Renaissance and Reformation Erasmus
by
Erika Rummel, Mark Wilson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 September 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 May 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0027

Introduction

Desiderius Erasmus was the leading Northern humanist in the 16th century. Born circa 1466 as the illegitimate son of a priest, he entered the Augustinian order and was sent by his bishop to study theology in Paris. He did not earn a degree but was awarded a doctorate of theology per saltum (without fulfilling the regular requirements) by the University of Turin in 1506. More than three thousand letters to and from him survive. He corresponded with leaders in politics, church, letters, and academia. His services to scholarship were recognized in his time by fellow humanists, such as Thomas More, Guillaume Budé, and (until their estrangement) Ulrich von Hutten; by powerful patrons, such as William Warham, archbishop of Canterbury, John Fisher, bishop of Rochester, and the emperor Charles V, who appointed him councillor in 1516. He received invitations from Francis I of France, Henry VIII of England, and Cardinal Cisneros of Spain. Erasmus’s criticism of the church and his application of humanistic methods to biblical studies earned him the wrath of conservative theologians and involved him in numerous theological controversies, culminating in an official censure by the University of Paris (1531). He was often accused of being a Lutheran, but his original support for the Reformation movement evaporated when he recognized its schismatic nature, and in 1524 he engaged in a prolonged controversy with Martin Luther over the concept of free will. Successive popes, recognizing Erasmus’s importance as a leading voice in scholarly circles, tried to quell attacks on him, sometimes unsuccessfully. Erasmus had a strong commitment to education, and his manuals, dialogues, and anthologies were widely used as textbooks in schools. Erasmianism experienced a renaissance in the 18th century, which saw him as a forerunner of the Enlightenment. His influence as a stylist lasted as long as Latin remained the language of scholarship, and his ideas continue to be cited in modern philosophy and social criticism. The most famous of Erasmus’s works, his Praise of Folly, has been in print without interruption from its first publication in 1512.

Bibliographies

The main work of collating the publication of works on Erasmus has been undertaken by the Librarie Philosophique under the editorship of Jean-Claude Margolin: four compendia, covering various chunks of years from 1936 to 1975, were published between 1963 and 1997 (Margolin 1969, Margolin 1963, Margolin 1977, Margolin 1997). Devereaux 1983, meanwhile, provides an index of English translations of Erasmus made through 1700. For more on editions of Erasmus’s works in the original and in translation see Erasmus’s Works.

Journals

Two scholarly journals are devoted specifically to Erasmus and his ideas. Erasmus in English tracks the project translating Erasmus’s opera into English (see Erasmus’s Works). Erasmus of Rotterdam Society Yearbook is the organ of the intercontinental Erasmus of Rotterdam Society.

Erasmus’s Works

The compilation of authoritative critical compendia of Erasmus’s work both in the original and in English has been underway for decades. The English translations of Erasmus culminate in the Toronto-based Collected Works (Erasmus 1974). For the original Latin texts there is also a multivolume complete and critical edition in progress, in addition to several other noteworthy editions and facsimiles that provide direct access to Erasmus’s work.

  • Erasmus, Desiderius. The Collected Works of Erasmus. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974–.

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    Cited as CWE, this is the authoritative English translation and supersedes earlier translations. It has substantial introductions on the genesis, print history, and impact of Erasmus’s correspondence and individual works. Volumes 84 and 85, containing the poems, offer the Latin and English text on facing pages. Eighty-six volumes are planned.

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Original Language Editions

For a repertory of individual works and their early editions, see Erasmus and Van der Haeghen 2005. The authoritative critical edition is “the Amsterdam” or Opera Omnia Des. Erasmi Roterodami (ASD), listed in this section as Erasmus 1969–. The Erasmus and Leclercq 1703–1706 Opera Omnia is still the most comprehensive Latin collection, with Erasmus 1933b (edited by Klippert Ferguson) and Erasmus 1933a (edited by Hajo Holborn and Annemarie Holborn) providing supplementary writings. The Erasmus 1986 annotated facsimile (edited by Anne Reeve) provides insight into early versions of the Annotations. For Erasmus’s correspondence, see Erasmus 1906–1958 (edited by P. S. Allen).

  • Erasmus, Desiderius. Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami. 12 vols. Edited by P. S. Allen. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1906–1958.

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    Contains the correspondence, divided chronologically into a dozen volumes. Includes bibliographical references and an index.

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  • Erasmus, Desiderius. Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus: Ausgewählte Werke. Edited by Hajo Holborn and Annemarie Holborn. Munich: Beck, 1933a.

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    Contains, among other texts, the prefatory material to the New Testament edition.

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  • Erasmus, Desiderius. Erasmi Opuscula: A Supplement to the Opera Omnia. Edited by Klippert Ferguson. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1933b.

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    Contains, among other texts, the Life of Jerome.

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  • Erasmus, Desiderius. Opera Omnia Des. Erasmi Roterodami. Edited by Jan Hendrik Waszink, Union Académique Internationale, Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie Van Wetenschappen. Amsterdam: North Holland, 1969–.

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    Cited as ASD, this is the authoritative critical edition of Erasmus’s works. More than thirty volumes have been published by the early 21st century, and the series is continuing. Available online.

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  • Erasmus, Desiderius. Erasmus’ Annotations on the New Testament. Vol. 1. Edited by Anne Reeve. London: Duckworth, 1986.

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    A facsimile edition of the 1535 Annotations indicating variants in earlier editions by means of calligraphic marks. Vols. 2 and 3 published in 1990–1993 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill).

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  • Erasmus, Desiderius, and Jean Leclercq. Opera Omnia Des. Erasmi Roterodami. 10 vols. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1703–1706.

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    Cited as LB, this is still the most comprehensive collection of Erasmus’s works in the original Latin. The edition follows the arrangement specified by Erasmus but adds a volume on his editions of the church fathers. Distributes the polemics over two volumes, adding up to a total of ten volumes. Available online.

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  • Erasmus, Desiderius, and Ferdinand van der Haeghen. Bibliotheka Erasmiana: Répertoire des oeuvres d’Erasme. Würzburg, Germany: Osthoff, 2005.

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    Erasmus’s Opera Omnia was first published in Basel, Switzerland, in 1540. The arrangement of works adopted there has become the model for later editions. According to Erasmus’s own directions, the works were divided into nine sections: literature and education; The Adages; correspondence; edifying works; devotional works; the text of the New Testament; the Paraphrases on the New Testament; and polemics. Originally published in 1897.

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Biographies

Biographies of Erasmus seem to come in spates: a handful in the interwar period and a renaissance in the late 1960s leading up to the author’s presumed natal quincentennial (see Before 1970), with another round in the early 1990s and again a decade later (see After 1970).

