The study deals with the motives, approaches, and apologies of the leading humanist scholars in the field of translating and interpreting the Bible. Special attention is paid to the crucial figure of the Humanist Biblical tradition, Erasmus of Rotterdam. His edition of the Greek text of the New Testament and his new Latin translation of it represent the first flowering of New Testament exegesis, based on criticism and philology. No matter how conscientious his approach to the Biblical text might have been, he and his followers had to cope with the basic problem of authenticity of the text merely derived from the Holy Writ. The present paper deals with the arguments of Erasmus and his contemporaries or successors, namely Immanuel Tremellius, Santes Pagninus, Theodor Beza, Sebastian Castellio and the editors of the Zurich Bible (especially Petrus Cholinus), defending not only possibility, but also utility and benefit of new Bible translations for the renewal of spirituality and of religious thought itself. After having explored the representative achievements of their endeavors, the author comes to conclusion that the principal question for them was not "whether", but "why" and "how". They were aware of dealing with delicate matter, but in principle they did not consider it an essential obstacle. Common feature of their argumentation has been explicitly grasped by Erasmus (see motto): the Holy Spirit invites us to cooperation, he never operates alone. Given this, there was no reason to ruminate the question of authority. The "verbal inspiration of the biblical text", an important principle held later by many Protestant, was not order of the day at that times. Moreover, the theory of divine inspiration not only of the Hebrew text, but also of that of its Greek translation, was sustained as early as in the eve of Christianity by Philo of Alexandria to corroborate the authority of the Septuagint. In a certain simplification we may assume that this was the first attempt to justify translating of the Holy Scripture.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.