The Desiderius Erasmus Collection

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Wild Eagle | Forum Activity | Posted: Sat, May 7 2011 9:25 PM

The Desiderius Erasmus Collection is on CP!!!!

"'The Desiderius Erasmus Collection (19 vols.) contains all of Erasmus' major works and more. In Praise of Folly, one of Erasmus' best-known books, is considered one of the most notable works of the Renaissance humanists. Against Warand The Complaint of Peace still hold their own as some of the best Christian anti-violence literature written. TheColloquies of Erasmus is satire at its finest—funny, inspiring, rich with knowledge, poignant, captivating, and entertaining. And Francis Morgan Nichols' 3-volume anthology of Erasmus' letters show the depth and compassion of a man who's influence would change the world forever.''

"No man is greater than his prayer life. The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying." Leonard Ravenhill 

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Greg Masone | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 7 2011 10:49 PM

Bid placed!

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Rosie Perera | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 7 2011 11:08 PM

Oh yes!! This is so exciting. I've been wanting to read Erasmus, especially his famous In Praise of Folly, for some time. He was one of the most important figures in the the Protestant Reformation. Luther was profoundly influenced by him, as were the Dutch Anabaptists. According to GAMEO (the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online), it is "an influence that is evident in two respects: (1) The large number of citations from Erasmus found in the works of Menno Simons, shows his thorough acquaintance with the works of Erasmus. This is also true of the writings of Adam Pastor and Dirk Philips, who may have been somewhat influenced by him. (2) The Dutch Anabaptists of the 16th century were in the great majority of cases believers in the freedom of the will as defended by Erasmus against Martin Luther."

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Michael Childs | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 9 2011 11:51 AM

Thanks for calling this to my attention.

"In all cases, the Church is to be judged by the Scripture, not the Scripture by the Church," John Wesley

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Kenneth Neighoff | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 9 2011 11:55 AM

Have my bid in, looking forward to reading many of the resources here.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 9 2011 1:51 PM

Rosie Perera:
He was one of the most important figures in the the Protestant Reformation.

Funny, I think of him as an influential philosopher as it was his philosophy that influenced the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Wink

From Wikipedia: "In a letter to Nikolaus von Amsdorf, Luther objected to Erasmus’ Catechism and called Erasmus a "viper,", "liar," and "the very mouth and organ of Satan.""

Reminds me a bit of the required Washington State history course - my friend in Seattle was taught Chief Joseph was a bad guy; I was taught he was a hero. Do you think the difference might be that my school was divided only by a river from the reservation in which Chief Joseph was buried?

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Oldnewbie | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 12 2011 11:14 AM

I'm in as well. Thank you Logos!!

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Mike Pettit | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 31 2011 4:51 PM

It is sad that this resource seems to be going nowhere (of course it is still early days) when the contents are so very interesting. You cannot understand Luther's monumental work "The Bondage of the Will" without seeing it in the context of Erasmus's influence and who can beat the quote: "if I have a little money I buy books and if any is left I buy food and clothes" It seems to be a problem that the projected price is right at the bottom of the scale, leading too many people to put in very uneconomic bids for what would be a classic resource which should logically command much higher bids.

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Jun 25 2011 10:43 AM


This collection;

The Desiderius Erasmus Collection (19 vols.) ,

is very important to the understanding of the Reformation.  Erasmus had a keen mind and was a great scholar. To read both Luther and Erasmus is to get a balanced picture of the dialogue that encompassed the Reformation.  Surely Luther had the background to understand the issues he grappled with. But today's believers have probably never encountered most of those issues.

For the price of one or two books we can lock in the whole set in Community Pricing.  Please give it your consideration.Geeked

addendum: Erasmus is probably the best known of the Christian Humanists. That term is not to be confused with Secular Humanists and we would do well not to confuse it with Liberation Theology.  Help this collection into publication and learn the differences among these three ideologies. Devil

Logos 7 Collectors Edition

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Jun 25 2011 11:11 AM

From the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

2. Life and Works

Erasmus was a native of the Netherlands, born at Rotterdam in the county of Holland on 27 October of some year in the late 1460s; 1467 now seems to be the year that most biographers prefer. Erasmus' own statements on the year of his birth are contradictory, perhaps because he did not know for certain but probably because later in life he wanted to emphasize the excessively early age at which his guardians pushed him and his elder brother Pieter to enter monastic life, in order to support his efforts to be released from his monastic vows. If the year of his birth remains unclear, the circumstances are not. He was born out of wedlock, the second son of, a priest named Roger who spent several years in Italy, learned Greek and humanistic Latin, and supported himself there as a copyist or scribe before returning to parish life in or near Rotterdam, and Margaret, the daughter of a physician and perhaps a widow. The existence of two sons suggests that the relationship between Roger and Margaret was not casual but an example of the concubinage that was common among the clergy in many parts of medieval Europe. The two sons were not neglected but received the attention of both parents. Their early education was at Gouda, a town near Rotterdam. When Erasmus was nine years old and Peter probably twelve, their father sent them to one of the largest and best Latin grammar schools in the Netherlands, located at Deventer and owned by the chapter clergy of St. Lebwin's church. Contrary to many older biographies, this school was not “a school of the Brethren of the Common Life.” The Brethren, a semi-monastic society of laymen, did have a community in Deventer and operated a youth hostel for boys from other towns who came to study there but did not control the school. The two boys did not live at the hostel. Their mother moved to Deventer to provide a home for her sons. Erasmus probably attended St. Lebwin's from 1475 to 1484. Although in later years he made light of the school as an institution still stuck in the “barbarism” of the Middle Ages, it was an excellent school for that period, and Erasmus probably laid the foundations of his fine Latin style there. Toward the end of Erasmus' study there, a teacher who had considerable interest in the new humanistic studies flourishing in Italy, Alexander Hegius, became headmaster. Erasmus never had Hegius as a teacher, since the headmaster taught only the boys in the most advanced form; but he must have heard him lecture to the entire school on feast days, and he vividly remembered a lecture given by Hegius' friend Rudolf Agricola, the first significant humanist active in the Netherlands, who had spent many years studying in Italy. Despite his habitual belittling of St. Lebwin's school, Erasmus himself in an autobiographical letter of 1524 acknowledged the role of Hegius and his ablest Latin teacher, Johannes Synthen, in introducing “something of a higher standard as literature” into the school (CWE 4:405).

In addition to imparting a love of humanistic studies, St. Lebwin's school may have been one source of Erasmus' lifelong conviction that religion must be experienced inwardly rather than in formal ceremonies and must be expressed in daily living rather than in dogmas and liturgies. The older literature on Erasmus often attributed this religious spirit to his education in “the schools of the Brethren of the Common Life,” but recent scholarship has demonstrated that at this period, the Brethren were not very deeply committed to education or interested in classical antiquity or any other intellectual matters (Post 1968:576–579). Johannes Synthen, Erasmus' grammar-teacher at Deventer, was one of the Brethren, but in the chapter-school he was employed as a teacher, just as other Brethren supported themselves in the town by labor in manual trades. Erasmus' non-dogmatic and anti-ceremonial religiosity probably is a product of the Dutch spiritual milieu of his boyhood, but there is little in that religiosity that suggests a close relation to the Brethren. The most famous book to come out of that movement, The Imitation of Christ, is often interpreted as a source of Erasmus' earliest spiritual publication, the Enchiridion, but in fact the books are very different. The Imitation is clearly directed toward persons called to the contemplative life, monks and nuns and semi-monastic groups like the Brethren. It devalues material goals and is profoundly anti-intellectual, as were the Brethren. Erasmus' Enchiridion, on the contrary, was directed toward the spiritual life of ordinary laymen pursuing secular careers in the secular world who needed spiritual guidance (Tracy 1972:65).

Erasmus' studies at Deventer ended abruptly when plague struck the city about 1483. His mother died of the infection, and apparently their father called his sons back to Gouda. Their father soon fell victim to the same plague, leaving his two sons and a small inheritance in the hands of three guardians. Erasmus later depicted these guardians as unfeeling men who merely wanted to get the boys off their hands by pushing them into a monastery. Erasmus at age 14 to 16 (a quite normal age to begin university study) wanted to go to a university, but instead was sent with his brother to a grammar school at 's Hertogenbosch that really was conducted by the Brethren of the Common Life. The highest level of study there did not go up to the level the brothers had already completed at Deventer. Erasmus regarded this period as a total waste. Eventually the guardians decided that since the two boys had only a small inheritance and, being born out of wedlock, were not eligible for an ordinary career as secular priests or for membership in many professions, entry into a monastery was their only realistic option. Erasmus bitterly resented the pressure to become a monk, feeling too young to resist but having no real calling to the monastic life. Eventually Pieter, the elder, gave in. The younger brother, now isolated, also agreed, entering Augustinian Canons Regular at Steyn near Gouda. He began his novitiate about 1487, when he might have been 16 but may have been nearly 20. At the end of the novitiate, he took his final vows and thus was bound to the Steyn monastery for life.

Although Erasmus later claimed that he found monastic life almost unbearable, he actually found some compensating advantages. He was no longer an isolated orphan but a member of a supportive community. Unlike the intellectually drab environment of the mediocre school at 's Hertogenbosch, the monastery at Steyn included at least some members who shared his interest in classical literature and encouraged his intellectual longings. His first prose work of any length, De contemptu mundi (On Contempt of the World), was written in the monastery and presented a generally favorable picture of monastic life, though the first edition, not published until 1521, contained later additions that warned strongly against encouraging boys to enter a monastery at an excessively early age. Monastic life limited his freedom to determine his own activities, but he did have opportunities for study. His negative feelings about his life in a community where most of his fellows had no interest in his literary aspirations inspired another book, Antibarbarorum liber (Book Against the Barbarians), originally written as a letter to a scholarly friend in another monastery about 1489, then transformed into a dialogue about 1494, and after much further revision, finally published in 1520. Even in its earliest version, this work suggests that Erasmus felt cramped by his surroundings. Nevertheless, in 1492, he agreed to be ordained as a priest.

By the time of his ordination, Erasmus seems to have been eager to leave the monastery. Ordination may have beens part of his strategy to get out in spite of the permanent obligation imposed by his vows. He already was identified as an intelligent and widely read monk with an outstanding Latin style. Sometime after his ordination, probably in 1493, Erasmus left the monastery on temporary assignment to serve as secretary to Henry of Bergen, bishop of Cambrai. Officially, this assignment was temporary. But as his life worked out, he never went back, not even when, many years later, the prior wrote a letter ordering him to return. He carefully arranged for his departure to be legally authorized: by his own prior at Steyn, by the general of his order, and by the bishop who ordained him. His new master, who had family ties to the aristocracy, was ambitious and closely linked to the holders of political and ecclesiastical power. He anticipated an early call to Rome to become a cardinal. That plan was the reason why he wanted a Latin secretary known for a superb Latin style that would pass muster even in Rome.

For Erasmus, the prospect of a visit to Italy was alluring, but the greatest advantage was release from the tedium of the monastery. Although Bishop Henry was attentive, he was a politician and a courtier, not an intellectual or spiritual leader. His household moved about frequently, and Erasmus soon complained of the unsettled nature of life at court and the lack of time for study. In the end, Bishop Henry's hopes of becoming a cardinal collapsed because of political changes at Rome, and he lost interest in his talented secretary. Erasmus persuaded the bishop to send him to study theology at Paris, the most celebrated theological faculty in Europe. By the fall of 1495, Erasmus was at Paris, living in the strictest and most ascetic institution in the university, the Collège de Montaigu.

Life at Montaigu was harsh, and for Erasmus, almost intolerable. Poor students were expected to do menial labor in addition to attending to their studies. The conditions were so harsh, the facilities so filthy, and the diet so sparse that Erasmus blamed his later digestive ailments on the foul food at Montaigu. He fell seriously ill and returned for a time to the court of his bishop and even paid a visit to his monastic brethren at Steyn. When he returned to Paris, he left Montaigu and found private lodgings.

