Desiderius Erasmus - Geert Geertsz
Teologo e umanista olandese (Rotterdam 1466 o 1467 - Basilea 1536). Orfano in tenera età, entrò nell'ordine agostiniano su pressione degli avidi tutori e giunse al sacerdozio, ma non seppe adattarsi alla vita del chiostro e ne uscì per diventare segretario del vescovo di Cambrai, Enrico di Bergen; fu dispensato dai voti monastici ma si mantenne fedele al ministero sacerdotale.
La Riforma luterana gli causò una grave crisi morale e culturale, ma non l'accettò mai. Spirito indipendente, rifiutò la porpora cardinalizia offertagli da papa Paolo III e percorse instancabilmente l'Europa trasferendosi da un centro culturale all'altro, sempre studiando, accompagnato da lodi e onori e confortato dall'amicizia di personaggi illustri quali Tommaso Moro, John Colet e John Fisher. Per tre anni fu anche in Italia (1506-1509) e attraverso lo studio delle opere di Lorenzo Valla apprese l'amore appassionato per l'antichità pagana e cristiana, mentre da parte sua aveva cercato un ideale equilibrio fra la pura, lineare moralità evangelica e la maestosa compostezza della sapienza classica: ne è testimonianza il suo latino duttile e colorito, pieno di psicologiche finezze, percorso da una grande forza esortativa.
Di questa consapevolezza morale sono sostanziate le sue opere Stultitiae laus (1509; Elogio della follia) e Colloquia familiaria (1522): in esse Erasmo svela la funzione delle humanae litterae nella lotta all'immoralità, agli abusi ecclesiastici, alle astruserie dogmatiche, all'ignoranza, all'intolleranza e alle imposture, mentre la sua ironia si abbatte sulla grettezza di certi eruditi e sugli eccessi dei razionalisti, opponendo loro la “follia” di chi esperimenta la vita nella sua immediatezza irrazionale e creatrice.
La stessa funzione esercitarono le humanae litterae nella critica filologica ai testi sacri (versione critica del Nuovo Testamento, edizioni delle opere di Sant'Agostino, di Sant'Ambrogio e di San Girolamo). Trovando in Erasmo i germi delle sue accuse alla Chiesa cattolica, Lutero chiese nel 1519 al dotto umanista di pronunciarsi per la Riforma, ma Erasmo si astenne e cinque anni dopo entrava in polemica con Lutero con lo scritto De libero arbitrio diatribe sive collatio: al di là dei motivi personali, l'antitesi si rivelava insuperabile fra concezione umanistica, che tendeva ad avvicinare Dio al mondo e a esaltare il valore dell'uomo come natura libera, e concezione luterana, che faceva dipendere l'uomo ancor più strettamente da Dio, sostenendo l'origine solo divina di ogni impulso umano verso il bene.
Il contrasto fu manifesto in tutta la sua evidenza nella risposta di Lutero (De servo arbitrio). Sia in campo filosofico sia in quello teologico non esiste in Erasmo un vero sistema completo: egli è essenzialmente un umanista con profonde aspirazioni morali e i problemi filosofici e teologici sono da lui considerati sotto quest'angolo visuale; negli stessi problemi pratici della vita e nella tormentata vita politica del tempo Erasmo rimase lontano, chiuso nel suo aristocratico umanesimo e preannunziò il divorzio tra cultura e politica, che condannerà il movimento letterario all'isterilimento.
Di Erasmo si ricordano anche gli Adagia (1500, raccolta di proverbi greci e latini), l'Enchiridion militis christiani (1504), le Parabolae (1514), le Paraphrases (1517-24) e le Adnotationes (1521).
di Theodor de Bry (1528-1598)
da Bibliotheca chalcographica di Jean-Jacques Boissard - 1669
Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (sometimes known as Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam) (October 28, 1466/1469, Rotterdam – July 12, 1536, Basel) was a Dutch Renaissance humanist and a Catholic priest and theologian. His scholarly name Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus comprises the following three elements: the Latin noun desiderium ("longing" or "desire"; the name being a genuine Late Latin name); the Greek adjective ἐράσμιος (erásmios) meaning "desired", and, in the form Erasmus, also the name of a St. Erasmus of Formiae; and the Latinized adjectival form for the city of Rotterdam (Roterodamus = "of Rotterdam").
