Sivut kuvina

too thankful for the light that has been thrown upon the true meaning of the Holy Scripture." Archbishop Warham writes what is almost an official letter, to tell Erasmus that his edition of the New Testament has been welcomed by all his brother bishops in England to whom he has shown it. Bishop Tunstall was away in Holland, where, amidst the insanitary condition of the islands of Zeeland, which he so graphically describes, he finds consolation in the study of the work. He cannot too highly praise it—not merely as the opening up of Greek sources of information upon the meaning of the Bible, but as affording the fullest commentary on the sacred text.1 Bishop Fisher was equally clear as to the service rendered to religion by Erasmus in this version of the Testament; and when, in 1519, Froben had agreed to bring out a second edition, Erasmus turned to Fisher and More to assist in making the necessary corrections.2

More defended his friend most strenuously. Writing to Marten Dorpius in 1515, he upbraided him with suggesting that theologians would never welcome the help afforded to biblical studies by Erasmus's work on the Greek text o the Bible. He ridicules as a joke not meriting a serious reply the report that Erasmus and his friends had declared there was no need of the theologians and philosophers, but that grammar would suffice. Erasmus, who has studied in the universities of Paris, Padua, Bologna, and Rome, and taught with distinction in some of them, is not likely to hold such absurd ideas. At the same time More does not hesitate to say that in many things he thinks some theologians are to be blamed, especially those who, rejecting all positive science, hold that man is born to dispute about questions of all kinds which have not the least practical utility " even as regards the pietas fidei, or the cultivation of sound morals."

At great length More defends the translation against

[ocr errors]

the insinuations made by Dorpius, who evidently regarded it as a sacrilege to suggest that the old Latin editions in use in the Church were incorrect. St. Jerome, says More, did not hesitate to change when he believed the Latin to be wrong, and Dorpius's suggestion that Erasmus should have only noted the errors and not actually made any change would, had the same principle been applied, have prevented St. Jerome's work altogether. If it was thought proper that the Latin codices should be corrected at that time by Greek manuscripts, why not now? The Church had then an equally recognised version before the corrections of St. Jerome.1

There were, indeed, as might be expected, some discordant notes in the general chorus of English praise. For the time, however, they remained unheeded, and, in fact, were hardly heard amid the general verdict of approval, in which the Pope, cardinals, and other highlyplaced ecclesiastics joined. Erasmus, however, was fully prepared for opposition of a serious character. Writing to Cambridge at the time, he says that he knows what numbers of people prefer "their old mumpsimus to the new sumpsimus," and condemn the undertaking on the plea that no such work as the correction of the text of Holy Scripture ought to be undertaken without the authority of a general Council.'

It is easy to understand the grounds upon which men who had been trained on old methods looked with anxiety, and even horror, at this new departure. Scholarship and literary criticism, when applied to the pagan classics, might be tolerable enough; but what would be the result were the same methods to be used in the examination of the works of the Fathers, and more especially in criticism of the text of the Holy Scripture itself? Overmuch study of the writings of

Thomas More, Epigrammata (ed. Frankfort, 1689), p. 284 seqq. * Ibid., Ep. 148.

ancient Greece and Rome had, it appeared to many, in those days, hardly tended to make the world much better: even in high places pagan models had been allowed to displace ideals and sentiments, which if barbarous and homely, were yet Christian. Theologians had long been accustomed to look upon the Latin Vulgate text as almost sacrosanct, and after the failure of the attempt in the thirteenth century to improve and correct the received version, no critical revision had been dreamt of as possible, or indeed considered advisable. Those best able to judge, such as Warham and More and Fisher, were not more eager to welcome, than others to condemn and ban, this attempt on the part of Erasmus to apply the now established methods of criticism to the sacred text. Not that the edition itself was in reality a work of either sound learning or thorough scholarship. As an edition of the Greek Testament it is now allowed on all hands to have no value whatever; but the truth is, that the Greek played only a subordinate part in Erasmus's scheme. His principal object was to produce a new Latin version, and to justify this he printed the Greek text along with it. And this, though in itself possessing little critical value, was, in reality, the starting-point for all modern Biblical criticism. As a modern writer has said, "Erasmus did nothing to solve the problem, but to him belongs the honour of having first propounded it."