Before 1970

The biographies in this section laid the groundwork for modern research into Erasmus’s life and career until publications associated with the celebration of Erasmus’s five hundredth anniversary in 1969 (1469 was then thought the most likely year of his birth) ushered in a new wave of research. This came to fruition with a slate of biographies in the 1990s (see After 1970). Early 20th-century books tended to lionize Erasmus as a transforming figure. Huizinga 2001 is an edition of the great cultural historian’s influential 1924 biography, which singles Erasmus out as a pivotal mind in the divide between medieval and modern. Smith 2003, originally published in 1923, presents Erasmus as an ideal of purified Christianity, with Zweig 1934 marking Erasmus’s chief virtue as conciliation. Bainton 1977 leads the quincentennial works, taking a balanced and historiographic approach. Hyma, et al. 1930 focuses on Erasmus’s youth, with Faludy 1970 providing an update.

  • Bainton, Roland Herbert. Erasmus of Christendom. London: Scribner, 1977.

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    A balanced appreciation of Erasmus’s life and works that has stood the test of time. It weighs the suspicions of the Catholic Church, which thought he was subversive, against the accusations of the Protestants, who thought he was evasive, and the claims of modern historians, who thought that he was a rationalist. Bainton characterizes Erasmus as a moderate and a man of strong spiritual values. Reprint of the original 1970 edition.

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  • Faludy, George. Erasmus of Rotterdam. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1970.

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    Deals only with Erasmus’s youth and formation as a humanist; neglects to examine his role in the Reformation or his later career.

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  • Huizinga, Johan. Erasmus and the Age of Reformation. Translated by F. Hopman. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2001.

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    Classic biography, setting Erasmus on the dividing line between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; portrays him as a precursor of the modern mind; recognizes his insights but also his limitations as a man who was not a systematic, penetrating philosopher or theologian. Originally published in 1924.

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  • Hyma, Albert, Beatus Rhenanus, Desiderius Erasmus, Gouda (Netherlands), and Stedelijke Bibliotheek. The Youth of Erasmus. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1930.

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    Groundbreaking study of Erasmus’s life (up to the 1490s); discussion of Contempt of the World and Antibarbarians.

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  • Smith, Preserved. Erasmus: A Study of His Life, Ideals, and Place in History. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger, 2003.

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    Uses Erasmus’s life and career to elucidate the relationship between Renaissance and Reformation; idealizing tone; characterizes Erasmus as a champion of “undogmatic Christianity” who reconciles piety with reason, a forerunner of a modern type of Christianity. Originally published in 1923.

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  • Zweig, Stefan. Erasmus of Rotterdam. Translated by Eden Paul and Cedar Paul. New York: Viking, 1934.

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    Offers a romanticized image of Erasmus as brilliant scholar and champion of moderation; “Erasmism” defined as the desire for conciliation. Available in numerous reprints in the original German and translations into French and Spanish.

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After 1970

Among the early 1990s works, McConica 1991 follows Erasmus’s life, career, and interactions with other thinkers. Augustijn 1991 provides an intellectual biography, with Halkin 1993 mining his works for insights on his thinking and Schoeck 1990–1993 collecting essays charting the development of his thinking in the context of contemporary culture. Tracy 1996 looks deeper into Erasmus’s efforts at reconciliation of Christian and classical thought, following on his earlier, more straightforward intellectual biography (Tracy 1972). Postmillennial works include Rummel 2004, which explores Erasmus’s thinking on a number of fronts—political, social, and theological—and Christ–von Wedel 2003, which looks at Erasmus’s beliefs and doctrines.

Collections of Papers

Numerous sets of collected essays on Erasmus are available, including single-author compilations from a number of experts on Erasmus as well as multiple-author works, some resulting from colloquia on Erasmus, his ideas, and their effects.

Single-Author Collections

Several Erasmian scholars have collected their published articles into reprint compilations, including Tracy 2005, Halkin 1988, and Margolin 1986. Olin 1979 contains a mix of previously published and new works, the latter including a translation of Erasmus’s Letter to Carondelet. Two compilations covering broader ecclesiological topics, Crahay 1985 and Minnich 1993, include sections on Erasmus and his influence.

Multiple-Author Collections

Collections of discussions of Erasmus’s work tend to be wide-ranging, though late 20th- and early 21st-century assemblages are slightly more focused. Olivieri 1995 concentrates on Erasmus’s influence in Italy particularly and Pabel 1995 on his vision of the church and Christian spirituality. Essays resulting from Erasmian conferences include Chomarat, et al. 1990, Reedijk 1971, and Drechsel 1968, which includes a transcription of scholarly debates. Coppens 1969 covers Erasmus’s environment and his theories and their dissemination. Sperna Weiland and Frijhoff 1988 attends more to Erasmus the man and his interaction with contemporaries. Collections focusing on one aspect of Erasmus’s thought, rather than being referenced here, are listed under the appropriate topical heading.

  • Chomarat, Jacques, André Godin, and Jean-Claude Margolin, eds. Actes du colloque international Érasme, Tours, 1986. Travaux d’humanisme et Renaissance 239. Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 1990.

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    Essays on Erasmus’s New and Old Testament scholarship, literary works, biographical aspects, reception.

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  • Coppens, Joseph, ed. Scrinium Erasmianum. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1969.

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    Subjects include Erasmus’s milieu—Louvain, Paris, Germany—dissemination of his works (printers, translators); his theology, ecclesiology, ethics; and his polemical works.

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  • Drechsel, Max, et al. Colloquium Erasmianum: actes du Colloque international réuni à Mons du 26 au 29 octobre 1967 à l’occasion du cinquième centenaire de la naissance d’Erasme. Mons, Belgium: Centre Universitaire de l’état, 1968.

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    Conference proceedings (with record of debate) containing essays on Erasmus’s philology, theology, moral thought; his influence; and biographical aspects.

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  • Margolin, Jean-Claude, ed. Colloquia Erasmiana Turonensia. 2 vols. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972.

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    Subjects include Erasmian influences in Italy, France, the Low Countries, England, Hungary, and Romania. Also covers Erasmian irenicism, biblical humanism, and the humanistic Republic of Letters.

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  • Olivieri, Achille, ed. Erasmo, Venezia e la cultura padana nel ’500: Atti del XIX Convegno internazionale di studi storici. Rome: Associazione Culturali Minelliana, 1995.

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    Essays on the influence of Erasmus’s ideas in Venice, on Italian humanism, and at Paduan courts, among many other subjects. Proceedings from a 1993 conference.

