Sunday, July 12, 2020

Erasmus — Prince of the Humanists

Erasmus — Prince of the Humanists

     Today is the anniversary of the death in 1536 of Erasmus of Rotterdam, the Prince of the Humanists.  Erasmus devoted his career and his mastery of Latin and Greek to translating and commenting upon sacred texts including a new translation of the New Testament and non-sacred literature such as the writings of Seneca.  Along the way he wrote the Colloquies and the Adages, social commentary such as the Praise of Folly and on the need for internal reform of church practices including one of my favorites the Julius Exclusus.  He wrote a “paraphrase” of the New Testament (far longer in paraphrase than was the original text) that under Edward VI (in English translation) was required to be in every English church.  The future Queen Mary I (Mary Tudor) translated a portion of the Paraphrases into English.  The Paraphrases feature in the third of the Kingsbridge novels of Ken Follett, the Pillar of Fire.

     He and Sir Thomas More were the best of friends, and the Praise of Folly was written while he was staying with More at Chelsea.

     It’s not that I think a lot of Erasmus, it’s just that I have copies of his portrait hanging in both my house and my office.

      The Cloister and the Hearth is a novel of an imagined account of the lives of Erasmus’ parents. Of more recent vintage, the book Fatal Discord recounts in parallel the lives of Erasmus and Luther and their conflict over the Reformation. 

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