|Birth Day:||October 28, 1466|
|Death Date:||12 July 1536(1536-07-12) (aged 69)
Basel, Old Swiss Confederacy
|Birth Place:||Rotterdam, Dutch|
As per our current Database, Desiderius Erasmus died on 12 July 1536(1536-07-12) (aged 69)
Basel, Old Swiss Confederacy.
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In 1502, in Spain, Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros had put together a team of Spanish translators to create a compilation of the Bible in four languages: Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Latin. Translators for Greek were commissioned from Greece itself and worked closely with Latinists. Cardinal Cisneros's team completed and printed the full New Testament, including the Greek translation, in 1514. To do so they developed specific types to print Greek. Cisneros informed Erasmus of the works going on in Spain and may have sent a printed version of the New Testament to him. However, the Spanish team wanted the entire Bible to be released as one single work and withdrew from publication.
Despite a chronic shortage of money, he succeeded in learning Greek by an intensive, day-and-night study of three years, continuously begging in letters that his friends send him books and money for teachers. Discovery in 1506 of Lorenzo Valla's New Testament Notes encouraged Erasmus to continue the study of the New Testament.
Erasmus preferred to live the life of an independent scholar and made a conscious effort to avoid any actions or formal ties that might inhibit his freedom of intellect and literary expression. Throughout his life, he was offered positions of honor and profit in academia but declined them all, preferring the uncertain but sufficient rewards of independent literary activity. He did however assist his friend John Colet by authoring Greek textbooks and procuring members of staff for the newly established St Paul's School. From 1506 to 1509, he was in Italy: in 1506 he graduated as Doctor of Divinity from the University of Turin, and he spent part of the time as a proofreader at the publishing house of Aldus Manutius in Venice. According to his letters, he was associated with the Venetian natural philosopher, Giulio Camillo, but apart from this he had a less active association with Italian scholars than might have been expected.
One of Erasmus's best-known works, inspired by De triumpho stultitiae (written by Italian humanist Faustino Perisauli), is The Praise of Folly, published under the double title Moriae encomium (Greek, Latinised) and Laus stultitiae (Latin). A satirical attack on superstitions and other traditions of European society in general and the western Church in particular, it was written in 1509, published in 1511, and dedicated to Sir Thomas More, whose name the title puns.
Erasmus had been working for years on two projects: a collation of Greek texts and a fresh Latin New Testament. In 1512, he began his work on this Latin New Testament. He collected all the Vulgate manuscripts he could find to create a critical edition. Then he polished the language. He declared, "It is only fair that Paul should address the Romans in somewhat better Latin." In the earlier phases of the project, he never mentioned a Greek text:
Erasmus's Sileni Alcibiadis is one of his most direct assessments of the need for Church reform. Johann Froben published it first within a revised edition of the Adagia in 1515, then as a stand-alone work in 1517. This essay has been likened to John Colet's Convocation Sermon, though the styles differ.
The information and the delay allowed Erasmus to request a "Publication Privilege" of four years for the Greek New Testament to ensure that his work would be published first. He obtained it in 1516 from both Pope Leo X, to whom he would dedicate his work, and Emperor Maximilian I. Erasmus's Greek New Testament was published first, in 1516, forcing the Spanish team of Cisneros to wait until 1520 to publish their Complutensian Polyglot Bible.
Erasmus said it was "rushed into print rather than edited", resulting in a number of transcription errors. After comparing what writings he could find, Erasmus wrote corrections between the lines of the manuscripts he was using (among which was Minuscule 2) and sent them as proofs to Froben. His hurried effort was published by his friend Johann Froben of Basel in 1516 and thence became the first published Greek New Testament, the Novum Instrumentum omne, diligenter ab Erasmo Rot. Recognitum et Emendatum. Erasmus used several Greek manuscript sources because he did not have access to a single complete manuscript. Most of the manuscripts were, however, late Greek manuscripts of the Byzantine textual family and Erasmus used the oldest manuscript the least because "he was afraid of its supposedly erratic text." He also ignored much older and better manuscripts that were at his disposal.
