Erasmus Biography

Desiderius Erasmus gained fame throughout 16th-century Europe for his scholarly and popular writings, including pointed, witty criticisms of civil rulers, the clergy and religious superstition. The Catholic priesthood, to which he was ordained in 1492, held little appeal for him and he became a prolific and sought-after scholar of literature, history and languages. His widely read The Praise of Folly (1509) poked satirical fun at church and state. As a Christian humanist, he advocated religious and biblical education toward a simple faith accessible to all. These ideas further riled the Catholic establishment and heavily influenced Reformers such as Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli. But Erasmus also found himself at odds with the Reformation, a movement he never joined, because of his distaste for its tumults and his emphasis on the ethics of a good Christian life rather than on doctrines. He and Luther famously argued in writing in 1524-25 about sin, grace and free will.

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Certain details of his early life are unclear, in part because he was born to unmarried parents. His birth name was probably Gerrit Gerritszoon, but Erasmus may also have been a given name. He settled on Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus in 1506... He lectured at Cambridge University in England for a time and was a close friend of Sir Thomas More... Erasmus' Greek translation of the New Testament portion of the Christian Bible was the first ever published (1516).

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