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  • Pabel, Hilmar M., ed. Erasmus’ Vision of the Church. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 1995.

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    On problems of interpreting Erasmus; his irenicism and spirituality.

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  • Reedijk, Cornelius, ed. Actes du Congrès Erasme. Amsterdam: North Holland, 1971.

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    Essays on the Republic of Letters and Erasmus’s influence in England, Italy, Spain. Discussion of his works (Complaint of Peace, Enchiridion, Colloquies, Antibarbarians).

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  • Sperna Weiland, Jan, and Willem Frijhoff, eds. Erasmus of Rotterdam: The Man and the Scholar. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1988.

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    Includes essays on biographical aspects, polemics, educational philosophy, textual criticism, and relationship with reformers. Proceedings of a symposium held at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, in November 1986.

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Religious Thought

Erasmus’s prolific and powerful theological, literary, and epistolary writings had a pivotal impact on early modern Christian thought, and both his spirituality (see Spirituality) and his doctrine (see Doctrine) have been extensively studied. For Erasmus’s relationships with the writings and ideas of church fathers such as Augustine and Jerome, see Patristic Thought.

Patristic Thought

Erasmus edited or collaborated on editions of several Latin church fathers, among them Jerome and Augustine; he also edited and translated a number of works by Greek church fathers, among them Origen and John Chrysostom. The monographs in this section examine the influence of the church fathers on Erasmus’s theology and religious thought. Clausi 2000 looks at the creation of Erasmus’s edition of Jerome’s works, with Pabel 2008 tracing its editing, editions, and reception. Rice 1985 looks at Erasmus’s edition in the context of Jerome’s presence in Renaissance Europe. For Erasmus on Augustine, see Bené 1969. For Origen, see Godin 1982.

Spirituality

Erasmus’s writings about Christianity were not rooted solely in institutional or doctrinal questions. De Molen 1987 provides an overview of his concepts of spirituality, with Etienne 1956 tracing the presence of his spiritual ideas in his theological and literary works. His ideas on the emulation of the life of Christ (philosophia Christi) are explored in Bijl 1978, with Christ–von Wedel 1981 looking into their origins and Chantraine 1971 connecting them with Erasmus’s mysterium Christi (sacrament). Pabel 1997 looks at Erasmus’s link with devotional and pastoral literature. For the reception of Erasmus’s humanist and spiritual ideas in the Netherlands see van Herwaarden 2003.

  • Bijl, Simon W. Erasmus in het Nederlands tot 1617. Nieuwkoop, Netherlands: de Graaf, 1978.

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    Examines the influence of Erasmus’s ideas on the emulation of the life of Christ (philosophia Christi) in the Netherlands. Also covers Dutch translations of his spiritual works.

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  • Chantraine, George. “Mystère” et “Philosophie du Christ” selon Erasme. Gembloux, Belgium: Editions J. Duculot, 1971.

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    Examines the concepts of mysterium (sacrament) and the philosophy of Christ in Erasmus’s Ratio and in the Enchiridion.

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  • Christ–von Wedel, Christine. Das Nichtwissen bei Erasmus von Rotterdam: Zum philosophischen und theologischen Erkennen in der geistigen Entwicklung eines christlichen Humanisten. Basel, Switzerland: Helbing and Lichtenhan, 1981.

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    On Erasmus’s ideas on the emulation of the life of Christ (philosophia Christi) and the limits of human knowledge; Pauline anthropology; classical, patristic, and scholastic sources of Erasmus’s thought.

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  • De Molen, Richard. The Spirituality of Erasmus. Nieuwkoop, Netherlands: de Graaf, 1987.

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    Examines Erasmus’s spirituality, his ideas on the emulation of the life of Christ (philosophia Christi), and his indebtedness to the Devotio Moderna; emphasizes his continued commitment to the Augustinian canons.

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  • Etienne, Jacques. Spiritualism érasmien et théologiens louvanistes: Un changement de problématique au début du XVIe siècle. Louvain, Belgium: Publications Universitaires de Louvain, 1956.

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    Examines spirituality in Erasmus’s theological works (Enchiridion, prefaces to New Testament, Annotations) and in his literary works (The Praise of Folly, The Adages). Also covers the controversy with Martin Luther, namely, Christian liberty and the clarity of scripture.

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  • Pabel, Hilmar M. Conversing with God: Prayer in Erasmus’s Pastoral Writings. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997.

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    A contribution to Erasmus’s place in devotional and pastoral literature. Covers his concept of prayer as an element of piety and its role in spiritual transformation.

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  • Van Herwaarden, Jan. Between Saint James and Erasmus: Studies in Late-Medieval Religious Life; Devotion and Pilgrimage in the Netherlands. Translated by Wendie Schaffter and Donald Gardner. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2003.

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    Examines medieval Christian pilgrimages, the cult of St. James of Compostela, and the last quarter of the book Erasmiana, which offers an interpretation of Erasmian ideas. Also covers his Christian humanism and his reception.

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Doctrine

Erasmus was not a systematic theologian. He claimed, moreover, that his doctrine was simply the doctrine of the Catholic Church. Since there was a certain latitude in interpreting Catholic doctrine in pre-Tridentine Europe, some of Erasmus’s doctrinal views are further clarified in his polemics with contemporary theologians. See also Erasmus and Luther and Polemics. Kohls 1966 provides a comprehensive overview of both Erasmus’s theology and scholarly interpretations thereof. Massaut 1987 collects essays on various aspects of Erasmus’s doctrinal thinking, with Payne 1970 looking at Erasmus on the sacraments and Telle 1954 looking at the matrimonial sacrament in particular. Gebhardt 1966 looks at Erasmus’s understanding of the church itself and its role mediating between heaven and earth. A number of works attempt to explore the origins of Erasmus’s doctrines thematically. Hoffmann 1994 examines Erasmus’s rhetoric for clues to his thinking, while Boyle 1977 plumbs his use of language.

  • Boyle, Marjorie O’Rourke. Erasmus on Language and Method in Theology. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977.

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    Examines Erasmus’s understanding of language as the basis for his theological thought. Focuses on passages in his Annotations and the prefaces to his New Testament edition.

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  • Gebhardt, Georg. Die Stellung des Erasmus von Rotterdam zur römischen Kirche. Marburg, Germany: Oekumenischer Verlag, 1966.

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    Covers Erasmus’s concept of the church, Christology, the role of the church in the divine plan of salvation, and Erasmus’s thoughts on reforming the church.

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  • Hoffmann, Manfred. Erkenntnis und Verwirklichung der wahren Theologie nach Erasmus von Rotterdam. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr, 1972.

