Daily Archives: 27 Oct 2017

Erasmus: On Fools and their Folly

Are not they such Fools that

  • list themselves for Soldiers, and for the Sake of a poor Pay expose Body and Soul to Danger?
  • who make it their Study to scrape up Riches, when their Minds are destitute of all good Science?
  • who make their Cloaths and Houses fine, but let their Minds lie neglected and slovenly?
  • who are very careful to preserve their Bodies in Health, and take no Care of their Minds, that are sick of mortal Diseases?
  • and in the last Place, who for the Sake of enjoying the fleeting Pleasures of this Life, deserve eternal Torments?


I Know There are a Lot of Journals…

And I’m partial to SJOT because, well, I’m an editor (and it’s a superb journal).  But among the journals a real gem, and one you may not be all that familiar with, is the Theologische Zeitschrift produced by the faculty of the University of Basel.  It’s just plain good.

Founded in 1945 by Karl Ludwig Schmidt, the Theologische Zeitschrift (ThZ) is published by the Faculty of Theology of the University of Basel. The editors are professors Reinhold Bernhardt (Systematic/Dogmatic Theology) and Hans-Peter Mathys (Old Testament). The periodical, which is published with the support of the “Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences” is not devoted to any field of theology in particular. It follows the liberal Basel tradition and has a wide interdisciplinary, international and interconfessional horizon. In keeping with this international outlook, it is multi-lingual. German, French and English texts are accepted. ThZ has a worldwide circulation, and is read in 30 countries on almost all continents. Since its foundation, the journal’s aim has been to promote inter- and intra-disciplinary dialogue on theology. For that reason, the ThZ publishes research papers (albeit only original articles) and book reviews taken from all areas of theology and related fields – especially articles that are of interest to more than one field of theology.

I recommend it to you for your personal library.  And if your institutional library doesn’t have it, you should request they carry it.

Zwingli’s First Letter to Erasmus, And Erasmus’ Funny Reply

2zwingli_writing1.jpg“To Erasmus of Rotterdam, great philosopher and theologian, Huldreich Zwingli sends greeting: When I am about to write to you, Dr. Erasmus, best of men, I am on the one hand frightened by the lustre of your learning, which demands a world larger than the one we see; and on the other hand I am invited by that well-known gentleness of yours which you manifested towards me, when in the early spring I came to Basel to see you, for it was an unusual proof of kindness that you did not despise a man who is a mere infant, an unknown smatterer. But you have granted this to the Swiss blood (which I perceive is not so greatly displeasing to you); you have granted it to Henry Glarean, whom I see you have taken into intimacy with yourself.

“You may have wondered greatly that I did not remain at home, since [when I got to Basel] I did not even seek the solution of some most difficult questions (as your own vain talkers are wont to do from you). But when you discover by reflection that what I looked for in you was that far-famed efficiency of yours, you will cease to wonder. For, by Hercules, I admire boldly and even shamelessly this which you have in perfection, together with a friendliness of manner and pleasantness of life. So that when I read your writings I seem to hear you speaking and to see you, with that finely proportioned little body of yours, gesticulating with elegance. For without boasting you are so much beloved by me that I cannot sleep without first holding converse with you.

“But why am I wearying your most learned ears with these uncouth sounds? For I am not ignorant that jackdaws should eat from the ground. Well, that you may know how far it was from being the fact that I was sorry for the journey that I made to see you (as did those Spaniards and Frenchmen, who, as the divine Jerome says, once went to Rome to see Livy), I think that I have made a great name for myself and make my boast in nothing else than this, that I have seen Erasmus—the man who has deserved most highly of letters and the secret things of Sacred Scripture, and who so burns with love to God and men that he thinks that whatever is done for the cause of good letters is done for himself. All good men ought to pray that God will preserve him in safety to the end that sacred literature freed by him from barbarism and sophistry may increase to a more perfect age and that the tender shoots bereaved of their great father may not be left without protection and care.

“But now, to bring this tragedy to a close, I in return for all those kindnesses which you have shown me have given you what Æschines gave to Socrates,—though not an equal value,—myself.1 But you do not receive this gift which is not worthy of you! I will add, more than the Corinthians did when scorned by Alexander—that I not only will give it to no other but never have done so. If you do not accept it even thus, it will be sufficient to have been repelled by you. For nothing will more contribute to the correction of one’s life than to have displeased such men. So whether you are willing or unwilling, you will, I hope, restore me in improved condition to myself. Finally, when you have used your possession in whatsoever manner is pleasing to you, farewell.

“GLARUS, April 29, 1515.”

And Erasmus sends back this response:

erasmus2“Erasmus of Rotterdam to Huldreich Zwingli at Glarus, a philosopher and theologian most learned, a friend beloved as a brother: Greeting.

“The fact that you are so well disposed towards me has been a very great delight to me, as is your letter, equally sprightly and learned. If I respond in short measure to this last, you must not lay it up against me. For by these labours, which seem to me as though they would never be finished, I am often compelled to be less kind than I would be to those to whom I least wish to be so; but to myself I am by far the most unkind, draining the resources of my intellect which not even a quintessence may restore. That the results of my lucubrations are approved by you, so approved a man, greatly rejoices me, and they are on this account less displeasing to me.

“I congratulate the Swiss, whose genius I particularly admire, upon the fact that you and men like you will embellish and ennoble them by your most excellent pursuits and customs, with Glareanus as leader and standard-bearer, who is not less pleasing to me on account of his marked and varied erudition than on account of his singular purity and integrity of life—a man, too, entirely devoted to yourself.