Erasmus was a classical scholar who wrote in a "pure" Latin style and enjoyed the sobriquet "Prince of the Humanists." He has been called "the crowning glory of the Christian humanists." Using humanist techniques for working on texts, he prepared important new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament. These raised questions that would be influential in the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation. He also wrote The Praise of Folly, Handbook of a Christian Knight, On Civility in Children, Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style, Julius Exclusus, and many other works.
Erasmus lived through the Reformation period and he consistently criticized some contemporary popular Christian beliefs. In relation to clerical abuses in the Church, Erasmus remained committed to reforming the Church from within. He also held to Catholic doctrines such as that of free will, which some Protestant Reformers rejected in favor of the doctrine of predestination. His middle road disappointed and even angered many Protestants, such as Martin Luther, as well as conservative Catholics. He died in Basel in 1536 and was buried in the formerly Catholic cathedral there, recently converted to a Reformed church.
Desiderius Erasmus was born Gerrit Gerritszoon (Gerard Gerard's son) or Herasmus Gerritszoon in Rotterdam on October 28, in 1466 or 1469. The exact year of his birth is debated but some evidence confirming 1466 can be found in Erasmus own words. Out of twenty-three statements Erasmus made about his age all but one of the first fifteen indicate 1466. It is possible he was christened "Erasmus" after the saint of that name. Although associated closely with Rotterdam, he lived there for only four years, never to return. Information on his family and early life comes mainly from vague references in his writings. His parents almost certainly were not legally married. His father, named Roger Gerard, later became a priest and afterwards curate in Gouda. Little is known of his mother other than that her name was Margaret and she was the daughter of a physician. Although he was born out of wedlock, Erasmus was cared for by his parents until their early deaths from the plague in 1483. He was then given the very best education available to a young man of his day, in a series of monastic or semi-monastic schools, most notably a school run by the Brethren of the Common Life (inspired by Geert Groote) where he gleaned the importance of a personal relationship with God but eschewed the harsh rules and strict methods of the religious brothers and educators.
While at the Augustinian monastery Steyn near Gouda around 1487, young Erasmus wrote a series of passionate letters to a fellow monk, Servatius Rogerus, whom he called "half my soul", writing, "I have wooed you both unhappily and relentlessly". Whether this is evidence for homosexual desire or simply male to male friendship is unclear; nevertheless this correspondence contrasts sharply with the generally detached and much more restrained attitude he showed in his later life. Of similar interest was the sudden dismissal by the guardian of Thomas Grey, a student Erasmus tutored in Paris which could be taken as grounds of an illicit affair. However, no personal denunciation was made of Erasmus during his lifetime, he took pains to condemn sodomy in his works, and instead praised sexual desire in the context of marriage between men and women.
Ordination and monastic experience
In 1492, poverty forced Erasmus into the monastery. He was ordained to the Catholic priesthood and took vows as an Augustinian canon at Steyn at about the age of 25, but he never seemed to have actively worked as a priest for a longer time, and certain tenets of monasticism were among the chief objects of his attack in his lifelong assault upon Church excesses. Soon after his priestly ordination, he got his chance to leave the monastery when offered the post of secretary to the Bishop of Cambray, Henry of Bergen, on account of his great skill in Latin and his reputation as a man of letters. In order to allow him to accept that post, he was given a temporary dispensation from his monastic vows on the grounds of poor health and love of Humanistic studies, though he remained a "secular priest". Pope Leo X later made the dispensation permanent, a considerable privilege at the time.
Education and scholarship
In 1495, with the bishop's consent and stipend, he went on to study at the University of Paris, in the Collège de Montaigu, a centre of reforming zeal, under the direction of the ascetic Jan Standonck, of whose rigours Erasmus complained. The University was then the chief seat of Scholastic learning, but already coming under the influence of Renaissance humanism. The chief centers of his activity were Paris, Leuven (Louvain in Brabant), England, and Basel; yet he never belonged firmly in any one of these places. His time in England was fruitful in the making of lifelong friendships with the leaders of English thought in the stirring days of King Henry VIII: John Colet, Thomas More, John Fisher, Thomas Linacre and William Grocyn. At the University of Cambridge, he was the Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity and had the option of spending the rest of his life as an English professor. He stayed at Queens' College, Cambridge, and may have been an alumnus.
