Erasmus and Calvin on the foolishness of God: Reason and Emotion in the Christian Philosophy

Erasmus and Calvin on the foolishness of God: Reason and Emotion in the Christian Philosophy

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By Kirk Essary
Erasmus Studies
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2017
World Rights
304 Pages
ISBN 9781487501884
Published Apr 2017
Online discount: 25%
 $80.00    $60.00
ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781487514150
Published May 2017
Online discount: 25%
Full purchase $80.00

What did Paul mean when he wrote that the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom? Through close analysis of the sixteenth-century reception of Paul's discourses of folly, this book examines the role of the New Testament in the development of what Erasmus and John Calvin refer to as the “Christian philosophy.”

Erasmus and Calvin on the Foolishness of God reveals the importance of Pauline rhetoric in the development of humanist critiques of scholasticism while charting the formation of a specifically affective approach to religious epistemology and theological method. As the first book-length examination of Calvin's indebtedness to Erasmus, which also considers the participation of Bullinger, Pellikan, and Melanchthon in an Erasmian exegetical milieu, it is a case study in the complicated cross-confessional exchange of ideas in the sixteenth century. Kirk Essary examines assumptions about the very nature of theology in the sixteenth century, how it was understood by leading humanist reformers, and how ideas about philosophy and rhetoric were received, appropriated, and shared in a complex intellectual and religious context.

Kirk Essary is a postdoctoral research fellow with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (Europe, 1100-1800).


Chapter One

Calvin’s Erasmus, Theologia Rhetorica, and Pauline Folly

Chapter Two

Foolishness as Religious Knowledge

Chapter Three

Hidden Wisdom and the Revelation of the Spirit

Chapter Four

Milk for Babes: A Pauline Eloquence

Chapter Five

Blaming Philosophy, Praising Folly

Chapter Six

The Affective Christian Philosophy




Erasmus and Calvin on the Foolishness of God is a profound, elegant, and persuasive work. Kirk Essary has produced a work of formidable intellectual rigour that makes a significant contribution to the study of Renaissance and Reformation thought. The prose flows beautifully, the language is mercifully free of jargon, and the author makes extensive use of the primary sources to enable the reader to gain a clear sense of how Erasmus and Calvin (with others) interpreted Paul.”

Bruce Gordon, Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Yale University

“Kirk Essary’s Erasmus and Calvin on the Foolishness of God is a significant contribution in Erasmus and Calvin studies. The scholarship is sound and scholars who work through it will find substantial reward for their efforts.”

R.Ward Holder, Professor, Saint Anselm College