Erasmus’ Self-Description of His Task As a Christian Humanist

I thought this was interesting enough to translate and post here:

I have made an effort in my studies toward nothing other than that I might raise up among us the good books which have been nearly buried; next, that I might excite a world devoted to ludicrous ceremonies more greatly to the study of the truth and evangelical piety; finally, that I might recall [the world] from the scholastic study of theology, [which is] excessively ruined by the inane sophistry of little questions, to the wells of divine Scripture.:”(My rough translation not polished, of this: “Ego studiis meis nihil aliud conatus sum quam ut bonas litteras paene sepultas apud nostrates excitarem; deinde ut mundum plus satis tribuentem ludaicis ceremoniis ad verae et evangelicae pietatis studium experge facerem; postremo ut studia theologiae scholastic, nimium prolapsa ad inanium quaestiuncularum argutias, ad divinae Scripturae fontes revocarem.” Found in an unattributed handout from my Renaissance World class, Nov. 2008, with the reference “BE, iv, 439-35-40.”)”:

One must keep in mind that the humanists were not exactly fair to the Scholastics, who actually did do much positive good for Christian theology. Duns Scotus in particular, whom Erasmus mercilessly shreds in Praise of Folly, was through the school that bore his name, very influential on the covenant theology of John Calvin. Still, I think this quote from Erasmus is quite good on the whole, and once again illustrates the profound, organic, and catholic connections between the Medieval, the Renaissance, and the Reformation.


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