Annotating the Affections

The Philology of Feeling in Erasmus’ New Testament Scholarship and Its Reception in Early Modern Dictionaries

In: Erasmus Studies
Author: Kirk Essary1
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A key problem in the history of emotions arises from the shifting meaning of emotion terms throughout history and from the difficulty in translating emotion terms from one language to another. Erasmus’ New Testament and Annotations offer scholars interested in the ‘historical semantics of emotion’ invaluable insights into sixteenth-century emotions discourse and the translation of emotion terms from Greek into Latin. This paper examines some of the more problematic cases in order to shed light on how Erasmus handles the difficulties that are attendant to translating emotion words, and also considers the influence of Erasmus’ NT and Annotations in early modern Greek-to-Latin lexicons, a feature of his reception that has not been acknowledged to date.


A key problem in the history of emotions arises from the shifting meaning of emotion terms throughout history and from the difficulty in translating emotion terms from one language to another. Erasmus’ New Testament and Annotations offer scholars interested in the ‘historical semantics of emotion’ invaluable insights into sixteenth-century emotions discourse and the translation of emotion terms from Greek into Latin. This paper examines some of the more problematic cases in order to shed light on how Erasmus handles the difficulties that are attendant to translating emotion words, and also considers the influence of Erasmus’ NT and Annotations in early modern Greek-to-Latin lexicons, a feature of his reception that has not been acknowledged to date.

In a letter from 1520 to Hermannus Buschius, Erasmus recounts a story about the English Franciscan bishop Henry Standish:

He was preaching in St Paul’s churchyard in London. Having started his sermon on the subject of charity, he suddenly forgot all decency and charity alike and began to rave against my name and reputation, maintaining that the Christian religion faced utter destruction unless all new translations were instantly removed from the scene. Things had become intolerable, he said, since Erasmus had the effrontery to corrupt the Gospel of St John … After much stupid ranting on this subject, which was entirely off the point, our orator began to touch the hearts of his audience and to lament the lot of an old man like himself, a doctor of so many years standing, who hitherto had always read In principio erat verbum and was now reduced under compulsion to read In principio erat sermo, suspecting that such pitiful laments would leave not a dry eye.1

However much exaggeration or irony Erasmus applies to his retelling of this story, there is no doubt that the publication of Erasmus’ Novum Instrumentum in 1516 along with his Annotationes and the subsequent revised editions of both (the change from verbum to sermo in John 1:1 did not come until the 1519 version) created an emotionally charged atmosphere in the realm of theology and biblical studies. The sadness and ire aroused in the university theologians and in bishops like Standish were matched by joy and hope in Erasmus’ biblical-humanist cohort, and feelings ran high for years. Erasmus’ correspondence is full of such emotional expression surrounding the NT, on all sides of the spectrum. Listrius wrote to Erasmus in 1516 that “The New Covenant with your explanations is read eagerly here in Greek even by the aged. Go on your way, master Erasmus, undeterred for a moment by the shafts of jealousy and rage.”2 Wolfgang Capito was forced to “extinguish the rising fire of passion in many men” by convincing them that Erasmus was in fact in agreement with them.3 Erasmus himself “grieved” over the fallout between himself and Jacques Lefèvre d’ Etaples over their disagreement on Hebrews 2:7, the latter of whom had, according to Cuthburt Tunstall, fallen into a “fit of jealousy.”4 In John Colet it aroused mixed emotions, but on the negative side fell only regret at not having learned Greek; otherwise, he wrote that he rejoiced in the light of Erasmus’ genius.5 In 1519, Martin Luther wrote that “gratitude and Christian love … burn within my heart when I think of you,” even if these feeling would prove to be short-lived.6

It is no revelation that emotion was involved in the religious controversies of sixteenth-century Europe. One could rehearse descriptions of the tides of emotion surrounding Erasmus’ NT scholarship through the 1520s and beyond ad nauseam, even if with some profit. The purpose of this paper, however, is to consider how the biblical discourse of emotion was translated in Erasmus’ New Testament and Annotationes—as well as how it was considered in the apologiae Erasmus penned related to the publication of those works. While, to my knowledge, Erasmus does not himself describe emotion words as any more difficult to translate than other kinds of words, he very often modifies the Vulgate in such cases and occasionally spends considerable energy explaining his choices.7 This exercise would fit in well with contemporary scholarship on the emotions, where extensive handwringing over the meaning of emotion terms and the difficulty of their translation is pervasive. While fears of rampant anachronism in the discipline are perhaps somewhat overblown8 (translating old texts into contemporary discourse is always difficult), it is true that much more careful work on the language of emotion in various historical contexts can and should be done in order to better understand how emotions were conceived of and described in the past. The Novum instrumentum cum Annotationes, with its subsequent editions, provide invaluable insight into the way Erasmus understood emotion terms and emotions themselves, and examining these texts allows us to partially reconstruct what Ute Frevert has called a ‘historical semantics of emotion.’9

The centrality of language to the whole of Erasmus’ thought has long been recognized, not least in his theological hermeneutics. Manfred Hoffmann long ago asserted that “Erasmus’ reform program aimed at retrieving genuine culture by means of authentic language.”10 By charting the translation of emotion terms, we also flesh out some details of what Ann Moss has called the “Latin language turn” in the Renaissance, and in considering the NT scholarship we partly answer Mark Vessey’s recent call to put Erasmus back more fully into Moss’ story, “to situate his biblical work within an intellectual or cognitive history of neo-Latin styles of discourse such as Moss and others have pioneered.”11 Erasmus’ NT and notes constitute an ideal laboratory for combining these aspirations with emotions scholarship, given that he’s explaining—often in painstaking detail—his choices in translating Greek emotion terms into Latin in a high-stakes context.12

Moreover, while we are well aware that Erasmus’ New Testament was a watershed in the history of scholarship and had a lasting influence on biblical philology, theology, and text criticism for centuries, it was not only philologically-minded biblical exegetes and theologians who appreciated his efforts. Lexicographers, too, mined Erasmus’ NT and Annotations to supply their entries in prominent Greek-to-Latin lexicons, thus ensuring a much more widespread and lasting impact of his translation choices outside the context of biblical philology. Some definitions from the Annotations would remain in Latin pedagogical works well into the nineteenth century, more than three hundred years after the Novum instrumentum was first published. To my knowledge, this aspect of the reception of Erasmus’ NT scholarship has not been considered in the secondary literature.13 By collating Erasmus’ translations and notes with a few prominent early modern lexicons, this paper will also illuminate other aspects of the influence and reception of his New Testament scholarship. I will consider three types of emotion words: 1) ‘general’ emotion terms, in particular affectus; 2) anger terms; and 3) terms related to psychological anguish and anxiety.

Annotating Affectus and Other General Emotion Terms

Erasmus’ preferred term for general emotional and psychological dispositions is affectus. His preference for affectus is due partly to the term’s inherently wide semantic range, which often takes it well beyond movements we now would recognize as emotions,14 and partly due to the fact that it was the preferred term of Quintilian.15 Erasmus seems to discard the term passiones around the time of publishing the Novum instrumentum in 1516 (discussed more fully below).16 Relevant to our purposes, he opted to employ the term affectus at various places in his translation and notes on Romans 8, which would draw him into a protracted controversy with the Flemish Franciscan Frans Titelmans. Titelmans was a student of Latomus at Louvain and eventually came to serve as a lecturer on scripture and theology. In 1529 he entered the fray which Erasmus’ New Testament had occasioned, publishing his Collationes super Romanos, a work that begins with a lengthy apologia for the Vulgate version, and consists thereafter of point-by-point refutations of the scholarship on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans of Lorenzo Valla, Lefèvre d’ Etaples, and Erasmus.17 In that work, he roundly rejects Erasmus’ translation of the Greek φρόνημα in Romans 8:6, 8:7, and 8:27 as affectus, and the further gloss in the Annotationes as sensus, for evidence of which Erasmus cites Terence’s Adelphi (the latter an important point for our consideration of dictionaries below).18 Romans 8:6–7, as printed in Erasmus’ three-column 1527 Novum testamentum, runs as follows:

Greek: τὸ γὰρ φρόνημα τῆς σαρκὸς θάνατος. τὸ δὲ φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος ζωὴ καὶ εἰρήνη. διότι τὸ φρόνημα τῆς σαρκὸς ἔκθρα εἰς θεόν.

