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Thread: Erasmus - Valladolid inquiistion inquiry

  1. Default Erasmus - Valladolid inquiistion inquiry

    Religious Authority in the Spanish Renaissance (2000)
    Chapter 2 Erasmus and the New Testament
    The Valladolid Conference of 1527
    Lu Ann Homza

    Valladolid is a little-known yet incredibly important conference that essentially put Erasmus, his books, his NT and beliefs on trial.

    The same sort of intellectual convolutions emerge from an even larger pool of evidence collected in 1527, in the northern Castilian city of Valladolid. In the summer of that year, the Inquisition called some thirty-three of Iberia’s most prominent theologians to Valladolid, and asked them to assess dubious, potentially heterodox excerpts from Erasmus’s writings. The same clerics met and quarreled for more than two months, but never reached a collective decision on the problematic passages. In fact, they never even pondered all the material under review, for once plague struck the area in early August, Inquisitor General Manrique sent them home, and they never reconvened. Modern scholars have turned the 1527 Valladolid conference into a symbol whose meaning duplicates the scholarship on Vergara’s prosecution: here, too, is a contest between the forces of reaction and progress, with predictable stances and participants; the meeting itself is supposed to signify only a momentary glitch in the swelling Erasmian revolution.1 Yet the Valladolid deliberations are more important than the dominant historiography allows, for the Inquisition not only asked the theologians to debate orally, but to record their opinions as well. Most of the participants did as they were told, and wrote down their views on the excerpts from Erasmus’s books; most of their reflections are extant. These surviving materials by Spain’s clerical elite are priceless sources for questions about religious authority and the Spanish Renaissance.2 p. 49-50

    ...The Valladolid theologians adduced earlier and later sources, appealed to history as well as Church tradition, and advocated more or less hierarchy and tolerance in their relationships with each other and with the laity. They seldom adhered to a consistent position, and rarely accepted or rejected Erasmus’s ideas in an absolute fashion. Their declarations confirm for Spain what we already know for Italy: Erasmus by way of his own writings, and Erasmus by way of his readers’ responses, could amount to two very different phenomena.3 p. 50

    ... On April 24, 1527, Juan de Vergara explained the reasons for the conference to Erasmus himself. In a letter, Vergara relayed the tumult that had occurred once Erasmus’s Enchiridion militis christianis had been translated into Spanish and published in Alcala, sometime in 1524: “[The monks] began to shout continuously from the pulpits, the marketplaces, the shrines, the basilicas (for shouters of this sort are distributed everywhere), Erasmus is heretical, blasphemous, impious, sacrilegious. What more? More enemies to you suddenly arose from the vernacular translation of the book than from Cadmus’s sowing of the teeth.”4 p. 50

    ... the monks stopped their sermonizing, immediately set off to find the errors in Erasmus’s books, and became so involved in their task that they did not even have time to hear confessions during Holy Week. p. 50-51

    ... The head of the Dominicans, Garcia Loaysa y Mendoza, spurned even the Latin edition of the Enchiridion because it deprecated purgatory and refused (famously) to equate monasticism with piety.5

  2. Default

    For now I am going to skip down to the parts about the heavenly witnesses:

    Whoever they were, the creators of the Valladolid repertory were not straightforward as they culled material from Erasmus’s works: they frequently isolated quotations, misidentified prose, and wielded paraphrases in an effort to make their suspect look as wicked as possible. They might label a passage as to make their suspect look as wicked as possible.

    ...In one instance, they sliced a single paragraph into three different accusations, which they placed under three different topics: in the process they inverted the order in which the points had originally appeared.17 Such maneuvers erased the quotations’ surrounding language and obscured their meaning. One example of such obfuscation occurred with Erasmus’s statement, “I do not see that what the Arians deny is able to be taught except by a ratiocination.” Erasmus made that remark in his first response to Stunica, in the midst of an argument about ancient Arian heretics and 1 John 5:7; he proposed that the Arians’ denial of the Trinity’s unity of essence could not be overturned through that New Testament verse alone.18 By the time Erasmus’s comment appeared in the Valladolid anthology, it had lost its specific environment: “what” now implied that everything the Arians denied was undemonstrable by direct scriptural proofs.