Even before he began his studies at Paris, Erasmus had expressed hostility to the traditional scholastic theology based on questions, disputations, and reliance on Aristotle. Although a leading expert on the Paris theologians has speculated that Erasmus never seriously undertook the lengthy process of qualifying for a degree in theology, his letters from his early years there do reflect attendance at lectures that he regarded as dull, worthless, and presented in abominable (that is, medieval) Latin (for example, Ep 64, CWE 1:137–138). Surely in his first year, when he resided in the tightly disciplined community at Montaigu, he must have participated regularly in the formal academic exercises. But Paris also had an active literary life and had been thoroughly exposed to the humanistic culture of Italy. The city and the court had a substantial circle of humanists. The outstanding figure in this circle was Robert Gaguin, a writer and translator of mainly historical books and a senior professor of canon law, an astute man frequently employed by the king for diplomatic missions, and a distinguished monk who was the general of a small monastic order, the Trinitarians. Erasmus quickly established contact with him. Gaguin recognized Erasmus' outstanding Latin style, and when in 1495 a blank page needed to be filled at the end of his book on the history of the Franks, he invited his new friend to write a letter praising the book. This letter was the first writing by Erasmus to appear in print (Ep 45, CWE 1:87–91), the first of many. Erasmus formed friendships with other humanists, both Italian and French, and published two volumes of Latin poems by himself and one of his fellow-monks at Steyn.

Although Erasmus still longed for the title (but not the theological ideas) of a Paris doctorate, he drifted away gradually from serious pursuit of a degree. His real interests were the study of classical literature and his own ambitions to be a Latin poet. Nevertheless, his later writings, especially those directed against Martin Luther, show considerable familiarity with the theologians and scholastic traditions taught at Paris. In a letter of 1498, he still expressed a desire to take a doctorate in theology but now wanted to do this at Bologna (where the theological curriculum was far less demanding and drawn-out) rather than at Paris (Ep 75, CWE 1:151). In that same letter, he complained that Bishop Henry had become slow to pay the promised subsidy to support his studies. Both through correspondence and on visits to the Netherlands, he sought new patrons, but with only limited success. Erasmus had to earn money as a tutor to wealthy young students at Paris. His reputation for excellent Latin style and mastery of ancient literature must have helped him win paying customers, including an English aristocrat who became his patron for the rest of his life, William Blount, Lord Mountjoy. Erasmus did not want to become a teacher, but he was very good at it, attracting youths who grew up to be patrons and friends, and producing simple versions of several textbooks that later in his career were published in revised versions and became highly successful throughout Europe, including a practical guide effective letter-writing, a paraphrase of Lorenzo Valla's masterly guide to classical Latin style, the Elegantiae, an early form of his Colloquies, his own guide to writing classical Latin, De copia, even a guide to good manners for young students.

The most useful of his pupils at Paris was Lord Mountjoy. In the summer of 1499 Mountjoy returned to England and invited Erasmus to accompany him for an extended stay. He took his Dutch friend to court and let him experience life on a wealthy rural estate, a novel experience for a man who had always faced poverty. In the Netherlands, Erasmus had been an obscure (even if talented) monk; in Paris, an impoverished student and poet. But in England, he was received as the guest of a wealthy nobleman and a published author of Latin poems. He visited Oxford, where he met a wealthy and well-connected cleric, John Colet, who was studying theology in his own headstrong way, scornful of traditional scholastic theology and bold enough to present public lectures on the Epistles of Paul that approached the New Testament as a literary text rather than as a bundle of scholastic propositions. The two men became friends, and Colet tried to persuade Erasmus to stay at Oxford and present similar lectures on the Old Testament. Erasmus declined this proposal, for he was convinced that he was unqualified to expound Scripture. Unlike Colet, who knew no Greek and did not even know that he needed it, Erasmus did not think it possible to do competent exegesis solely on the basis of the Latin translation. Some older biographies of Erasmus and of Colet claimed that this contact with Colet was responsible for the transformation of Erasmus from a classical scholar and aspiring poet into a serious theologian. This claim is unfounded. Much as Erasmus liked Colet, he also recognized his narrowness of outlook and lack of any deep understanding of how humanist learning could revolutionize biblical studies. Recent scholarship has concluded that “Colet had nothing to teach Erasmus about scriptural exegesis at any stage” (Gleason 1989:233).

The unfounded claim that Colet exercised a decisive influence on the transformation of Erasmus from an undirected enthusiast for classical literature into a pioneering theologian and biblical scholar was based on biographers' awareness of an apparently sudden change in Erasmus soon after he got back from England early in 1500. During his time in the monastery and also at Paris, Erasmus did show signs of spiritual concern and a desire to relate his classical studies to his Christian faith. Colet, happily ignorant of Greek and too stubborn to recognize his own shortcomings, is an unlikely source of the transformation that Erasmus experienced. Yet it does seem that while in England, Erasmus began to realize that if he wanted to accomplish anything significant in theology, he would have to master the Greek language. English friends other than Colet may have played a significant role in this development. In a letter to a former student of his who was in Italy to study law, Erasmus extols his experience in England and praises the remarkably advanced state of classical learning there, “in both Latin and Greek.” While he praises the Greekless Colet, he also mentions two other English humanists who had spent extended periods in Italy and had engaged in serious study of Greek, William Grocyn and Thomas Linacre (Ep 118, CWE 1:117–118). Erasmus may have met another English humanist, William Latimer, who had studied Greek at Florence along with Grocyn and Giovanni de’Medici (the future Pope Leo X). Thus Erasmus' new determination to master the Greek language, evident from shortly after his return from England, may have been inspired by new English friends, but not by Colet.

As an impoverished monk, Erasmus was not bashful about soliciting gifts of money to support his studies. But when he was ready to cross the Channel, English customs officers at Dover confiscated nearly all of the cash he had received since the export of bullion was illegal. Thus he arrived back in Paris to face penury even worse than usual. He schemed with his friend Jacob Batt in the Netherlands how to extract more money from a rich prospective patron, Anna van Borsselen,. In 1500 fear of plague drove him from Paris. Initially he took refuge at Orléans, but when the infection spread there, he decided to return to the Netherlands. He went to Steyn and secured permission to absent himself for another year of study, and he called on his unreliable patron the bishop of Cambrai, but with little success. Throughout this grim period, he never let his poverty stop him from writing and studying. In 1500 he published a little book, Adagiorum collectanea, an anthology of proverbs and sayings derived from classical sources, a slim little volume with only 818 items, all taken from Latin sources. Even in this primitive form, it was a book that aspiring humanists, who wanted to flesh out their own writings with passages taken from the ancients and thus appear to be more learned than they really were, found useful. It sold and brought in a little money.

Learning Greek now became Erasmus' most urgent goal. At Paris and in Holland he was so impoverished that he could barely afford the Greek texts and grammar books that he needed. There was only one active teacher of Greek at Paris, a Byzantine exile. Erasmus found him to be expensive, deficient in mastery of the ancient literary language, and incompetent as a teacher. But with some help from his tutoring and the aid of Greek books that he managed to buy (a Plato) or borrow from friends (a Homer), Erasmus taught himself Greek by tediously translating Greek books into Latin. He worked at Greek every day and by late 1502 claimed that he was able to read and write the language. Although he saw the necessity of Greek for a thorough understanding of the Latin classics, he also emphasized its crucial role in theology.

Both his determined effort to master Greek and his interest in editing the writings of St. Jerome, the most learned of the ancient Latin Fathers and the principal translator of the current Latin Bible, suggest that Erasmus had become far more deeply committed to religion than he had been. It is an oversimplification to say that he was transformed from a secular poet into a spiritual Christian and a biblical and patristic scholar. His early letters and his De contemptu mundi, begun while he still lived at Steyn, show that he had been concerned with spiritual matters from an early age. But after his return from England in 1500, religion as well as the study of Greek became more prominent in his thought. John Colet, who was very religious in his own idiosyncratic way, might have had some influence; but the two men really became close only during Erasmus' third period of residence in England from 1509 to 1514. A much more plausible inspiration of Erasmus' turn toward religion was a man whom he met after he returned to the Netherlands for an extended stay (1501–1505), mainly because he needed a patron who would subsidize his studies. In 1501 at St.-Omer, Erasmus met Jean Vitrier, a combative, reform-minded Franciscan friar who, despite many troubles with religious authorities who resented his blunt denunciation of clerical corruption, had become warden of the Franciscan convent there. Vitrier eventually became a spiritual adviser to Erasmus. Vitrier was deeply mystical, devoted to the teachings of St. Paul and to the early Greek church, especially the patristic theologian Origen. At his urging, Erasmus spent much time reading Origen's commentary on Paul's Epistle to the Romans. Origen was especially attractive both because of his early date (died about 253) and because he was one of the creators of the contemplative, Bible-oriented theology that prevailed in the patristic age, in contrast to the medieval scholasticism based on quaestiones and use of Aristotelian dialectic. Scholasticism was what had turned Erasmus away from the study of theology. Now he found an alternative model, sanctified by its early date and particularly attractive to a humanist scholar because it involved linguistic and literary analysis of a text, the central element in the humanists' intellectual method. Reading Origen directed his attention to the spiritual meaning of the sacred text.

This new direction in theology also impressed Erasmus as practical, concerned with the religious dimension of a Christian's life rather than the abstruse issues debated by the theologians at Paris. The initial expression of this new outlook was a guide to the Christian life, Enchiridion militis christiani (Handbook of the Christian Soldier), a little book addressed not to the monks and contemplatives who had withdrawn from secular life (such as the Brethren of the Common Life) but to a Christian layman who needed spiritual guidance. Addressing a man with a military background, Erasmus defines the true Christian life as constant warfare against worldly temptation. In this struggle, the Christian can rely on two weapons, prayer and knowledge, especially knowledge of Scripture. Erasmus wrote this book with the encouragement of Vitrier, who urged him to publish it. The first edition appeared early in 1503 in a small collection of Erasmus' works. At first, as part of collections of assorted works by Erasmus, it had only modest influence and sales. Beginning in 1515, when it appeared from two different publishers as a small separate book, and culminating with the definitive edition of 1518 to which Erasmus added an effective preface addressed to his friend Paul Volz, the Enchiridion became not only a best-seller but also a major influence on the spiritual life of Christians. By the end of the sixteenth century, there had been more than seventy editions of the Latin text, as well frequently reprinted translations into most of the vernacular languages of Western and Central Europe. Although its popularity has puzzled many modern observers, its power may be linked to its author's own search for his spiritual identity, his discovery of his true vocation as a theologian. The Enchiridion marks the first clear step toward a conception of Christian life and Christian faith that a decade later Erasmus called philosophia Christi—originally in one of the greatest and most popular of the new adages, “Sileni Alcibiadis,” that he added to a revolutionary new edition of his Adagia published in 1515, and then repeated in his preface addressed to Paul Volz. The concept itself is not philosophical at all; it is a religious affirmation that a true Christian must allow Christ's spirit (or “philosophy”) to permeate every facet of his life, that Christianity must become a way of life, not just a set of formal doctrines and external ceremonies. The phrase had roots in the Greek patristic authors whom he was studying when he wrote the Enchiridion (Augustijn 1991:75).