In 1499, while in England, Erasmus was particularly impressed by the Bible teaching of John Colet who pursued a style more akin to the church fathers than the scholastics. This prompted him, upon his return from England, to master the Greek language, which would enable him to study theology on a more profound level and to prepare a new edition of Jerome's Bible translation. On one occasion he wrote Colet: "I cannot tell you, dear Colet, how I hurry on, with all sails set, to holy literature. How I dislike everything that keeps me back, or retards me."
Despite a chronic shortage of money, he succeeded in learning Greek by an intensive, day-and-night study of three years, continuously begging his friends to send him books and money for teachers in his letters. 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 many positions of honor and profit throughout the academic world but declined them all, preferring the uncertain but sufficient rewards of independent literary activity. From 1506 to 1509, he was in Italy: in 1506 he graduated at the Turin University, and he spent part of the time 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.
His residence at Leuven, where he lectured at the Catholic University, exposed Erasmus to much criticism from those ascetics, academicians and clerics hostile to the principles of literary and religious reform and 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 Jeroen 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 this lack of sympathy was actually a form of mental persecution, he sought refuge in Basel, where under the shelter of Swiss hospitality he could express himself freely and where he was surrounded by devoted friends. Here he was associated for many years with the great publisher Johann Froben, and to him came the multitude of his admirers from all quarters of Europe.
Only when he had mastered Latin did he begin to express himself on major contemporary themes in literature and religion. He felt called upon to use his learning in a purification of the doctrine by returning to the historic documents and original languages of sacred Scripture. He tried to free the methods of scholarship from the rigidity and formalism of medieval traditions, but he was not satisfied with this. His revolt against certain forms of Christian monasticism and scholasticism was not based on doubts about the truth of doctrine, nor from hostility to the organization of the Church itself, nor from rejection of celibacy or monastical lifestyles. He saw himself as a preacher of righteousness by an appeal to reason, applied frankly and without fear of the magisterium. He always intended to remain faithful to Catholic doctrine, and therefore was convinced he could criticize frankly and virtually everyone. Erasmus held himself aloof from entangling obligations, yet he was the center of the literary movement of his time. He corresponded with more than five hundred men in the worlds of politics and of thought.
Publication of the Greek New Testament
The first New Testament printed in Greek was part of the Complutensian Polyglot. This portion was printed in 1514, but publication was delayed until 1522 by waiting for the Old Testament portion, and the sanction of Pope Leo X. 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 Latin. 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: "My mind is so excited at the thought of emending Jerome’s text, with notes, that I seem to myself inspired by some god. I have already almost finished emending him by collating a large number of ancient manuscripts, and this I am doing at enormous personal expense." While his intentions for publishing a fresh Latin translation are clear, it is less clear why he included the Greek text. Though some speculate that he intended to produce a critical Greek text or that he wanted to beat the Complutensian Polyglot into print, there is no evidence to support this. He wrote, "There remains the New Testament translated by me, with the Greek facing, and notes on it by me." He further demonstrated the reason for the inclusion of the Greek text when defending his work: "But one thing the facts cry out, and it can be clear, as they say, even to a blind man, that often through the translator’s clumsiness or inattention the Greek has been wrongly rendered; often the true and genuine reading has been corrupted by ignorant scribes, which we see happen every day, or altered by scribes who are half-taught and half-asleep." So he included the Greek text to permit qualified readers to verify the quality of his Latin version. But by first calling the final product "Novum Instrumentum omne" ("All of the New Teaching") and later "Novum Testamentum omne" ("All of the New Testament") he also indicated clearly that he considered a consistently parallelized version of both the Greek and the Latin texts as the essential dual core of the church's New Testament tradition. In a way it is legitimate to say that Erasmus "synchronized" or "unified" the Greek and the Latin traditions of the New Testament by producing an updated (he would say: "purified") version of either simultaneously. Both being part of canonical tradition, he clearly found it necessary to ensure that both were actually presenting the same content. In modern terminology, he made the two traditions "compatible". This is clearly evidenced by the fact that his Greek text is not just the basis for his Latin translation, but also the other way round: there are numerous instances where he edits the Greek text to reflect his Latin version. For instance, since the last six verses of Revelation were missing from his Greek manuscript, Erasmus translated the Vulgate's text back into Greek. Erasmus also translated the Latin text into Greek wherever he found that the Greek text and the accompanying commentaries were mixed up, or where he simply preferred the Vulgate’s reading to the Greek text.