The Institutio principis Christiani or "Education of a Christian Prince" (Basel, 1516) was written as advice to the young king Charles of Spain (later Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor). Erasmus applies the general principles of honor and sincerity to the special functions of the Prince, whom he represents throughout as the servant of the people. Education was published in 1516, three years after Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince was written; a comparison between the two is worth noting. Machiavelli stated that, to maintain control by political force, it is safer for a prince to be feared than loved. Erasmus preferred for the prince to be loved, and strongly suggested a well-rounded education in order to govern justly and benevolently and avoid becoming a source of oppression.
His residence at Leuven, where he lectured at the University, exposed Erasmus to much criticism from those ascetics, academics and clerics hostile to the principles of literary and religious reform and to the loose norms of the Renaissance adherents to which he was devoting his life. In 1517, he supported the foundation at the University, by his friend Hieronymus van Busleyden, of the Collegium Trilingue for the study of Hebrew, Latin, and Greek – after the model of the College of the Three Languages at the University of Alcalá. However, feeling that the lack of sympathy that prevailed at Leuven at that time was actually a form of mental persecution, he sought refuge in Basel, where under the shelter of Swiss hospitality he could express himself freely. Admirers from all quarters of Europe visited him there and he was surrounded by devoted friends, notably developing a lasting association with the great publisher Johann Froben.
It is hard to say if Erasmus's actions had an effect on delaying the publication of the Complutensian Polyglot, causing the Spanish team to take more time, or if it made no difference in their perfectionism. The Spanish copy was approved for publication by the Pope in 1520; however, it was not released until 1522 due to the team's insistence on reviewing and editing. Only fifteen errors have been found in the entire six volumes and four languages of Cisneros's bible, an extraordinarily low number for the time. The fear of them publishing first, though, affected Erasmus's work, rushing him to printing and causing him to forego editing. The result was a large number of translation mistakes, transcription errors, and typos, that required further editions to be printed (see "publication").
As a result of his reformatory activities, Erasmus found himself at odds with both of the great parties. His last years were embittered by controversies with men toward whom he was sympathetic. Notable among these was Ulrich von Hutten, a brilliant but erratic genius who had thrown himself into the Lutheran cause and declared that Erasmus, if he had a spark of honesty, would do the same. In his reply in 1523, Spongia adversus aspergines Hutteni, Erasmus displays his skill in semantics. He accuses Hutten of having misinterpreted his utterances about reform and reiterates his determination never to break with the Church.
"Free will does not exist", according to Luther in his letter De Servo Arbitrio to Erasmus translated into German by Justus Jonas (1526), in that sin makes human beings completely incapable of bringing themselves to God. Noting Luther's criticism of the Catholic Church, Erasmus described him as "a mighty trumpet of gospel truth" while agreeing, "It is clear that many of the reforms for which Luther calls are urgently needed." He had great respect for Luther, and Luther spoke with admiration of Erasmus's superior learning. Luther hoped for his cooperation in a work which seemed only the natural outcome of his own. In their early correspondence, Luther expressed boundless admiration for all Erasmus had done in the cause of a sound and reasonable Christianity and urged him to join the Lutheran party. Erasmus declined to commit himself, arguing that to do so would endanger his position as a leader in the movement for pure scholarship which he regarded as his purpose in life. Only as an independent scholar could he hope to influence the reform of religion. When Erasmus hesitated to support him, the straightforward Luther became angered that Erasmus was avoiding the responsibility due either to cowardice or a lack of purpose. However, any hesitancy on the part of Erasmus stemmed, not from lack of courage or conviction, but rather from a concern over the mounting disorder and violence of the reform movement. To Philip Melanchthon in 1524 he wrote:
The writings of Erasmus exhibit a continuing concern with language, and in 1525 he devoted an entire treatise to the subject, Lingua. This and several of his other works are said to have provided a starting point for a philosophy of language, though Erasmus did not produce a completely elaborated system.
