One of the most important figures of the 16th century, Desiderius Erasmus was a leading reformist and Renaissance humanist. Through his works and letters, Erasmus championed that true religion was a matter of inward devotion rather than outward symbols of ceremony and ritual, and sought to reform aspects of the Church from within. His works showed an astonishing intelligence, razor-sharp wit, and an authentic love for God and humanity. Soon after publication, his works were translated and read all over Europe.
In Praise of Folly, Erasmus's best-known work, is considered one of the most notable works of the Renaissance humanists. His satirical lampooning of the traditions of European society, of the Catholic Church, and superstitions popular in his day sparked wide acclaim and wide condemnation—and sold far better than he anticipated. The work was quickly translated all over Europe, and was read for its humor, irony, rhetorical art, and statement of Christian ideals which Erasmus espoused.
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We must not forget one of the greatest champions of light against the darkness, of peace against war, of the spirit against the letter, of comprehension against exclusion, of reason against dogma—Erasmus.
Perhaps no man wielded a greater influence in the sixteenth century than Erasmus. Both in his relation to Protestantism and Romanism, Erasmus was an epoch-making personality. The modern age cannot be understood without a study of his writings and the tracing of his influence.
—The Reformed Church Review
To read Erasmus is to grow in wisdom.
—Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536) was a priest, scholar, author, and translator known as a leading figure in the Renaissance humanist movement before and during the Reformation. In 1506 he graduated as Doctor of Divinity from Turin University, and later was Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge. He then taught at Queens College, Cambridge for five years before becoming an independent scholar. Erasmus' works were very influential; his books were produced in many editions and translations and printed all through Europe during his lifetime.