Erasmus points to some particular Scriptures as the background to Paul’s gospel in his intriguing and engaging paraphrase of the letter. Note also a few other interesting features in the portion below:
- Erasmus relates the rejection of ‘resurrection of the dead’ to the ‘swollen’ attitude of the Corinthians (drawing on Chrysostom’s emphasis on pride as the foundational Corinthian disease)
- he is explicit about penal substitution
- he views the resurrection as the most important element of the gospel
Here’s the portion in which he paraphrases 1 Cor 15:1-5…
Now I hear, brethren, that some of you are in doubt about the resurrection of the dead. These are people who cannot yet be persuaded because they are still swollen with human philosophy. There is no need for me to teach you anything new; I only recall to your memory the gospel that I first passed on to you, and that you once embraced, in which also you have been persevering until now, and by whose help you obtain salvation. It would consequently be superfluous for me to pass on again what has been once correctly passed on; at the same time it would be wrong for you, if, through your wavering, you desert what you once embraced, especially since you know by experience that our gospel is efficacious for your salvation. Yet the pre-eminent part of the gospel’s teaching is belief in the resurrection of the dead. About this matter there ought to be no debate unless, God forbid, you have believed in vain. For what was the use of embracing the gospel if you deny its chief point, namely, that the dead will some day live again?
You should have especially remembered what I passed on to you – in the first place by word, and now once again in a letter – and which you once received. I mean this: that the Lord Jesus Christ died and by his death freed us from sins, paying on our behalf the penalty our offences had incurred. Scripture had said many ages before that it would happen like this: that he would be led to slaughter like a sheep, that he would heal our wickedness with his bruising, that from the wood of the cross he would reign and break the tyranny of the devil. Besides this, you must hold that not only did he truly die, but he also was buried, and on the third day returned to life. That this as well would happen had already long ago been proclaimed by the oracular words of the prophets so that you might believe all the more that the event has occurred which God through his holy men had promised would happen. For thus Hosea says: ‘After two days and on the third day we shall rise again and live in his sight.’ And thus David also says: ‘You will not abandon my soul among the dead’ [Ps 16:10].
And so that you might believe more surely, I taught you in addition to this how, when he had been brought back to life, he offered himself to be seen by many, first by Cephas, then by the twelve. (Collected Works of Erasmus, 173-6)