After Erasmus finally realized that his hopes of significant patronage from a wealthy woman he had cultivated, Anna van Bolrsselen, would never be fulfilled, he moved to the university town of Louvain, where the first edition of the Enchiridion was published. By this time he had a reputation as a master of Latin style and an expert in classical literature. The conservative theologian Adriaan Floriszoon (the future Pope Adrian VI), chancellor of the university, persuaded the city of Louvain to offer Erasmus a lectureship at the university; but Erasmus declined, probably fearing that teaching would distract him from his study of Greek. Floriszoon remained friendly, and there is some evidence that Erasmus attended his theological lectures while living in Louvain (Ep 1304, CWE 9:145). In 1505 Erasmus published his first translation from Greek, some Declamationes by the fourth-century rhetorician Libanius, and dedicated the book to the wealthy and influential bishop of Arras, Nicolas Ruistre, obviously still seeking a new patron. Ruistre was the person who arranged for Erasmus to represent the university by delivering a formal oration of welcome at Brussels in January 1504 to the ruler of the Netherlands, Archduke Philip of Habsburg, upon his safe return from an extended visit he and his wife Juana made in 1501 to Juana's parents, the king and queen of Spain, followed by Philip's return by way of Austria, where he spent time with his father, the Emperor Maximilian I. The assigned genre was a panegyric in the classical style. Erasmus found writing such a speech, which by reason of the genre was full of unctuous and meaningless flattery, arduous and demeaning, but he needed the cash reward that he knew he would receive and also wanted public recognition. Erasmus probably spent most of 1504 at Louvain but by December was back in Paris,.

One unexpected result of his time in Louvain was that while rummaging through the library of a neighboring monastery, he came across an almost unknown masterpiece of scholarship by Lorenzo Valla, probably the ablest Italian humanist of the fifteenth century. This was the Annotations on the New Testament, based on Valla's use of Greek manuscripts to investigate some obscure portions of the traditional Latin translation. This work had never been printed. Erasmus already knew much about Valla and had even written an epitome of his most influential book, the Elegantiae, a guide to the writing of good (that is, classical) Latin. Valla's Annotations were an example of his remarkable philological skill and critical intellect, using manuscripts of the Greek New Testament to resolve questions about certain biblical passages that seemed corrupt or unclear in the traditional Latin Bible. Erasmus concluded that in interpreting the sacred text, a critical-minded grammarian could be a better exegete than a conventional theologian who specialized in resolving scholastic questions rather than in teasing out the meaning of a biblical text. While Valla's notes had remained narrowly philological, Erasmus conceived a more far-ranging approach that was a greater challenge to traditional exegesis (Tracy 1972:154–155). He prepared an edition of Valla's work and published it at Paris in March 1505.

Although his period in the Netherlands from 1501 to the end of 1504 was a difficult time, when he was poor and had little success in his search for patrons, it was also the period when he seriously began to define his life's work. At Paris in the 1490s he was formally studying theology, but he really dabbled in theology and focused his efforts on classical Latin literature and writing Latin poetry. He was adrift, his future direction still undefined. His visit to England in 1499–1500 probably did represent a step toward his future career as a biblical and patristic scholar, and Colet did draw him toward biblical studies, though the time in England may have been even more important because of his contact with English Hellenists like Linacre and Grocyn. His time back in the Netherlands contributed far more to his redefinition of his future. The first great event was his encounter with Jean Vitrier, who became a spiritual guide at a time when Erasmus was spiritually troubled and whose influence reinforced a tendency to conceive religion as a personal and inward experience. Vitrier had already been a sharp critic of many current practices such as excessive veneration of the saints, the clergy's financial exploitation of gullible laymen, and the accumulation of great wealth by ecclesiastical institutions. Erasmus had already arrived at some of the same opinions, but Vitrier probably encouraged him to speak out. Finally, Vitrier was an admirer of patristic authors considerably earlier than St. Jerome, whom Erasmus had long admired. In particular, he exposed Erasmus to the works of the first great Christian theologian, Origen. Vitrier pointed Erasmus toward a new conception of theology, no longer as a systematically demonstrated set of answers to broad speculative issues discussed by specialists in the shop-talk of the university faculty but as a practical guide to the religious life of devout Christians, founded on the Bible and the Church Fathers.

The new Erasmian theology that was in gestation between 1500 and 1505 had one other principal characteristic. It involved the marriage of the most advanced humanist modes of textual criticism (as advanced by Valla) to the text of the Bible, chiefly in its original languages, Hebrew and Greek. The new theology would require advanced linguistic skills rather than skill in dialectical disputation. He also believed that this new theology would be more like the theology of the early Church Fathers than the scholastic theology of the universities. This does not mean that in 1505 he had a fully developed program that pointed clearly toward his later career, but he did already know that he would have to continue the perfection of his Greek and must closely study the patristic authors. His new spiritual orientation did not end his devotion to the classics. He was a busy man, publishing editions of ancient works like Cicero's De officiis, a work of moral philosophy; the Disticha Catonis, a popular collection of versified moral maxims from late antiquity; and the Mimes of Publilius Syrus, a minor but popular Roman playwright famous for his witty sayings. None of these editions was pathbreaking, but they may have brought him some income from the original publishers and certainly would enhance his reputation as a master of Latin style.

Sometime in the autumn of 1505, Erasmus left Paris for England, where he stayed through the winter and spring of 1506. Reasons for this move are purely speculative, but he may have thought that he had better connections there in his search for patrons. During this visit he established friendships with three learned and influential bishops, Richard Foxe of Winchester, John Fisher of Rochester, and William Warham, the archbishop of Canterbury, all of whom eventually did become helpful patrons. There was another advantage, perhaps even more essential for his future. He received from Pope Julius II a dispensation (4 January 1506) absolving him from the impediment created by his illegitimate birth to his holding an ecclesiastical benefice: in other words, he could now lawfully hold benefices that would provide the kind of ecclesiastical income that supported most university professors and scholars. His closest personal connection during this visit was with Thomas More, now established as a young barrister, who had also been studying Greek. The two friends worked on translation of several works of the ancient satirical poet Lucian, and they jointly published these with a Paris publisher in 1506. Early in 1506, Erasmus went to Cambridge and enrolled as a candidate for the doctorate in theology.

But Erasmus did not settle in Cambridge. Through his friendships with people at the royal court, he learned of an opportunity to fulfill his ambition of visiting in Italy. The king's Italian physician wanted a learned scholar to accompany his two sons to Italy and supervise the first year of their studies at the University of Bologna. As early as 1498, Erasmus had discussed moving to Bologna, where the theological course was shorter, and taking his doctorate there (Ep 75, CWE 1:151). Erasmus and his pupils stopped for two months in Paris to allow him to supervise publication of several translations from Greek. From Paris the travelers took an unusual route by way of Turin, apparently because Erasmus had arranged in advance to receive his doctorate there. The degree was truly rapid. The diploma, dated 4 September 1506, makes it clear that he had been given a formal oral examination by members of the faculty of theology. He and his traveling companions had been in Turin for about two or three weeks. He attended no classes. Although in modern times often dismissed as an “honorary degree,” in fact his doctorate was a genuine academic degree awarded on the basis of his established reputation for learning in theology and his study at Paris, all confirmed by the genuine (but perhaps not very searching) oral examination administered before the award was made. It was conferred by a small and undistinguished school, but Turin was a lawfully recognized university. Erasmus usually did not lay much emphasis on his doctorate, and he was usually vague about its source. He preferred to emphasize his public recognition as a theologian by three popes, but his Turin doctorate was what gave him a legal right to speak and publish on theological questions.

From Turin Erasmus and his pupils headed for Bologna, but since that city was being besieged by the army of Pope Julius II, they turned aside to Florence, where they spent only a few days. They then completed their trip to Bologna, just in time to witness the formal entry of Pope Julius into the conquered city at the head of his army on 15 November 1506, a sight that the peace-loving Erasmus found disgusting and inappropriate for a Christian bishop. Once he and his two pupils were settled at Bologna, Erasmus formed friendships with local humanists, consulted Greek manuscripts, and worked on translations from Greek and on a new, vastly expanded edition of his collection of ancient proverbs, the Adages. He remained in Bologna for nearly all of 1507. Late in October, he wrote to the greatest Italian publisher of the Renaissance, Aldus Manutius of Venice, seeking to have his translations of two plays of Euripides, already published at Paris in 1506, reprinted by the Venetian publisher. This Aldine edition appeared promptly, before the end of 1507. A further goal, perhaps from the first, was to have Aldus publish the expanded edition of the Adages he had been working on. Aldus was interested, and in the winter or early spring of 1507 Erasmus left Bologna for Venice. There he worked amid the bustle of the print shop for eight months on the new Adages, surrounded by the cluster of classical scholars (including several native Greeks) who constantly brought to his attention additional Greek authors from whom he could extract new items. The revised edition, issued in September, represented a revolutionary change. The original edition at Paris in 1500 was a volume of 152 pages, including 818 proverbs. It was based entirely on texts available in Latin. But the Aldine edition contained 3260 proverbs, with longer and more scholarly commentaries; and since the press was the greatest center of Greek linguistic and literary knowledge in Europe, the volume was not only bigger but also immensely richer in Greek sources, providing Western scholars with a resource such as had never existed before. It confirmed and securely established Erasmus' reputation as a major classical scholar. The book was a commercial as well as a scholarly success. Aldus wanted Erasmus to settle in Venice. He did remain until December, working on editions of the Roman dramatists Terence, Plautus, and Seneca. Erasmus learned much from association with the scholars around him, especially from access to Aldus' unrivalled collection of Greek texts. No doubt his Greek improved. But his greatest discovery was that his linguistic and literary knowledge even on arrival was equal to that of any of the Aldine scholars. In 1531, replying to the aspersions of his Italian critic Alberto Pio, he declared his independence of the Italian scholarly world: “My literary education owes nothing to Italy” (Phillips 1964: 68).

Late in 1508 Erasmus moved to the university town of Padua, where he became tutor to two illegitimate sons of King James IV of Scotland. He found Padua a more pleasant place to live than Venice, but the threat of war caused group to move to the University of Siena before the end of the year. Shortly after the beginning of Lent, Erasmus left on a trip to Rome, where later he brought his pupils to spend Holy Week. The group made a trip to Naples, after which the Scottish youths returned home and Erasmus went back to Rome.

Erasmus' years in Italy are sparsely documented in his usually rich correspondence, which preserves none of his own letters from the spring of 1509 down to 1511. When he arrived in Rome in the late winter of 1509, he found a warm welcome, for his publications, especially the Aldine edition of the Adages and perhaps some of his translations from Greek, had established his reputation as an able classical scholar. He met many learned men in the papal curia, including several cardinals. There was some talk of finding him employment in one of the curial offices. Yet his general impression of curial society was unfavorable; he found it to be a rich, indolent, self-serving, and luxury-loving milieu. Many years later, in his Ciceronianus, he recalled the sermons he heard there for their inflated rhetoric and their offensive neglect of the central beliefs of the Christian faith. Most of the papal secretaries he met impressed him as essentially mere careerists, pagans, lacking a truly Christian spirit.

Sometime after his return from Naples to Rome, news of the death of Henry VII (21 April 1509) reached Rome. His former pupil Lord Mountjoy wrote on 27 May praising the young new king, Henry VIII, as a potential blessing to men of letters and urging Erasmus to settle in England, reporting that Archbishop Warham of Canterbury promised to present Erasmus with a benefice if he would settle in England. The accession of a friendly young king who seemed interested in literature struck him as an opportunity more attractive than a possible career at the papal curia. He knew England well from his two earlier visits and had many influential friends there. In July 1509 he left Rome for England, and despite friendly invitations from later popes, he never went back.