Vulgate: Nam prudentia carnis mors est: prudentia autem spiritus vita et pax. Quoniam sapientia carnis inimicitia est in Deo.

Erasmus: Nam affectus carnis, mors est. Affectus vero spiritus, vita et pax. Propterea quod affectus carnis, inimicitia est adversus deum.

Titelmans offers multiple objections to Erasmus’ choice of affectus. Apart from his general objection to what he calls Erasmus’ inutilem copiam (useless variety—the same accusation Erasmus himself had made against the Vulgate translator19), Titelmans objects specifically to using affectus for what he considers a decidedly non-affective Greek term, indeed one that to Titelmans’ mind is overtly intellective. The Greek φρονεῖν, Titelmans writes, refers ad intellectum magis quam ad affectum sive curare, an argument he repeats several times.20 In other words, affectus is an emotion term and not one appropriate to operations of the rational faculty, which latter is what Paul is writing about in Romans. Titelmans cites Quintilian and Cicero (via Valla21) and a number of patristic authorities to shore up his point.

Titelmans’ criticisms certainly bothered Erasmus. In addition to the Responsio ad Collationes of 1530, Erasmus also wrote a lengthy letter to Pieter Gillis the same year (Ep 2260), and he expanded the 1535 edition of the Annotationes in order to counter some of the Franciscan’s points. Erasmus’ comments reveal the complexities involved in translating psychological language appropriately from Greek into Latin, while also providing some insight into his interest in the affective aspects of theological anthropology (and what Monique Scheer—analyzing the 18th century—has called “topographies of emotion”22). Erasmus wouldn’t entirely disagree with Titelmans’ point that affectus is not fully appropriate for strictly intellective dispositions. In fact, to Erasmus’ mind this is somewhat beside the point, for he disagrees with Titelmans that φρόνημα is to be used only ad intellectum, as he reiterates several times in his responses. His initial comments in the Responsio, however, pertain to philological and stylistic matters:

That φρονεῖν sometimes means curare is made clear by the derivatives φροντίς ‘care’ and φροντίζειν ‘care about.’ ‘But why,’ says he, ‘do you thereafter translate φρόνημα with affectus rather than with cura?’ Because affici his quae sunt carnis [to be affected by things of the flesh] is harsh in Latin. Curare is more pleasant and more common, and [the noun phrases] cura carnis and cura spiritus are not only harsh but also ambiguous; affectus, on the contrary, is more pleasant and more suitable.23

Thus Erasmus defends his use of copia (varietas, in fact) on grounds of good style and aptness, twice invoking the dichotomy between dure and molliter—literally hardness and softness, but of language here harsh/rough and pleasant/pliant/flexible. Again, this is noteworthy because Erasmus often criticizes the old translator for copiousness in rendering the same Greek word with multiple Latin words.24

Erasmus then turns to the heart of Titelmans’ critique, which is that affectus isn’t suitable in an intellective context. Responding to Titelmans’ claim that affectus is equivalent to the Greek term πάθη (the implication being that the πάθη are decidedly non-intellective movements), Erasmus offers a nuanced critique of his interlocutor’s anthropological rigidity: “there is nothing to stop me saying in Latin ‘pius affectus for God, for the fatherland, for children,’ since this feeling is not in the lower part of the soul but in the higher. Accordingly, I liked the word because it was applicable to both parts of the soul, spirit and flesh.”25 That Erasmus thinks affectus is morally neutral is clear, and he had been employing the term in this way at least since the 1503 De taedio Iesu.26 The term may also cover affective dispositions of either the upper or lower parts of the soul, and this is a result of its being a quality or function of the will, which itself occupies a middle or neutral space in the psychological hierarchy: “For when the will inclines to reason, it loves things eternal; when it lets itself descend to the flesh and bodily things, it loves that which should not be loved. Both dispositions, however, are in the part of the soul called the will.”27

Erasmus employs these examples to demonstrate a fluidity of both the verba and the res. Affective and intellective terms can be stretched to overlap with respect to their referents. They are often equivocal. But this is not only the result of linguistic flexibility but also derives from Erasmus’ willingness to blur the lines of traditional faculty psychology and to emphasize the interrelatedness of feeling and knowing. As he continues, “It is no surprise that commentators include both [affectus and intellectus] in the words they use since the realities are interrelated; for a corrupt desire is born for the most part from corrupt understanding and vice versa.”28 The interrelation between affectus and intellectus is a fascinating feature of Erasmus’ thought and of Renaissance rhetorical theologies more generally, as Debora Shuger has pointed out previously.29 It is interesting in this instance for it seems to bear quite heavily on Erasmus’ Latin usage. Furthermore, while several scholars in the history of emotions have followed Thomas Dixon in suggesting a premodern distinction between sinful or lower-order passions (passiones) and religious or higher-order affections (affectus/affectiones), Erasmus stands as a prominent counter-example to such a tendency in Latin usage.30

The final word Erasmus has on the matter comes in a 1530 letter to Pieter Gillis, where he recounts the Titelmans episode at length. Much of the letter repeats arguments made in the Responsio, but there are a few notable expansions.31 The most enlightening passage for our purposes comes when Erasmus situates Titelmans’ animadversions in the context of translating the Greek πάθη and its significance in Christian anti-Stoicism. I quote at length:

He had heard perhaps that the stricter Stoics condemned the πάθη ‘passions,’ which some translate as affectus ‘feelings’ or perturbationes ‘perturbations.’ But it does not immediately follow that ‘perturbations of the mind’ is the only meaning of affectus, since Latin writers, in trying as best they can to convey the thought of the Stoics, have translated πάθη ‘passions’ by affectus, motus, perturbationes, cupiditates, and morbi. Moreover, this paradox of the Stoics was rejected long ago not just by Christians, but also by other philosophers and even by the later Stoics themselves. Nowadays anyone who chose to stand stubbornly by the Stoic doctrine of apatheia would even be considered a heretic. For joy, grief, hope, fear, love, hate, benevolence, pity are unquestionably ‘feelings’ and yet throughout the sacred writings they are used of men living not just according to the flesh but according to the spirit, they are used also of Christ, indeed they are even used of the divine nature.32

We learn a few things here: first, the Greek πάθη itself is ambiguous, in terms of moral valence. A πάθος is not always a perturbation; but more importantly, an affectus is also not always a perturbatio, which cuts against the implication made by Titelmans that affectus and sensus are movements of the lower soul and the body. The fact that certain affectus are attributed not only to virtuous humans but even to the divine nature of Christ has long been, to Erasmus’ mind, grounds for a Christian rejection of the Stoic doctrine of apatheia. Erasmus here implies that Titelmans is both misguided in his understanding of the semantics of these emotion terms, and also—with a slight mischaracterization of Titelmans’ point—that he is toeing the line between heresy and orthodoxy in roundly rejecting all affectus.

