Desiderius Erasmus


Christian Humanist — Dutch Reformer


Biography: Catholic Encyclopedia
Erasmus: European Intellectual History
Erasamus Text Project
In Praise of Folly


“By a Carpenter humanity was made, and only by that Carpenter can humanity be remade.”

“Give light, and the darkness will disappear by itself.”

“In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

“It is the generally accepted privilege of theologians to stretch the heavens, that is the Scriptures, like tanners with a hide.”

“The human person’s mind is so formed that it is far more susceptible to falsehood than to truth.”

“The desire to write grows with writing.”

“The most disadvantageous peace is better than the most just war.”

“What difference is there, do you think, between those in Plato’s cave who can only marvel at the shadows and images of various objects, provided they are content and don’t know what they miss, and the philosopher who has emerged from the cave and sees the real things?”

“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”

Select Bibliography

  • Enchiridion militis Christiani (1503); trans. by Wm. Tyndale, The Manuell of the Christen Knyght (1533).
  • Annotationes in Novum Testamentum (1516). Erasmus published the first Greek New Testament in 1516 (1st ed., followed by four others) which was the foundation for the Textus Receptus, which underlies the Authorized Version.
  • Paraphrases in Novum Testamentum (1517); trans. Paraphrase of Erasmus upon the Newe Testamente (1548).
  • Ratio verae theologiae (1519).
  • De libero arbitrio diatribe (1524).
  • Hyperaspistes diatribae adversus servum arbitrium Martini Lutheri (1526).

Collections And Translations

  • Opera omnia, emendatiora et auctiora, 10 vol. in 11, ed. by Jean Leclerq (1703–06, reprinted 1961–62), remains the most complete and authoritative among the early editions.
  • Opera omnia Desiderii Erasmi Roterodami: recognita et adnotatione critica instructa notisque illustrata (1969– ) is a modern critical and annotated edition by an international team of scholars, under the auspices of the Royal Academy of The Netherlands. The multivolume edition is arranged not chronologically but according to the canon laid down by Erasmus himself.
  • Opus epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterdami, ed. by P. S. Allen, 12 vol. (1906–58), is a standard edition of the correspondence of Erasmus, whose letters are indispensable for any understanding of his work.
  • Collected Works of Erasmus (1974– ), ongoing series by the University of Toronto Press.
  • The “Adages” of Erasmus: A Study with Translations, by Margaret Mann Phillips (1964).
  • The Colloquies of Erasmus, trans. by Craig R. Thompson (1965).

    LB = Opera omnia, ed. J. Clericus, 11 Vols. Leiden 1703-6.

    H = Ausgewählte Werke, ed. Hajo Holborn and Annemaire Holborn, Munish, C. H. Beck, 1964.

Secondary Literature

  • Boyle, Marjorie O’Rourke. The Grammar of Method: A Theological Study of Erasmus’ Renaissance, Especially as manifested in his Ratio seu methodus compendio perveniendri at veram theologiam. Toronto 1974.
  • Boyle, Marjorie O’Rourke. Erasmus on Language and Method in Theology. Toronto/Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1978.