Wisdom from Erasmus

God made man unarmed. But anger and revenge have mended the work of God, and furnished his hands with weapons invented in hell. Christians attack christians with engines of destruction, fabricated by the devil. A cannon! a mortar! no human being could have devised them originally; they must have been suggested by the evil one. – Erasmus

Erasmus on Mutual Benevolence

As we were indebted in early life to our parents, teachers, and friends, for our maintenance, and for all the knowledge that was instilled into us, it becomes our duty to show our sense of the obligation, by doing everything in our power that may contribute to their comfort, and by giving the like assistance to those who may have similar claims upon us. –  Erasmus

The Death of Erasmus

melanchthon_erasmusOn his way [back to the Netherlands] he stopped in Basel in the house of Jerome Froben, August, 1535, and attended to the publication of Origen. It was his last work. He fell sick, and died in his seventieth year, July 12, 1536, of his old enemies, the stone and the gout, to which was added dysentery.

He retained his consciousness and genial humor to the last. When his three friends, Amerbach, Froben, and Episcopius, visited him on his death-bed, he reminded them of Job’s three comforters, and playfully asked them about the torn garments, and the ashes that should be sprinkled on their heads. He died without a priest or any ceremonial of the Church (in wretched monastic Latin: “sine crux, sine lux, sine Deus”), but invoking the mercy of Christ. His last words, repeated again and again, were, “O Jesus, have mercy; Lord, deliver me; Lord, make an end; Lord, have mercy upon me!”

The Followers of Folly Compared With the Followers of Wisdom

The Schoolmaster

The Schoolmaster

Folly speaking to Wisdom (in ‘In Praise of Folly)-

Look how your hard plodding students, by a close sedentary confinement to their books, grow mopish, pale, and meagre, as if by a continual wrack of brains, and torture of invention, their veins were pumped dry, and their whole body squeezed sapless; whereas my followers are smooth, plump, and bucksome, and altogether as lusty as so many bacon-hogs, or sucking calves; never in their career of pleasure to be arrested with old age, if they could but keep themselves untainted from the contagiousness of wisdom, with the leprosy whereof, if at any time they are infected, it is only for prevention, lest they should otherwise have been too happy.

Bacon-hogs and sucking calves, plump and bucksome, happily ignorant their whole lives as long as they don’t come in contact with wisdom which folly views as leprosy… Erasmus would be proud that his vision of the foolish has been literally fulfilled in the masses.

Fun Facts from Church History: Erasmus’ Early View of Luther

On April 14, 1519, Erasmus wrote from Antwerp to Frederick, the able Elector of Saxony, saying that of Luther’s writings he had so far read only certain extracts.4 Every one, he said, who had religion at heart read these books with the greatest sympathy. “All who were conversant with his life approved of it, since he was above every suspicion of ambition. The purity of his character is such that he even wins over the heathen. No one has shown his error or refuted him, and yet they call him a heretic.*

That friendly sentiment would soon be slaughtered on the altar of free will.

*Robert H. Murray, Erasmus & Luther: Their Attitude to Toleration (London; New York: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; The Macmillan Co., 1920), 75.

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?


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.

Erasmus and the Zwinglian Reformation

Huldrych Zwingli gilt als Autorität der Zürcher Reformation. Es ist klar: Unser Reformator war nicht alleine unterwegs: Seine Zeit, die Zeitgenossen und geistige Strömungen, insbesondere der Humanismus, haben ihn, sein Denken und seine Ideen beeinflusst. Unter diesen sticht besonders Erasmus von Rotterdam heraus: In seinem humanistischen Geist haben die Zürcher damals den Aufbruch gewagt. Sein Einfluss ist um einiges grösser, als bisher angenommen. Teilnehmer: Pfr. Michel Müller (Kirchenratspräsident), Ueli Greminger (Pfarrer am St. Peter) und Dr. Urs Leu (Alte Drucke und Rara an der Zentralbibliothek Zürich). Vortrag und Führung. Der Eintritt ist frei.

Erasmus von Rotterdam – die heimliche Autorität der Zürcher Reformation

Huldrych Zwingli gilt als Autorität der Zürcher Reformation. Es ist klar: Unser Reformator war nicht alleine  unterwegs: Seine Zeit, die Zeitgenossen und geistige Strömungen, insbesondere der Humanismus, haben ihn, sein Denken und seine Ideen beeinflusst. Unter diesen sticht besonders Erasmus von Rotterdamheraus: In seinem humanistischen Geist haben die Zürcher damals den Aufbruch gewagt. Sein Einfluss ist um einiges grösser, als bisher angenommen.

