“The Prince of the Humanism?”by Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
". . . After the lawyers come the philosophers, who are reverenced for their beards and the fur on their gowns. They announce that they alone are wise and that the rest of men are only passing shadows. . . . The fact that they can never explain why they constantly disagree with each other is sufficient proof that they do not know the truth about anything. They know nothing at all, yet profess to know everything. They are ignorant even of themselves, and are often too absent-minded or near-sighted to see the ditch or stone in front of them. . . ."
Desiderius Erasmus was a Dutch priest and scholar who opposed the corruption and dogmatic ways of the church. He was said to be the second most popular man in Europe next to the pope and the smartest man on the continent. He was very out spoken regarding the clergy of the Catholic Church. Erasmus was also an Author of a number of books including Hand Book of a Christian Soldier and The Praise of Folly.
Erasmus was born on October 27 between 1466 and 1469 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. He was the illegitimate son of Roger Gerard, an educated priest, and Margaret, a washerwoman. Erasmus later tried to hide his origins by claiming to have been born in Rotterdam, where his grandparents lived. He never used his father's name and called himself Desiderius meaning "the desired one" in Latin. Erasmus went to a school in Deventer, Amsterdam called "Brothers of the Common Life”. When Erasmus was about fifteen years old both of his parents died from the Black Plague. Erasmus’ guardians stole all of his inheritance and his guardians insisted on his parent’s death bed that he should enter the monastery. Erasmus stayed with his guardians for two years. After what he called his, “two lost years”, he went to Augustinian college of Stein near Gouda were he spent the next six years of his life.
Erasmus was ordained as a priest in 1492, but he never assumed an active role in priestly functions and never had a parish of his own.
The Bishop of Cambrai asked Erasmus to be his private secretary for a few years. After taking priest's orders Erasmus went to Paris, where he studied at the Collège Montaigu. He stayed in Paris teaching until 1498 when he moved to England. Erasmus taught at Oxford (1499) and Cambridge (1509-14) where he was Professor of Divinity and of Greek. In England he met other famous scholars as John Colet and Thomas More. They persuaded him to focus on Biblical studies.
Erasmus boasted of the fact that he was free from home life, free from attachment to any school, free from family, free from any occupation, free from citizenship in a country, and free from the toils of daily work. He once wrote to a friend: “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” Writing was his passion; Erasmus only wrote and spoke mostly in Latin. He could speak his native tongue Dutch relatively well but his elegant and stylish Latin made up for faults in any other language.
From 1514 to 1521 he lived alternatively in Basel and England where he published many of his books. A few of the main books he published was his edition on St. Jerome in nine folio volumes (1519). Erasmus also translated the New Testament from Greek into Latin, this new translation helped William Tyndale, to produce an English version which is now the basis of the King James Version. Martin Luther also used Erasmus's version for his own translation into German. In both books Erasmus tried to introduce a more rational conception of Christian doctrine and tried to loosen men’s minds from the grip of the Catholic Church.
People on Erasmus side say that at first he supported the birth of Protestantism lead by Martin Luther and other reformers, but later opposed it due to its cause of separation within the Christian church. People who support Luther say that Erasmus insisted that salvation was in part the work of man because man had a free will. Luther stood before the choice very clearly: "Am I willing to overlook that point? If I do, my work of reforming the church will become infinitely easier. I'll have all the powerful leaders in the universities to help me. If I don't, I'll have to stand alone." He understood that Erasmus had really come to the heart of the question. And he later replied, "You alone have attacked the real thing; that is, the essential issue. You alone have seen the hinge on which all turns, and have aimed at the vital spot."
Christian Humanism defined by the Webster's Third New International Dictionary as, “a philosophy advocating the self- fulfillment of man within the framework of Christian principles." So the question is, was Erasmus the prince of humanism or even was Erasmus a humanist? People have debated this question for centuries. By the dictionary definition of Christian Humanism then “yes”, Erasmus was a Christian Humanism. But was he the prince of humanism? There is really no one who has written with the same type of humanistic view and was such a well known person before his time.
In 1523 Erasmus’ edition of St. Hilary of Poitiers; in 1526 that
of St. Irenæus of Lyons; in 1527, St. Ambrose; in 1528, St.
Augustine; in 1529 the edition of Epiphanius; in 1530, St. Chrysostom;
his edition of Origen he did not live to finish.
During his last years Erasmus enjoyed great fame and consideration. Erasmus was preparing for a trip to Basle, when a sudden attack of dysentery caused his death. He died on July 12, 1536 and was buried with great pomp at the cathedral in Basle. Shortly before his death he heard the sorrowful news of the execution of two of his English friends, Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher killed by King Henry VIII.
Erasmus life is a much debated one; he made lots of decisions that still affect the way some think today. People still debate if Erasmus was a true Christian or not but that decision is between him and God. Everyone can at least agree that Erasmus was a great writer, theologian and humanist.
1 Desiderius Erasmus is called the prince of what?
2 Was Erasmus an ordained as a priest?
3 Erasmus called it his _________ the two years he spent with his guardians.
A “teen two”
B “two lost years”
C “Learning years”
D “Grieving years”
4 Erasmus died of what?
A Old age
D Black Death
CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Desiderius Erasmus
Desiderius Erasmus, 1466-1536
Knitting Circle Desiderius Erasmus