Erasmus and the Humanists

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What is humanism?

  • Humanism in an intellectual movement across the whole of europe.
  • The study of the language and literature of the classical world
  • It was highly influential in politics, religion and education
  • It advocated the return to the study of latin and greek documents and they rigorously analysed their meanings
  • It emmerged due to the renaissance

It challenged the Catholic Church in two main ways:

1) It lead to questioning the elements of the church and it's behaivor

2) The Catholic humanists may have caused indesisiveness in the church

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The Renaissance (15th and 16th Century)

This was a period of immense cultural achievement in art, literature, music, science and philosphy.

It could be argued that it was the era where people began to think for themselves as individuals.

Tecnological advances were not only in Italy but Johannes Gutenburg developed the printing press.

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The significance of humanism

Humanism promoted indvidual thinking and rigorous analysis of latin and greek texts. This made a huge threat for the Catholic church as new philosophies were being made and it had the potential to form a new way of life.

The study of the Bible in the humanist movement was also contravertial as it undermined Papal authority and made protestantism seemed a more valid route to salvation.

However, if dealt with correctly, humanism could have avoided a schism in the church and instead made an enhanced church. This was the aim of Desiderus Erasmus.

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Desiderius Erasmus c. 1466- 1536

Erasmus was born in 1466 in Rotterdam and is a famous Christian Humanist. He strongly believed that Christianity could be improved through the revision of the Hebrew and Greek New and Old testament (a belief similar to Luther's Sola Scriptuta). He translated the New Testament into Greek in 1516 and Latin in 1519. Erasmus however differed to Luther in many ways and often clashed heads. Erasmus, unlike Luther, rejected predestination in his book The Free Will (1524). Ersamus also found Luther too heretical and believed his reformation will cause more bad than good. Instead of reform, Erasmus just wanted improvement. He did this by critisising the corrupt nature of the church in many of his writings.


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Other Humanists

Johannes Reuchlin

Reuchlin was a German Catholic and Humanist. He often studied hebrew texts and encouraged illiterate men to read the bible and form their own interpretation. He revealed the ancient Jewish tradition of Mystic interpretation of the Bible in 'De Arte Cabalistica' (1517)

Ulrich Von Hutten

Von Hutten was a German Humanist and nationalist. He was patriotic in his writings and criticized the foreign Pope in 'Vadiscus'. Von Hutten was also known for pledging military support for Luther


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