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    Search for the unity of Erasmus’s theological views on ethics, ontology, and Christology. Focuses on Erasmus’s Enchiridion and his edition of the New Testament and the prefatory tracts.

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  • Hoffmann, Manfred. Rhetoric and Theology: The Hermeneutic of Erasmus. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994.

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    Taking perhaps the most promising approach to studying Erasmus’s theology, Hoffmann examines its rhetorical basis with a special focus on Erasmus’s preaching manual, Ecclesiastes, and his proposal for a theological curriculum, Ratio verae theologiae.

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  • Kohls, E. W. Die Theologie des Erasmus. 2 vols. Basel, Switzerland: F. Reinhardt, 1966.

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    Review of German scholarship on Erasmus’s theology and development of his theological thought. Subjects discussed include his attitude toward the classics, monasticism, Christian liberty, the relationship between piety and erudition, Christology, ecclesiology, and biblical humanism.

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  • Massaut, Jean-Pierre, ed. Colloque Erasmien de Liège. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1987.

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    Includes essays on Erasmus’s theology, his use of the fathers, irenicism, and his exegetical differences with Martin Luther.

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  • Payne, John B. Erasmus: His Theology of the Sacraments. Richmond, VA: John Knox, 1970.

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    Discusses Erasmus’s anthropology, Christology, his thoughts on grace and redemption, and the sacraments. Also included is his focus on Christian life rather than dogma.

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  • Telle, Emile V. Erasme de Rotterdam et le septième sacrament: Etude d’évangélisme matrimonial au XVIe siècle et contribution à la biographie intellectuelle d’Erasme. Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 1954.

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    Examines Erasmus’s spirituality and attitude toward monasticism (Life of Jerome, Annotations, Letter to Volz), the sacrament of marriage, and divorce; the examination of the “matrimonial” pieces in the Colloquies; and Paris and Louvain censorship of Erasmus.

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The Reformation of the Church

Erasmus’s profound effect on both intramural Catholic reform and the Protestant break were hotly debated even during the writer’s lifetime. Scholars tend to look for Erasmus’s influence on individual Reformers, on the one hand, and on Protestant doctrine, on the other. Augustijn 1996 collects essays in both categories. Phillips 1934 looks at Erasmus’s response from such figures as Jacques Lefèvre and John Calvin, with Oelrich 1961 looking at Erasmus’s influence on Reformers in Switzerland, Alsace, and Wittenberg. Erasmus’s impact on various Zurich Reformers, including Huldrych Zwingli, is traced by essays in Christ–von Wedel and Leu 2007. Wengert 1998 looks at his connection with Philipp Melanchthon. Dickens and Jones 1994 examines Erasmus’s theology in relation to the Reformation. For the Reformers’ ideas on piety as influenced by Erasmus, see Eire 1986. For Martin Luther, see Erasmus and Luther. For Martin Bucer, see Erasmus and Bucer. For the Anabaptists and other radicals, see Erasmus and the Radical Reformation.

  • Augustijn, Cornelis. Erasmus: Der Humanist als Theologe und Kirchenreformer. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1996.

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    A collection of significant (previously published) articles focusing on the Reformation (the relationship between humanism and the Reformation, Erasmus’s attitude toward Swiss Reformers, Martin Luther, and the Anabaptists). Also contains essays on religious tolerance and Erasmus’s attitude toward the Jews.

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  • Christ–von Wedel, Christine, and Urs B. Leu, eds. Erasmus in Zürich: Eine verschwiegene Autorität. Zurich, Switzerland: Verlag Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 2007.

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    Essays examining Erasmian influences in the work of Huldrych Zwingli, Leo Jud, Konrad Pellican, Heinrich Bullinger, and Theodor Bibliander.

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  • Dickens, A. G., and Whitney R. D. Jones. Erasmus: The Reformer. London: Methuen, 1994.

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    Examines the development of Erasmus’s religious thought, the philosophy of Christ, the Lutheran controversy, and Erasmus and the Radical Reformation. Covers Erasmus’s reception in his time and explores the question of whether he was heretic or mediator. His legacy is also touched upon.

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  • Eire, Carlos. War against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

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    Uses Erasmus’s criticism of medieval piety as a starting point to examine the attitude of the Reformers toward traditional Catholic piety.

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  • Oelrich, Karl H. Der späte Erasmus und die Reformation. Munster, Germany: Aschendorff, 1961.

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    Examines Erasmus’s relationship with the Swiss and Alsatian Reformers and with the Wittenberg theologians. Also includes his views on teaching authority and the impact of the Reformation on humanism.

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  • Phillips, Margaret Mann. Erasme et les débuts de la Réforme française (1517–1536). Paris: H. Champion, 1934.

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    Focuses on the controversy between Erasmus and Jacques Lefèvre. Also covers Erasmus and the Meaux Reformers (William Farel and Marguerite of Navarre), translation of Erasmian writings by Louis Berquin, and Erasmus in the judgment of John Calvin. Reprinted in 1978.

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  • Wengert, Timothy. Human Freedom, Christian Righteousness: Philip Melanchthon’s Exegetical Dispute with Erasmus of Rotterdam. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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    Studies Melanchthon’s relations with Erasmus as reflected in their correspondence, 1524–1528. Examines Melanchthon’s commentary on Colossians for elements critical of Erasmus and discusses his assessment of Erasmus in the 1550s.

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Erasmus and Bucer

The early Reformer Martin Bucer was influenced by both Martin Luther and Erasmus and considered their ideas related. Krüger 1970 discusses the intersection and divergence of their theological views. Peremans 1970 follows their personal relationship.

Erasmus and Luther

Although both called attention to the failures of the church, Erasmus broke with Martin Luther over both practical methodology and theological constructs. A number of works focus on their sometimes heated correspondence. Chantraine 1981 outlines their differences on topics including free will and liberty, with Boyle 1983 focusing on their disagreement over free will and Kerlen 1976 picking up on the question of assertio in particular. Torzini 2000 connects the free will debate with original sin and predestination. Kohls 1972 covers Luther’s critique of Erasmus’s theology, with Kunze 2000 placing their debate in the context of humanism. Quinones 2007 looks at contests such as that between Luther and Erasmus in terms of their larger impact on European thought.

  • Boyle, Marjorie O’Rourke. Rhetoric and Reform: Erasmus’ Civil Dispute with Luther. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983.

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    An examination of Erasmus’s dispute with Martin Luther over free will, focusing on Erasmus’s qualified skepticism, his use of probability, consensus, and the argument of advantageousness. Also covers the use of rhetoric in theology.

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  • Chantraine, George. Erasme et Luther, libre et serf arbitre. Paris: Editions Lethielleux, 1981.