These are not the only instances where Erasmus digresses on general emotion terms in the Annotations, and his use of affectus is at least partly related to his rejection of passio as a legitimate emotion word, which he explained earlier in his Annotations on Romans. Paul uses the term πάθη at Romans 1:26, and in his note Erasmus provides a similar list of possible translations to what he would later give in his letter to Gillis, although in this case singling out the Latin passiones for special derision (a word he does not mention at all in the 1530 letter). The Greek phrase in question is εἰς πάθη ἀτιμίας, which the Vulgate translator had rendered in passiones ignominiae. Erasmus’ note is as follows:

The Greek πάθη sometimes means ‘disturbances of the soul’ or ‘emotions’ or ‘diseases’ or (a word that Fabius strongly prefers) ‘affections’. In such a great abundance of acceptable terms, where was the need for the strange and artificial word passio [suffering, passion]? ‘Diseases’ would have been especially fitting in this place, since Horace, too, calls effeminate lust a ‘disease’ … Further, the addition of ignominiae [of shame] appears to have been derived from Hebrew idiom, to mean ‘ “disgraceful” or “reproachful” or “shameful” affections.’33

Erasmus himself, it should be mentioned, renders the phrase as in cupiditates ignominiosas, thus providing a translation which is not employed in the note itself where he falls back more easily on affectus (which Valla and Lefèvre had also suggested).34 In his note on Romans 1:26, Titelmans points out in a lengthy objection that several prominent Fathers use passiones without a problem because, having been derived from the verb patior it mirrors more precisely the Greek πάθος, which itself derives from a verb, παθεῖν.35 Erasmus does not comment on this note in his Responsio ad Collationes, but we can say that his choices reflect his rather strict classicism in this instance, showcasing his attempts to improve upon the Vulgate’s style by employing words in common use by classical Roman rhetoricians.36 Taken together, his list for legitimate translations of πάθη at Rom. 1:26 exactly matches that in his later letter to Pieter Gillis.

A final example: the Latin viscera, which is often used metaphorically for pity or compassion in the Christian tradition—no doubt in part because it translates versions of the Greek σπλάγχνον, whose deponent verb form σπλαγχνίζομαι typically means “to have compassion”—Erasmus understands more generally as an equivalent to affectus in his comments on Philippians 1:8. Retaining the Vulgate’s in visceribus Iesu Christi, he comments upon translating the Greek σπλάγχνοις that “viscera signifies affectum animi,” and that Paul added “in Jesus Christ” to ensure that no one would misunderstand him to mean that he desired to be with the Philippians “in human affection,” but in affectum pietatis.37 This example again reinforces Erasmus’ contention that affectus itself—and emotion more generally—has no inherent moral valence. Similarly at Ephesians 4:32, where the Greek reads εὔσπλαγχνοι, and the Vulgate and Erasmus translate as misericordes, Erasmus writes, “This pertains not only to mercy but to every feeling of devotion (pietatis affectum), as though one were to say ‘good bowels’ (bonum viscerum). For Sacred Scripture uses the bowels to mean feelings (affectibus).”38 Likewise, at 2 Cor. 6:12, where viscera again translates σπλάγχνοις, Erasmus notes that this is what Paul calls his affectibus.39 Both the Greek σπλάγχνοις and Latin viscera function literally as internal organs and metaphorically as emotions of some kind.

Erasmus’ New Testament and Early Modern Dictionaries

As mentioned in the introduction, much can be gained from comparing Erasmus’ comments with period dictionaries for how they handle similar terms, especially in light of arguments made by Ann Moss and John Considine about the significance of such lexicographical work for understanding Renaissance linguistic culture.40 Such comparisons can enrich our understanding of historical semantics of emotion, as well as tell us something either about the relative liberties Erasmus and others were taking in their translations or about the relative poverty of the earliest classical language lexicons for capturing the fullest possible semantic range of a given term. This is true less because Erasmus himself would have been using Greek dictionaries in the mature stages of his career, and more because sixteenth-century lexicographers used Erasmus’ New Testament for fodder for their entries. Erasmus, himself no lover of alphabetic dictionaries,41 contributed “a number of words” to, and a letter to the reader for, a revised Greek-to-Latin dictionary edited by Ceratinus and published by Froben in 1524 (although he presumably did not do any substantive editorial work on entries already existing in it42). This book was a revision of the seminal Lexicon graeco-latinum by Johannes Crastonus, first published in 1476, and retitled in the 1524 version as the Dictionarius graecus. In this lexicon, the definition of φρόνημα, to return to our earlier example, goes unchanged through those fifty-odd years, remaining in 1524 as “constantia, prudentia, audacia, fastus, gravitas, pertinacia.” Thus, we can say that Erasmus’ usage of affectus in his translation of Romans defies the standard Greek lexicon of the time.

However, much progress was made in lexicography in years immediately following, and a much more expansive sixteenth-century Greek-to-Latin lexicon was published in 1552 that was indebted to the Commentarii linguae graecae of Erasmus’ close correspondent, the eminent Hellenist Guillaume Budé.43 That dictionary, the Lexicon graecolatinum, edited by Jacques Toussain and published in Paris, contained lengthy entries which included longer explanations of a word’s meaning as well as passages from classical antiquity for reference. It also relies heavily on Erasmus’ Annotationes. Not only does it include affectus as a possible equivalent to φρόνημα, but, more interestingly, it cites the same passage from Terence which Erasmus adduces in his Annotations as evidence of sensus as a valid rendering (and as an equivalent to affectus)—even though the dictionary does not list sensus up front as an equivalent of φρόνημα.44 This Terence reference, along with the notion of sensus as a proper equivalent term, would have an interesting afterlife. Though this dictionary entry does not mention Erasmus by name, we can be fairly certain of his influence for two reasons: 1) because in the context of the lexical entry, the Terence reference has nothing to do with the Greek word φρόνημα, and would seem to be only fully intelligible with Erasmus’ Annotations in mind; and 2) elsewhere the editors cite not only the Adagia, but Erasmus’ New Testament text as well for examples of Latin translations of Greek words. The nearby entry for φρονέω, for example, refers to our locus and to Erasmus’ choice of translating the verb as curare: “quae carnis sunt curat, Eras. apud Paulum cap. 8 ad Romanos.” There are additional examples where the dictionary is clearly indebted to Erasmus, even if his name is not mentioned in the entry. The entire definition of εὔσπλαγχνος, for example, is taken from Erasmus’ Annotation on Ephesians 4:32.45

More substantial dictionaries were to come from Geneva, a city with no small interest at this time in publications related to the New Testament. In the monumental Thesaurus graecae linguae, edited by Henri Estienne and first published in 1572—and which John Considine has called “the most comprehensive and sophisticated lexical record of any European language that had ever been published”46—we find under the entry for φρόνημα both the Terence (sensus) reference and an extensive discussion of Erasmus’ treatment of the term as it appears in Romans 8.47 Henri was the eldest son of the esteemed printer Robert Estienne, who edited his own Greek New Testament in 1550 (published with Erasmus’ Latin NT and the Vulgate in columns straddling the Greek), which no doubt Henri helped with before he took over the press in 1559. He would then see Theodore Beza’s Greek New Testament with notes through the press in 1565, and would publish his own versions in following years, all of which relied heavily on Erasmus’ initial endeavor.