    ... Finally, the collectors of the charges listed successive points as if they formed part of a common discourse, when they often had nothing to do with each other. Such an invention occurred in the first section of the inventory, which was devoted to offenses against the Trinity. Within that category, the first two passages came from Erasmus’s 1521 apology against Stunica, and relayed his doubts over the canonicity of 1 John 5:7 and its effectiveness against Arianism.
    p. 53-54
    Then we get to the actual charges

    The first accusation the theologians debated on June 27 was a familiar one: Erasmus’s treatment of the verse called the comma Johanneum, 1 John 5:7, which read: “There are three who bear witness in heaven, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and these three are one.” The comma was recognized as the major proof-text against the Arian heresy because it supported the Trinity’s unity of essence. Erasmus had had the nerve to omit it from both the Greek and Latin texts of his first two editions of the New Testament, dated 1516 and 1519: he had used Greek as the archetype for the Latin, and he did not find the line in any of the Greek manuscripts he consulted.24 Lee and Stunica rebuked him for the excision on the grounds that Lorenzo Valla had not contested the comma’s authenticity.25 Later, in his third apologia against Lee, Erasmus explained why he had omitted the verse, and noted that if any Greek manuscript had contained it, he would have included it. An Irish text quickly appeared with the comma added in the margin by a contemporary hand.26 Erasmus restored the line in subsequent editions of the New Testament, but the Valladolid censors still wrote that he attacked the verse relentlessly, defended corrupt manuscripts, and thereby protected and even pleaded the Arian cause.27 All twenty-nine theologians responded to these allegations about 1 John 5:7, and twenty-three explicitly professed a belief in the comma’s legitimacy, including Francisco de Castillo, a Salamancan Franciscan, who declared that “First, I believe that testimony of blessed John, ‘Tres sunt...,’ to be from the canon of sacred Scripture.” Still, a few delegates questioned exactly how inviolable the verse really was, and participants disagreed as to whether the comma’s sanctity was determined simply by papal and conciliar references to it. One contingent pointed out the papacy’s failure to define an authentic scriptural text, and argued that delegates should not proclaim the comma’s canonicity when the Church itself had not done so. Another group asserted that customary invocation of the verse was enough to prove its authenticity.28 The conflict reveals that at least some participants would concede the lack of a conclusive version of the Latin Bible; their recognition of that fact matches Vergara’s acknowledgment of the same point. But the majority did not entertain such explosive issues in their written responses; instead, they concentrated on the more obvious aspects of Erasmus’s alleged errors.

    Erasmus’s treatment of the comma indicated that the Latin biblical text was amendable in light of the Greek, but most participants read the charge literally and refused to consider its ramifications. Eight delegates bluntly affirmed that Erasmus really could not find 1 John 5:7 in the Greek manuscripts he consulted, restored it when he did, and hence already had corrected his mistake. Lerma’s reaction was typical: “That he says that that triplicity of heavenly testimony was not found by him in a Greek manuscript, he amply demonstrates; and seeing that he does not omit that verse in his translation, it may be passed over.”29 Another approach was to go outside the charge in search of exculpatory material. Royal preacher Gil Lopez de Bejar, professor Antonio de Alcaraz, and the rector of the Spanish college at Bologna, Miguel Gomez, maintained that Erasmus expounded the comma brilliantly in his Paraphrase of 1 John: logically, that exposition proved that he accepted the comma as part of the canon. Gomez and Jacobo Cabrero, the Albanian bishop, even defended the omission with one of Erasmus’s own criteria for amending texts, for they pointed out that the comma was missing from the writings of the early church fathers, who surely would have used it in their polemics had it been available.30

    But literality, extra evidence, and a lack of patristic testimony could not sway others who argued on the simple basis of Latin superiority, and contended that Erasmus should not have preferred Greek in the first place. Like Lee and Stunica before him, Juan de Quintana, who moved in imperial circles, stated that Erasmus’s Greek manuscripts were fallacious. Diogo de Gouvea, head of the Portuguese college at the University of Paris, insisted that the comma had to be legitimate because of the authenticity of the whole epistle of John; Erasmus should have remained silent until the right manuscript came along, and anyone who doubted the verse’s veracity was comparable to “a burned-up heretic.”31 In all, fifteen out of twenty-nine delegates saw only Erasmus’s fault in expurgating the line, and refused to allow any circumstances to mitigate the omission. His reason for restoring the comma in 1522 did not make them any happier. While numerous participants felt that Erasmus should be exonerated because he eventually returned 1 John 5:7 to the New Testament, for others the reinstatement just deepened suspicions about his orthodoxy. In the Annotations on his New Testament translations, Erasmus wrote that he finally included the comma to avoid slander: ten theologians thus decided that his decisions about the verse signified more than just a philological quandary. Cordoba summed up their position by noting that Erasmus “openly implies that he added that testimony because he finds it written, not because he thus believed it or felt it must be believed.”32 Francisco de Vitoria, the famous commentator on Aquinas and controversialist on native Americans, claimed that Erasmus’s rationale left the reader doubtful, and therefore must be removed or revised. Even Lopez de Bejar, who seemed to understand Erasmus’s interest in Greek, wished he would bow to majority opinion and declare the comma’s rightful inclusion in canonical Scripture.33

