Rhyme and reason in Erasmus' 1516 Greek text of Revelation 22:16-21

Edward F Maniscalco, Marquette University


During the summer of 1515, Erasmus began an ambitious project: to correct and annotate the Latin Vulgate text of the New Testament. He took several Greek manuscripts at his disposal and translated them into Latin. Several days before his March 1 deadline, Erasmus discovered that part of the last page of his twelfth century manuscript of Revelation $({\bf I14}\sp\circ{\bf 1})$ was missing. The text ended at Rev 22:16 with these words: I, Jesus, sent my angel to testify to these things before you (and) the churches. I am the root and the breed of David. Boldly and authoritatively, Erasmus referred to the Latin Vulgate text and translated verses 16c-21 into Greek. From the biblicist's perspective, Erasmus' text of Rev 22:16-21 is a fraud. In those lines, Erasmus exposes his incompetence and inattention to detail. In this study, I demonstrate that although he did make many mistakes, Erasmus parlayed boldness, creativity, and sometimes technically incorrect Greek to fashion an imaginative literary piece. The text was a vehicle through which he boasted with authorial license. The six missing lines of his corrupt Andrean manuscript provided him with a fortuitous window of opportunity. In search of meter and rhyme, Erasmus exploited every weapon in his literary arsenal. This was Erasmus' chance to place his indelible mark on the history of biblical scholarship. Defiantly, he dared to upstage his source: Holy Scripture. Erasmus became his own author/editor. He left behind all notions of authority and tradition, and created for himself and his readers a lively, poetic, and corrupt text.

Recommended Citation

Maniscalco, Edward F, "Rhyme and reason in Erasmus' 1516 Greek text of Revelation 22:16-21" (1996). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9634273.