Desiderius Erasmus

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Analyze The Manual of a Christian Knight (1501) by Desiderius Erasmus.

In The Manual of a Christian Knight by Desiderius Erasmus, the author attempts to show his fellow Christians that the best way to be a Christian is to follow the teachings of Christ, not by performing rituals. Erasmus's downplaying of the significance of rituals in religious life foreshadows the arguments of Protestants during the Reformation.

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Although Erasmus went to his grave as a loyal Catholic, many of his critics within the Church accused him of having laid the ground for the Protestant Reformation. With his withering attacks on certain aspects of late medieval devotional life, Erasmus was said to have undermined the authority of the...

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Although Erasmus went to his grave as a loyal Catholic, many of his critics within the Church accused him of having laid the ground for the Protestant Reformation. With his withering attacks on certain aspects of late medieval devotional life, Erasmus was said to have undermined the authority of the Church, thus providing an opening for Protestant Reformers like Martin Luther.

Erasmus's criticisms of the practices of the Catholic Church crop up in many of his publications, but one of the most notable is The Manual of a Christian Knight, published in 1501. Here, Erasmus uses an attempt to convince an uncouth knight to change his ways to put forward a vision of Christian belief that emphasizes following the teachings of Christ rather than ritualistic practice.

In many respects, the knight represents many Christians in Europe at that time who believed that going on pilgrimages, worshipping the images of saints, and collecting relics were the most important parts of leading a goodly Christian life. Erasmus sought to challenge this notion, holding instead that true Christians should focus on following Christ's teachings by reading and meditating on the Scriptures.

This is yet another way in which Erasmus foreshadowed Protestant Reformers. They too emphasized the importance of closely studying the Bible, which for them was the inerrant Word of God.

Erasmus certainly didn't intend to undermine the Catholic Church's authority, let alone to do away with it altogether. But there's no question that in The Manual of a Christian Knight, as elsewhere in his work, he contributed significantly to the intellectual atmosphere that would, in due course, give rise to the Reformation.

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