    Then to Romans 9:5 and other verses and issues. Then on p. 61:

    A significant number of the respondents displayed some flexibility toward Erasmus’s annotations and alterations of scriptural language, particularly when the changes could be discovered in recognized sources. But the assembly as a whole was less amenable to the straightforward remarks that Erasmus could make about saints, in particular about Jerome, the traditional translator of the Latin Vulgate. The Spaniards’ charge had an elaborate history. In the first polemic that Stunica launched against Erasmus, he attacked his omission of the comma Johanneum, noted Jerome’s inclusion of the verse in the Vulgate, and pronounced Erasmus’s Greek manuscripts fallacious. In reply, Erasmus tried to turn evidence about Jerome against his adversary: he retorted that Jerome really doubted the authenticity of 1 John 5:7, actually trusted Greek manuscripts, and ultimately altered the common reading of the Church by allowing the comma to stand.41 Both men tried to use Jerome’s status for their own ends, but in the process Erasmus also observed that that church father was reckless, imprudent, and inconsistent. The Spanish architects of the repertory deliberately entwined his description into their complaint about the comma itself. I have italicized the relevant phrases:
    Erasmus in the Annotations of 1 John 5 defends corrupt manuscripts, rants and raves against the blessed Jerome, pleads and even defends the Arian cause. And for instance that passage, “There are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and these three are one,” he attacks with a relentless war, he spits out all judgments, he even piles up frivolous reasons to the contrary, he attacks the divine Jerome with these words: “Although that man, namely Jerome, very often is impetuous, too little prudent, often changeable and seldom constant to himself.’42

    When the theologians perused the charges, they simultaneously saw that Erasmus had emended Jerome’s text and abused him personally.

    The twenty-five respondents as a body censured Erasmus’s affront to Jerome’s dignity, although some also tried to exonerate him by interpreting the charge literally and refusing to consider its implications. Accordingly, a few wondered if his depiction of Jerome were true, although they went on to deplore it. Miguel Carrasco, theology professor at Alcala and client of Juan de Vergara, left it to others to decide whether Erasmus’s characterization of Jerome fit, but recognized that Erasmus himself had behaved in an uncivil, impudent, and brash fashion. Guevara could believe that Jerome was rather fickle, but asserted that Erasmus still spoke impertinently. Lopez de Bejar daringly claimed that Erasmus’s remark was apt even if its terms were inappropriate.43 Seven others worried less about the justice of Erasmus’s statements and concentrated instead on his insolence, which they found infuriating. The most vehement reaction came from Gouvea, who envisioned Erasmus as ruining the status of preachers and sermons through his comments on holy people and texts. He fumed, “What authority will preachers of the Word of God have in the pulpit, if they cite Jerome’s testimony in sermons? What steadfastness in these things that Jerome translated, if the statements of his translation are produced against heretics?”44 Even those who tried to excuse Erasmus’s remarks on grounds of pertinence, accuracy, and context clearly regretted them: Coronel conceded that he personally never would have written such words about Jerome, for they plainly displayed irreverence.45

    The Valladolid repertory suggested that Erasmus had weakened the New Testament’s authority by altering and criticizing its text and its translator. It also charged that he denigrated the Bible and Catholic doctrine when he proposed that certain dogmas were deduced from Scripture rather than expressed in its narratives. In several publications Erasmus observed that “only the Father was called true God in the Gospel,” and that remark provoked some of the hottest debate at the conference.46 Much of the argument revolved around what Erasmus meant by the expression: the Spaniards tried to determine whether he was thinking of “true God” as the literal denomination verns Deus, or whether he wanted the clause to encompass deductions as well; they disagreed over whether Erasmus expected “Gospel” to include just the first four books of the New Testament, or all of it.


    Now to p. 69

    The delegates’ reactions to Erasmus’s hermeneutics were complex. Ten out of twenty-nine linked his omission of the comma Johanneum to its absence in Greek manuscripts, and hence seemed to recognize Greek sources as the proper originals for the Latin New Testament. Nevertheless, if those delegates accepted the comma’s deletion on the basis of seven Greek codices, they also condoned its restoration on the strength of a single manuscript and expressed relief at its reinstatement. Only Gomez and Cabrero enunciated the reasons behind Erasmus’s expurgation; Cabrero alone maintained that Erasmus would still be justified in removing the verse because the evidence for it rested on a unique source. Just two more repeated Erasmus’s own comment that he had been acting as a translator, not a dogmatist, and had worked as the manuscripts dictated.71 The delegates exhibited no greater willingness or ability to pursue the matter further.

