Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Today in Church History: Birth of Ernst Käsemann; Death of Erasmus

I was going to note that on 12 July 1906, the famed Neutestamentler Ernst Käsemann(1906-1998), who launched the “Second Quest for the Historical Jesus” was born.  But, Jim West beat me to it. 

Jim, however, seems to have missed the significance of today for another giant in church history.  12 July 1536 was the day that the Catholic humanist and biblical scholar, Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) died.  Erasmus, from Rotterdam in the Netherlands, prepared the Greek New Testament that was a major factor in the launching of the Protestant Reformation.  Although remaining Catholic, Erasmus influenced Luther, Zwingli, and several of the Anabaptists. Erasmus was also a pacifist–although of a very different type from most of the Anabaptists. He attempted to reform the Catholic Church from within, and was as shocked by the willingness of Reformers (both Magisterial and Radical) to split the Church as he was by the excesses and superstitions of late Medieval Catholicism.

July 12, 2007 - Posted by | Bible, church history


  1. Micheal, are you sure Erasmus was a pacifist? I was under the impression that he was merely an invertebrate.

    Comment by Looney | July 12, 2007

  2. Looney, I am certain that Erasmus was both vertebrate and pacifist. For an examination of Erasmus on war and peace, see the chapter on Erasmus in Lisa Sowle Cahill’s Love Your Enemies: Discipleship, Pacifism, and Just War Theory which examines the history of the church’s approach to war and peace and interpretation of Scripture on these issues (especially the history of interpretation on the Sermon on the Mount). Or see the chapter on Erasmus in Sr. Eileen Egan’s Peace Be With You: Justified Warfare or the Way of Nonviolence.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 12, 2007

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