The third edition of 1522 was probably used by Tyndale for the first English New Testament (Worms, 1526) and was the basis for the 1550 Robert Stephanus edition used by the translators of the Geneva Bible and King James Version of the English Bible. Erasmus published a fourth edition in 1527 containing parallel columns of Greek, Latin Vulgate and Erasmus's Latin texts. In this edition Erasmus also supplied the Greek text of the last six verses of Revelation (which he had translated from Latin back into Greek in his first edition) from Cardinal Ximenez's Biblia Complutensis. In 1535 Erasmus published the fifth (and final) edition which dropped the Latin Vulgate column but was otherwise similar to the fourth edition. Later versions of the Greek New Testament by others, but based on Erasmus's Greek New Testament, became known as the Textus Receptus.
The Ciceronianus came out in 1528, attacking the style of Latin that was based exclusively and fanatically on Cicero's writings. Étienne Dolet wrote a riposte titled Erasmianus in 1535.
Again, in 1529, he writes "An epistle against those who falsely boast they are Evangelicals" to Vulturius Neocomus (Gerardus Geldenhouwer). Here Erasmus complains of the doctrines and morals of the Reformers:
When the city of Basel definitely adopted the Reformation in 1529, Erasmus gave up his residence there and settled in the imperial town of Freiburg im Breisgau.
A test of the Reformation was the doctrine of the sacraments, and the crux of this question was the observance of the Eucharist. In 1530, Erasmus published a new edition of the orthodox treatise of Algerus against the heretic Berengar of Tours in the eleventh century. He added a dedication, affirming his belief in the reality of the Body of Christ after consecration in the Eucharist, commonly referred to as transubstantiation. The sacramentarians, headed by Œcolampadius of Basel, were, as Erasmus says, quoting him as holding views similar to their own in order to try to claim him for their schismatic and "erroneous" movement.
When his strength began to fail, he decided to accept an invitation by Queen Mary of Hungary, Regent of the Netherlands, to move from Freiburg to Brabant. However, during preparations for the move in 1536, he suddenly died from an attack of dysentery during a visit to Basel. He had remained loyal to the papal authorities in Rome, but he did not have the opportunity to receive the last rites of the Catholic Church; the reports of his death do not mention whether he asked for a priest or not. According to Jan van Herwaarden, this is consistent with his view that outward signs were not important; what mattered is the believer's direct relationship with God, which he noted "as the [Catholic] church believes". However, Herwaarden observes that "he did not dismiss the rites and sacraments out of hand but asserted a dying person could achieve a state of salvation without the priestly rites, provided their faith and spirit were attuned to God." He was buried with great ceremony in Basel Minster (the former cathedral) there.
His last words, as recorded by his friend Beatus Rhenanus, were apparently "Dear God" (Dutch: Lieve God). A bronze statue of him was erected in the city of his birth in 1622, replacing an earlier work in stone.
In his native Rotterdam, the University and Gymnasium Erasmianum have been named in his honor. Between 1997 and 2009, one of the main metro lines of the city was named Erasmuslijn. In 2003, a poll showing that most Rotterdammers believed Erasmus to be the designer of the local Erasmus Bridge, instigated the founding of the Foundation Erasmus House (Rotterdam), dedicated to celebrating Erasmus's legacy. Three moments in Erasmus's life are celebrated annually. On 1 April, the city celebrates the publication of his best-known book The Praise of Folly. On 11 July, the Night of Erasmus celebrates the lasting influence of his work. His birthday is celebrated on 28 October.
Currently, Desiderius Erasmus is 555 years, 2 months and 25 days old. Desiderius Erasmus will celebrate 556th birthday on a Friday 28th of October 2022.
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