Christening Pagan Mysteries: Erasmus in Pursuit of Wisdom by Marjorie O’Rourke Boyle

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The authority for Erasmus' judgment lies with those apologists who harmonized the gospel's claim to unique truth with the achievements of a pagan civilization. Antibarbari's very image of the pear tree is a translation of the corn stalk, which the Fathers wrested from Kore and gave to Christ, into the landscape of late fifteenth-century Brabant. The apologists had assimilated and transformed the classical paideia by proposing Christ as the supreme teacher of wisdom, his own, philosophia Christou.

Hers was not the 'better part' of wisdom, enraptured at Christ's feet, but the lesser part which allows finally for society to foster any mystics at all: that of every craft 24 Christening Pagan Mysteries and every lay calling, all of which Erasmus emphasizes are in origin pagan, but especially the arts of speech which establish commerce and civilization. So while Erasmus' antibarbarians will 'look at the trees/ they will look harder at the texts, to nurture men. 139 'Wisdom/ Erasmus writes in Antibarbari, in one of his most telling statements, 'wisdom is indeed to be sought from God ...

He also diverts the achievement of those pagans from political dominion to the discovery of the disciplines. 92 But there was no attempt to relate this event with the Incarnation. 94 Erasmus recounts in Antibarbari the bloodshed by which Rome subjugated the earth to one city, so that by divine consent the gospel might speed to the four corners of the earth. '96 The pages of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen reverberate with this faith. A sample from Justin suffices. Erasmus admires him in Antibarbari as 'a philosopher even in his dress, and in the 16 Christening Pagan Mysteries liberal disciplines a fine craftsman, [who] not only turned his most learned mind to the defence of the Christian religion, but spent his very soul upon it/97 Justin had testified: 'All writers by means of the engrafted seed of the Logos which was implanted in them, had a dim glimpse of the truth.

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