It is perhaps worth noting in this instance that although Beza renders φρόνημα at Romans 8:6 with intelligentia, at verse 8:27 he translates the same word with sensus (with no annotation).48 Henri Estienne’s 1587 Novum Testamentum is a Greek edition in the main, but it also contains some of his own brief marginal comments. On φρόνημα at Romans 8:7, the note reads “Quod cogitat caro. vel, sapit.” In the marginal note on verse 8:27, Henri’s version reads “Quis sit sensus spir. vel, Quid cogitet.” In these glosses, one senses the influence of both Erasmus and John Calvin. Cogitatio was suggested in Erasmus’ Annotations, and was taken up by Calvin in his Romans commentary as well (for vv. 8:7 and 8:27). There—with reference to Erasmus’ use of affectus—the Genevan reformer writes that cogitatio covers all the faculties of the soul, ratio, intelligentia, and affectus.49 In such instances (and others to follow below), we see that Erasmus’ translation of and notes on the New Testament were considered authoritative as Greek and Latin philological texts, and also how they informed the historical semantics of emotion through influencing early modern lexicography and subsequent NT editions and commentaries.

Annotating Anger

Anger, or anger-like emotions, received extensive attention in classical antiquity from Homer’s Iliad to Seneca’s De ira, and a renewed interest in classical literature in general and Stoic texts in particular guaranteed it a central place in discussions of emotion in the early modern period (which is certainly not to say that it was not of interest also in the Middle Ages).50 Classical texts were not the only province of anger; theologians and exegetes had long had to contend with problems revolving around the wrath of God, or an ostensibly meek Jesus overturning the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple (even if, strictly speaking, anger isn’t mentioned in the Temple-cleansing scene). From the perspective of the historical semantics of emotion, anger terms abound in both Greek and Latin (in the biblical text and elsewhere), and the Greek NT contains several anger terms whose nuances Erasmus is forced to attend to in his Annotations.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, for example, the apostle writes, “Be angry and sin not. Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26). Paul uses two different Greek terms here: ὀργίζεσθε and παροργισμῷ, both of which have the same Greek root, ὀργ-, which has its most recognizable form in ὀργή. The Vulgate rendered these terms irascimini and iracundiam respectively; Erasmus retains irascimini, but translates παροργισμῷ as ira:

EPH 4:26 GREEK ὀργίζεσθε καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε. ὁ ἥλιος μὴ ἐπιδυέτω ἐπὶ παροργισμῷ ὑμῶν.

VG: Irascimini, et nolite peccare. Sol non occidat super iracundiam vestram.

ER: Irascimini, et non peccetis. Sol ne occidat super iram vestram.

Annotating the first sentence, Erasmus interprets Paul as saying that if you happen to get angry, do not sin on account of it: compescite iram—restrain your rage. As for παροργισμῷ, Erasmus contends against the old translator that the word does not connote iracundia, which he defines as a “natural vice” or the tendency to be easily angered (habitus animi facile irascentis). Ira, however (the word Erasmus chooses for his translation), is a commotio or irritatio, a temporary “injury” of the mind—thus allowing Paul to admonish his interlocutors not to let the sun go down on it, which would not be possible, presumably, if it were a mental habitus. The distinction between iracundia and ira has a long history, dating at least to Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations, and Quintilian also defines a commotio as a “temporary movement of the soul.”51 Erasmus himself employs the distinction in multiple works. In his paraphrase of Valla’s Elegantiae, he writes that implanted movements are called hexeis in Greek or habitus in Latin, so that ira is the affectio while iracundia is the habitus.52 In his preaching manual, the 1535 Ecclesiastes, Erasmus makes a similar distinction between iracundia and ira, but there refers to the former as a natura animi, while referring to ira as a commotio. He compares the distinction to timiditas and timor, and ebriositas and ebrietas as well, eventually equating natura animi with habitus animi.53

Sixteenth-century dictionaries would give the Greek anger-term μῆνις (the very first word of Homer’s Iliad) as an equivalent to what Erasmus signifies here as iracundia, an emotional tendency rather than a temporary outburst.54 Μῆνις does not appear in the New Testament, but elsewhere Erasmus does use iracundia to render ὀργή, in this case ascribing it to Jesus, as Andrew Brown notes, at Mark 3:5 (unfortunately with no gloss in the Annotations). In other words, Erasmus himself is inconsistent with his conceptualization of iracundia as a natural affective tendency, or his translation of Mark 3:5 is a slip up, for it would be surprising if he understood Jesus to be angry by nature. (It may be noted that in the Paraphrase on Mark 3:5 he uses ira instead of iracundia.)

A few verses later in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes that the Ephesians should “Put away all … θυμός and ὀργή.” The Vulgate translator renders this doublet as ira et indignatio. Erasmus has tumor et ira. In his Annotationes, however, he further glosses the verse with ferocia et ira, and defines θυμός as “impetus animi effervescentis et concitati” (ASD VI-9:236).55 Thus Paul, on Erasmus’ reading, is condemning the most violent forms of emotion alongside anger in his letter. θυμός is a quite general term in Greek, and in Plato’s tripartite psychology it refers to the aspect of the soul which functions as the seat of emotional movement, distinct from intellect (nous) and the appetitive faculty (epithumia). But it had more specific connotations related to anger also, and the 1552 Lexicon graecolatinum defines it as “not technically anger, but a certain perturbation where blood begins to boil around the heart”—rendering Erasmus’ metaphor literal, while providing the well-known explanation given by Aristotle of the physiological correlate of ὀργή, a more specific anger term. In the same entry, this dictionary glosses ὀργή as specifically encompassing an eruption in the desire for revenge, which is also derived ultimately from Aristotle’s Rhetoric.56

Aristotle’s conception of anger—as outlined in the Rhetoric—as an emotion including a desire for revenge, remained the baseline definition in the early modern period, usually (if not always) associated with ira in Latin usage, and even if it came to be modified in various ways.57 Qualifications were made via Senecan Stoicism, for example, which followed Aristotle’s definition in the main, but did not agree with the Peripatetic about the ways in which it might be justified and socially useful. Erasmus invokes the Aristotelian definition at least once in the Annotations. In Matthew 5:22, Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, doubles down on Moses’ prohibition against murder and says that even the one who gets angry (ὀργιζόμενος) at his or her brother or sister is liable to judgment.

Erasmus’ annotation on this verse concerns itself in the main with the Greek εἰκῇ (a word which is not included in modern Greek editions—or reflected in the Vulgate—but which is fairly well attested in the manuscript tradition), a qualification of the anger Jesus speaks of (as temere, or sine causa—rashly, or without cause). Erasmus also comments on the sort of anger Jesus means, ultimately offering the Aristotelian account as the most general sort of anger (ira vulgari). While Chrysostom and Theophylact had distinguished between “opportune” and “inopportune” anger on account of the presence of εἰκῇ, there is no further need, Erasmus writes, “to distinguish between just and unjust anger, or anger of the flesh and anger of the soul, or anger at the person and anger at the person’s vice, if we think that the Lord here spoke of common anger, which is a movement of the soul aiming at revenge for a pain suffered, certainly the first step toward murder.”58 One wonders about the difference between ira carnis and ira animae, for example, but since Erasmus takes Jesus’ proscriptions in the most general Aristotelian sense, he unfortunately does not elaborate on the other valences of anger (all ira in this case).

