Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536) hailed Origen of Alexandria (185-254) as a holy priest, a gifted homilist, a heroic Christian, and a celebrated exegete and theologian of the ancient Church. In this book Thomas Scheck presents one of the fruits of Erasmus's endeavors in the field of patristic studies (a particularly neglected field of scholarship within Erasmus studies) by providing the first English translation, annotated and thoroughly introduced, of Erasmus' final work, the Prefaces to his Edition of Origen's writings (1536). Originally published posthumously two months after Erasmus's death, the work surveys Origen of Alexandria's life, writings, preaching, and contribution to the Catholic Church. The staggering depth and breadth of Erasmus's learning are exhibited here, as well as the maturity of his theological reflections, which in many ways anticipate the irenicism of the Second Vatican Council with respect to Origen. Erasmus presents Origen as a marvelous doctor of the ancient Church who made a tremendous contribution to the Catholic exegetical tradition and who lived a saintly life.
Scheck's translation of Erasmus's prefaces is prefaced by four substantial chapters of introductory material, outlining Erasmus's program for theological renewal, a survey of Origen's life and works from a modern perspective, a discussion of Origen's legacy in the Church as an exegete and theologian (focusing particularly on Origen's influence on St. Jerome), and the immediate 16th century background of Erasmus's Edition of Origen. These chapters are followed by the translation itself, to which is then appended a lengthy appendix chapter that discusses Erasmus's own legacy in the Catholic Church in the 16th century.