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    On Erasmus’s controversy with Martin Luther over free will and their respective views on the clarity of scripture, grace, and justification as well as the mystery of Christ and Christian liberty.

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  • Kerlen, Dietrich. Assertio: Die Entwicklung von Luthers theologischem Anspruch und der Streit mit Erasmus von Rotterdam. Wiesbaden, Germany: Franz Steiner, 1976.

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    Defines Martin Luther’s meaning of assertio and contrasts it with Erasmus’s nonassertion in their polemic over free will.

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  • Kohls, E. W. Luther oder Erasmus: Luthers Theologie in der Auseinandersetzung mit Erasmus. Basel, Switzerland: F. Reinhardt, 1972.

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    Examines Erasmus’s heuristics and the theological goals of his edition of the New Testament; Martin Luther’s criticism of Erasmus’s theology (assessment of patristic theology, Christian ethics, grace, and justification). Wilhelm Dilthey’s interpretation of the controversy is also included.

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  • Kunze, Johannes. Der Einfluß des Erasmus auf die Kommentierung des Galaterbrief and der Psalmen durch Luther, 1519–1521. Munster, Germany: LIT Verlag, 2000.

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    Study of Erasmus as biblical humanist and the polemic between Erasmus and Martin Luther. Also covers Luther and humanism and Luther’s criticism of Erasmus in their correspondence. There is also a comparison of Erasmus’s thought on biblical exegesis in his Ratio and Luther’s Operationes in psalmos and commentary on Galatians.

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  • Quinones, Ricardo. Dualisms: The Agons of the Modern World. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007.

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    On paradigm-shifting polemics in modern Europe. A quarter of the book is devoted to the polemic between Erasmus and Martin Luther.

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  • Torzini, Roberto. I labirinti del libero arbitrio: La discussione tra Erasmo e Lutero. Florence: Leo Olschki, 2000.

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    On Erasmus’s strategic use of moderation in De libero arbitrio and Erasmus’s views on original sin and predestination in his exegesis (Paraphrases and Annotations) of St. Paul and in the Hyperaspistes.

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Erasmus and the Radical Reformation

Erasmus’s works are associated, sometimes in retrospect, with some extreme ideas and groups that broke outright from Catholic orthodoxy. Bietenholz 2009 covers Erasmus’s radicalism generally, with Friesen 1998 looking at his influence on the Anabaptists and Shantz 1992 exploring Erasmus’s connections with the Silesian monophysite Reformer Valentin Crautwald.

  • Bietenholz, Peter. Encounters with a Radical Erasmus: Erasmus’ Work as a Source of Radical Thought in Early Modern Europe. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009.

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    On Erasmian pacifism and toleration, Trinitarian ideas, skepticism, and Epicureanism in the writings of Sebastian Franck, Michael Servetus, Sebastian Castellio, Girolamo Cardano, and Fausto Sozzini.

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  • Friesen, Abraham. Erasmus, the Anabaptists, and the Great Commission. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998.

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    An inquiry into the intellectual origins of Anabaptism claiming Erasmian roots for the structure and content of Anabaptist thought. Contains a review of scholarship on the subject of Erasmus and the Radical Reformation.

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  • Shantz, Douglas H. Crautwald and Erasmus: A Study in Humanism and Radical Reform in Sixteenth-Century Silesia. Baden-Baden, Germany: Editions Valentin Koerner, 1992.

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    A biography of Valentin Crautwald claiming that his Christology and sacramentarian views were mediated by Erasmus.

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Biblical Humanism

Erasmian humanism includes taking a fresh look at both holy scripture and its interplay with society. For Erasmus’s controversial translations and commentaries on the Bible, see Erasmus and Biblical Scholarship. His ideas relating to the Bible and reform provoked fierce opposition and accusations of inciting heresy, resulting in polemics flying in both directions (see Polemics).

Erasmus and Biblical Scholarship

Erasmus’s emphasis on returning to the source documents of scripture and avoiding needless formalism placed him in conflict with the scholastics who had guarded the Holy Writ for centuries, making his translations and exegetical writings controversial. Rabil 1972 provides background on Erasmus’s developing approach to scripture and theological authority, with Walter 1991 exploring how Erasmus’s ideas played out in his methods and research and Krüger 1986 delving into his commentary method and execution in some detail. For Erasmus’s New Testament, see Holeczek 1975. Pabel and Vessey 1992 explores the impact of his Paraphrases of the New Testament, while Rummel 1986 explores the origins and reception of his New Testament Annotations. For Erasmus on the dialectic and biblical exegesis, see Dolfen 1936. Bentley 1983 discusses New Testament exegesis as it pertains to several humanists, including Erasmus.

  • Bentley, Jerry H. Humanists and Holy Writ: New Testament Scholarship in the Renaissance. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983.

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    Discusses the contributions to humanistic exegesis and textual criticism by Lorenzo Valla, the scholars of the Complutensian Polyglot, and Erasmus.

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  • Dolfen, Christian. Die Stellung des Erasmus von Rotterdam zur scholastischen Methode. Osnabrück, Germany: Meinders und Elstermann, 1936.

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    Still the only comprehensive examination of Erasmus’s critical remarks concerning dialectic and the scholastic approach to biblical exegesis.

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  • Holeczek, Heinz. Humanistische Bibelphilologie als Reformproblem bei Erasmus von Rotterdam, Thomas More und William Tyndale. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1975.

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    Includes chapters on Erasmus’s edition of the New Testament, his polemics with Martin Dorp (and Thomas More’s intervention) and Petrus Sutor.

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  • Krüger, Friedhelm. Humanistische Evangelienauslegung: Desiderius Erasmus von Rotterdam als Ausleger der Evangelien in seinen Paraphrasen. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr, 1986.

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    On the theological method proposed in Erasmus’s Ratio and its practical execution in his commentaries and paraphrases, with special consideration of his handling of Matthew chapters 5–7 and a section on the political dimension of his exegesis.

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  • Pabel, Hilmar M., and Mark Vessey, eds. Holy Scripture Speaks: The Production and Reception of Erasmus’ Paraphrases on the New Testament. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992.

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    On historical imagination and historicity in Erasmus’s Paraphrases and in his exegesis; the voice of the evangelist in Erasmus’s Paraphrases; reception in England and France.

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  • Rabil, Albert, Jr. Erasmus and the New Testament: The Mind of a Christian Humanist. San Antonio, TX: Trinity University Press, 1972.

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    Examines Erasmus’s intellectual development (humanism and religious thought), biblical humanism, the primacy of moral interpretation, the authority of the fathers, Erasmus’s Christology, and “evangelical Protestantism” (Erasmus and Martin Luther).