One tends to think of the Gospel scene where Jesus overturns the moneychangers’ tables in the Temple as one indicative of anger, even though that emotion is not explicitly ascribed to him—although certainly the lack of an anger term does not entail a lack of anger in any narrative. In the Synoptic Gospel versions, there is no emotion term at all, while in John’s version, at verse 2:17 Jesus’ disciples recall Psalm 69:9, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Greek here is ζῆλος, a complex emotion term that typically indicates zeal (positive or negative), or a general but intense excitement of mind, but it also often denotes envy (like its related term, zelotypia).59 It can mean anger, but as far as I know it is never translated this way in John 2:17 in any English version, or as ira in any Latin one. Erasmus retains the Latin cognate in this instance, zelus, and only offers the Psalm reference as a note in his Annotations. In his Paraphrase on this scene, he ascribes to Jesus magna indignatione, which he contrasts with Jesus’ usual mildness (placidum ac mitem).60

The term ζῆλος occurs elsewhere in the NT. On Hebrews 10:27, which describes a strong judgment forthcoming for the enemies of God as a ζῆλος πυρός, Erasmus renders the phrase as ignis vehementia, a translation choice mentioned in the 1552 Lexicon graecolatinum with an overt reference to Erasmus. In his note, he defines zelos further as a desire for vengeance (impetus ulciscendi)—a component, again, of Aristotelian anger. There he had modified the Vulgate’s ignis aemulatio, a choice (i.e., aemulatio for ζῆλος) he had criticized in his note on Romans 10:2 as vague. However, when the Sadducees arrest the apostles in Acts 5:17, where the word is employed in a way that would indicate anger, Erasmus renders ζῆλος as aemulatio. Erasmus’ multiple translations reveal the polyvalent complexity of the Greek term in this case, and the inability of a single Latin term (or two) to cover its semantic range.61

Annotating Anguish

The richest exegetical locus for considering anxiety-like emotions is Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, which received abundant exegetical attention in the history of the Christian tradition, and in which Erasmus had taken special interest in his 1503 treatise, De taedio Iesu. In that early text, which recasts an argument between Erasmus himself and John Colet about the nature of Christ’s mental anguish, Erasmus was still more or less content to meditate on the Vulgate version and did not consider the semantics of the Greek emotion terms of the Gethsemane scene (though he did know a good deal of Greek by this time62), focusing instead on its theological implications. In the Novum Testamentum, though, Erasmus had developed the Greek skills necessary to parse the relevant emotion terms, and he there contributes both to the historical semantics of sorrow and to the understanding of the theological significance of Christ’s emotions. The Greek word ἀδημονεῖν, which is ascribed to Christ in the Garden but which also appears in Paul’s letters, Erasmus translates in various ways. In Matthew 26:37, Erasmus renders the infinitive with affici moestitudine in his NT text, while the Vulgate had maestus esse. In the parallel passage in Mark (which uses the same Greek word), Erasmus has angi.

When Paul, writing to the Philippians, ascribes the same emotion to Epaphroditus in verse 2:26, Erasmus translates it as anxius animi, explaining in his note that it is “to nearly pass away or faint from pain/sorrow”.63 Greek-to-Latin dictionaries absorb all of Erasmus’ definitions, but the gloss on Philippians seems to have had a more lasting impression. Under the verb form ἀδημονέω, the 1552 Lexicon graecolatinum dutifully includes definitions of this term from Erasmus’ Annotations on Matthew, Mark, and Philippians; it lists, for example, anxius animi, afficior moestitudine, pene exanimor et prae dolore deficio, and impatienter sollicitus sum (which is a definition Erasmus cites from Ambrosiaster also in Ann. Phil. 2:26). Remarkably, Erasmus’ definition of the term in the Annotations on Philippians—pene exanimor et prae dolore deficio—would remain in Greek-to-Latin dictionaries (unattributed) well into the eighteenth century, and as late as the nineteenth century we find it (with no reference to the Greek or to Erasmus) in an English pedagogical work entitled A Dictionary of Latin Phrases (1824), under the entry “To pine away by sadness and grief.”64 Curiously, the relevant entries in Henri Estienne’s exhaustive Thesaurus graecae linguae make no mention of the New Testament passages (or Erasmus) at all.

Two other emotion terms are used to describe Christ’s emotional suffering in Matthew’s account of the Gethsemane scene: λυπεῖσθαι and περίλυπός. In the Annotations, Erasmus is keen to emphasize—beyond the Vulgate—the severe nature of Christ’s psychological agony, reflecting the theological position he took earlier against Colet in the De taedio, where he argued that Christ’s human nature entailed that he underwent the most severe mental and emotional anguish imaginable, rejecting Jerome’s position that Christ had only felt propassiones.65 The Vulgate had rendered λυπεῖσθαι (Matt. 26:37) and περίλυπός (Matt. 26:39) as contristari and tristis (“to be sad” and “sad”) respectively. Erasmus strengthens those terms with affici dolore and moesta (“to be affected by sorrow” and “sorrowful/dejected”). On the couplet from Matt. 26:37, λυπεῖσθαι καὶ ἀδημονεῖν, he explains, “that is, to be sorrowful and gravely anguished, for ἀδημονεῖν signifies a violent troubling of the mind.”66 On the Vulgate’s tristis est anima mea at Matt. 26:38, he writes that it would be better Latin to say In dolore est, sive moeret, aut moesta est anima mea. Moeret and moesta (also spelled maeret and maesta) are terms of sorrow, melancholy, and dejection, and indicate emotional suffering beyond mere sadness. In his Paraphrase on Matthew, Erasmus follows his own advice in the Annotations and uses dolor and moeror.67

Again at Mark 14:33 (the Gethsemane parallel), as James Tracy pointed out some time ago, Erasmus replaces pavescere et taedere (to fear and grow weary) with expavescere et anxius esse (to dread exceedingly and be anxious), pointing out that of the Greek couplet ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι καὶ ἀδημονεῖν the latter is a “powerful torment of the mind” (impotenter angi animo) and the former a strong state of anxiety or grief (aegrescere) that stupefies one in the face of death.68 In other words, he again strengthens the emotional force of the passage. And, again, his definition of ἀδημονεῖν from the Annotations on Mark makes it into the 1552 Lexicon graecolatinum, although here they seem to collapse the distinction Erasmus makes between the two terms.69 The author of Luke, describing Christ’s emotional suffering, uses the Greek term ἀγωνίᾳ, which Erasmus translates as angore against the Vulgate’s agonia (Erasmus was in general predisposed against using Latinized Greek words), and describes it in his Annotations with similar language he used for ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι: an affectio which seizes a person and presses heavily and sharply at death. He convinced at least Theodore Beza, who also uses the term in his 1565 Novum Testamentum.

A final New Testament anxiety term is the Greek στενοχῶρια, which Paul uses on multiple occasions. At Romans 2:9, Erasmus modifies the Vulgate’s angustia to anxietas, but does not include an annotation on the verse. He is compelled to respond to Titelmans’ criticism, however, and in the Responsio ad Collationes, he writes “To those who know nothing but Latin, angustia means something different from what it means to Paul when he speaks of ‘anguish.’ However, wherever there is anxietas, there is something of angustia, for grief constrains the mind, just as joy expands it. But elsewhere [he says] I translate στενοχωρεῖσθε as angusti estis [you are anguished] for angustiamini [you are constrained]. What is strange about that if it is more appropriate there? The same Greek word does not have the same meaning in every context.”70 The relevant distinction is between being “restricted,” the literal sense of angustia, and experiencing a more intense form of mental anguish.71 Another sense of the term is given by Erasmus on 2 Cor. 6:12, where he writes that Paul’s use of στενοχωρεῖσθε (which he renders as angusti in this case) is “not a pain or vexation of the soul, but refers to the scrupulous observation of the ceremonies of the Mosaic law, or human traditions.”72 Again we see the difficulties inherent in translating terms related to psychological anguish, especially when metaphor is involved, but also the richness that Erasmus recognized in the complexities of the original language of the New Testament.


