Erasmus and His Edition of Saint Hilary
UNTIL QUITE RECENTL the interest of Renaissance humanists
in the writings of the early Church Fathers has been sadly
neglected. The most glaring example of this disregard perhaps is in the case of Erasmus. This "prince of humanists"
certainly has been widely and deeply studied, yet his patristic
scholarship -- which has been called "the core of his intellectual life" and to which it has been said that he devoted "the
better part of his existence"
1 -- has been ignored generally.
For example, in his biography of Erasmus Preserved Smith dismissed this enormous segment of his life's work in a few pages in a chapter dealing with Erasmus' miscellaneous writings," and J. E. Sandys, in his three-volume History of Classical Scholarship, gave but a sentence to it. 2The why of this neglect is hard to understand, but the fact remains. The situation is happily being remedied, however, and thanks to the efforts of many scholars we are gaining a better understanding and appreciation of the religious aspect of Renaissance humanism and of the biblical and patristic scholarship it embraced. 3
It was my intention originally to deal with Erasmus and the Latin Fathers, but I soon became aware that the subject is too vast. The words of Werner Jaeger can be quoted as an indication of its breadth and importance: "In the last analysis, his Christian humanism goes back to the Greek Fathers who had created it in the fourth century. But his direct authorities were in the main the Latin Fathers, many of whose works he edited, along with the New Testament. St. Augustine's