Expositions of the Psalms: Enarratio Psalmi 38, De sarcienda ecclesiae concordia; Enarratio Psalmi 14, Qui est de puritate tabernaculi sive ecclesiae christianae. By Desiderius Erasmus. Edited by Dominic Baker-Smith; translated and annotated by Carolinne White and Emily Kearns. [Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 65] (Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 2010. Pp. xxvi; 299. $110.00. ISBN 978-0-802-09979-2.)
This volume is the third and final work of Erasmus's expositions of the psalms in the Collected Works of Erasmus (CWE). It displays the same care, accuracy, and elegance scholars have come to expect of all volumes in CWE. Like volumes 63 and 64, this one follows the chronological order in which Erasmus published these works (unlike the Ledere [LB] and Amsterdam [ASD] editions of Erasmus's Opera Omnia, which follow the Psalms sequentially). Dominic Baker-Smith provides a thoughtful introduction to the three psalms, referring readers to his (excellent) introduction in volume 63 to understand "the full range and the implications of Erasmus' engagement with the Psalms" (p. xi); Carolinne White and Emily Kearns give insightful introductions to their respective pieces.
Of singular importance in Erasmus's expositions of these psalms is the access they give to the author's spiritual yearnings and theological developments; to the effects of the demands and attacks continually made on him; and to the changes in his outlook on the tumultuous world of Reformation Europe in the five years before his death in July 1536, when he still harbored hope for a theological accommodation with groups at odds with the Roman Church. As the editor puts it, "These three works represent his final thoughts on the great crisis facing western Christendom, but they are thoughts which have to be understood within a particular phase of the response to the Reformation" (p. xii). Erasmus still placed hope in a council; short of that, in an assembly of right-minded men who, in good faith, might reach a compromise acceptable to all interested parties.
The free flow of ideas in Erasmus's enarrationes brings us to the heart of his biblical-humanist spirituality. Expounding Psalm 38, published in 1532, he pours out his inner life and anguish in meditative instruction for readers. He interprets the words of the psalm as a metaphor of the Christian who, although chastised publicly, refrains from lashing back at accusers and detractors, learns to control his responses so that they be productive of Christian community, and- in respect to this moment of the Church's crises- finds the patience to listen with an open heart to the other's teachings. …