fol. a1r, Gospel of Matthew
fol. Aa1v, Calumny of Apelles
B) Novvm testamentvm omne. Edited, translated, and annotated by Erasmus of Rotterdam. 2 pts. Basel: Johann Froben, 1518/1519.
Small folio. 688 pages (120, 566, ), 12¼ x 8¼ inches. Greek and Latin in parallel columns; chapter numbers in roman numerals at side of Latin text. Woodcut borders, headpieces, and initials; two woodcuts on pp. 9899 of 1st series; three different devices of Frobens appear on Aa2r, a1r, and verso of final leaf; paragraph, headlines and chapter strokes added by hand in red and blue. Bound by Roger Payne in 16th-century panel style gilt tooled; spine gilt; edges gilt. § DM 4597, without annotations; VD 16 B4197. § CD-ROM: 5.2b, fol. Aa1r; 5.2b, fol. Aa2r; 5.2b, fol. D6r; 5.2b, fol. Ii1v (detail), The Trinity.
fol. X3v, 1 John
C) Novvm testamentvm omne. Edited, translated, and annotated by Erasmus of Rotterdam. 2 pts. Basel: Johann Froben, February 1522.
Small folio. 631 pages (, 562, ), 13½ x 9 inches. Greek and Latin in parallel columns; chapter numbers in roman numerals at side of Latin text. Woodcut borders, headpieces, and initials; three different devices of Frobens appear on A2r, a1r, and verso of final leaf. Contemporary blind-stamped brown calfskin over wooden boards; panel design composed of quadruple rectangular frames decorated with foliate tools, center panel in crisscross pattern; new spine. § DM 4599. § CD-ROM: 5.2c, fol. A1r; 5.2c, fol. X3v (detail).
Perhaps the most enduring contribution of the Renaissance has been the dissemination of the Bible. The scholarly foundation for the popular Bible was laid with Erasmuss monumental achievement, the first edition of the New Testament in its original language.
Christian theology had developed in the West for over one thousand years without benefit of scripture in its original languages. Although Erasmuss editions remedied that profound deficiency for the New Testament, they also caused many controversies among theologians. It must have seemed as though the very word of God had changed for Western Europe with the appearance of his 1516 New Testament, and, even worse, Erasmuss research made it clear that the original word cannot always be unequivocally known. The manuscript traditions of the Greek New Testament were sufficiently heterogeneous to cause uncertainty about some words and passages. Furthermore, Erasmuss advocacy of grounding piety and theology in biblical texts represented a rejection in many ways of the philosophical theology of late medieval scholasticism.
Producing an edition of the New Testament in the original Greek was notand still is nota simple task. Good manuscripts of the Bible in Greek were not readily available in Western Europe. In fact, Erasmuss efforts suffer from the inferiority of the textual witnesses that he could find. His manuscripts were not of notable antiquitynone predated the twelfth centuryand several were rather defective. The manuscript for the Book of Revelation was so problematic that he was forced to translate the Latin Vulgate back into Greek to fill a gap.
All of Erasmuss witnesses, it seems, derive from what scholars since the nineteenth century have called the Koine or Byzantine recension. This group (often designated by a K set in gothic type) is no longer in favor. The Nestle-Aland editions of the New Testament prefer readings from the Hesychian or Egyptian family of witnesses (often designated by an H set in gothic type).
The immediate question posed by the format of Erasmuss pioneering work concerned the status of the Vulgate Bible. After all, the Latin Bible had served as the basis for doctrine in the West for over a millennium. What should one make of passages in the Vulgate that could not be found in the Greek manuscripts? How accurately did the Vulgate render the original Greek? Had misunderstandings conveyed by the Vulgate translation unduly determined the development of some points of doctrine? The Vulgate, of course, still does have importance for the textual criticism of the Bible because it provides many clues about the state of the text in the late fourth century. In the fourth and fifth editions, Erasmus included the Vulgate as a third version of the Bible.
Consequently, in some ways the most controversial part of this book is Erasmuss fresh translation of the Bible from the Greek into Latin, the language of the Church and of European scholarship. Especially bitter objections were raised against an emendation in the translation of the second edition. Erasmus there translated the beginning of Johns Gospel as "In principio erat sermo" [a rough translation would be: "In the beginning was the discourse"], thereby jarring those who were accustomed to "verbum." He felt that "sermo" (which has a slightly broader range of meanings than does "verbum") better captured the complexity of logos (which, in addition to "word," connotes "thought" and "concept").
But many other difficulties arose from simple comparisons of the Vulgate with the original Greek. Theologians were deeply concerned that a proof text for the Holy Trinity, 1 John 5:7, was not found in Greek manuscripts. Most scholars concur with Erasmuss decision to delete it as an interpolation in the Vulgate. Nonetheless, a manuscript, the Codex Britannicus or the Codex Montfortianus (now in Trinity College, Dublin) was reported to have the "Johannine Phrase" (comma Johanneum), and the phrase was restored to the text by Erasmus in the third edition of 1522. The manuscript was almost certainly produced in the sixteenth century and as an attempt to forge a Greek attestation of the "comma Johanneum." Erasmus, moreover, suspected as much (see De Jonge 1980).
In several crucial texts, sacraments of the church appeared to lose textual basis when one consulted the Greek rather than the Latin translation. The very word for sacrament in Greek, mystérion, was shown to have a significantly different sense from that of the Latin "sacramentum." One of the most important examples of this problem was the rendering of metanoeite, as "agite poenitentiam," John the Baptists well-known charge in Matthew 3:2, which Jesus repeated in an expanded formulation at 4:17. When divorced from the Greek original, the words "agite poenitentiam" (do penance) came to be the proof text for the Roman Catholic sacrament of penance. As Erasmus pointed out in 1516, metanoeite does not quite mean "do penance," but rather "turn your mind," or, as it is usually translated into English, "repent." Following Erasmuss lead, Luther translated this as "Bessert Euch!" ("Improve yourselves!"). Luther, in fact, defined the meaning of Matthew 4:17 in the very first thesis of the Ninety-Five Theses.
An important part of the editions is the Annotationes, which Erasmus augmented in each successive edition (1516, 1519, 1522, 1527, and 1535). With the exception of the first edition, the Annotationes are usually bound as a second volume. These notes, which were inspired by the example of Lorenzo Vallas Collatio Novi Testamenti, explain the Greek text and thereby justify Erasmuss Latin translations. They also offer many notes on how early Christian writers understood the text, preeminent among whom are, as can be seen on the title page, Origen, Athanasius, Chrysostom, Cyril, Theophylact (mistakenly called "Vulgarius" in the first edition), Jerome, Augustine, etc.
All the Froben editions are strikingly handsome books. The first three editions have elaborate ornamental borders by Urs Graf framing three pages: the dedication to Pope Leo X; beginning of Matthew; and beginning of the Annotationes. The second edition has additional woodcuts, including such classical themes as the "Calumny of Apelles" and "Apollo and Daphne," several of which are probably by Ambrosius Holbein.
It was the second edition that became a standard in the Renaissance. For it, Erasmus corrected many misprints and offered a few different readings. This text became the basis of Luthers revolutionary translation of 1522.
Literature: Bentley 1983; Boyle 1977, 331; De Jonge 1980; Greenslade 1963; Hotchkiss and Price 1996, 100101; Reinitzer 1983, 23031; Rummel 1986; Sider 1994.