The Relation of Erasmus to the Reformation Part 1 -- By: Charles A. Nash

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 095:379 (Jul 1938)
Article: The Relation of Erasmus to the Reformation Part 1
Author: Charles A. Nash


The Relation of Erasmus to the Reformation
Part 1

Charles A. Nash

I. Historical Sketch

Men of the present time are all too prone to look back upon the Middle Ages through the deceptive glamour which four centuries have cast over it. Not until the happenings of that era are seen through the eyes of contemporaries is one enabled to perceive clearly what was actually taking place then in Europe. And not until those events are considered in their relationship to some central happening can they be clearly understood.

1. Early Life.

On October 28, 1467, at Rotterdam was born an individual, one Gerrard, through whose discerning eyes all succeeding generations have been able to look back upon those chaotic times, and about whose eminent figure whirled much of the turbulence which preceded the beginnings of our own modern age.

Born a Gerrard, he soon changed his name into its Latin equivalent, Desiderius, and its Greek one, Erasmus. As Desiderius Erasmus he has come down to modern times, and under that name he shall go throughout this sketch.

Little definite information is to be had of the birth and early life of Erasmus. Much of what is written of that period is legendary. Certainly too much so to furnish the basis for its use in this story. Erasmus’ own letters show that his father was at some time a monk. Of his mother little

is known except that she hoped that her youngest son might become a chorister.

Whether the point that the lad had little or no real talent along the line of singing, or that he detested it as then done, has most bearing on it, the fact remains that the chorister plan was early abandoned, and he was entered as a day pupil at a school at Deventer. There the boy, who was naturally studious, showed marked talents along other lines. He early memorized Horace and Terence, wrote verses of his own, held impromptu debates and devoured every available book. And there he was associated with many notables of the following years, among them Adrian of Utrecht, who was finally to become Pope during the dispute with Luther.

Erasmus held no exalted opinion of his master at Deventer, although he was a friend of his father’s. Since this is a characteristic attitude of men of genius for those who have attempted to mold them into the common pattern, and since the friendship of the two older men continued, this fact may not mean as much as he would have it. Certainly a knowledge of the idiosyncrasies of Erasmus’ later years causes one to believe that there may have been two sides to the matter.

When Erasmus was about eleven both his father and mother died. He and Peter, hi...

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