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  • Rummel, Erika. Erasmus’ Annotations on the New Testament: From Humanist to Theologian. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986.

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    On the genesis of Erasmus’s Annotations with sources and authorities cited, philological argumentation, and revisions and retractions.

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  • Walter, Peter. Theologie aus dem Geist der Rhetorik zur Schriftauslegung des Erasmus von Rotterdam. Mainz, Germany: Mathias-Grünewald-Verlag, 1991.

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    On Erasmus’s exegetical method and his relationship to classical and patristic sources; also covers biblical humanism and languages, the use of allegory, and the mysterium of scripture.

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Polemics

Erasmus’s writings provoked fierce reaction both during his lifetime and afterward not only among those opposed to reform within the church but (perhaps more importantly) among those who challenged his methods or who branded him an instigator of the Protestant Reformation. Agostino Steuco, for example, wrote diatribes against Erasmus, labeling him a provocateur (Delph 1987). Noël Béda accused Erasmus and other humanists of preparing the way for the emergence of the Protestant heresy (Farge 1985). Rummel 1989 explores polemics by both Erasmus and his Catholic critics from various European theological centers. Erasmus’s reinterpretations of biblical scholarship in particular (see Erasmus and Biblical Scholarship) stirred intense controversy. Krans 2006 discusses Erasmus’s approach to the New Testament, while Rummel 1995 places the debate in the scholastic-humanist context. Jenkins and Preston 2007 includes a discussion of Erasmus’s unorthodox views on biblical exegesis, with Rummel 2008 following the controversy thus provoked in various regions.

  • Delph, Ronald. “Italian Humanism in the Early Reformation: Agostino Steuco (1497–1548).” PhD diss., University of Michigan, 1987.

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    Examines Steuco’s contribution to Italian humanistic Old Testament scholarship; for his controversy with Erasmus see chapters 2 and 4. University of Michigan PhD disseration on microfiche.

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  • Farge, James K. Orthodoxy and Reform in Early Reformation France: The Faculty of Theology in Paris, 1500–1543. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1985.

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    Focuses on the role of Noël Béda on the faculty and his initiative in the investigations of the biblical humanists Jacques Lefèvre and Erasmus.

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  • Jenkins, Allen K., and Patrick Preston. Biblical Scholarship and the Church: A Sixteenth-Century Crisis of Authority. Ashgate, UK: MPG, 2007.

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    Has chapters on Erasmus’s challenge to traditional biblical exegesis and the resulting controversies (the remainder of the book deals with certain polemics). Good bibliography.

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  • Krans, Jan. Beyond What Is Written: Erasmus and Beza as Conjectural Critics of the New Testament. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2006.

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    On Erasmus’s method, conjectures, editorial decisions, use of church fathers, and Lorenzo Valla. Also about his relationship with Jacques Lefèvre and other critics. Appendix includes Greek manuscripts and editions used by Erasmus.

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  • Rummel, Erika. Erasmus and His Catholic Critics. 2 vols. Nieuwkoop, Netherlands: de Graaf, 1989.

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    A chronological study of the polemics between Erasmus and his Catholic critics in Louvain, Paris, Germany, Spain, and Italy.

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  • Rummel, Erika. The Humanist-Scholastic Debate in the Renaissance and Reformation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.

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    This study of the debate between humanists and scholastics mentions Erasmus passim and especially in chapters 4 (the debate at the universities), 5 (biblical humanism), and 6 (the Reformation context).

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  • Rummel, Erika, ed. Biblical Humanism and Scholasticism in the Age of Erasmus. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2008.

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    Contains essays on the controversy surrounding Erasmus’s biblical exegesis in Spain, Italy (Albert Pio, Agostino Steuco), France (Noël Beda), and the Netherlands (Martin Dorp, Edward Lee, Frans Titelmans).

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Erasmus and Society

Erasmus’s writings include a great deal of commentary on reform not only within the church but in the political and social structures he saw as integral with it. For Erasmian writings and interpretations bearing on politics, see Erasmus and Politics; for Erasmus on Jews, women, and other social subgroups, see Erasmus and the Other.

Erasmus and Politics

Erasmus’s irenicism (that is, the pursuit of Christian unity in the interests of peace) had far-reaching implications for European politics. Tracy 1978 provides an overview of Erasmus’s political thought, with Trapman, et al. 2010 placing it in a theological context. Koerber 1967 explores Erasmus’s theories of the origins and purposes of the state. Adams 1962 discusses Erasmus and other early modern writers on peace, with Dust 1987 also including essays on Erasmus’s pacifism. Dolan 1957 looks as Erasmus’s influence on Catholic irenicism. Kisch 1960 discusses Erasmus’s ideas on jurisprudence. Kloosterhuis 2006 discusses some reforms related to Erasmus’s ideas.

  • Adams, Robert P. The Better Part of Valor: More, Erasmus, Colet, and Vives on Humanism, War, and Peace, 1496–1535. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1962.

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    On pacificism under Henry VIII. Examines Erasmus’s irenicism, drawing on his Adages, Complaint of Piece, Christian Prince, and Colloquies.

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  • Dolan, John. The Influence of Erasmus, Witzel, and Cassander in the Church Ordinances and Reform Proposals of the United Duchies of Cleve during the Middle Decades of the Sixteenth Century. Munster, Germany: Aschendorff, 1957.

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    On Erasmus and the Jülich-Cleve church ordinance of 1530 and the Erasmian irenicism of Georg Witzel and George Cassander and their influence on politics.

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  • Dust, Philip. Three Renaissance Pacifists: Essays in the Theories of Erasmus, More, and Vives. New York: Peter Lang, 1987.

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    A series of essays, some of which deal with Erasmus; his adages Dulce bellum, Querela pacis, Institutio principis; and his reception in Alberico Gentili’s De jure belli (1598).

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  • Kisch, Guido. Erasmus und die Jurisprudenz seiner Zeit: Studien zum humanistischen Rechtsdenken. Basel, Switzerland: Helbing and Lichtenhan, 1960.

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    Humanistic influences on the development of legal thought. Also covers Erasmus’s views on equity (aequitas, epieikeia) and his philosophia Christi (his ideas on the emulation of the life of Christ).

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  • Kloosterhuis, Elisabeth M. Erasmusjünger als politische Reformer: Humanismusideal und Herrschaftspraxis am Niederrhein im 16. Jahrhundert. Cologne, Germany: Böhlau Verlag, 2006.

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    On reforms inspired by Erasmus at the Episcopal Court and the University of Cologne and in the territory of Jülich-Cleves. With an appendix that includes biographies of court officials.

