Who were Desiderious Erasmus and Thomas More and what did they attempt to do with their writings?

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larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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B Erasmus and More were humanist writers of the Northern Renaissance. They were good friends and often shared ideas with each other.

Desiderious Erasmus believed that reform and moral improvement came by way of education. His writing was predominantly religion with emphasis on the teachings and life of Jesus; and believed that Christianity should not be mere formal worship ceremonies. He was responsible for a new translation of the New Testament from the original Greek after he discovered errors in the Vulgate. In his preface to his translation, he wrote:

 I utterly dissent from those who are unwilling that the sacred Scriptures should be read by the unlearned, translated into their vulgar tongue, as though Christ had taught such subtleties that can scarcely be understood, even by a few theologians. Christ wished his mysteries to be published as openly as possible. I wish that even the weakest woman should read the Gospels—should read the epistles of Paul. And I wish these were translated into all languages, so that they might be read and understood not only by Scots and Irishmen but also by Turks and Saracens. Who do we prefer to study the wisdom of Christ in men’s writings rather than in the writing of Christ himself?

His other major work, In Praise of Folly, criticized a number of practices of the Catholic Church. He wrote it at the home of Sir Thomas More, and incorporated a clever play on words, as its title in Latin, Encomium Moriae, translates "In Praise of More."

More, unlike other Humanists, remained a loyal Catholic all his life and staunchly defended the church. His most famous work is Utopia, in which he described a perfect society. More was Chancellor for Henry VIII, but resigned his position when Henry Divorced Catherine of Aragon. His real objection was to the Act of Supremacy which made the King head of the Church in England. He believed only the Pope could be head of the Church. He was beheaded for treason because of his position. His last words from the scaffold were:

I die the King's good and loyal servant; but God's first.


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