It would be misleading to draw general conclusions about Erasmus’ translation of emotion terms as a specific category, as he likely did not think about this process as a unique kind of linguistic problem in the way that many historians and linguists do today. That said—and for reasons similar to those that drive contemporary scholars of emotion—considering such cases ad hoc is interesting for what they tell us about Erasmus’ conceptualization of specific kinds of feeling, and about the various possibilities of understanding the Greek terms at the time. In certain instances, such as the Gethsemane passages, we gain further insight by linking Erasmus’ tendency to “strengthen” the Latin emotion terms to his earlier comments on Christ’s emotions in works like the De taedio Iesu. In other instances, such as when considering his digressions on affectus, we see a combination of his preference for Quintilian’s favored term over a variety of other ‘general’ emotion terms in Latin, and are also in a better position to understand how the semantics of emotion words are related to his theological anthropology. And yet other cases confirm the conclusions made by previous scholars, such as Rummel and de Jonge, about Erasmus’ translation methods and the ways in which he sought to improve upon the Vulgate version.

From the perspective of reception studies in early modern intellectual history, by referring to lexicographical works, we are able to establish in a concrete manner the ways in which Erasmus—in his New Testament scholarship specifically—shaped, at the very least, humanist lexicographers’ definitions of Greek and Latin terms, and presumably others who happened to consult these reference works. By comparing lexicons to each other and to Erasmus’ NT and Annotations, we gain a broader understanding of the historical semantics of emotion in the 16th century. Doing similar work with vernacular Bible translations and Greek- or Latin-to-vernacular dictionaries, which were increasingly popular at the time, would no doubt quickly expand and complicate the picture further.

Historians of emotion have much to gain from such approaches. From the perspective of that discipline, by considering Erasmus’ choices and explanations, we get a sense of the normative understanding of emotions in the context of classicizing humanist Latin idiom in the Renaissance,73 and we contribute to what Barbara Rosenwein has called for: “the building blocks of a new history of the emotions based not on the presentist and Anglophone biases of modern emotions studies but on the words of emotions as they were really used in the past.”74 In future studies, it could perhaps be fruitful to draw up a word list of emotion terms used in Erasmus’ NT (or other works) to compare with other lists, such as those derived by Rosenwein of emotion terms which appear in Cicero and in the Vulgate, in order to discern shifts in broader emotional lexicons over longer periods or in specific intellectual and linguistic milieux. But ultimately one still needs to attend to how the words themselves are employed and defined in their own contexts in order to comprehend their significance in any particular work or broader cultural circumstance, and Erasmus’ New Testament scholarship provides us with a treasure trove of cases for further consideration.


Ep 1126 lines 21–38 CWE.


Ep 495 lines 46–48 CWE.


Ep 459 line 123 CWE.


See Ep 857 to Pirckheimer and from Tunstall, Ep 663 line 85 CWE.


Ep 423 lines 12–16 CWE.


Ep 933 lines 29–30 CWE. Arnoud Visser has recently shed light on Luther’s angry outbursts as expressed in the margins of his personal copy of the 1527 Annotationes; see “Irreverent Reading: Martin Luther as Annotator of Erasmus,” in Sixteenth Century Journal 48:1 (2017), 87–109.


Erasmus did think, at least, that emotion words employed to describe God in the biblical texts did cause particular exegetical difficulties. In his 1534 Purgatio against Luther, he accuses the German reformer of disingenuousness when he inveighs against Erasmus for pointing out ambiguities in the language of the Bible. Erasmus responds that “anything metaphorical is ambiguous,” and as examples mentions specifically “when hatred, love, anger, rage, regret, and mercy are attributed to [God]” (CWE 78:438–439).


For some relevant, if incommensurable, considerations of the translation of emotion words, see Anna Wierzbicka, “The ‘history of emotions’ and the future of emotion research,” Emotion Review 2 (2010), 269–273; Douglas Cairns and Laura Fulkerson (eds.), Emotions Between Greece and Rome. BICS Supplement 125 (University of London, 2015), introduction; Ute Frevert et al., Emotional Lexicons (OUP, 2014); Kirk Essary, “Passions, Affections, or Emotions? On the Ambiguity of 16th-Century Terminology,” Emotion Review (2017); also Before Emotion: The Language of Feeling (400–1800) (ed. Juanita Ruys, Michael Champion, and Kirk Essary; forthcoming with Routledge, 2018), and Barbara Rosenwein, “Emotion Words,” in Le sujet des émotions au Moyen Âge, ed. Nagy and Boquet (Beauchesne, 2008), 94–106.


See the introduction in Frevert et al., Emotional Lexicons (OUP, 2014).


Hoffmann, “Erasmus on Language and Interpretation,” Moreana 28 (1991) 1–20 (2). See that entire article for some discussion of the centrality of affectus for Erasmus’ hermeneutics.


See Mark Vessey’s Margaret Mann Phillips Lecture, “A More Radical Renaissance: Erasmus’ Novum instrumentum (1516) in Its Time and Ours,” Erasmus Studies 37 (2017) 23–44 (41).


On Erasmus’ translation method with respect to the New Testament, see the invaluable notes in Andrew Brown’s edition of the text in ASD VI-2, VI-3, VI-4, and the works of H.J. de Jonge, e.g.: “Erasmus’s Translation of the New Testament: Aim and Method,” in The Bible Translator 67:1 (2016), 29–41; idem, “The Character of Erasmus’ Translation of the New Testament as reflected in his translation of Hebrews 9,” Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 14:1 (1984), 81–87; and Erika Rummel, Erasmus as a Translator of the Classics (Toronto, 1985), 89–102.


It must be noted that John Considine describes Erasmus’ influence on early modern lexicons from various angles, and deals extensively with the sources used for Estienne’s monumental Thesaurus graecae linguae of 1572 in Dictionaries in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 2008), passim.


Hoffmann “Erasmus on Language and Interpretation” writes that “Erasmus uses the concept affectus in three ways, as the divine (or author’s) attraction in the word, as natural human affection in general, and as a moral disposition of human beings within the (Stoic) framework of virtues and vices” (18n41). “Natural human affection” also needs definition, and as we will see it can be quite rich and variegated itself.


In multiple places he repeats Quintilian’s schema of two types of affectus (from Inst. Orat. VI), the calm on the one hand and the violent or vehement on the other. For more details, see Yasmin Haskell and Kirk Essary, “Calm and Violent Passions: The Genealogy of a Distinction from Quintilian to Hume,” forthcoming in Erudition and the Republic of Letters.


See below, and also Kirk Essary, “Passions, Affections, or Emotions? On the Ambiguity of 16th-Century Terminology,” in Emotion Review (2017).


For further information, see CWE 73:xxix–xxxviii. Also, Paolo Sartori, “La controversia neotestamentaria tra Frans Titelmans ed Erasmo da Rotterdam (1527–1530 ca): linee di sviluppo e contenuti,” Humanistica Lovaniensia 52 (2003), 77–135.


Terence, Adelphi, 533. Illius sensum pulchre calleo.


See Rummel, Erasmus as a Translator of the Classics, 95n36.


“Quae licet intellectu difficilia sint, tamen clare satis testantur, graeca vocabula potius illum ad mentem et intelligentiam, vimque sive cognoscendi sive sentiendi retulisse, quam ad affectum” (Collationes quinque super Epistolam ad Romanos beati pauli Apostoli [Antwerp, Vorsterman: 1529], fol. 204).


Citing Valla’s Elegantiae, book 4: “Affectus est pars animae qualitatis, illa quae e regione rationis est. Quicquid enim in anima, praeter partem illam memoriae, ratio non est, affectus est. Et rursus, quicquid non est affectus, ratio. Aut si affectum pro affectione sumas, definitur a Cicerone, affectio esse animae et corporis, ex tempore, aliqua de causa, mutatio. Quintilianus, quod graece dicitur pathos, id est passio, affectum nominat … Quod graeci pathos vocans, nos vertentes recte ac proprie affectum dicimus.” For Erasmus’ own summary of Valla’s position on affectus and affectio, see the Paraphrasis in Elegantias Laurentii Vallae in ASD I-4:218–219.