It must, however, be borne in mind that the publication of Erasmus's New Testament was not, as is claimed for it by some modern writers, a new revelation of the Gospel to the world at large, nor is it true that the sacred text had become so obscured by scholastic theological disquisitions on side issues as almost to be forgotten. According to Mr. Froude, "the New Testament to the mass of Christians was an unknown book," when Erasmus's edition, which was multiplied and spread all over Europe, changed all this. Pious and ignorant men had come to look on the text of the Vulgate as inspired. "Read it intelligently they could not, but they had made the language into an idol, and they were filled with horrified amazement when they found in page after page that Erasmus had anticipated modern critical corrections of the text, introduced various readings, and re-translated passages from the Greek into a new version."1 The truth is that the publication of the New Testament was in no sense an appeal ad populum, but to the cultivated few. A writer in the Quarterly Review, commenting upon Mr. Froude's picture of the effect of the new edition on the people generally, is by no means unjust when he says, "Erasmus beyond all question would have been very much astonished by this account of the matter. Certain it is that during the Middle Ages the minds of the most popular preachers and teachers (and we might add of the laity too) were saturated with the sacred Scriptures."2 Loud, however, was the outcry in many quarters against the rash author. His translations were glibly condemned, and it was pointed out as conclusive evidence of his heterodoxy that he had actually changed some words in the Our Father, and substituted the word congregatio for ecclesia." The year 1519 witnessed the most virulent and per

1 Erasmus, p. 63. 2 Quarterly Review, January, 1895, P- 23.

5 The question about Erasmus's translation of this word came up in the discussion between Sir Thomas More and Tyndale about the use made by the latter of the word congregation for Church in his version of the New Testament. More writes: "Then he asketh me why I have not contended with Erasmus, whom he calls my darling, all this long time, for translating this word ecclesia into this word congregatio, and then he cometh forth with his proper taunt, that I favour him of likelihood for making of his book of Moria in my house. . . . Now for his translation of ecclesia by congregatio his deed is nothing like Tyndale's. For the Latin tongue had no Latin word used before for the Church but the Greek word ecclesia therefore Erasmus in his new translation gave it a Latin word. . . . Erasmus also meant no heresy therein, as appears by his writings against the heretics." (English Works, pp. 421, 422.)

sistent attacks upon the good name of Erasmus. Of these, and the malicious reports being spread about him, • he_ complains in numerous letters at this period. One Englishman in particular at this time, and subsequently, devoted all his energies to prove not only that Erasmus had falsified many of his translations, but that his whole spirit in undertaking the work was manifestly uncatholic This was Edward Lee, then a comparatively unknown youth, but who was subsequently created Archbishop of York. In February, 1519, Erasmus wrote to Cardinal Wolsey, complaining of these continued attacks upon his work, although so many learned men, including bishops, cardinals, and even the Pope Leo X. himself, had given their cordial approval to the undertaking. Those who were at the bottom of the movement against the work, he considered, were those who had not read it, though they still had no shame in crying out against it and its author. He was told that in some public discourses in England he had been blamed for translating the word verbum in St. John's Gospel by senno, and about this matter he addressed a letter to the Pope defending himself.1 To the Bishop of Winchester he wrote more explicitly about his chief opponent. "By your love for me," he says, " I beg you will not too readily credit those sycophants about me, for by their action all things seem to me at present infected by a deadly plague. If Edward Lee can prove that he knows better than I do, he will never offend me. But when he, by writing and speech, and by means of his followers, spreads rumours hurtful to my reputation, he is not even rightly consulting his own reputation. He has openly shown a hostile spirit against me, who never, either in word or deed, have done him harm. He is young, and lusts for fame. . . . Time will bring all to light. Truth may be obscured; overcome it cannot be."2 To the English king he writes that in all he had published

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« EdellinenJatka »