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Desiderius Erasmus


Desiderius Erasmus was one of the great humanists. He was
well educated and practice scholasticism. He was also a
great writer, who wrote books of many types. He is even
called the greatest European scholar of the 16th century
(Britannica Macropedia). He was also courageous, as he
criticized the Church harshly. It was said by R. C. Trench
that "Erasmus laid the egg of the Reformation and Luther
hatched it."
Erasmus was the illegitimate son of a priest named Gerard.
This fact would haunt him for his entire life. He feared
that, if this fact was widely known, his life would be
ruined. Therefore, there has been much confusion about his
early life. It has been discerned that he as born in Gouda,
Holland in 1469 and that he had a brother. Erasmus tried to
keep all these facts hidden, confusing modern day
historians. He died in 1536.
Erasmus's writings included The Praise of Folly, a satire
which pointed out major problems in the clergy, saying that
monks were beggars, the clergy was greedy, and that the
pope had no resemblance to the Apostles. He also wrote a
short satirical skit in which Pope Julius II had trouble
getting into heaven. In the skit, Pope Julius II is made
out to be more of a Muslim than a Catholic. Writing this
had to take considerable courage, for, though the Church
was in decline, it still had considerable power. He also
published the Greek version of the New Testament in Latin,
so Europeans could read it.
Erasmus was a traveller. He lived in many places in Europe
at different times. He had lived in Rome, Paris, England,
and many other European countries. His worked as a writer,
but was dependant on gifts of nobles as most writers of the
time were. In his travels he befriended many humanists.
Erasmus became a humanist because of his education. He
studied both ancient Greek and Latin. He had tried to be
monk and a priest, but could not. He went to Paris where he
mastered Latin. He received a good education there. This
education, combined with his morality, made him a great
humanist. He had both the knowledge and the ethics to
criticize the Church (a person who lacked ethics and
criticized the Church would be a hypocrite).
Surprisingly, Erasmus was both tolerant and a pacifist. He,
apparently, picked up these traits when in England. I find
this extremely unusual and admirable, considering that, at
that time, it was considered wrong for a person to be
tolerant. I imagine that Erasmus had to be tolerant, as he
visited many places in his lifetime, some Anglican, some
Catholic, some Lutheran, and probably some Calvinist
settlements also.
Erasmus was one of the great humanists of the 1500's. His
books were widely read, so his ideas were spread throughout
Europe. His criticism of the Church was therefore heard
throughout Europe. He preferred reasoning to bloodshed,
unlike many others of his time. While he did not criticize
the Church as much as Luther had, he did call for an end to
the corruption which had seeped to the core of the Church.
In my opinion, Erasmus was a great man . He reasoned while
others fought. He was courageous in his criticism of the
Church. He had morality and was well educated. He was a
pacifist and a man of tolerance. I can only say that he was
a great man and a superb humanist. 


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