On the long journey to England, Erasmus conceived and began writing what still remains his best-known literary work, the satire The Praise of Folly, which he completed in London while staying in the home of his closest English friend, Thomas More. Its Latin title, Encomium Moriae, was a pun on More's name (moria was Greek for folly). His hopes of lavish patronage from the new king, however, were not fulfilled; Henry VIII proved to be more interested in Continental politics and war than in scholarship. Eventually, thanks to the help of Bishop John Fisher, who was chancellor of Cambridge University, he was appointed lecturer in Greek and in divinity at Cambridge, where he moved late in the summer of 1511. He seems to have been given wide latitude on the subject of his theological lectures, which were related to his editorial work on patristic authors, especially St. Jerome. Erasmus had ample time for literary work, not only on his study of Jerome's letters but also on translations of St. Basil, Plutarch, and more of Lucian into Latin but also on an edition of the Roman moralist Seneca. From his years at Cambridge comes the first evidence since 1505 that he was at work on the text of the New Testament. Much of the flood of scholarly publication that he published in 1515 and 1516 at Basel represented work he began while at Cambridge. Yet he was always unhappy there. He missed the company of friends left behind at London: More, Colet, and the Italian humanist Andrea Ammonio, Latin secretary to King Henry. He found the company of Scotist and Thomist theologians, eager to criticize his reform-minded friend Colet and suspicious of anyone who studied the language of the schismatic Greeks, tiring. Cambridge seemed isolated and “barbarous.” One pleasant activity was his ability to help his wealthy friend John Colet carry out final preparations for his new educational foundation, St. Paul's School. He wrote several poems, prayers, and orations for the new school, but his most important help was that at Colet's request he wrote and published a textbook on how to develop a fine Latin style (De duplici copia). It proved to be a great success not only in the new school but also in hundreds of editions reprinted all over Europe during the rest of the century. Also coming from his years at Cambridge was a satirical dialogue that he never acknowledged, harshly criticizing the recently deceased warrior-pope Julius II, whose triumphant entry into the conquered city of Bologna he had witnessed in 1506, as a warmonger. This dialogue is discussed further in section 3 below.

Erasmus was still financially needy. In 1511 Archbishop Warham granted him a valuable benefice, the parish of Aldington in Kent. Warham declared that normally he disapproved appointment of non-resident priests but in this case granted the appointment because it would support Erasmus' outstanding scholarly work. Erasmus provided a stipend for a substitute rector and drew the balance of the revenues as an annual pension for the rest of his life. In the long run, he found life at Cambridge too much to endure. In January 1514 he moved to London. He realized that his hopes of generous royal patronage would never be fulfilled, and London was a stopping-point on his way back to the Netherlands. In July 1514, he crossed the Channel to the English enclave at Calais. Awaiting him there was a letter from the prior of his monastery at Steyn, ordering him to return to Steyn and resume his life as a monk. Erasmus flatly refused. After first repeating his standard story of being pushed reluctantly into the monastery at an excessively early age, and claiming that his fragile health and his experience living in the monastery proved that he was unsuited to monastic life, he cited his Enchiridion and Adages as contributions to religion and learning and described the scholarly projects he had under way, including work on the New Testament and the editing of St. Jerome, none of which could be completed at Steyn. From Calais Erasmus visited friends and patrons in the Netherlands and stopped for a time at the University of Louvain. His plan was probably to establish his residence in the Netherlands. Although his English benefice did not pay him enough to cover his total expenses, he evidently (and correctly) estimated that fees from publishers who wanted to print new Erasmian works and gifts from patrons, now that he had attained a degree of fame, would allow him to live independently. His immediate goal, however, was to go to Basel in order to visit the publisher Johann Froben, who had reprinted the Aldine edition of the Adages in 1513 and now had in his hands a vastly expanded version of the same book. Erasmus knew that Froben had a team of scholars preparing an edition of the complete works of St. Jerome and probably wanted to arrange for the edition of Jerome's letters on which he was working to be incorporated into that undertaking.

Erasmus set out from Louvain in August 1514, headed for Basel. This trip up the Rhine marked a watershed in his life. He must have been aware that he had finally gained substantial public recognition, but now, as he traveled from city to city up the river, he was greeted in many places, including important cities such as Trier, Mainz, and Strasbourg, by leaders of the local humanist movement who gathered to pay their respects and greet him as the greatest humanist scholar Germany ever had. Erasmus was flattered by the attention. He may not yet have become prosperous, but he was famous. This journey up the Rhine marks the beginning of a decade when Erasmus was the most famous writer in Europe, a clear example of the new power of the press, since his writings, published by the leading firms of the Netherlands, France, and now Basel, and reprinted again and again by lesser presses from Britain to Poland, were the foundation of his fame. Although after 1520 the growing religious upheaval of the early Reformation somewhat dimmed his reputation and eventually cost him some of his following, he remained a celebrity for the rest of his life.

Johann Froben, the publisher he had come to meet, was one of the greatest publishers of the century. Though not a scholar himself, he was sympathetic to talented scholars and seems to have had the rare knack of making money while publishing scholarly books. Basel, a self-governing city with its own university and politically sheltered by its recent entry into the powerful Swiss Confederation, had become a major center for publishing, and Froben was its most distinguished publisher. Froben recognized Erasmus' importance and went out of his way to make him welcome. Erasmus had several matters to settle with him when he arrived in mid-August, beginning with production of the new and significantly enhanced edition of the Adages. Erasmus enlisted himself in Froben's existing plan to publish the works of St. Jerome, taking full responsibility for the correspondence and agreeing to become the general editor for the whole project. He was also at work on an edition of the works of the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca and a new edition of his own Enchiridion.

But Erasmus had also been pondering what to do with the results of his years spent studying the New Testament, especially what should be his next step after his publication (1505) of Lorenzo Valla's Annotationes on the New Testament. Exactly what Erasmus intended to publish on the New Testament is not clear. Probably he had in mind an edition of the traditional Latin Vulgate text accompanied by his own notes based on several Greek manuscripts. Perhaps he intended merely to publish his notes. Sometime between his first meeting with Froben in August 1514 and the publication of his New Testament in February 1516, the scope of the project was immensely widened. Froben may well have been the one who promoted the change, which transformed what might have been an obscure edition of scholarly notes into a book that (despite the flaws of the hastily completed first edition) permanently changed the course of biblical studies. The new book, published in late winter of 1516, was called Novum Instrumentum, in later editions changed to Novum Testamentum. It included the first published edition of the Greek text of the New Testament, accompanied by a cautious revision of the traditional Latin New Testament and by Erasmus' annotations explaining how in specific passages, study of the Greek text clarified the meaning of the Latin text. In later editions he more boldly substituted his own new Latin translation, based on the Greek text, for the cautious revision of the old version that he used in 1516. Froben was not only an excellent printer but also a shrewd businessman. He knew that if he moved fast, he could get a book onto the market before the six-volume polyglot edition of the whole Bible then being produced in Spain by a team of scholars generously financed by the Cardinal-Archbishop of Toledo, Ximénes de Cisneros. The New Testament part of that project was already in print before Erasmus finished his own edition, but issues of censorship kept the volumes locked in a warehouse until the Old Testament volumes had been printed and final authorization for publication was received from the pope in 1521. By that time, Erasmus' New Testament was already available in a much-improved third edition. Thus the bureaucratic controls in Spain and Rome guaranteed that Erasmus' edition would become the decisive force in New Testament scholarship. In any case, though the Spanish scholars based at Alcalá had far more and far better Greek manuscripts, they were bound by their patron to traditional principles of exegesis. This meant that their edition was made obsolete even before publication by Erasmus' humanistic methods of textual criticism. The future of biblical studies belonged to the new philological and critical methods developed by Erasmus, not to the cautious and traditionalist approach of the Spanish scholars (Bentley 1983:70–193).

The publication of the New Testament in February 1516, shrewdly dedicated to Pope Leo X and graciously received by him, followed later that year by the first edition of a great nine-volume edition of the works of St. Jerome, marks the summit of Erasmus' scholarly career, confirming his status as the greatest scholar of his generation. In the preceding year, Froben had brought out a new edition of the Adages that added yet more proverbs to the “thousands” already claimed in the title of the Aldine edition of 1508. This new edition marks the beginning of a new literary function for the Adages. In certain of the articles, the text included not only the ancient source in its original language and a relatively brief discussion of its meaning but also added a fairly long essay in which Erasmus used the adage as a starting-point for discussion of some issue of current interest that seemed related to the adage and meaningful to Erasmus himself. A good example, added in 1515, is Dulce bellum inexpertis, discussed below as an example of Erasmus' pacifism. The Adages became not only a handy tool for those who wrote in Latin but also a medium for expressing Erasmus' opinions, and the book was another literary and financial success, frequently reprinted throughout the century.

Despite his literary and scholarly success, Erasmus had no reliable income except the modest annual payment from his English benefice. The multiple reprintings of his books brought in little or no revenue. Authorship brought in very limited income for the author, even in the case of a widely circulated literary work like The Praise of Folly or a textbook and literary book like the Colloquies. Authors needed generous patrons; authors who were priests might be given ecclesiastical benefices that paid a steady annual income. After completing arrangements with Froben for his several impending publications, Erasmus made a brief trip to England in March 1515 and then proceeded to the Netherlands., where he visited Louvain and then stayed close to the ducal court, fishing for patrons. Jean Le Sauvage, chancellor of Burgundy, was probably the person most responsible for the appointment of Erasmus as a ducal councilor early in 1516, a position that was purely honorary but theoretically yielded a substantial annual pension (though in fact, since the government was usually short of money, Erasmus rarely received payment). In response to this appointment, Erasmus wrote a tract on The Education of a Christian Prince and dedicated it to the youthful ruler Archduke Charles (the later Emperor Charles V). At the urging of Le Sauvage, in 1517 he also published a book that restated the anti-war sentiments expressed in the adage Dulce bellum, called Querela pacis (The Complaint of Peace). Le Sauvage had a political goal since he was a leader of a court faction that favored a cautious foreign policy of rapprochement with France and avoidance of military adventures in Italy. There was a talk of further ecclesiastical preferment, even suggestions that Erasmus might be made bishop (non-resident, of course) of some diocese in Sicily. More useful was Le Sauvage's gift of a canonry in the cathedral at Courtrai, which Erasmus could exchange for an annual pension. Like Aldington in England, Courtrai provided a modest but reliable annual income for the rest of his life. The two benefices together did not make him rich, but they ended his many years of poverty.

In the summer of 1516, Erasmus made a short trip to London, where he and his friend the expatriate Italian Andrea Ammonio drew up a petition to the apostolic chancery in Rome seeking a papal dispensation to guarantee his eligibility for his benefices. His petition sought relief from certain legal disabilities: one, from the consequences of his illegitimate birth as the son of a priest, which rendered him legally ineligible to receive a benefice; second, his membership in a religious order, which required him to reside at Steyn; and finally, his obligation to wear the distinctive garb of the Augustinian Canons. Dispensations granted by Pope Julius II in 1506 had addressed some of these issues, but he wanted to be more certain of his legal status. Perhaps also the letter from the abbot at Steyn in 1514, ordering him to return to the monastery, made him apprehensive. In January 1517 Pope Leo X issued two formal letters, one addressed to Ammonio and the other to Erasmus himself, confirming the approval of his petition, absolving him from guilt for any technical violations of church law, and authorizing him to accept and hold ecclesiastical benefices, even multiple ones. Pope Leo also sent a friendly personal letter to Erasmus vaguely declaring that he had granted his petition and warmly praising his character and his learning. This last letter, Erasmus promptly published; the other two he kept private, as they were intended to be. In April 1517, Erasmus made a quick trip to London so that Ammonio as the pope's delegate could absolve him of any sin related to the previous legal irregularity of his status.

