(a) The Life of Erasmus—A Brief Review
Erasmus was born at Rotterdam in 1466, the illegitimate son of a priest but well cared for by his parents. After their early death he was given the best education available to a young man of his day at first at Deventer and then at the Augustinian monastery at Steyn. In 1492 he was ordained priest, but there is no record that he ever functioned as such. By 1495 he was studying in Paris. In 1499 he went to England, where he made the helpful friendship of John Colet, later dean of St. Paul's who quickened his interest in biblical studies. He then went back to France and the Netherlands. In 1505 he again visited England and then passed three years in Italy. In 1509 he returned to England for the third time and taught at Cambridge University until 1514. In 1515 he went to Basel, where he published his New Testament in 1516, then back to the Netherlands for a sojourn at the University of Louvain. Then he returned to Basel in 1521 and remained there until 1529, in which year he removed to the imperial town of Freiburg-im-Breisgau. Finally, in 1535, he again returned to Basel and died there the following year in the midst of his Protestant friends, without relations of any sort, so far as known, with the Roman Catholic Church. (3)
One might think that all this moving around would have interfered with Erasmus' activity as a scholar and writer, but quite the reverse is true. By his travels he was brought into contact with all the intellectual currents of his time and stimulated to almost superhuman efforts. He became the most famous scholar and author of his day and one of the most prolific writers of all time, his collected works filling ten large volumes in the Leclerc edition of 1705 (phototyped by Olms in 1962). (4) As an editor also his productivity was tremendous. Ten columns of the catalogue of the library in the British Museum are taken up with the bare enumeration of the works translated, edited, or annotated by Erasmus, and their subsequent reprints. Included are the greatest names of the classical and patristic world, such as Ambrose, Aristotle, Augustine, Basil, Chrysostom, Cicero, and Jerome. (5) An almost unbelievable showing.
To conclude, there was no man in all Europe better prepared than Erasmus for the work of editing the first printed Greek New Testament text, and this is why, we may well believe, God chose him and directed him providentially in the accomplishment of this task.