thomas More.
Erasmus died suddenly in Basel in 1536 while preparing to return to Brabant, and was buried in the Basel Minster, the former cathedral of the city. A bronze statue of him was erected in his city of birth in 1622, replacing an earlier work in stone.
Erasmus was his baptismal name, given after St. Erasmus of Formiae. Desiderius was a self-adopted additional name, which he used from 1496. The Roterodamus in his scholarly name is the Latinized adjectival form for the city of Rotterdam.
1. Gleason, John B. “The Birth Dates of John Colet and Erasmus of Rotterdam: Fresh Documentary Evidence,” Renaissance Quarterly, The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Renaissance Society of America, Vol. 32, No. 1 (Spring, 1979), pp. 73–76
2. Latourette, Kenneth Scott. A History of Christianity. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1953, p. 661.
3. Written to refute Martin Luther’s doctrine of “enslaved will”, according to Alister McGrath, Luther believed that only Erasmus, of all his interlocutors, understood and appreciated the locus of his doctrinal emphases and reforms. McGrath, Alister (2012). Iustitia Dei (3rd ed.). 3.4: “Justification in Early Lutheranism”: Cambridge University Press. pp. xiv + 448.)
4. Manfred Hoffmann, “Faith and Piety in Erasmus’s Thought,” Sixteenth Century Journal (1989) 20#2 pp 241-258
5. “He tried to remain in the fold of the old [Roman] Church, after having damaged it seriously, and renounced the [Protestant] Reformation, and to a certain extent even Humanism, after having furthered both with all his strength”. Johan Huizinga, Erasmus and the Age of Reformation (Tr. F. Hopman and Barbara Flower; New York: Harper and Row, 1924), 190.