Saturday, August 27, 2022


Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) received his early education from the Brethren of the Common Life. He became a monk in 1488 and a priest 1492. For him as an adult, however, the center of life was not a monastery, court, or university but the homes of friends like John Colet and Thomas More. Together they reveled as intellectuals in the renaissance of classical culture.

Erasmus mastered ancient Greek to publish a new critical edition of the Greek New Testament in 1516 with his fresh translation of the New Testament in Latin on facing pages. He published a corrected second edition three years later. Martin Luther used this edition to prepare his own influential translation of the New Testament into German. A third edition (1522) was used by William Tyndale (1494-1536) for the first translation of the New Testament from the Greek into English. Scholars relied heavily on Tyndale’s translation when preparing the Authorized or King James Version (1611).

In addition to his important work as a New Testament scholar, Erasmus also wrote other works. He published the satirical In Praise of Folly (1511) and it has remained a perennial bestseller from his day to ours. In the same vein he wrote Julius Exclusus (1514) in which St. Peter explains to a surprised pope why the pearly gates of Heaven are locked against him. Later in life Erasmus published critical editions of the Church Fathers, both Greek and Latin.

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