Erasmus seems to have decided to make the Netherlands his permanent home. He was now a famous man, especially among the young humanists of Germany, who idolized him and looked upon him as the person who was initiating a spiritual and institutional renewal of Christendom. In early summer of 1517, as Archduke Charles prepared to travel to Spain and take possession of Spain as successor to his grandfather King Ferdinand, Erasmus decided not to accompany the large delegation of officials from the Netherlands who would go with the ruler. He chose to remain in the Netherlands and eventually decided to settle at the University of Louvain. He knew that this move might be risky. The faculty of theology was dominated by the same sort of tradition-minded scholastic theologians he had learned to dislike at Paris. Indeed, controversy threatened even before he had decided on a place to settle. In 1514 Martin van Dorp, a candidate for a doctorate in theology who also had some credentials as a humanist, had written Erasmus expressing dismay at what the theologians regarded as the flippancy and irreverence of The Praise of Folly. Still worse, Dorp's letter interpreted Erasmus' plan to publish annotations and corrections for a revision of the New Testament as a dangerous and subversive undertaking that implied that the church had erred for centuries by relying on a Latin Bible that Erasmus claimed was full of errors. Only Erasmus' plan for an edition of the works of St. Jerome received Dorp's praise. Erasmus shrugged off criticism of the Folly by dismissing the book as a mere trifle. But if even a theological candidate with good humanist credentials regarded Erasmus' scriptural studies as subversive, Louvain must have seemed a rather hostile environment. Dorp himself changed his opinion, mainly because he was shamed into it by a brilliant letter in defense of Erasmus written by Thomas More. In a lecture delivered in 1516, Dorp endorsed Erasmus' opinions on biblical criticism and the value of Greek. His seniors in the faculty, who may have instigated his earlier letter, took revenge by refusing to renew his certification to teach courses in theology during the following year, though his status in the faculty soon recovered. The whole incident, however, demonstrates that Louvain was not a very welcoming place for a biblical scholar like Erasmus. Nevertheless, in January 1517, six months before Prince Charles left for Spain, Erasmus paid a brief visit to Louvain to assess the situation. While he was often waspish as a writer, Erasmus knew how to be charming in person, and the visit seems to have gone well. In August 1517, he did move to Louvain. He matriculated in the faculty of theology as a doctor from another university and later in the autumn was co-opted as an adjunct member. This status did not mean that he taught theology, but he was accepted as a fellow-theologian.

At first, Erasmus' relations with his new colleagues were at least civil and in some cases friendly; Dorp was especially helpful. By this period, Erasmus was an internationally recognized scholar. Admiring letters arrived from humanists all across northern Europe, in such numbers that he found it burdensome to reply. His own letters were copied, collected, and published, often without his consent and sometimes including remarks that he intended to be private. He had himself begun publishing selected letters, and these letters were prized not only for their content but also as examples of the finest Latin style of the age. His fame also encouraged the reprinting of his earlier publications, and it was from this period that the Enchiridion became a best-seller. Erasmus himself became more optimistic, and in February 1517, in a letter to his German humanist friend Wolfgang Capito, he expressed a spirit of optimism about the general state of Christian Europe. The three young rulers of Western Europe seemed to be pursuing peace. The growth of interest in humanistic studies and religious reform, in which he claimed “a very humble part,” seemed to promise better times ahead, so that “I perceive that we may shortly behold the rise of a new kind of golden age” (Ep 541, CWE 4:261–268). His optimism was tempered by awareness that there was still stubborn opposition by reactionary monks and theologians, and a careful reading of the letter shows that he saw the golden age as a possibility in the near future, not something already achieved.

Even though he knew that the leading men among the theological faculty still had reservations about his writings, Erasmus settled down to work at his scholarly projects. His major task was preparation of a revised edition of the New Testament since he was well aware that the hurried edition of 1516 had many defects. He courteously asked his new colleagues for suggestions to improve the revision. The general consensus was favorable though rather vague. Yet everyone involved knew that Erasmus was not the conventional Louvain theologian, and eventually this latent tension led to a breakdown of the original feeling of collegiality. A number of conflicts pitting humanists against traditional academic theologians broke out in Germany and influenced attitudes at Louvain, where the most famous of all humanists now lived among a group of very conservative theologians. One such case was the conflict between the theologians and mendicant friars of the neighboring University of Cologne and the German humanist and pioneering Hebrew scholar Johann Reuchlin that had been brewing since 1510. Erasmus respected Reuchlin's learning and resented the disgraceful way he had been attacked by the Cologne Dominicans, though he was cool to Reuchlin's interest in Hebrew and in Jewish Cabalism. His sympathy for Reuchlin irritated many of his new colleagues, and enthusiastic young German humanists who supported Reuchlin associated his cause with Erasmus, mentioned Erasmus as a foe of the Cologne Dominicans, and even published some friendly private letters that he had written to Reuchlin, commiserating (very cautiously) with his troubles. The youthful firebrands in Germany viewed the case as involving not just suspicion of Jewish religion but also as a premeditated attack on humanist learning in general. Erasmus shared this suspicion, and while he avoided public involvement, he did write confidential letters to several acquaintances at the Roman curia urging that the pope should silence the German mendicants. Despite his caution, his own relations with his peers at Louvain were in jeopardy, since most of them took the side of Reuchlin's enemies.

In at least one case, Erasmus' attempt to foster good will among his theological colleagues made tension worse in the long run. Before starting a trip to Basel in May 1518 to supervise publication of the revised New Testament, Erasmus carefully solicited opinions and suggestions from his conservative colleagues. Several of them, including Jean Briart, the conservative dean of the faculty, replied that they found nothing objectionable. But a young and presumptuous English doctoral candidate, Edward Lee, precipitated a confrontation that ultimately disturbed relations. Lee rashly assumed that Erasmus' polite request for opinions amounted to an invitation for him to collaborate in making corrections, and he was offended to learn that Erasmus had not incorporated his emendations. Though at that stage of his career, Lee had only a limited mastery of Greek and was still only a degree candidate, he began a series of attacks that distracted Erasmus over a period of several years. Erasmus' colleagues on the faculty and his friends in England tried unsuccessfully to persuade Lee to desist. Erasmus complained to the dean of the faculty, Briart, who did arrange a formal interview between Erasmus and Lee in his presence to seek a resolution; but this rather half-hearted effort failed, and the quarrel dragged on until Briart's death in 1520. Although Lee was the aggressor and disturber of peace, Erasmus was the one whose local reputation suffered. No further action against Lee followed, even after Lee, frustrated by his inability to find a local publisher at Louvain for his complaints against Erasmus' biblical scholarship, published his criticisms at Paris, thus making an internal quarrel public.

Other issues also generated tension at Louvain. Ever since he returned from working on the second edition of the New Testament in Basel, Erasmus was deeply engaged in helping to carry out a plan to use a large legacy for the founding at Louvain of a new institute, the Collegium Trilingue, devoted to the teaching and study of the three ancient languages (classical Latin, Greek, and Hebrew) that biblical humanists like Erasmus deemed essential to the future study of theology. Erasmus never made a secret of his conviction that trilingual learning had become essential for the education of a competent theologian; he prefixed to the 1516 New Testament an essay, Paraclesis, that defended the application of Greek language and textual criticism to biblical scholarship; and the second edition (1518) contained a more complete statement of that conviction, Ratio verae theologiae. Even when they appeared as part of his biblical editions, these ideas were a potential challenge to the theologians, for if trilingual study was essential for the training of a competent theologian, then none of the Louvain theologians was truly competent. Erasmus' involvement in the foundation of this new trilingual institute right in their midst was a direct challenge; indeed, not only the theologians but also many in the faculty of arts resisted its foundation and its incorporation into the university. In March 1519, one of the ablest of the Louvain theologians, Jacobus Latomus, published a book flatly denying that trilingual knowledge was necessary for a competent theologian. The book was not explicitly directed against Erasmus, but no one doubted that its intention was to refute him, his biblical prefaces, and the new Collegium trilingue as well.

A troubling sign of increased tensions occurred earlier in 1519 when the dean, Briart, speaking at the formal promotion of a doctoral candidate, bitterly denounced Encomium matrimonii, a book that Erasmus had written many years ago in honor of the marriage of his friend Lord Mountjoy but had published only recently. Briart did not explicitly name the suspicious book or its author, but he interpreted its praise of marriage as heretical because by praising marriage, it weakened the church's traditional preference for celibacy as the ideal form of life for all Christians. Erasmus complained to Briart personally, and the dean confessed that he had misunderstood the intent of the little book. He agreed that since his attack had been public, it was only fair to let Erasmus publish a reply. Erasmus wrote a cautious Apologia that mentioned Briart with great respect and carefully explained the innocence of his own book. But the incident caused harm, for Briart's disciples continued to snipe at Erasmus. At the same period, the publication of several satirical works by German humanists against the anti-Erasmians at Louvain made conditions very tense, even though Erasmus was not complicit in their publication. Although he and Briart remained formally civil, Erasmus suspected that Briart was secretly encouraging attacks on him. Except for Dorp, who had become a loyal friend, and perhaps a few others, the Louvain theologians were increasingly hostile.

Just at this period, the most prominent irritant of all began to manifest itself. This was the incipient religious upheaval set off in Germany by Martin Luther's bold challenge to the practice of indulgences. With remarkable rapidity, reform-minded young German humanists (and many older ones also) who had become admirers of Erasmus identified Luther's ideas and reform program with those of Erasmus, regarding Luther and Erasmus as leaders of a single movement. The emergence of Luther caused serious problems for Erasmus across a broad front, including his situation in Louvain. The similarity between Luther's ideas of theological method and those of Erasmus was obvious; the differences, which existed from the very beginning, were not. While Erasmus' humanist admirers enthusiastically identified Luther's cause with Erasmus' ideas of reform, many of the Louvain theologians saw the same similarities but drew opposite conclusions. Theological conservatives like Briart, Latomus, and the outspoken Carmelite theologian Nicolaus Baechem suspected that Erasmus secretly favored Luther, that Luther's heretical doctrines were derived from Erasmus' ideas, even that Erasmus was the real author of the books published under Luther's name. Erasmus came under intense pressure to join in their denunciation of Luther, but he was unwilling to do so, claiming that he was so busy that he had read none, or almost none, of Luther's publications. In reality, he had read at least some of Luther's books with great interest and had concluded that while Luther took extreme positions on some questions and might have made some errors, there was much to be praised in his works. In a private letter to Luther's main protector, the Electoral Prince Frederick of Saxony, Erasmus implied that the charges of heresy were not valid but were merely part of a conservative plot to destroy recent progress in humanistic studies He urged the Elector to resist pressure to surrender Luther into the hands of his enemies, who would surely put him to death. Erasmus never published this letter, but the Elector sent a copy to Luther and his friends at Wittenberg, who promptly had it printed. This letter must have been known to the Louvain theologians who were denouncing Erasmus as a supporter of Luther and were demanding that he publicly dissociate himself from the new heresy. Erasmus received a careful and polite letter from Luther himself and sent a cautious reply that was friendly but explicitly refused to endorse either side in the controversy. He published both of these letters (written in March and May 1519) in a collection of his correspondence. Indeed, Erasmus was involved in a quiet effort to bring about a settlement of the crisis through mediation among the ruling German princes when they met with the newly elected Emperor Charles V at Cologne in November 1519. In conjunction with a reform-minded Dominican friar, Johannes Faber, he drafted a formal proposal to be laid before the princes, providing that a mediatory commission be appointed to bring about a peaceful resolution of the theological controversy. Erasmus traveled to Cologne to promote this plan, which was well-intentioned but never had a chance of success since no pope would ever surrender his authority to a commission. At Cologne he also had a private interview with Luther's protector, the Elector Frederick, who had asked to meet with him. Erasmus bluntly criticized Luther's pugnacity and arrogance, but he did not regarded him as a heretic and clearly opposed burning Luther's books or turning him over to his enemies. Erasmus returned from Cologne to Louvain, where hostility among the theologians was growing. The faculty was preparing a formal condemnation of Luther's heresies, and it was clear that if he wanted to avert suspicion of supporting those heresies, he was expected to join in the attack. This he refused to do.

