Sunday, June 14, 2015
David Daniell on Erasmus Legends
I was reading today from David Daniell’s classic work, William Tyndale: A Biography (Yale, 1994). I was struck by his discussion of Erasmus’ Novum Instrumentum where Daniell makes reference to the “legend” that Erasmus rushed the work into print and that it was subsequently riddled with errors. Here, in part, are his comments:
There is a legend that Erasmus worked with Froben his printer at break-neck speed in 1516 in order to get ahead in the market…. The legend, partly resulting from Erasmus’ own explanation of haste, perhaps as a cover for possible errors, has been used to condemn the enterprise; in fact, all the parts of Erasmus’s volumes show care and accuracy (pp. 60-61).
Indeed, the “legend” that Erasmus did his work quickly and sloppily was popularized by Bruce Metzger in his influential works on text criticism and those ideas were then picked up and passed on by others (like D. A. Carson and James White). I believe that these legends were largely promoted in the modern era in order to undermine the authority of the Textus Receptus. The first I heard of anyone debunking these Erasmus legends was in the writings of Erasmian scholar M. A. Screech. David Daniell’s voice can now be added as well. For more on this listen to the discussions in WM # 25 and WM # 26.