“Topographies of Emotion,” in Emotional Lexicons (ed. Frevert et al.; OUP, 2014).


CWE 73:216, modified; LB IX:997D: “Quod phronein indicat aliquando curare, declarant hinc profecta, phrontis & phrontizein. Sed cur, inquit, mox phronema vertis in affectum potius quam in curam? Quoniam affici his quae sunt carnis dure dicitur Latine. Curare molliter & usitate, at cura carnis & cura spiritus non solum dure, verum etiam ambigue dicitur, affectus contra mollius & aptius.”


As discussed, e.g., by de Jonge, “Erasmus’s Translation of the New Testament: Aim and Method,” in The Bible Translator 67:1 (2016), 29–41, and Rummel, Erasmus as a Translator of the Classics, 95.


CWE 73:216, modified; LB IX:997E: “Nihil tamen obstat nobis quo minus Latine dicamus pium affectum erga Deum, erga patriam, erga liberos, cum hic affectus non sit in infima animi parte, sed in summa. Proinde mihi placuit verbum, quod ad utramque animi partem pertinebat, spiritum et carnem.”


See Kirk Essary, “Passions, Affections, or Emotions?” From the De taedio Iesu: “It is no surprise that [Christ’s] natural passions (naturales affectus) did not impel Christ towards sin, given that they offer so many of us the chance to do good” (CWE 70:39; ASD V-7:237).


CWE 73:216–217; LB IX:997F–998A: “Nam voluntas rationi obtemperans amat aeterna, ad carnem ac res corporeas sese demittens, amat non amanda. Uterque tamen affectus est in ea parte animi, quae dicitur voluntas.”


CWE 73:217; LB IX:998B: “Nec mirum si interpretes utrumque attingunt verbis, cum res inter se cognatae sint: nam depravatus affectus fere nascitur ex depravato intellectu, et contra.”


See, e.g., Sacred Rhetoric: The Christian Grand Style in the English Renaissance (Princeton, 1989), passim.


See Dixon, From Passions to Emotions: The Creation of a Secular Psychological Category (Cambridge, 2004), esp. ch. 1; cf. Kirk Essary, “Passions, Affections, or Emotions? On the Ambiguity of 16th-Century Terminology,” in Emotion Review (2017). As an example of Erasmus using affectus to refer to a bodily passion, see his Paraphrase on Matthew (vv. 19:11–12), where strong sexual desire is described as an affectus corporis, of which none is more vehement or unconquerable (violentior and invincibilior). Erasmus in some ways precedes Spinoza in employing affectus broadly and in various modes, although Spinoza would seem to be most interested in categorizing affectus via orders of activity and passivity; see Russ Leo, “Affective Physics: Affectus in Spinoza’s Ethica,” in Passions and Subjectivity in the Early Modern Era, ed. Cummings and Sierhuis (Ashgate, 2013), 33–49.


For further consideration of this episode, and of Erasmus’ use of affectus more generally, see my forthcoming essay in Before Emotion: The Language of Feeling (400–1800), ed. Ruys, Champion, and Essary (Routledge, 2018).


Ep 2260 lines 175–188 CWE; Allen: “Audivit fortassis a Stoicis rigidioribus damnari pathe, quae nonnulli vertunt affectus, alii perturbationes. Atqui non ideo protinus affectus nihil aliud sonat quam animi perturbationes, si Latini, dum quomodocunque student explicare Stoicorum mentem, pathe verterunt affectus, motus, perturbationes, cupiditates ac morbos. Deinde hoc Stoicorum paradoxon non solum a Christianis verum etiam a caeteris philosophis., imo ab ipsis Stoicis recentioribus, iam olim explosum est. Nunc etiam haereticus sit habendus qui Stoicorum apatheian velit tueri pertinaciter. Nam gaudium, dolor, spes, metus, amor, odium, ira, benevolentia, misericordia citra controversiam affectus sunt; et tamen haec passim in mysticis literis tribuuntur hominibus non iuxta carnem sed iuxta spiritum viventibus, tribuuntur et Christo, denique tribuuntur Divinae naturae.”


CWE 56:56; ASD VI-7:76 “Πάθη apud Graecos nonnunquam perturbationes animi sonat aut motus aut morbos aut, quod maxime placet Fabio, ‘affectus’. In tanta copia probatorum nominum, quorsum opus erat novo et factitio ‘passionis’ vocabulo? Hoc loco maxime quadrabat ‘morbos’, quandoquidem effeminatam libidinem et Horatius morbum appellat … Porro quod addidit, ignominiae, ex Hebraica sermonis proprietate sumptum apparet, pro eo quod est: ‘in affectus dedecorosos’ sive ‘contumeliosos’ et ‘ignominiosos’.”


For Andrew Brown, “The use of cupiditas at the present passage obscures the distinction between pathos and epithumia, especially when (in 1519) the latter term is rendered by cupiditas in [Rom. 1:24]” (ASD VI-3:33).


Collationes super Romanos, 41: “Apparet tamen nullam esse vocem, quae tam perfecte graecae vocis exprimat proprietatem quam passio. Quadquidem ut a pathein, graeci pathos verbale nomen deducunt, ita per omnia similiter latini, passio a verbo patior. Neque sancti patres hunc locum adducentes, morbos usque aut affectus legunt, sed passiones.” Titelmans’ objection to Erasmus’ use of cupiditas is that it is too specific a species, while pathe (and passiones) refers to the genus of feeling.


See also Rom. 1:31, Rom. 7:5, Gal. 5:24, Phil. 3:10 and notes.


“Addidit Iesus Christi, ut declaret hunc affectum esse pietatis, non humanum” (ASD VI-9:276).


CWE 58:191.


Ann. Cor. 6:12, on the lemma Non angustiamini in nobis.


See Ann Moss, Renaissance Truth and the Latin Language Turn (Oxford, 2003), especially the first two chapters, and John Considine, Dictionaries in Early Modern Europe: Lexicography and the Making of Heritage (Cambridge, 2008).


He routinely lambasted the medieval Catholicon, for example; see Moss, Renaissance Truth, 21, 28; and Considine, Dictionaries, 24.


According to his preface, Erasmus would have added more Greek words had he had any extra time. See Ep 1460 lines 33–35 CWE.


Budé did not in fact edit this, or any, lexicon. Budé’s major contribution to early modern lexicography was his enormous Commentarii linguae graecae of 1529. Erasmus encouraged him to publish a proper lexicon, both directly and indirectly in the prefatory letter to the Froben dictionary of 1524, but to no avail. For more information on Budé and lexicography, see Considine, Dictionaries in Early Modern Europe, 31–38.


Lexicon graecolatinum (Paris, 1552), ad loc. φρόνημα: cognitio, intellectus, voluntas, vis animi, cogitatio, animi prudentia, affectus, propositum, consilium, mens, sententia. Terent. sensum dixit, Illius sensum pulchre calleo.


ASD VI-9:238: “Quod non solum ad misericordiam, sed ad omnem pietatis affectum pertinet, quasi dicas ‘bonorum viscerum’. Nam ‘viscera’ pro affectibus usurpant divinae literae.” Cf. the entry in the Lexicon graecolatinum: misericors, quasi bonorum viscerum. Viscera enim sacrae litterae pro affectibus usurpant. Non solum autem ad misericordiam pertinet, sed ad omnem pietatis affectum.


Dictionaries in Early Modern Europe, 82.