    Such familiarity with Erasmus’s opera allowed the delegates to point out, as they frequently did, that they were being asked to judge material taken out of context. But nearly all declined to express their agreement with Erasmus’s methods in any but the most limited terms. No one proposed to weigh the relative merits of the sources involved. No one revealed any theoretical understanding of the relationship between Greek and Latin manuscripts of the New Testament, or suggested that the comma Johanneum only appeared either in the margins of Greek manuscripts, or in late redactions of the same. In fact, even Erasmus’s reputed supporters finally preferred to maintain the Vulgate rather than modify it according to its original languages: their loyalties paralleled those of the New Testament editors on the Complutensian Polyglot Bible, who have been called “extremely conservative philologists.”72 When the Valladolid Erasmians had to choose, they finally sided with tradition over evaluation. p. 70

    In his biblical commentaries, Jerome relied upon different texts than the ones he supposedly translated; he questioned the authenticity of the comma Johanneum in one gloss, but included it in his alleged version of the New Testament. If early modern Europeans really considered such contradictions, they eventually might wonder whether their customary Latin Bible really came fromjerome in the first place; although Erasmus had asked the question numerous times, the point never was raised at Valladolid.73 ... p. 71
    The footnotes are good, but can't go in right now. Lu Ann Homza is a little weak on a couple of factual points, but generally it is a superb article.

    The two biggest factual corrections look to be the Brittanica ms. having the verse in the margin, and misplaying the Jerome and Vulgate info.

    Also I would really like to know if Cyprian and other evidences were mentioned.


    Some informative footnotes, I hope to add some more to the body before the heavenly witnesses part. #25 is funny, in a sense. More are planned to be entered, like the Latin of 27, 28, 42. I've included one or two that are general doctrinal.

    17. The example comes from the Modus orandi Deum: the monks extracted three statements from a single section and put them under accusatory categories on the Trinity, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Compare Desiderius Erasmus, Modus orandi Deum, ed. J. N. Bakhuizen van den Brink, Opera omnia, vol. 5, part 1 (Amsterdam: North Holland, 1977), 144-46, with accusation 3 under “Against the sacrosanct
    Trinity”; accusation 1 under “Against the divinity of Christ”; and accusation 2 under “Against the divinity of the Holy Spirit,” in Beltran, Cartulario, 18,21.

    24. The verse occurs in almost all the Latin manuscripts ot the period, but in only four Greek ones. Bentley, Humanists and Holy Writ, 44, and Erika Rummel, Erasmus’s Annotations on the New Testament: From Philologist to Theologian (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986), 132-33.

    25. Since Erasmus had published Valla’s Adnotationes on the New Testament in 1505, his removal of the comma from his own work in 1516 and 1519 seemed to contravene one of his favorite authorities, for Valla himself had not performed the same excision; Bentley, Humanists and Holy Writ, 95. Lee and Stunica claimed that Erasmus’s Greek manuscripts were corrupt, and from the standpoint of modern scholarship they were correct: Erasmus employed Greek manuscripts from the Byzantine Church, which embodied a separate, late, and inferior process of transmission. As a result, the Old Latin version that Stunica championed was more reliable than the Greek that Erasmus used as a model and translated in 1519, but since Stunica did not know that, he deserves no credit for it. See de Jonge’s introduction to Erasmus’s Apologia against Stunica, 19-20.

    26. H. J. dejonge, “Erasmus and the comma Johanneum,” Ephemerides theologicae Lovanienses 56 (1980): 381-89.

    49. He had written “Perhaps one could suppose that [denoting Jesus as God] was seldom done by the respectful apostles, lest the ordinary ears of certain persons of that age not endure the name of God to be assigned to man; and thus it happens that those persons sooner recoil from evangelical doctrine than begin to learn the mysteries of the Gospel. In these circumstances, Christ first ordered his disciples to preach repentance, and to be silent about Christ” (“Fortasse suspicari poterat aliquis hoc parcius fuisse factum ab apostolis verentibus, ne id temporis quorundam aures profanae non ferrent homini tribui Dei vocabulum, fieretque ut prius resilirent ab evangelica doctrina quam coepissent evangelii mysteria discere. Sic primum Christus suis mandavit, ut penitentiam praedicarent, de Christo tacerent”). Apologia, ed. de Jonge, 124.

    76. Erasmus had told Stunica that he was not forced to apply 1 John 5:20 to Jesus; Apologia, ed. de Jonge, 128. But Quintana asserted, “that opinion of 1 John 5 is actually recounted about the gist of this authority [John 17:3], since it is his exposition, and the gospel and the letter were brought forth by the same apostle and evangelist” (“ilia auctoritas primae Joannis 5 jam allegata est de corpore huius auctoritatis, cum sit eius expositio, et evangelium et epistola edita sunt ab eodem apostolo et evangelista”); Beltran de Heredia, ibid., 96. For Cordoba’s exegetical gymnastics, ibid., 56.


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