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Nothing is more central to the religious thinking of Erasmus of Rotterdam than the reality of Christ—in his eyes, that supreme revelation of divine mercy embodied in the life of Jesus of Nazareth to which Christian scriptures variously testify, but also the divine presence undergirding that life-centering ethic of love and peace, what Erasmus calls the "philosophy of Christ." The purpose of this book is to distill the Christological elements from his vast corpus in a manner that shows the range, coherence, and value of Erasmus’ thinking on Christological questions. While Erasmus works within the broad parameters of orthodox teaching, his critical skills with languages, accent on rhetoric in theology, keen sense of irony, appreciation for the limits of human knowledge, incipient sense of history, emphasis on the welfare of humanity, and passionate defense of peace, give his work a distinctive stamp and thereby make a singular contribution to the history of Christology. What Erasmus contributes to discussions of the divinity of Christ is a counsel of restraint in metaphysical speculation, an accent on the revelatory breadth of the eternal Word of God, and an invitation to think of Christ incarnate as the eloquent oration of God. But the central impulse of the Christology of Erasmus is the affirmation of the full incarnation of Christ in human existence, abstaining as much as possible from docetic insulation of the divine from the struggles of human experience, in order to highlight the redemptive capacity of Christ for the transformation of human life. With that, the ethical capstone of Erasmus’ reflections on Christ centers on the responsibility to imitate Christ’s love for others, and thus for advancing the cause of peace in personal and social life. This books adds the voice of this remarkable Catholic humanist to the history of theological discussions in the early modern era, while also restoring its rightful place in the broader history of Christology.
Terence J. Martin is professor emeritus of Religious Studies, Saint Mary’s College (Ind.) and author of Truth and Irony: Philosophical Meditations on Erasmus.
"Martin does an excellent job of unpacking Erasmus’s Christology from Erasmus’s broad range of writings. There has not been a book-length study of Erasmus’s Christology and this is a significant scholarly contribution that will be appreciated by specialists in the field and anyone interested in Reformation era theology."~Gregory Dodds, Walla Walla University