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  • Koerber, Eberhard von. Die Staatstheorie des Erasmus von Rotterdam. Berlin: Dunker and Humblot, 1967.

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    On Erasmus’s idea of the nature and purpose of the state as well as the relationship between state and church. Also covers the tasks of the ruler and his or her officials, ethics and politics, the legal basis of Christian government, pacifism, and the practical impact of Erasmus’s ideas in his time.

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  • Tracy, James D. The Politics of Erasmus: A Pacifist Intellectual and His Political Milieu. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978.

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    Examination of political views up to 1521. Explores Erasmus’s attitude toward nationalism, irenicism, power, aristocracy, and the cult of chivalry.

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  • Trapman, Hans, Jan van Herwaarden, and Adrie van der Laan, eds. Erasmus Politicus: Erasmus and Political Thought. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2010.

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    Essays on the religious context of Erasmus’s political thought. Also essays on his influence on political practices, political philosophy and ethics (Stoicism, Epicureanism), and the Turkish threat and Erasmus’s political thought compared with that of Machiavelli and Justus Lipsius. Selected proceedings of a conference held in Rotterdam, 13–15 November 2008, by the Erasmus Center for Early Modern Studies.

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Erasmus and the Other

Students of Erasmus the social reformer have naturally been keen to examine his discussions of groups such as the Jews and women who were marginalized in late medieval Europe. For Erasmus’s works in connection with toleration in general see Remer 1996. For his thoughts on women the key work is Schneider 1955, with Rummel 1996 providing a later perspective. For Erasmus on the Jews, see Markish 1986 for Erasmus’s personal attitudes and Oberman 1984 for the cultural anti-Semitism and Erasmus’s relation to it.

Humanist and Man of Letters

Apart from his theological impact, Erasmus’s ideas were pivotal in the development of the humanist movement. His voice was heard in different ways in different places (see Regional Influences). Erasmus’s use of language and rhetoric (see Language and Rhetoric) and his approaches to historiography (see Historigraphy) and pedagogy (see Pedagogy) have all been studied in depth.

Regional Influences

Just as humanism itself varied remarkably from one European locus to the next, so too did Erasmus’s influences and the reactions to his writings. For northern Europe see Phillips 1981. For Spain see Bataillon 1991 on the reaction of the Spanish establishment. Revuelta Sañudo and Morón Arroyo 1986 focuses more on his intellectual influence and the Spanish Erasmianism movement. For Portugal see Moreira de Sá 1977. For Italy, Rico 2002 discusses Erasmus’s relationship with Italian humanism in general, with Renaudet 1998 following Erasmus’s physical presence in Italy. D’Ascia 1991 discusses Erasmus’s interplay with Romans ancient and modern, while Rausell Guillot 2001 studies Erasmus’s influence in Valencia.

  • Bataillon, Marcel. Erasme et l’Espagne. 2d French ed. Updated by Daniel Devoto. 3 vols. Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 1991.

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    On the introduction of humanism in Spain. Also covers Erasmianism at the royal court, the attacks of the orders on Erasmus’s doctrine, and theological language.

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  • D’Ascia, Luca. Erasmo e l’Umanesimo romano. Florence: Leo Olschki, 1991.

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    Discusses Ciceronianus, Ecclesiastes, Erasmus’s use of dialogue, and the Ciceronian debate.

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  • Moreira de Sá, Artur. De re Erasmiana: Aspectos do Erasmismo na cultura Portuguesa do século XVI. Braga, Portugal: University of Lisbon Faculty of Philosophy, 1977.

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    On aspects of Portuguese Erasmianism and anti-Erasmianism: Portuguese theologians at the Valladolid Conference, 1527. Also includes aspects of the relationship between Erasmus and the Portuguese king John III, the poems of André de Resende in praise of Erasmus, repertorium of Erasmian works published in Portugal in the 16th century, and Erasmian works on Portuguese indices of forbidden books.

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  • Phillips, Margaret Mann. Erasmus and the Northern Renaissance. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 1981.

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    On Erasmus and the classics. Also covers his philosophia Christi (his ideas on the emulation of the life of Christ, New Testament edition, Enchiridium), his satire (The Praise of Folly, Colloquies), his exchange of polemics with Martin Luther, and his “Middle Way.” First published in 1949.

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  • Rausell Guillot, Helena. Letras y fe: Erasmo en la Valencia del Renacimiento. Valencia, Spain: Institució Alfons el Magnànim, 2001.

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    Studies Erasmianism in Valencia and the influence of Erasmus’s ideas, especially his philosophia Christi (his ideas on the emulation of the life of Christ), in books published in Valencia.

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  • Renaudet, Augustin. Erasme et l’Italie. 2d ed. Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 1998.

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    On the reception of Italian humanism in northern Europe and Erasmus’s sojourn in Italy. Highlights his skepticism, his stay at Aldo Manuzio’s home, his attitude toward Julius II, his relationship with Machiavelli, the Ciceronian debate, and anti-Erasmianism in Italy.

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  • Revuelta Sañudo, Manuel, and Ciriaco Morón Arroyo, eds. El Erasmismo en España. Santander, Spain: Sociedad Menendez Pelayo, 1986.

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    Discusses facets of Erasmian influence in Spain: humanism, spiritualism, alumbradismo. Also discusses Erasmus’s influence on and relationships with Juan Luis Vives, Antonio de Nebrija, Juan Valdés, and Alfonso Valdés.

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  • Rico, Francisco. La rêve de l’Humanisme: De Petrarque à Erasme. Translated by Jean Tellez. Paris: Les Belles Letters, 2002.

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    On Erasmus’s ideas in the context of Italian humanism.

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Language and Rhetoric

Erasmus’s use of language and rhetorical devices, both in his published work and in his correspondence, has inspired considerable discussion. The key comprehensive work is Chomarat 1981. Dorey 1970 collects essays on Erasmus’s works as literature, with Rummel 1985 providing a detailed linguistic analysis of Erasmus’s classical translations.

Irony

Humanist satire generally is covered by De Smet 1994. Gordon 1990 discusses Erasmus’s techniques and signals as he blends humor with serious subject matter. Screech 1999 explores the use of humor and irony in Erasmus’s religious discussion, and Thompson 1974 studies the context of his moral didacticism.

The Praise of Folly

Erasmus’s catalytic satire has been analyzed in numerous ways. Adams 1989 includes an English translation along with a clutch of essays. Screech 1980 probes the works’ influences, including classical thought and religious eroticism; Erasmus’s intent and method are explored in Pavlovskis 1983. Intertextual studies include comparing The Praise of Folly with “The Epicurean” in Boyle 1981 and with François Rabelais and Shakespeare in Kaiser 1963. Modern appraisal of The Praise of Folly is discussed in Haarberg 1998.