In 1520, Luther made Erasmus' life at Louvain even more difficult by publishing three brilliant but radical tracts that repudiated the whole medieval ecclesiastical system. After reading the first of these, On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, Erasmus realized that the opportunity for quiet doctrinal compromise no longer existed. He remained convinced that Luther's most extreme opponents, including many at Louvain, were really intending to destroy not just the Saxon reformer but also the whole movement of humanist reform. The university and the Habsburg government of the Netherlands obviously expected him to join in the attack on Luther or else be regarded as a supporter of heresy. If he stayed in Louvain, he would be subject to constant attacks and perhaps to prosecution.

By 1521, however, he had another option. By that time, Johann Froben in Basel had become his publisher of choice. Since his initial trip to Basel in 1514, Erasmus had made several lengthy stays in that city to work on forthcoming publications. He found in Froben's workshop a remarkable collection of young collaborators, men learned in the subjects on which Erasmus published, strongly favorable to him and to the cultural, moral, and religious reforms he had promoted. These employees of the press were the nucleus of a broader local humanist community which also included some professors and students in the local university and some of the better educated civic officials and local businessmen The outstanding member of the Basel faculty of theology, Ludwig Baer, had become a close friend, a useful consultant on questions involving scholastic theology. Basel was also a safe place for Erasmus. It was a self-governing city republic within the German Empire, and in 1501 it also became a member of the powerful Swiss Confederation. Located at the head of navigation on the Rhine river, it had excellent commercial and cultural links with the most culturally and economically advanced regions of Germany, extending all the way north to the Netherlands. It had easy overland links to the west with the Habsburg-ruled Franche-Comté and with the French capital. Basel was an ideal location from which to observe, but remain aloof from, the incipient religious and social upheaval that Luther had unleashed, free from the political, ecclesiastical, and academic pressures that he faced in Louvain.

In the autumn of 1521, Erasmus moved from Louvain to Basel, not necessarily intending the move to be permanent. He lived there for nearly eight years, from 1521 until the full conversion of the city to the Protestant Reformation in the spring of 1529, when he felt morally obligated, as a man determined to remain loyal (in his own way) to the old church, to leave a city where open Catholic worship was suppressed. He moved to the near-by city of Freiburg-im-Breisgau, also a university town, which, being directly under Habsburg rule, was not in danger of falling into the hands of the Protestants. He never made an irrevocable commitment to either Basel or Freiburg, sometimes considering a move to Rome, where three successive popes urged him to come and join in the task of healing the schism. Some of his letters mentioned the possibility of returning to France, to England, but especially to the Netherlands. But even after he broke openly with Luther in 1524, he had no intention of becoming an agent of the effort to suppress Luther and his followers. Basel was a safe refuge, a place from which he could still try to intervene in the interests of unity, peace, and moderate reform. Most of this participation was through his continued writing, producing a flood of new or revised editions of patristic texts, classical authors, improved editions of the New Testament, and a series of Paraphrases on the books of the New Testament that restated the scriptural message (as he understood it) in his own words. Erasmus did not move to Basel in order to hide from the problems of his age, only to remove himself from daily encounters with a hostile environment and in order to preserve his freedom to pursue his reform program in his own way.

Almost as soon as Luther's opinions became a source of conflict in the church, many people urged Erasmus to challenge Luther publicly. Moving to Basel relieved the pressure to some extent, but even there, he felt the pressure from friends and patrons who had remained Catholic to speak out against Luther. The pressure came from the Emperor Charles V and many of his officials who were Erasmus' friends; from the emperor's younger brother Ferdinand, who directed Habsburg (and Catholic) interests in the German empire; from Duke George of Saxony, cousin (and dynastic rival) of Luther's protector, the Elector Frederick; from three popes, Leo X, Adrian VI, and Clement VII. All of these powerful men were generally favorable to Erasmus and to the humanist reform program that he had defined. There were widespread doubts about his loyalty to the old church, and these and other patrons tried to persuade him that if he wanted to remove those doubts, he must speak out. This was hard to do, since he never believed that Luther was really a heretic. Yet he was alarmed by the emerging division within the church and by the popular agitation and social unrest in German and Dutch cities. Once he had read Luther's three radical tracts of 1520, he began warning friends, especially his own young humanist disciples who were attracted to Luther, that they should be careful about embracing what seemed certain to become a source of lasting division. In time, some of these warnings got into print, sometimes with Erasmus' complicity. Finally, in 1524, he published an open attack on one central doctrine of Luther's theology, De libero arbitrio (On Free Will), beginning a public confrontation that will be discussed below.

Erasmus also opposed the variant form of Reformation that had emerged in the cities of Switzerland and southwestern Germany under the leadership of Huldrych Zwingli of Zürich, a former Erasmian humanist. Zwingli's eucharistic docrtrine, which came to be described as Sacramentarian, was especially offensive to Erasmus because as he interpreted it, it held that there was nothing at all in the communion except material bread and wine. It was also threatening to him, because some of the young leaders who supported the Sacramentarian position had been very close to him as assistants at Froben's press. Indeed, his own tendency to interpret religious ceremonies as essentially inward and spiritual rather than external and material was akin to their own beliefs about the eucharist, and those who had been especially close to him claimed that they had learned their eucharistic doctrines from him. He bitterly resented what he regarded as dishonest exploitation of past association in order to present him as the author of their new heresy. Yet he also had to concede that their views (which Luther denounced vehemently) were plausible. When the city council of Basel in 1525 asked for his advice whether a book that Johannes Oecolampadius, the leading local Protestant preacher and a former colleague at the Froben press, had published on the eucharist should be permitted to be sold, he replied that he found the book “learned, well written, and thorough. I would also judge it pious, if anything could be so described which is at variance with the general opinion of the church, from which I consider it perilous to dissent” (Ep 1636, CWE 11:343–344); he advised that it should not be sold at Basel. In 1526, a letter that he sent to a conference of the Swiss cantons called to organize opposition to the spread of Zwinglian doctrines again stated his objections to Sacramentarian doctrine. It also included a clear statement of the governing principle in his decision to remain loyal to the old church despite his disagreement with many of its practices and despite its many corruptions. This was the principle of consensus omnium, the universal agreement that had prevailed throughout the many centuries of Christian history on certain basic beliefs. This general consensus must outweigh the personal conclusions of any individual even if those conclusions seem reasonable and well grounded in Scripture (summary in introduction to Ep 1708, CWE 12:198, and Erasmus' own words on pp. 202–203; also Augustijn 1991:152–153, and McConica 1969:2:77–99).

This declaration of his willingness to submit to the judgment of the church was not enough to convince many conservative Catholic theologians and monks of his loyalty, just as his public break with Luther from 1524 failed to impress them or end their attacks. From at least the time of Dorp's warning about the dangers of his projected work in 1514, before the Lutheran heresy even existed, Erasmus had faced the unremitting hostility of a number of determined groups who accused him of heresy or at least of imprudent statements that unsettled the beliefs of the faithful. Although Dorp himself changed his opinion, most of his colleagues among the Louvain theologians remained either suspicious or actively hostile. After the emergence of Luther's doctrines, Erasmus' opinions were constantly misinterpreted as veiled support for the Lutheran heresy. Louvain became a source of many open attacks, the most vehement ones by the Carmelite theologian Nicholas Baechem, the most effective ones by Jacobus Latomus and, at the end of the 1520s, some younger Louvain theologians. Paris, the most authoritative center of traditional theology, became another center of attacks, led by the syndic of its faculty of theology, Noël Béda, who from 1524, acting on his own initiative, investigated the orthodoxy of Erasmus' Paraphrases on Luke and subsequently, other paraphrases. Béda combed through Erasmus' publications and made lists of passages that he judged to be heretical or at least likely to create scandal in the church. Erasmus soon learned what Béda was doing and decided to forestall conflict by corresponding directly with Béda and trying to defend his own orthodoxy. The correspondence was reasonably civil at first, though Béda soon made it clear that he did not recognize Erasmus as a qualified theologian. By 1526, the veneer of courtesy expressed in their earlier letters had worn very thin. Béda was not a distinguished theologian, but he was a consummate academic politician and had established a dominance over the Paris faculty that was seldom challenged with success. In 1526 he published his notes criticizing the statements he had found objectionable in Erasmus' publications. Erasmus vigorously protested against what he regarded as dishonest and slanderous attacks on his good name and even secured a royal order that Béda's book should be suppressed. Béda was relentless, pushing for his ultimate goal of securing a formal condemnation of the Erasmian passages he had extracted. Finally, after a lengthy series of hearings, in December of 1527 the faculty adopted a condemnation of some of Erasmus' most important works, such as his Paraphrases on the New Testament. Since the faculty knew that the king would be angered by this action, the anti-Erasmian leaders did not publish the condemnation and bided their time until 1531, when political conditions had changed. Béda was not the only Paris theologian to publish books against Erasmus.

In addition to attacks from Paris and Louvain and also from some German theologians, Erasmus learned that the mendicant orders in Spain had been attacking him because a number of his religious works, especially the Enchiridion, had been translated into Spanish and had become popular. In this case, however, the grand inquisitor and archbishop of Seville, Alonso de Manrique, had a favorable opinion of Erasmus. He summoned the superiors of the mendicant orders and commanded them to stop their members from attacking Erasmus in their sermons; instead, if they truly believed that Erasmus' works were harmful, he told them to meet in private and compile lists of any heresies and errors and then present these lists before a special inquisitorial commission that he would appoint. This commission met at Valladolid in the summer of 1527 and held twenty-one sessions at which various issues in Erasmus' works were debated. The mendicants were unable to secure a condemnation, though there was also no formal exoneration. Erasmus, who knew little about conditions in Spain, felt compelled to write and publish anApologia against these Spanish mendicants, acting against the advice of his supporters in Spain. In the short run, the outcome in 1527 seemed to be a victory for Erasmus, but by the early 1530s, the enthusiasm for Erasmus' religious ideas in Spain was waning. A more conservative brand of Catholicism gained the upper hand. By mid-century, it was dangerous even to own a book by Erasmus.

Erasmus also found antagonists in Italy. After he left Italy in 1509, he always retained some friendly connections in the peninsula; but his own memories of Italy, and especially of the curial society at Rome, were unfavorable. These memories crop up at times in revised editions of The Praise of Folly, the Adages, and other works. These unfavorable memories of Italy are central to a dialogue, Ciceronianus (1528), written in part out of resentment against the sniping by some Italian humanists at the quality of his own Latin prose. His critics, mostly humanists employed in the papal bureaucracy, charged that his Latin was inferior to the style of Cicero, the perfect model for good Latin. Erasmus, too, admired Cicero and had edited several of his works. But he had developed a highly personal style of Latin that in the opinion of his Italian critics was deficient because it freely used words and constructions found in later Latin authors but not in Cicero. The un-Ciceronian vocabulary included plentiful use of words from ecclesiastical Latin and the Church Fathers to express ideas not found in pre-Christian literature. In his Ciceronianus Erasmus criticized and derided the rigid verbal purism of the Ciceronians. The characters in the dialogue regarded such strict purism as nonsense: the world has changed since the time of Cicero, and language has to change with it.

Unwisely, Erasmus then turned to an evaluation of contemporary writers in order to prove that it is possible to write good Latin without being hobbled by an effort to ape Cicero's style. The problem was that any contemporary author who was not mentioned and praised felt left out. Even some who were included felt that the recognition given in Ciceronianus was inadequate. Erasmus did not intend to make invidious comparisons, but that was how many of his peers perceived what he wrote. For example, one of his characters ranks Guillaume Budé as inferior to Josse Bade as a writer of Latin. Since Budé was the glory of contemporary French humanism and Bade was essentially a publisher, with no great intellectual or stylistic pretensions, this passage was taken to be a deliberate insult to him and even to French scholarship in general. Budé himself declared the matter unimportant, and Erasmus wrote an apologetic letter. Budé was in fact deeply offended; he never answered Erasmus' apologetic letter or any other letter that Erasmus sent him (Betty I. Knott, Introductory Note,” in CWE 27:331). Erasmus had omitted several others who thought that they should have been mentioned. He had not realized when he decided to discuss the writings of some contemporary humanists that his book would be regarded as a sort of Who's Who of contemporary authors.