Erasmus's hurried effort (Erasmus said it was "rushed into print rather than edited") 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.
In the 2nd (1519) edition the more familiar term Testamentum was used instead of Instrumentum. This edition was used by Martin Luther in making his German translation of Bible for his own religious movement. Together, the first and second editions sold 3,300 copies. Only 600 copies of the Complutensian Polyglot were even printed. The 1st- and 2nd-edition texts did not include the passage (1 John 5:7–8) that has become known as the Comma Johanneum. Erasmus had been unable to find those verses in any Greek manuscript, but one was supplied to him during production of the 3rd edition. That manuscript is now thought to be a 1520 creation from the Latin Vulgate, which likely got the verses from a fifth-century marginal gloss in a Latin copy of I John. The Roman Catholic Church decreed that the Comma Johanneum was open to dispute (June 2, 1927), and it is rarely included in modern scholarly translations.
The 3rd 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 definitive 4th edition in 1527 containing parallel columns of Greek, Latin Vulgate and Erasmus's Latin texts. He used the now available Polyglot Bible to improve this version. 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 5th (and final) edition which dropped the Latin Vulgate column but was otherwise similar to the 4th edition. Subsequent versions of Erasmus's Greek New Testament became known as the Textus Receptus.
Erasmus dedicated his work to Pope Leo X as a patron of learning and regarded this work as his chief service to the cause of Christianity. Immediately afterward, he began the publication of his Paraphrases of the New Testament, a popular presentation of the contents of the several books. These, like all of his writings, were published in Latin but were quickly translated into other languages, with his encouragement.
Beginnings of Protestantism
Martin Luther's movement began in the year following the publication of the New Testament and tested Erasmus's character. The issue between European society and the Roman Church had become so clear that few could escape the summons to join the debate. Erasmus, at the height of his literary fame, was inevitably called upon to take sides, but partisanship was foreign to his nature and his habits. In all his criticism of clerical follies and abuses, he had always protested that he was not attacking church institutions themselves and had no enmity toward churchmen. The world had laughed at his satire, but few had interfered with his activities. He believed that his work so far had commended itself to the best minds and also to the dominant powers in the religious world.
Initially Erasmus was sympathetic with the main points in the Lutheran criticism of the Church, describing him as "a mighty trumpet of gospel truth" and admitting that, "It is clear that many of the reforms for which Luther calls are urgently needed.” He had great respect for Martin Luther, and Luther always 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 felt angered that Erasmus was avoiding the responsibility due either to cowardice or a lack of purpose. Erasmus, however, dreaded any change in doctrine and believed that there was room within existing formulas for the kind of reform he valued most. Also, it is said that Erasmus chose to remain a Roman-Catholic because of a lecture he heard from Savonarola, the Dominican friar who ruled Florence for a time. Though he remained firmly neutral, likely because of it, each side accused him of siding with the other. It was not for lack of fidelity with either side but a desire for fidelity with them both: "I detest dissension because it goes both against the teachings of Christ and against a secret inclination of nature. I doubt that either side in the dispute can be suppressed without grave loss."
In his Catechism (entitled Explanation of the Apostles' Creed) (1533), Erasmus took stand against Luther's teaching by asserting the unwritten Sacred Tradition as just as valid a source of revelation as the Bible, by enumerating the Deuterocanonical books in the canon of the Bible and by acknowledging seven sacraments. He called "blasphemers" anyone who questioned the perpetual virginity of Mary and those who defended the need to occasionally restrict the laity from access to the Bible. In a letter to Nikolaus von Amsdorf, Luther objected to Erasmus’ Catechism and called Erasmus a "viper,", "liar," and "the very mouth and organ of Satan."