The Colloquies

For many years Craig Thompson’s preface to his translation of the Colloquies was the best introduction to this work. An updated and enriched version now appears as the preface to the text of the Colloquies (see Erasmus’s Works). Rummel 1998 discusses dialogue as a mode for Erasmus, while Bierlaire 1977 explores the origins and themes of the Colloquies. The Olivieri 1998 collection of essays on death includes several relating to Erasmus and his colloquy “The Funeral.”

The Adages

Phillips 1964 is the authoritative collection, assembling the works, analysis, and selected English translations. For an overview of the scholarship on The Adages and a brief introduction to their genesis and use, see Barker 2001.

Correspondence

Erasmus published some of his own copious correspondence as a means of influencing public opinion; these editions are detailed in Halkin 1983. Erasmus’s consciousness of the need to project an image and how print could be used toward that end is covered in Jardine 1993. Crousaz 2005 explores in particular the use of print and image in influencing debate.

Historiography

Bietenholz 1966 reviews Erasmus’s approach to the systematic study of the past, with Bejczy 2001 focusing on his assessment of the Middle Ages.

Pedagogy

Woodward 1971 remains the key study of Erasmus’s theories on education, with Margolin 1995 providing insight on both his pedagogical philosophies and their varied reception in different places and times. Bierlaire 1978 discusses how the Colloquies were used as a primer for both Latin and Christianity.

  • Bierlaire, Franz. Les “Colloques” d’Erasme: Réforme des études, réforme des moeurs et réforme de l’Eglise au XVIe siècle. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1978.

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    Examines the use of the Colloquies as a textbook to teach Latin and as a guide to Christian life. Also examines criticism of the church contained in the Colloquies and censorship of the book.

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  • Margolin, Jean-Claude. Erasme, precepteur de l’Europe. Paris: Editions Juillard, 1995.

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    On Erasmus’s educational philosophy. Examines regional influences (England, the Netherlands, Spain, Poland, Germany) and censorship of Erasmus’s ideas in the age of “confessionalization.” Also covers Erasmus’s positive reception in the 19th and 20th centuries and the appreciation of Erasmus as a citizen of the world and a protagonist of education.

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  • Woodward, William H. Desiderius Erasmus: Concerning the Aim and Method of Education. New York: B. Franklin, 1971.

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    Still the most comprehensive study of Erasmus’s educational goals and ideals, with special consideration for his Method of Study and The Education of Children (translation of texts included). Originally published in 1904.

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Friends, Associates, Patrons

Bietenholz 1985 offers a directory of Erasmus’s correspondents. Furey 2006 examines his circle of Reformers and his approach to intellectual inquiry. Charlier 1977 explores Erasmus’s concept of friendship, and Eden 2001 looks at how these ideas play out in his writings. The role played by Erasmus’s amanuenses is covered by Bierlaire 1968.

Reception

Erasmus’s writings and ideas spread rapidly throughout Europe, and his reformist proposals in particular proved controversial both before and after the advent of the Protestant Reformation. Discussion of the reception of Erasmus’s work tends to be divided into two categories. There is the hurly-burly of the 16th century, including the Reformation and figures such as Martin Luther, Ignatius of Loyola, and Henry VIII; and there is the carrying over of his ideas into subsequent centuries, including his impact on modern social thought. The spread of Erasmus’s reformist and humanist ideas in Europe generally is covered in Buck 1988. Regionally Holeczek 1983 covers German reception, while Seidel Menchi 1987 describes the spread of and response to Erasmus’s ideas in Italy. The impact of Erasmus’s works in Reformation England is explored by McConica 1965, with Corti 1998 discussing his influence on Elizabethan dramatists. García-Villoslada 1965 presents Ignatius of Loyola’s reaction to Erasmus’s works.

  • Buck, August, ed. Erasmus und Europa. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 1988.

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    Erasmus’s influence in Europe (the Low Countries, France, Spain, England, and Hungary). Also covers the dissemination of his ideas: irenicism, church reform, Christian government.

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  • Corti, Claudia, ed. Silenos: Erasmus in Elizabethan Literature. Ospedaletto, Italy: Pacini Editore, 1998.

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    Essays tracing the influence of Erasmus on Shakespeare and other Elizabethan playwrights (drawing on Enchiridium, The Adages, Ciceronianus, and Christian Prince).

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  • García-Villoslada, Ricardo. Loyola y Erasmo: Dos almas, dos epocas. Madrid: Taurus, 1965.

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    Study of Ignatius of Loyola’s reaction to Erasmian writings, his knowledge of Enchiridium, and his attitudes toward Erasmianism and alumbradismo in Spain and toward criticism of Erasmus in Paris. Also included are Loyola’s and Juan Luis Vives’s censorship of Erasmus in Rome.

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  • Holeczek, Heinz. Erasmus Deutsch: Die volkssprachliche Rezeption des Erasmus von Rotterdam in der reformatorischen Offentlichkeit. Stuttgart: Frommann-Holzboog, 1983.

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    Study of German translations of excerpts from Erasmus’s New Testament edition (prefaces, annotations) and Paraphrases. Also covered are the reaction to his advice concerning and criticism of Martin Luther, polemics with Leo Jud and with the Strasbourg Reformers, and the Psalm commentaries.

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  • McConica, James K. English Humanists and Reformation Politics under Henry VIII and Edward VI. Oxford: Clarendon, 1965.

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    On the royal patronage of humanism at English universities and Erasmianism under Henry VIII and Edward VI.

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  • Seidel Menchi, Silvana. Erasmo in Italia 1520–1580. Turin: Bollati Boringhieri, 1987.

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    Based on Inquisitorial trial records; diffusion and censorship of Erasmus’s ideas in Italy (among the aspects considered are exchange of polemics with Martin Luther, evangelical freedom, confession, the sacrament of marriage, and skepticism). Case studies here include Aurelio Cicuta and Ludovico Corte. German translation is Erasmus als Ketzer: Reformation und Inquisition im Italien des 16. Jahrhunderts (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1993).

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Beyond the 16th Century

The legacy of Erasmus’s works in the modern era has been studied comprehensively in Mansfield 1979, Mansfield 1992, and Mansfield 2003. Dodds 2009 covers his reception in Tudor England and Mout 1997 in Rome and northern Europe. Dallmayr 2004 explores Erasmus’s effect on modern jurisprudence and peacemaking, while Quinones 2010 tracks the interrelationship between Erasmus and Enlightenment thought.

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