Details zum Programm sind im Flyer ersichtlich. Der Eintritt ist frei.


Overcoming Temptation, According to Erasmus

“But the tempter is put back most of all by this means, if thou shalt either vehemently hate, abhor and defy, and in a manner spit at him straightway whensoever he enticeth and moveth thee with any temptation, or else if thou pray fervently or get thyself to some holy occupation, setting thine whole mind thereunto: or if thou make answer to the tempter with words set out of holy scripture, as I have warned thee before. In which thing verily it shall not profit meanly against all kind of temptation to have some certain sentences prepared and ready, specially those with which thou hast felt thy mind to be moved and stirred vehemently.” — Desiderius Erasmus, Enchiridion Militis Christiani (London: Methuen & Co., 1905), 235–236.

#ICYMI – Newly Discovered Portraits of the Reformers Have Been Put on Display in Zurich

And they’re on display at the Zurich Central Library:

Sechs Gemälde aus der Reformationszeit schlummerten dreizehn Jahre im Keller des baugeschichtlichen Archivs in Zürich. Nun sind die wichtigen Zeugen der Reformation in der Zentralbibliothek zu sehen.

«Das war wie Weihnachten», sagt Jochen Hesse, Leiter der Graphischen Sammlung der Zentralbibliothek Zürich über die sechs Wandbilder, die sie geschenkt bekam. Hesse hatte die sechs Doppelporträts aus der Reformationszeit 2013 zufällig bei einem Besuch im baugeschichtlichen Archiv der Stadt Zürich entdeckt. Sie lagerten dort seit ihrer Restaurierung vor dreizehn Jahren.

«Ich war neugierig und fragte nach Herkunft und Besitzer», erzählt er. So erfuhr er, dass die Bilder aus dem Haus des Buchdruckers Christoph Froschauer stammten, der durch den Druck von Werken der Reformatoren ein wichtiger Förderer der Reformation in Zürich wurde. Als Eigentümerin der Liegenschaft an der Froschaugasse waren inzwischen die Schaeppi Liegenschaften Besitzer der Bilder.

Christmas indeed! Read the rest.



If You are in Basel…

You need to go to this

Am 24. Juni startet die Ausstellung Erasmus MMXVI: Das bessere Bild Christi. Die Ausgabe des Neuen Testaments von 1516 im Basler Münster.

Erasmus von Rotterdam hat länger in Basel gelebt als in irgendeiner anderen Stadt Europas. Hier ist er gestorben, im Münster liegt er begraben. Seine Schriften sind weltberühmt, seine scharfen Analysen zeichnen ihn aus. Er hat als Erster das Neue Testament in seinem griechischen Urtext herausgegeben und damit 1516 den entscheidenden Grundstein zur Erforschung der Bibel gelegt. Eine Ausstellung im Münster wird dieses 500-jährige Jubiläum würdigen, den Menschen dahinter, den produktiven Gelehrten, den um Ausgleich bemühten Kirchenmann.

Die Vernissage der Ausstellung ist Donnerstag, 23. Juni 2016. Die Ausstellung dauert vom 24. Juni bis 12. November 2016.  Das Projekt ist eine Zusammenarbeit von der Universitätsbibliothek, dem Kunstmuseum und Historischem Museum Basel.

Mehr Informationen

More Fun With Erasmus

Erasmus was a bright lad who could lay down a proverb like nobody’s business:

Dentem Dente rodere

It is one tooth biting another, was used to be said to any one attempting to hurt what was out of his reach, and could not be affected by him: or affronting one who could return the insult with interest; or having a contest with persons capable of doing him more mischief than he could do them. It has the same sense as, “verberare lapidem,” beating a stone; “do not shew your teeth,” we say, “when you cannot bite.” The adage probably took its rise from the fable of the serpent gnawing a file, which it met with in a smith’s shop, by which it made its own gums bleed but without hurting the file.

Ungentem pungit, pungentem Rusticus ungit

If you treat a clown with mildness and civility he will fancy you are afraid of him, and will return your kindness with rudeness or insult; but if preserving your dignity, you treat him as your inferior or with some degree of authority, he will crouch to and fawn upon, you.

Cited from ‘The Adages of Erasmus‘.