Erasmus had not expected such complaints, for Ciceronianus was aimed chiefly at the secretaries at the Roman curia. Here he did intend to give offense, for in addition to ridiculing their narrow conception of Latin style, he made it clear that he regarded their enthusiastic embrace of ancient Rome as reflecting acceptance of the moral and even religious values of pagan Rome, not just its forms of language. He criticized the curial Ciceronians for avoiding specifically Christian terms and for the habit of using circumlocutions or openly pagan terms to discuss religious matters without committing the sin of using words not found in Cicero. Most of them, he regarded as Christians in name only, happy to take ecclesiastical incomes but lacking any genuine faith.

Erasmus also became involved in an ugly controversy with an influential Italian author who accused Erasmus of being the original source of Luther's heresies. What made this challenge particularly worrisome was that this critic was a man of high social rank, fully conversant in classical and modern humanistic culture, and politically connected to the highest ecclesiastical and political authorities in Italy. He was Alberto Pio, prince of Carpi, the son of a ruler of a small Italian principality and of a sister of the philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. After his father's premature death, his uncle Giovanni Pico supervised the boy's education and engaged the humanist Aldus Manutius (the future Venetian publisher) as his tutor. Dethroned and exiled by a conspiracy within his own family, Pio studied at the University of Ferrara under the most famous Aristotelian philosopher in Italy, Pietro Pomponazzi. During a varied political career, he had been employed as a diplomat, including time as the imperial ambassador at Rome. At the curia, he was close to the Roman Academy, which had a reputation for neopaganism. Yet Pio himself was noted for his Christian piety. Because of his pro-French political connections, when the Emperor Charles V took military control of Italy, Pio lost his claim to the principality of Carpi; and when the imperial army conquered and plundered Rome in 1527, he fled to France. This was a dangerous antagonist. Erasmus learned from friends at Rome about 1525 that Pio was denouncing him at the curia. As he did with the unfriendly Paris theologian Noël Béda about the same time, Erasmus sought to head off conflict by writing directly to his accuser. He declared that charges that he and other northern humanists were the source of Luther's heresies were a mere smokescreen for the desire of obscurantist theologians and monks to destroy the growth of humanist studies and prevent a genuine reform of the church. He added that people living comfortably at Rome had no idea of the chaotic conditions in Germany and no right to criticize loyal Christians who struggled to uphold the Catholic faith in a country that was in turmoil.

In reply, Pio wrote a treatise in the form of a letter that amounted to an accusation that Erasmus' ideas were virtually identical to Luther's heresies and were in fact the source of those heresies, and that if Erasmus wanted to be accepted as a genuine Catholic, he must admit his own guilt and publicly recant the errors in his books. Pio wrote this attack in 1526 but did not publish it until 1529, after he had gone into exile at the French court. But it circulated earlier in the tight-knit circle of intellectuals at the curia. By September 1526 Erasmus had received a manuscript copy directly from the author. At almost the same time, Erasmus learned that he was also the target of another attack at the curia, an anonymous work called Racha that made accusations similar to Pio's and that he thought (probably correctly) was the work of his former friend Girolamo Aleandro. This work also circulated at the curia; it has never been published. Erasmus dared to respond to Pio's manuscript but did not dare to challenge Aleandro, who had become too powerful to be confronted. Erasmus began his defense with a letter directly to Pope Clement VII that reasserted his loyalty to the Roman church and protested against scurrilous attacks against him that circulated within the curia (Ep 1987, Basel, 3 April 1528, in Allen 7:378–379). He finally learned that Pio had settled in Paris after he fled from Rome and wrote him there, urging him to delay publication of his attack until he could consider Erasmus' defense (Ep 2080, Basel, 23 December 1528, in Allen 7:544–545). His letter arrived too late; Pio's Responsio was published at Paris in early January 1529. In March, Erasmus then published his own Responsio, which denied that he had ever encouraged Luther. By June 1530, he learned that Pio was preparing a second attack. Shortly after Pio's death in 1531, the Paris publisher Josse Bade brought out this book, an attempt to prove Pio's original charges by reproducing parallel passages from Luther and Erasmus. Erasmus promptly published an Apologia that accused Pio of publishing lies and false citations

Even earlier, Erasmus had faced attacks by two Spanish scholars. First was a series of attacks published by a Spanish philologist and theologian, Jacobus Stunica (Diego López Zúñiga) on the first edition of Erasmus' New Testament (1516). Having never heard of Stunica, Erasmus initially dismissed his opinions as unworthy of attention. But Stunica was a learned scholar, competent not only in Latin and Greek but also in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic; he was one of the team of scholars that Cardinal Ximénes brought together to produce the great polyglot Bible published at Alcalá. Stunica had written hostile notes not long after Erasmus' New Testament came out in 1516, but when Erasmus heard of his plan and complained to the cardinal, Ximénes warned Stunica not to publish his criticisms. After the death of the cardinal in 1517, Stunica felt free to return to the topic and in 1520 brought out his Annotationes, directed against Erasmus' biblical scholarship. He then moved to Rome, where he taught Greek in the pontifical university. Erasmus published an Apologia (1520) against these criticisms. So far, the opposing publications were respectful. But Stunica was stubborn, and in 1522 he published at Rome a vehement attack on Erasmus, Erasmi Roterodami blasphemiae et impietates, which charged that the whole Erasmian program of humanistic reform was heretical. Another exchange of hostile pamphlets followed until the new pope, Adrian VI, imposed silence on Stunica. After Adrian's early death, however, Stunica rushed three additional attacks into print in 1523 and 1524. The next pope, Clement VII, again imposed silence on him, acting at the request of Erasmus. Erasmus published one additional Apologia in 1524 and much later (1529) issued a final defense in a letter to a Dutch friend. The second Spanish critic proved less troublesome. Sancho Carranza de Miranda, a theologian who had relocated to Rome in 1522, published a volume of criticisms of Erasmus; but this book was less hostile than Stunica's and politely urged Erasmus to explain certain points more clearly in order to silence critics. Erasmus published a fairly courteous reply the same year (1522), and eventually the two men became rather friendly.

Erasmus lived through many similar quarrels and devoted an enormous amount of time and energy to reading these attacks and preparing and publishing apologetic works in his own defense, in many cases leading to a long series of back-and-forth polemical books. With a few of his critics, he managed to maintain a spirit of courtesy, but with most of them the debate soon degenerated into bitter attacks. Three of his opponents, Lee, Stunica, and Béda, were the most troublesome because they clung to him so persistently that he could not bring the quarrel to a conclusion. Erasmus always felt obligated to defend his good name and produce a refutation when he faced an attack, though in some cases he did try to head off open controversy through a direct approach to the critic.

Especially after his break with Luther in 1524, his quarrels with fellow-Catholics were more troublesome to him than his controversies with Protestants. Though he still had some positive things to say about many individuals who supported the Reformation, he was now publicly identified as their opponent and was not deeply troubled by their attacks (with the exception of Luther's scurrilous accusation that he was a non-believing hypocrite, an atheist). But the attacks by Catholics were more difficult to cope with. He had publicly and strongly asserted his identity as a loyal Catholic willing to accept the doctrines and practices of the church and to recognize the authority of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, though he was not willing to refrain from criticizing practices and conditions that he found to be unwholesome and harmful to genuine piety. He had no intention of letting ultra-conservative monks and theologians drive him out of the church to which he had declared his loyalty. What particularly enraged him was that many of these Catholic critics were quite unimpressed by his open rejection of Luther's major doctrines. In their correspondence, Béda made it clear that Erasmus' defense of free will and his rejection of Luther's extreme position on man's dependence on grace made no difference to him; what he expected from Erasmus was a complete cessation of his frank and public criticism of abuses in the traditional church, a total repudiation of his long-standing dream of a purified, spiritually reawakened church that would be reformed gradually and peacefully from within the old structures. In a sense, Béda and some other conservative critics regarded the nuts and bolts of traditional religious observance, the popular emphasis on external acts like pilgrimages, prayer to the saints, use of images, and other external actions and observances as more crucial to their conception of the Catholic faith than the big theological issues on which Erasmus had attacked Luther, Zwingli, and the other leaders of the Reformation. Yet for Erasmus himself, these traditional acts of external observance, while not necessarily practices to be rejected completely, were secondary matters and in many cases had been abused by grasping, corrupt clergymen as devices to exploit the simple, trusting faith of gullible believers.

The scholar who has most carefully analyzed these controversies that involved Catholic rather than Protestant antagonists has concluded that though Erasmus was well trained to undertake the task of emending scriptural texts, his temperament made him unsuited for public controversy. “He was proud of his achievements and sensitive to criticism. He had moreover a sharp tongue and ready wit and did not suffer fools gladly.” Though he was repeatedly involved in conflicts, his performance as a controversialist was poor. “Although Erasmus often adopts a superior tone, he is superior to his opponents only in learning; in pettifogging, peevishness, and intellectual pride he is their match” (Rummel 1989:1: 189–190).

Erasmus retained the loyalty of many moderate and pious humanists on both the Protestant and the Catholic side of the religious divide. Those humanists who shared his determination to remain loyal to the traditional church despite its shortcomings continued to respect him and seek his advice. In particular, they shared his hope that eventually the divisions in Christendom could be patched up. As a provisional solution for Germany, Erasmus was willing to grant de facto toleration to those Protestants who accepted the major and ancient beliefs of the church (which he tended to identify with the brief text of the Apostles' Creed) and to ignore the lesser issues on which agreement was impossible: better a stalemate with some toleration for dissidents than a civil war. When the imperial diet at Augsburg proclaimed for 1530 drew near, he corresponded with the papal legate to the Diet, Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio, and frankly suggested that this might be the only possible outcome.

In 1529, Erasmus lost his place of refuge in Basel. The city where he had found the most physically and intellectually comfortable home he ever had, like most German cities, was strongly attracted to Luther and even more attracted to the more radical Zwinglian or Sacramentarian version of the Reformation. Gradually, through the preaching of Johannes Oecolampadius, a former collaborator of Erasmus at the Froben press and a learned humanist, the citizens who supported the Reformation grew in numbers and political influence. The city council still wanted to prevent a total Protestant victory, but gradually it made numerous concessions so that by the late 1520s, five of the six parish churches were controlled by priests who supported the Reformation. The council decreed that all citizens should have freedom of conscience and no one should be compelled to attend either the Catholic mass or the new Reformed services. This policy suited Erasmus, but it did not suit the spirit of the age. Oecolampadius lamented that even after several years when the Gospel was openly preached in Basel, a large part of the population still accepted the mass and supported the idolatrous observances associated with the cult of the saints. He and his followers wanted the city to become exclusively Protestant. Under intense public pressure, in January 1529 the council decreed that a maximum of three masses per day might be celebrated in the city and that a formal disputation between Protestant and Catholic theologians should be held in May to resolve the religious disagreements. The stalemate did not last even that long. Oecolampadius had pressed for changes but wanted to avoid violence and was willing to wait until the disputation planned for May. His followers, however, were not. The city's guilds had become strong supporters of religious change. To the horror of Erasmus and many of his friends, an insurrection led by the guilds took the decision out of the council's hands. In December, the guilds had petitioned the council to approve legal establishment of the new Reformed church as the religion of the city. The council had delayed a response. On 8 February, the guilds gave the city council an ultimatum. The following day, while the council debated inconclusively, a mob of several thousand people who had been waiting for a decision entered the cathedral and several parish churches and began smashing the “idols” (the images of the saints). At that point, the twelve Catholic members of the council resigned, and that evening the remaining councillors approved the guilds' demands. For two days and two nights, the destruction of religious images continued. The mass was abolished, and all citizens were required to receive the Lord's Supper under the new Protestant forms. Most of the substantial group of citizens who would have preferred to keep the old religious observances conformed reluctantly. Erasmus' closest friend, Bonifacius Amerbach, would not consider leaving his city but stubbornly refused to attend the new communion services. All of the canons of the cathedral chapter, including Erasmus' theologian friend Ludwig Baer, moved to the near-by city of Freiburg, which was controlled by Archduke Ferdinand of Habsburg and hence remained safely Catholic.

