Erasmus and Lee

Steven Avery

Controversies with Edward Lee

Word, and the Holy Spirit, I had briefly pointed out the additional words in our texts without either approving or disapproving anything. Lee 280 confronts me with Valla, 281 who, being otherwise diligent, did not mention this matter and would no doubt have mentioned it if he had discovered a variant. I shall not reply here that Valla was human and that something might have escaped his attention. I shall merely say that I examined at various times more than seven manuscripts 282 and did not find in any of them what we read in our texts. If I had come across one manuscript that had the reading found in our texts, 1 would have added the phrase missing in the others on the strength of that one. Since that did not happen 1 did the only thing possible and indicated what was lacking in the Greek texts.

As for Jerome's attestation in his preface that this passage has been corrupted by heretics, 283 if I wanted to stand on my rights, I could appeal from the authority of Jerome, something Lee does whenever it suits him. And in such matters St Jerome is certainly ardent and forceful, not to say violent, in asserting something as established that is not nearly as certain as he wants it to appear. Sometimes while battling with an adversary he uses a reading that he criticizes elsewhere, for example, divisa est mulier et virgo [there is a difference between wife and virgin]. 264 Sometimes he says the opposite of what he asserts elsewhere, adapting his speech to the matter at hand. He also cut out a great deal from the Hebrew canon; he obelized as being fictitious or spurious a great deal that is now read by the church without harm, for example, the story of Bel's dragon, the story of Susanna's deliverance, the last two books of Ezra, whose contents he calls dreamed up. 285 Nor did he scruple to do in with his dagger the hymn of the three

by Erasmus against Lee were added to the annotation in 1522. In the meantime the annotation had also been attacked by Zuniga; cf Apologiae contra Stunicam asd IX-2 252:447-258:544.
280 Lee fol cxxvi verso
281 Annotationes (Opera 1 892)
282 In his annotation on Acts 18 Valla mentions that he had examined seven manuscripts; Opera 1 845.
283 Pseudo-Jerome Prologus septem epistolarum canonicarum PL 29 (1865) 870-3
284 Cf Jerome Adversus Helvidium de Mariae virginitate perpetua PL 23 (1883) 213D-214A, citing 1 Cor 7:33-4 in this manner.
285 The stories of Bel and the dragon and of Susanna are in the Vulgate at Dan 13 and 14. In RSV and most non-Catholic Bibles they are two separate books among the Apocrypha. Jerome called the second two books of Ezra (1 and 2 Esdras in the rsv Apocrypha) 'dreams' in the preface to Ezra, pl 28 (1890) 1472c, reprinted Weber 1 638. For Jerome's emendations and his use of obelisks cf Responsio 1 Note 113 231-2 and n939 there.
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And lest Lee think that this part has not been omitted by anyone but heretics, he should know that Cyril brings together many proof-texts, including this passage, against the Arians in the work entitled Thesaurus, book 14, penultimate chapter, but without the part that I have so far not found in the Greek texts. Is it plausible that he would have omitted this weapon if he had believed that the apostle had written what Jerome asserts he did? I shall quote Cyril's own words, in case anyone distrusts me: 'And again John says in the same Epistle: Who is it who conquers the world if not he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? Jesus Christ came through water and blood and the Spirit, not only in water but in water and blood, and the Spirit is the one who gives testimony, for the Spirit is truth. For there are three who give testimony, the Spirit, the water and the blood, and these three are one. If we accept the testimony of human beings, the testimony of God is greater. Take diligent note once again, for here too the preacher of truth teaches that the Holy Spirit is by nature true God from true God. For after he had said that the Spirit is the one who gives testimony, he added a few words later that the testimony of God is greater. How then will the Holy Spirit be a creature when he is called God by the apostles, just like the Father?' 290 From these words it is obvious, I believe, that the testimony of the three in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, was not in Cyril's text. Bede 291 too, who expounds this passage diligently and explains in detail and with many words the three-fold testimony on earth, makes no mention of the testimony in heaven of the Father, the Word, and the Spirit. Bede too was not without skill in the languages or diligence in exploring ancient texts. Indeed he does not even add 'on earth'; 292 he reads only 'there are three who give testimony.' In the manuscript 293 provided me from the library of the Minorites in Antwerp there was a scholion added in the margin in a more recent hand about the testimony of the Father, the Word, and the Spirit. This is the gist of the matter, dear reader. Now observe the atrocious tragedy Lee makes of this, as if he had come upon a cause against which he can sound the trumpet of Allecto with all his might. 294 'Now,' he says,

290 Thesaurus 34 pg 75 6i6a-b, though with some variation from the concluding part of this quotation
291 Bede ... about the testimony of the Father, the Word, and the Spirit] Added in Basel 1520. The Bede reference is to Comm in 1 Joan PL 93 114B-D.
292 This phrase appears in PL, but not in the critical edition by D. Hurst in Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 121 (Turnhout 1983) 321.
293 That is, of Bede's commentaries. Erasmus judged the scholion to be added later by a different scribe.
294 One of the three Furies, goddesses of vengeance; Virgil Aeneid 7.511-15 de
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