The Argumentum as Paratext

Editorial Strategies in the Novum Testamentum

in Erasmus Studies
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In the 1519 edition of the Novum Testamentum Erasmus replaced the traditional Marcionite Argumenta which prefaced each of the Pauline Epistles in the Novum Instrumentum of 1516 with newly composed Argumenta of his own. This article explores the function of these prefaces within the broader context of Erasmus’ program of biblical scholarship. Broaching the topics of authorship, literary style, theological content, and devotional application which are more fully worked out in the Annotations, Paraphrases, and Ratio verae theologiae, the Argumenta express in miniature Erasmus’ objectives as an editor of the Bible.

The Argumentum as Paratext

Editorial Strategies in the Novum Testamentum

in Erasmus Studies




See SherbenskeCanonizing Paul85–86. The Marcionite argumenta to the Pauline epistles appear on 87–89 (English translation) and 282–283 (Latin original). For critical editions of the argumenta and other material prefatory to Paul’s letters in Latin see John Wordsworth Henry J. White eds. Novum Testamentum Latine Editio Maior: Pars Secunda-Epistulae Paulinae (Oxford: Clarendon 1941) 1–42 and Hermann Josef Frede ed. Epistulae ad Thessalonicenses Timotheum Titum Philemonem Hebraeos; Pars I et II. (VL 25; Freiburg: Herder 1975–1991) 99–131. For the prefaces and argumenta in the manuscripts of the Vulgate see M. Samuel Berger Les Prefaces jointes aux livres de la bible dans les manuscrits de la Vulgate (Paris: Klincksieck 1902).


Thus SherbenskeCanonizing Paul10.


  • View in gallery
    Figure 1

    Title page of the 1519 Novum Instrumentum, bearing the announcement of Argumenta newly composed by ErasmusCourtesy Rotterdam Public Library

  • View in gallery
    Figure 2

    The Argumentum for Paul’s First Epistle to the ThessaloniansCourtesy Rotterdam Public Library


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