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Reviewed by:
  • Biblical Humanism and Scholasticism in the Age of Erasmus
  • Arnoud Visser (bio)
Erika Rummel , editor. Biblical Humanism and Scholasticism in the Age of Erasmus. Brill. viii, 334. £125.00, US$185.00

The front cover of this handsomely produced volume shows the title page of the 1519 Basel edition of the New Testament, edited, translated, and annotated by Erasmus of Rotterdam: an extensive title, framed by an elaborately engraved border depicting classical gods and personifications. Running over fifteen lines, Erasmus's printed title emphasizes the philological and theological credentials of the edition, concluding with an appeal to 'anyone who loves true Theology,' including, that is, his theological critics, to read the work carefully before judging it. Changes in the text, Erasmus argues, are not automatically detrimental, but could actually improve it. It is a fitting image for this volume devoted to the clash between scholastics and humanists over biblical studies in the early sixteenth century. Erasmus's call to read before judging also perfectly suits Rummel's scholarly agenda to 'right the balance in a historical narrative that has traditionally favoured the humanists.' This is a worthy cause, since many of the scholastic counterparts of the humanists are now still relatively little studied, and (presumably) even less read. In this respect, the book can usefully build on Rummel's important previous works in this area, in particular Erasmus and His Catholic Critics (1989), and The Humanist-Scholastic Debate in the Renaissance and Reformation. [End Page 354]

Rummel assembled an impressive team of international specialists who have produced thirteen chapters, roughly organized geographically. The volume opens with a preliminary part, containing Rummel's concise and lucid introduction, John Monfasani's sharp evaluation of biblical humanists in quattrocento Italy (especially Valla, Manetti, and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola), and Daniel Ménager's survey of Erasmus and the Reuchlin affair. The four sections that follow cover regional centres of scholarship. The first of these, about Spain, includes a study of Antonio Nebrija's biblical scholarship by Carlos de Valle Rodríguez, Alexander Coroleu's rich survey of Spanish anti-Erasmians, and Charles Fantazzi's introduction to Juan Luis Vives's anti-scholastic treatises, especially Against the Pseudodialecticians. Two subsequent articles explore biblical scholarship at the Paris Theology Faculty, including Guy Bedouelle's treatment of Jacques Lefèvre d'Etaples and his critics, and James Farge's study of the powerful traditionalist Noël Beda.

A third section is devoted to the academic milieu at Louvain. Cecilia Asso assesses the theological programs of Martin Dorp and Edward Lee, clearly showing how these resist a clear-cut dichotomy between humanist techniques and the scholastic theological tradition. Focusing especially on Jacques Masson (Latomus), Marcel Gielis subsequently illuminates the relations between Erasmus and the Louvain theologians. Paolo Sartori provides a brief synopsis of Frans Titelmans, the author of a dialogue exploring the merits of a humanist approach to the Bible. Finally, the climate in Italy is explored in three essays, starting with an impressive overview of biblical humanism in papal Rome by Paul Grendler, followed by two nuanced and richly documented case studies of Alberto Pio, prince of Carpi (Nelson Minnich), and Agostino Steuco (Ronald Delph).

The organization of the volume has the virtue of giving a fuller picture of the local specificities of the controversies surrounding biblical humanism. One of its drawbacks, however, is that it sometimes obscures an important aim of the book, namely to illuminate more systematically the vitality of scholastic theology per se in the age of Erasmus. For this reason the book is perhaps less helpful as a 'companion' (as the publisher styles the series in which this book appeared) to biblical scholasticism; yet it is certainly a stimulating and valuable contribution to a more balanced study of biblical humanism.

Arnoud Visser

Arnoud Visser, Department of Classics and Institute for Cultural Disciplines, University of Leiden



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