Erasmus viewed these events with dismay, both because of the suppression of the old religion and because of the violence of the mob. Life in Basel during this turmoil had become insupportable for him, even though the magistrates assured him he would not be compelled to conform. He could justify remaining in a city where both religions were able to practice their faith, but not in a city that was legally Protestant and had outlawed his own religion. He considered going back to the Netherlands or even moving to Rome, but he knew that living in either of these places would destroy the freedom to express his opinions candidly that had attracted him to Basel in 1521. But he was an old and sickly man who shrank from undertaking a long and exhausting journey to either of these places. Although he considered other places in Germany, he really had his eye on the near-by university town of Freiburg-im-Breisgau, just sixty kilometers away. Because it was under Habsburg control, Freiburg would not turn Protestant. Because its overlord, Archduke Ferdinand, was favorable to him, he would be sheltered from the Catholic extremists. Freiburg was also a university town, where Erasmus knew that he had admirers among the faculty and the students. Erasmus arranged a private conference with Oecolampadius, whom he still respected as a scholar despite their growing alienation on religious issues. Oecolampadius declared his continuing friendship for Erasmus and urged him to remain in Basel, but to no avail. Erasmus wanted to depart privately at a remote location for the trip down the Rhine, but the city council insisted on his using the traditional landing at the Rhine bridge. They wanted to demonstrate publicly that he was leaving by his own choice and still had their good will. When he arrived at the point of embarkation on 13 April 1529, hoping to depart quietly, a large crowd of citizens and civic officials was waiting to see him off.

When he reached Freiburg, Erasmus received a warm welcome. The city council provided use of a large house. Since he still thought it likely that he would eventually move elsewhere, Freiburg was an excellent location, with easy access to the Habsburg-ruled Franche-Comté and France to the west and easy travel down the Rhine to the Netherlands. In 1531 he bought a house. Since he had the favor of Archduke Ferdinand, he was treated with respect and was able to continue writing and publishing as he wished. Yet there were disadvantages to Freiburg. Although there was a local group of humanists, the city was smaller than Basel and much less intellectual. Freiburg had no local publishers comparable to Froben. He continued to publish his new and revised works with the heirs of Froben at Basel.

Erasmus lived at Freiburg for six years, from 1529 to 1535, and continued his studies and writing. His love for peace and his continuing if forlorn hope for reunification of the church produced Liber de sarcienda ecclesiae condordia (On Restoring Unity in the Church), published at Basel in 1533. The main point of this little book is a plea for mutual tolerance on practices of secondary importance and the prohibition of books likely to foment violence. Most Protestant leaders denounced the book, which essentially endorsed a somewhat relaxed but still basically unchanged Catholic religion. Its greatest appeal seems to have been to the moderate Catholics who, like the author, still believed that good-faith negotiation between men of good will could restore religious unity. These moderate Catholics, many of them still inspired by Erasmus, remained influential at Rome and in many parts of the Catholic world for a decade after Erasmus' death in 1536, but in the 1540s they gradually lost influence and were eventually overwhelmed (or at least silenced) by conservative Catholics who thought it better to restore traditional Catholicism without compromise and to suppress heresy wherever they were strong enough to do so. De sarcienda was rejected by the conservatives, dismissed as just another example of Erasmus' religious unreliability. His late works included a Christian catechism based on the simplest and most ancient of the traditional statements of faith, the Apostles' Creed. He also wrote a treatise on preparation for death, Praeparatio ad mortem (1534), where he maintained that the truly important preparation was not a set of last-minute ceremonies around the deathbed but (as he had asserted long before in his Enchiridion and in some of his Colloquies) a process that goes on continuously throughout each person's life. At Freiburg he also completed the longest of all his works, Ecclesiastes, a manual on preaching that he had promised friends he would write but had never managed to finish. He had long charged that the old church had neglected preaching as well as its other pastoral responsibilities, and this book was a response to the need to make preaching one of the principal duties of priests. Erasmus also continued to edit classical and patristic texts at Freiburg. He published editions of Ptolemy's De geographia (1530), the complete works of Aristotle (1531), and Suetonius' Lives of the Twelve Emperors (1533); also patristic texts including new editions of the works of St. John Chrysostom (1530) and St. Basil of Caesarea (1532), and a first edition of the works of Origen (1536). In 1535, his last edition of the New Testament came off the Froben press. Erasmus' health became increasingly feeble, but he kept working almost to his final day.

Erasmus had never found Freiburg a very congenial place to live. Although the leading local intellectual, Ulrich Zasius, was a warm admirer, once they lived in the same town they did not become particularly close. The patronage of Archduke Ferdinand made him secure at Freiburg, but he knew that some local clergy and laymen were not favorable to him. He had never made a firm decision to stay there forever and still occasionally wrote of other places as possible future destinations. He had continued to use the Froben press as his publisher while he lived in Freiburg, but in 1535, as he prepared to bring out his longest book, Ecclesiastes, he decided that he should be physically present at the press as the final work went on. Sometime in the summer of 1535, his closest friend at Basel, Bonifacius Amerbach, travelled to Freiburg and brought his old friend back home. The move was easier to accept because although the city was now legally Protestant, the violent agitation of 1529 was long past. In 1534, the city's religious leaders had been willing to make a private theological compromise with Amerbach that convinced him that he could receive the legally required Protestant communion with good conscience. The religious situation at Basel seemed more acceptable if Amerbach was comfortable with it. He resided in the home of his publisher, Hieronymus Froben. Being in feeble health, he rarely went out. Despite poor health, he continued to work on Ecclesiastes, the revised edition of the New Testament, his edition of Origen, and several shorter publications.

In several of his later publications, including De sarcienda, his 1532 revisions of his Paraphrase on Romans, and one of his very last short tracts, De puritate tabernaculi, he seems to have moderated, but not wholly abandoned, the optimistic strain that typified his earlier work, including his earlier confidence in the power of education to make people morally better. De puritate expressed a somewhat pessimistic view of human nature and emphasized faith in God's grace (which had always had an important place in his religious thought) even more than in the past, and human powers aside from grace considerably less. He seems to have regarded human sinfulness as more powerful than he had in earlier works. Consciously or not, he now leaned a bit more in Luther's direction than he had during their quarrel in the mid-1520s. Although his opposition to the Reformation became more open and harsh in works written after his conflict with Luther, and his insistence that the unity of the church must be maintained at all costs became stronger as the actual unity of the church collapsed, he never believed that Luther was truly a heretic in the same sense as the heretics condemned by the early church. In person, he remained stubbornly Catholic, but in his own way. He published the prayers, many of them expressing devotion to the saints, that he had written over many years, and remained convinced that the humanistic, tolerant, and moralistic Catholic reform program that he had enunciated before anyone had heard of Martin Luther not only was fully orthodox but also represented the only hope of bringing all Christians back together without the violence of the religious wars that he feared.

By June of 1536 it was clear that Erasmus was failing rapidly. Being a Catholic living in a legally Protestant city, he did not have a priest available to administer last rites, and there is no evidence that he desired such ministrations, which he had always respected if done in the right spirit but never considered very important. He died during the night of 11–12 July. A whole host of ailments contributed to his end, but dysentery was the immediate cause. In his last moments, he commended his soul (in Latin, of course) to Mary and to Jesus, but his very last words, according to a close friend who was present, was in the language of his childhood, Dutch: “Lieve God!” Dear God! His will of 1536 did not mandate use of his property (rather considerable in his final years) to fund a full edition of all his works, as his first will of 1527 had done; but Bonifacius Amerbach, whom both wills appointed administrator of his estate, arranged for the Froben firm to publish his collected writings, Opera omnia, which appeared in a set of nine volumes in 1540. After bequests made to personal servants and close friends, his will left part of the balance to provide dowries for the marriage of poor girls, and all the rest for the support of students at the University of Basel.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

Posts 204
Oldnewbie | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 25 2011 2:46 PM

Wanted to post to bring this back to the fore.  For only $25 on CPP at 19 volumes is incredible!  Over 7700 pages of writings and biographical information on one of the most influential people who lived during the 16th century!  Let's get this one over the top.  I'm in.

Posts 241
Kendall Sholtess | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 26 2011 3:54 AM

  As a physical and spiritual descendant of those very Anabaptists, I, too will be overjoyed to receive the long-awaited volumes in this collection. I hope they put them on the fast track. Although I may yet learn patience through this long waiting period. Smile

Posts 824
GregW | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 26 2011 8:12 AM

Thanks for the heads-up.  I hadn't really noticed it when it first came up, but on reading the CP page I'm really hoping it comes through soon!  I'm in.

Running Logos 6 Platinum and Logos Now on Surface Pro 4, 8 GB RAM, 256GB SSD, i5

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BillS | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 26 2011 8:44 AM

OK... I'm in. Thanks for the reminder!

Grace & Peace,

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Posts 204
Oldnewbie | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 26 2011 9:01 AM


I wanted to say thank you for posting the biographical information on Erasmus.  I've been aware of him for years but never took the time to dig in  and find out more about him.  Having read what you posted I really am hoping this collection gets over the top soon because he sounds like required reading for having a solid understanding of Christian thought at that time and why some things probably need to be re-thought today.


Super Tramp,

Thank you for bringing up some very important points and topics that make this collection even more important to my research.

God bless.

Posts 241
Kendall Sholtess | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Aug 30 2011 12:31 AM


 Is it ok to beg people to sign up? Embarrassed I know I am shamelessly trying to move this post up to the top of the forum.


 To all potential buyers: Bid for this resource. You won't regret it. Erasmus is the Shakespeare of the Reformation. Just check out the samples on the link that was posted.

Posts 26518
Forum MVP
MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Aug 30 2011 1:08 AM

from wikipedia - emphasis mine:

Tyndale used a number of sources when carrying out his translations of both the New and Old Testaments. When translating the New Testament, he referred to the third edition (1522) of Erasmus’s Greek New Testament, often referred to as the Received Text. Tyndale also used Erasmus' Latin New Testament, as well as Luther’s German version and the Vulgate. Scholars believe that Tyndale stayed away from using Wycliffe's Bible as a source because he didn’t want his English to reflect that which was used prior to the Renaissance. The sources Tyndale used for his translation of the Pentateuch however are not known for sure. Scholars believe that Tyndale used either the Hebrew Pentateuch or the Polyglot Bible, and may have referred to the Septuagint. It is suspected that his other Old Testament works were translated directly from a copy of the Hebrew Bible. He also made abundant use of Greek and Hebrew grammars.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

Posts 8967
Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Aug 30 2011 7:01 PM

Kendall Sholtess:
 Is it ok to beg people to sign up? Embarrassed I know I am shamelessly trying to move this post up to the top of the forum.

Please, do beg.  If you convince others, you are doing them a favor. The Community Pricing is incredible for such an important collection.

IMHO, Erasmus is one of the most important "reads" in Church history alongside A.T. Robertson, Philip Schaff, Martin Luther, John Calvin, St. Augustine & Thomas Aquinas.     You can't buy those guys for $25. Get your order in quick, before Logos comes to their senses and charges $250 for the collection.

Logos 7 Collectors Edition

Posts 26518
Forum MVP
MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Aug 30 2011 11:28 PM

We ought to have all KJV people on-board automatically. Where are they?

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

Posts 1674
Paul N | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Aug 30 2011 11:41 PM

I notcied my bid was for $28 which is impossible to bid currently.  I take it Logos shifted the bid increments after I placed mine? 

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