Twice in the course of the great discussion, he allowed himself to enter the field of doctrinal controversy, a field foreign to both his nature and his previous practice. One of the topics he dealt with was the freedom of the will, a crucial point. In his De libero arbitrio diatribe sive collatio (1524), he lampoons the Lutheran view on free will. He lays down both sides of the argument impartially. The "Diatribe" did not encourage any definite action; this was its merit to the Erasmians and its fault in the eyes of the Lutherans. In response, Luther wrote his De servo arbitrio (On the Bondage of the Will) (1525), which attacks the "Diatribe" and Erasmus himself, going so far as to claim that Erasmus was not a Christian. Erasmus responded with a lengthy, two-part Hyperaspistes (1526–27). In this controversy Erasmus lets it be seen that he would like to claim more for free will than St. Paul and St. Augustine seem to allow. For Erasmus the essential point is that humans have the freedom of choice. As the popular response to Luther gathered momentum, the social disorders, which Erasmus dreaded and Luther disassociated himself from, began to appear, including the Peasants' War, the Anabaptist disturbances in Germany and in the Low Countries, iconoclasm and the radicalization of peasants across Europe. If these were the outcomes of reform, he was thankful that he had kept out of it. Yet he was ever more bitterly accused of having started the whole "tragedy" (as the Roman Catholics dubbed Protestantism). When the city of Basel was definitely and officially "reformed" 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 transsubstantiation. The anti-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.
Erasmus died of a sudden attack of dysentery in 1536 in Basel and was buried there in the cathedral. His last words, as recorded by his friend Beatus Rhenanus, were "lieve God", Dutch for Dear God.
Erasmus wrote both on ecclesiastic subjects and those of general human interest. He seems to have regarded the latter as trifling, a leisure activity. By the 1530’s, the writings of Erasmus accounted for 10 to 20 percent of all book sales. He is credited with coining the adage, "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." He formed a collection of adages, commonly called Adagia. Erasmus is also generally credited with originating the English phrase "Pandora's box", arising through an error in his translation of Pandora by Hesiod in which he confused "pithos", storage jar, with "pyxis", box.
His more serious writings begin early with the Enchiridion militis Christiani, the "Handbook of the Christian Soldier" (1503) (translated into English a few years later by the young William Tyndale). In this short work, Erasmus outlines the views of the normal Christian life, which he was to spend the rest of his days in elaborating. The chief evil of the day, he says, is formalism, going through the motions of tradition without understanding their basis in the teachings of Christ. Forms can teach the soul how to worship God, or they may hide or quench the spirit. In his examination of the dangers of formalism, Erasmus discusses monasticism, saint worship, war, the spirit of class and the foibles of "society." The Enchiridion is more like a sermon than a satire. With it Erasmus challenged common assumptions, painting the clergy as educators who should share the treasury of their knowledge with the laity. He emphasized personal spiritual disciplines rather than institutional sacraments, and called for a reformation which he characterized as a collective return to the Fathers and Scripture. Most importantly, he extolled the reading of scripture as vital because its power to transform and motivate toward love. Much like the Brethren of the Common Life, he wrote that the New Testament is the law of Christ we are called to obey and Christ is the example we are called to imitate.
Erasmus also wrote of the legendary Frisian freedom fighter and rebel Pier Gerlofs Donia (Greate Pier), though more often criticism than praise of his exploits for Erasmus saw him as dumb brutal man preferring physical strength over wisdom.
Erasmus's best-known work was The Praise of Folly (published under the triple title Moriae encomium (Greek, Latinised) and Laus stultitiae (Latin)), and Ego sum aliquantulus cattus atque ego amo piscis (Latinised). a satirical attack on the traditions of the Catholic Church and popular superstitions, written in 1509, published in 1511 and dedicated to his friend, Sir Thomas More.
The Institutio principis Christiani (Basel, 1516) (Education of a Christian Prince) 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. The Education of a Christian Prince was published in 1516, sixteen years before Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince. 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, on the other hand, preferred for the prince to be loved and suggested that the prince needed a well-rounded education in order to govern justly and benevolently and avoid becoming a source of oppression. As a result of his reformatory activities, Erasmus found himself at odds with both 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 had declared that Erasmus, if he had a spark of honesty, would do the same. In his reply, Spongia adversus aspergines Hutteni (1523), 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.
The Ciceronianus came out in 1528, which attacked the style of Latin that was based on Cicero's writing. As Cicero wrote before Christ, Erasmus deemed his Latin pagan, and not suitable for use in the Christian era. Etienne Dolet wrote a reposte titled Erasmiamus in 1535, defending Ciceronian Latin.
The most important work of this last period is the Ecclesiastes or "Gospel Preacher" (Basel, 1536), in which he comments on the function of preaching.