“It is my intention to revisit Brabant immediately after the Feast of Pentecost; at least so things are tending. But I do not willingly tear myself away from these regions.

“Be careful, my Huldreich, to use the pen now and then, which is the best master of speech. I see that Minerva is favourable if the training is maintained. I have written this at dinner, at the request of Glareanus, to whom I can deny nothing, no, not even if he should tell me to dance stark naked! Farewell. From Basel.”

Let’s hope Glarean never asked him to do that.  Had Erasmus not been so afraid of Rome, he would have made a fine Reformer.  Fear paralyzes even the great.

If You Missed the Lecture on Bultmann in Zurich…

Watch it here.

SBL’s ‘Diversity’ is A Farce, and SBL Sessions About as Homogeneous as You Can Imagine

If SBL really believed in diversity and the hearing of as many voices and perspectives (within the community of scholars, not including outside nutbags) as possible it would initiate a ‘one paper per person per annual meeting’ policy.

The reason we hear the same people over and over again, year after year, is because SBL isn’t as interested in diversity as it is offering ‘big names’ to ‘draw in the crowds’ and selling conference attendance.

“Prof NT White will be speaking at 4 sessions this year.  Come and hear the great exegetical master!” or something very akin to it is a looming ghost hanging over every meeting.

Of course SBL says there are reasons that they don’t have such a policy but the real reason is because the more high profile scholars they can shove into the program, the better the turnout will be.  And the better the turnout, the more registration fees they can count on.

Further- and I hope no one I know takes this personally- you shouldn’t because I’ve said it before and I have no idea who is presenting what or how many times they’re doing it this year- there are too many scholars who are more than happy to read two or three papers at a meeting.  But why?  Why do you feel that what you have to say is so important that someone else doesn’t deserve a hearing?

Why do too few scholars practice the fine art of self control and simply refuse to present more than one paper?

Oh sure, there’s the practical reason: ‘if I don’t present, my institution won’t pay for me to attend.  So I have to propose papers to a number of sessions to guarantee acceptance at at least one’.

Ok, fine.  Do that.  But as soon as you find out that a paper has been accepted in one session, drop out of the others.  Withdraw your proposal.  You’re still presenting and your reason for proposing to several sessions is now moot.  So why still insist on taking multiple spaces?

Ego.  That’s why.  Ego and resume packing.  Be honest.  That’s why.

On the other hand, you can actually believe in and practice diversity.  You can surrender one of your many slots to lesser knowns if you’re NT White.  Or one of your slots to someone who probably has something at least as interesting to say as you do.

We’ve all been at SBL sessions where presenters bored us to coma and we wondered how on earth their poor students put up with their mindless ramblings day after day (or how they got a position in the first place… they must know someone…).  Why do they feel compelled to ramble so?

It sort of makes you wonder how much better it would all be, how much more scholarly, how much more thought provoking, if a guy or gal no one has heard of outside their tiny college got a slot to fill instead of Professor Pompous hogging all the podium time.

Diversity.  Live it, or at least be decent enough to stop talking about it.  SBL will be better when it actually practices diversity instead of simply paying it lip service; when it enforces a policy of one paper per presenter…

More Erasmus

There remains one order of the clergy, who are so tied to religion by vows that, if they were inclined, they could no more shake it off, than the tortoise can get rid of the shell which he carries on his back, like a house. I should hope, if I had not been so often disappointed, that, among these persons, coming in the name of peace, I should gain a welcome reception. However, that I may leave no stone unturned, I go and try whether I may be allowed to fix my residence here. Do you wish to know the result of the experiment? I never received a ruder repulse. What indeed could I expect, where religion herself seems to be at war with religion. There are just as many parties as there are fraternities. The dominicans disagree with the minorites, the benedictines with the bernardines; so many modes of worship, so various the rites and ceremonies; they cannot agree in any particular; every one likes his own, and therefore damns all others. Nay, the same fraternity is rent into parties; the observantes inveigh against the coletae; both unite in their hatred of a third sort, which, though it derives its name from a convent, yet, in no article, can come to an amicable convention.

What Did the Reformers Think They Were Doing

Here’s a very fine essay by the very wise Timothy George.

Erasmus as Forerunner of Luther and Zwingli

normal_Durer-Albrecht-Erasmus-Sun2016 ehrt die Reformationsstadt Basel Erasmus von Rotterdam. Denn der Humanist, der zeitlebens Katholik blieb, legte am Rheinknie die Basis für den Durchbruch von Luther und Zwingli.

2017 feiert die protestantische Welt Luthers Thesenanschlag am Kirchenportal zu Wittenberg. Der Akt bildet den Auftakt zur Reformation, die ganz Europa erschütterte. In Basel hingegen beginnt das Reformationsjubiläum schon 2016. Die Stadt ehrt Erasmus von Rotterdam. Der Theologe machte mit seiner Bibeledition und seinem Wirken die Reformation erst möglich. Trotzdem blieb er Katholik.

There is something to be said for Erasmus as ‘way-paver’ for the Reformation. He could, and would, never have gone as far as Luther and Zwingli, which is why he matter less. But he does matter and he’s worth remembering.

‘I Was a Stranger, and You Did Not Take Me In…’

There are a lot of people who call themselves Christians who are going to wind up in hell because they have adopted Trumpian hatred instead of Christian compassion.

A 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who entered the United States from Mexico without permission a decade ago is potentially facing deportation after having to go through a Border Patrol checkpoint in South Texas for emergency gallbladder surgery, a family lawyer said Thursday.

Look what this country has become.  A disgrace.  A godless disgrace.

The New And Improved German Bible Society App

Learn about it here.  Download it for iOs  here.