Erasmus on Literature: His Ratio or ‘System’ of 1518/1519
None of the works included among Erasmus’ ‘Literary and Educational Writings’ in the Collected Works of Erasmus captures his most adventurous thinking about how texts signify in – and thereby make or remake – worlds of thought, feeling, and action. The one that comes closest to doing so, the Ratio verae theologiae (‘A System of True Theology’), was first published separately in 1518 and 1519, then appeared in the preliminaries to the New Testament in Erasmus’ (revised) 1519 edition.
This handy Ratio or compendious ‘System’ gave advice on how to interpret complex texts and develop persuasive arguments based upon them. Its lessons were applied to the canonical Scriptures as source, and to everyday Christian theology as target discourse. They unfold in response to the special difficulties and incitements of the biblical text in Latin and Greek, within a framework provided by classical grammar and rhetoric, adjusted to the examples of the Church Fathers as exemplary interpreters of the Bible. At every turn, the Ratio reveals the instincts and intuitions of an exceptional theorist and practitioner of the cognitive, social, and political arts of written language. This student edition, the first of its kind in any language, is based on the translation and notes by Robert D. Sider in the Collected Works of Erasmus Volume 41 . It is designed to make it easier to estimate the long-term value of this particular work and of Erasmus’ works more generally, and to allow for a multidisciplinary understanding of the lives of human beings as symbol-using creatures in worlds constructed partly by texts.
- Series: Erasmus Studies
- World Rights
- Page Count: 378 pages
- Illustrations: 4
- Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.8in x 9.0in
Reviews"This book provides compelling insights into Erasmus's views on interpreting the Bible and reading more generally. It will be helpful to students of renaissance literature and literary theory."
Peter Mack, Department of English and Comparative Literature, University of Warwick
"Vessey presents one of Erasmus' key texts on biblical scholarship in a fresh way by giving Sider's lucid, well-structured and annotated translation, preceded by five excellent, informative essays by recognized specialists. It is well done and a pleasure to read it, as is Grafton's insightful foreword. I learned a lot from this book that shows us a humanist theologian and Christian at work."
Jan Bloemendal, Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
“In the Ratio Erasmus carefully sets out his ideas on how literature can be read, interpreted, and appropriated in the best, most adequate, most responsible and most enriching way. These ideas have influenced hermeneutics from the sixteenth century to the present day. It was a brilliant idea to make this classic readily accessible in English to modern readers. Sider’s translation is lucid and reliable, the accompanying notes immensely informative, and the introductory essays, written by leading experts on Erasmus, extremely illuminating. This new edition is a sine qua non for understanding Erasmus and a beacon for anyone engaged in the interpretation of texts.”
Henk Jan de Jonge, Professor Emeritus of New Testament and Early Christian Literature, Leiden University
"It is hard to overestimate the significance of Erasmus' insights into how literature is produced and interpreted. Here at last as a stand-alone text is a fine English translation of the Ratio verae theologiae, an introduction to reading the New Testament and the work that most directly distilled Erasmus' view of how we understand literature. Specialists and students alike will be delighted, inspired, and enabled by this powerful, extremely substantial, and richly adorned edition."
Nigel Smith, William and Annie S. Paton Foundation Professor of Ancient and Modern Literature, Princeton University
"Erasmus’ Ratio of 1519, designed as a novice’s guide to interpreting the New Testament, serves here as a powerful entry into the life, leading ideas, and historical context of Europe’s most famous humanist. The splendid accompanying essays offer a rich complement to the translation and annotations of the text, explaining the principles of literary analysis which informed his theology."
Ann Blair, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor, Harvard University
Author InformationAnthony Grafton is Henry Putnam University Professor of History at Princeton University.
Mark Vessey is Principal of Green College and Professor of English Literature at the University of British Columbia.
Robert D. Sider is General Editor of the New Testament Scholarship for the Collected Works of Erasmus.
Table of contents
Foreword by Anthony Grafton
Notes on Contributors
Abbreviations and Works Frequently Cited
Abbreviations of Biblical Books Used in Explanatory Notes
Chronology of Erasmus’ Life and Works
Approaches to Erasmus’ Ratio or ‘System’ of 1518–1519
The Ratio in Erasmus’ Life and Work to 1519
Erasmus, Sacred Literature, and Literary Theory
Biblical Poetics in Scholasticism and the Ratio
The Ratio and Annotations of Erasmus as Theory and Practice of Biblical Interpretation
The Parable of Sincere and Sophistical Discourse in the Ratio
Scheme of Contents of the Ratio verae theologiae
Note on the Text
The Ratio verae theologiae
Preface: Purpose of the Ratio
Elements of a Method for the Study of Scripture
The Unity in Variety of the Gospel
‘The Wonderful Circle and Harmony of the Entire Drama of Christ’
The Figurative Character of the Language of Sacred Literature
Elements of a Method for the Study of Scripture (Concluded)
Conspectus of Church Fathers Cited in the Ratio
Concordance of Editions of the Ratio
Subjects and Courses