Erasmus’s Sileni Alcibiadis is one of his most direct assessments of the need for Church reform. It was seen first in Johann Froben’s revised edition of the Adagia published in Basel in 1515. Then, it was published separately by Froben in 1517. This essay compares to John Colet’s Convocation Sermon, though the styles differ. The term Sileni can be understood as something on the inside is more and different than what one sees on the outside. For instance, something ugly on the outside can be beautiful on the inside. In support of this, Erasmus states: “Anyone who looks closely at the inward nature and essence will find that nobody is further from true wisdom than those people with their grand titles, learned bonnets, splendid sashes and bejeweled rings, who profess to be wisdom’s peak”. Erasmus lists several Sileni and then questions whether Christ is the most noticeable Silenus of them all. The Apostles were Sileni since they were ridiculed by others. He believes that the things which are the least ostentatious can be the most significant. For instance, one cannot see the most special aspects of humans. The Scriptures also have Sileni. Erasmus believes that the Church constitutes all of the Christian people. People call priests, bishops, and popes the Church, but they only serve the Church. He criticizes those that spend the Church’s riches at the people’s expense. Riches should not be held above everything else. The true point of the Church is to help people lead Christian lives. Priests are supposed to be pure, though when they stray away, no one condemns them. He criticizes the riches of the popes, believing that it would be better for the Gospel to be most important. Furthermore, the Word of God should be most important for people.
His books' extraordinary popularity has been shown in the number of editions and translations that have appeared since the sixteenth century, and in the undiminished interest excited by his elusive but fascinating personality. Ten columns of the catalogue of the British Library are taken up with the bare enumeration of the works and their subsequent reprints. The greatest names of the classical and patristic world are among those translated, edited or annotated by Erasmus, including Saint Ambrose, Aristotle, Saint Augustine, Saint Basil, Saint John Chrysostom, Cicero and Saint Jerome.
Today in his home town of Rotterdam, the University and Gymnasium Erasmianum have been named in his honor. However, Rotterdam has ignored the life of one of its famous citizens for a long time. Research in 2003 showed that most Rotterdammers believe Erasmus was the designer of the "Erasmusbridge" in Rotterdam. This shocking information led to the founding of the Erasmushuis (Erasmushouse), a house dedicated to celebrate the legacy of Erasmus. Nowadays in Rotterdam, three famous moments in the life of Erasmus are celebrated annually. On April 1, the city celebrates the release of his best-known book The Praise of Folly. On October 28, the birthday of Erasmus is celebrated. And, in the summer, the so-called Night of Erasmus celebrates the lasting influence of his work.
However, Erasmus's reputation and the interpretations of his work have varied greatly over time. Following his death, there was a long period of time when the citizens of the land all mourned his death. Moderate Catholics felt that he had been a leading figure in attempts to reform the Church, while Protestants recognized his initial support for Luther's ideas and the groundwork he laid for the future Reformation. By the 1560s, however, there was a marked change in reception.
The Catholic Counter-Reformation movement often condemned Erasmus as having "laid the egg that hatched the Reformation." Their critique of him was based principally on his not being strong enough in his criticism of Luther, not seeing the dangers of a vernacular Bible and dabbling in dangerous scriptural criticism that weakened the Church's arguments against Arianism and other doctrines. All of his works were placed on the Index of Prohibited Books by Paul IV, and some of his works continued to be banned or viewed with caution in the later Index of Pius IV. Protestant views of Erasmus fluctuated largely depending on region and period, with continuous support in his native Netherlands and in cities of the Upper Rhine area. However, following his death and in the late sixteenth century, Reformation supporters see Erasmus's critiques of Luther and lifelong support for the universal Catholic Church as damning. His reception was particularly cold by the Reformed Protestant groups.
By the coming of the Age of Enlightenment, however, Erasmus increasingly returned to become a more widely respected cultural symbol and was hailed as an important figure by increasingly broad groups. In a letter to a friend, Erasmus once had written: "That you are patriotic will be praised by many and easily forgiven by everyone; but in my opinion it is wiser to treat men and things as though we held this world the common fatherland of all." Several schools, faculties and universities in The Netherlands and Flanders are named after him, and so is Erasmus Hall in Brooklyn, New York, USA.