The dictionary is arranged in an alphabetical manner according to root words, and φρόνημα appears under the larger heading ΦΡΗΝ (p. 212 of vol. 4 in the 1580 version on This lexicon also mentions cogitant/cogitatio as possible translations for φρόνοῦσιν/φρόνημα, which is what John Calvin argues for in his Commentary on Romans.


See Beza, Jesu Christi D.N. Novum Testamentum (Geneva: Henri Estienne, 1567), ad loc. Calvin had translated the word with cognitionem in his Commentary on Romans, but refers also to the affectus Spiritus in his gloss.


Jean Calvin, Commentarius in Epistolam Pauli ad Romanos, ed. T.H.L. Parker (Leiden: Brill, 1981) 162: “Erasmus, Affectum: vetus interpres, Prudentiam posuit. Atqui quum certum sit idem esse Paulo τὸ φρόνημα quod, Moses vocat figmentum cordis, et hac voce comprehendi omnes animae sensus, a ratione et intelligentia usque ad affectus.”


See Discourses of Anger in the Early Modern Period, ed. Enenkel and Traninger (Brill, 2014); also Anger’s Past: The Social Uses of Emotion in the Middle Ages, ed. Barbara Rosenwein (Cornell, 1998); William Harris, Restraining Rage: The Ideology of Anger Control in Classical Antiquity (Harvard, 2001); Ancient Anger: Perspectives from Homer to Galen, ed. Braund and Most (Cambridge, 2004).


See Cicero, Tusc. Disp. IV.XII.27; Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria V, 10, 29: “temporarium animi motum, sicut iram, pavorem.”


ASD I-4:219.


ASD V-4:372. For the distinction between temporary and habitual affective movements in classical rhetoric and its reception in the Middle Ages with specific attention to the term affectio, see the forthcoming essay by Rita Copeland, “Affectio-Affectus in Latin Rhetoric up to c. 1200,” in Before Emotion: The Language of Feeling (400–1800), ed. Ruys, Champion, and Essary (Routledge, 2018).


The 1552 edition of “Budé’s” Lexicon Graecolatinum glosses menis as iracundia, ira permanens et diuturna, invidia, bilis Latine.


He translates the same couplet at Romans 2:8 as indignatio et ira.


orge quae iam cupit erumpere in vindictam.” The much more laconic Dictionarius graecus (Froben, 1524), simply provides ira for orge; for thumos, it offers “animus, furor, ira, desiderium, apud medicos nomen hulceris verrucae, accedens ad colorem thymi.”


On Aristotle’s anger, see Rhetoric 2.2.1378a31–33, and David Konstan, “Aristotle on Anger and the Emotions: The Strategies of Status,” in Ancient Anger, ed. Braund and Most (Cambridge, 2004), 99–120. For various takes on Aristotle’s anger in the early modern period, see the essays in Discourses of Anger in the Early Modern Period.


ASD VI-5:136–137: “Non erat opus hic distinguere iram iustam ab iniusta aut iram carnis ab ira animae aut iram qua irascimur homini et qua irascimur hominis vitio, si sentiamus Dominum hic loqui de ira vulgari, qui est motus animi tendens ad ultionem doloris, nimirum primus ad homicidium gradus.”


Of zelotypia, Erasmus ascribes it to Joseph in his Paraphrase on Matthew 1:19, and says that it is the most debilitating of all morbos animi.


Tomus Primus Paraphraseon (on John chapter 2) (Froben, Basel, 1541), fol. 521. He also uses the word indignatio when paraphrasing the scene in Matthew (ibid. fol. 113).


The 1552 Lexicon graecolatinum offers (among other equivalents) immodicus amor, aemulatio, iusta ira, felicitas, divitiae, admiratio, invidia, studium.


For an overview of Erasmus’ Greek studies, see Erika Rummel, Erasmus as a Translator of the Classics (Toronto, 1985), 3–20.


ASD VI-9:304: “Nam ἀδημονεῖν est ‘pene exanimari’ ac ‘deficere prae dolore’.”


In the 1824 work, the full title of which is the Dictionary of Latin Phrases: A Methodical Digest of the Various Phrases from the Best Authors, Which Have Been Collected In All Phraseological Works Hitherto Published, for the More Speedy Progress of Students in Latin Composition (by William Robertson; London, 1824), the phrase falls under the larger heading of SAD, and the order is prae dolore pene exanimari, et deficere. This is a revised edition of a work originally published in the seventeenth century under the title of Phraseologia generalis … Anglo-Latinis, seu Latino-Anglicanis (Cambridge, 1681).


CWE 70:54–55: “He felt every conceivable bodily ailment as keenly as if his mind were suffering nothing; likewise, he felt every kind of mental anguish as keenly as if his body were not in pain. He felt every kind of pain, of both mind and body, singly, collectively, and in equal measure, in such a way that his sublime charity could do nothing to ease his burden of suffering, but rather added greatly to it.”


ASD VI-5:327: “id est, Dolere et graviter angi. Nam ἀδημονεῖν impotentem animi molestiam significat.”


“Hic igitur tum coepit invadere Iesum, sensitque mirum animi dolorem ac moerorem” (Tomus primus Paraphraseon Des. Erasmi Roterodami [Froben, Basel, 1535], fol. 164).


ASD VI-5:425: “Est enim posterius hoc impotenter angi animo et supra modum agrescere; cuiusmodi affectio corripit hominem primo obiectu magni discriminis, ut aliquandiu non sit apud se.” See James Tracy, “Humanists Among the Scholastics: Erasmus, More, and Lefèvre d’ Etaples on the Humanity of Christ,” in ERSY 5 (1985) 30–51 (44).


The lexicon provides the whole of Erasmus’ annotation, only slightly modified: “hoc verbum significat impotenter angi animo et supramodum aegrescere, cuiusmodi affectio corripit hominem primo obiectu magni discriminis, ut aliquandiu non sit apud se.”


CWE 73:162. Cf. Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations 4.12.27: “Irritability is to anger as anxietas is to angor; they are not all anxious who are at some point anguished, and the one who is anxious is not always anguished.”


See Andrew Brown’s note in ASD VI-3:43.


ASD VI-8:392: “Siquidem ‘angustiam’ vocat hoc loco non afflictionem aut molestiam animi, sed trepidam observationem ceremoniarum legis Mosaicae aut humanarum traditionum.”


As de Jonge puts it, “The norm for this correct Latin, according to Erasmus, in vocabulary, morphology, and syntax, is to be found in a limited selection of classical Latin authors (‘probati auctores’) of the first centuries before and after Christ: Cicero, Caesar, Sallust, Livy, and Quintilian” (“Erasmus’ Translation of the New Testament,” 37).


“Emotion Words,” in Le sujet des émotions au Moyen Âge, ed. Nagy and Boquet (Beauchesne, 2008), 106.

  • 10

    Hoffmann, “Erasmus on Language and Interpretation,” Moreana 28 (1991) 1–20 (2). See that entire article for some discussion of the centrality of affectus for Erasmus’ hermeneutics.

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  • 16

    See below, and also Kirk Essary, “Passions, Affections, or Emotions? On the Ambiguity of 16th-Century Terminology,” in Emotion Review (2017).

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  • 18

    Terence, Adelphi, 533. Illius sensum pulchre calleo.

  • 24

    As discussed, e.g., by de Jonge, “Erasmus’s Translation of the New Testament: Aim and Method,” in The Bible Translator 67:1 (2016), 29–41, and Rummel, Erasmus as a Translator of the Classics, 95.

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  • 48

    See Beza, Jesu Christi D.N. Novum Testamentum (Geneva: Henri Estienne, 1567), ad loc. Calvin had translated the word with cognitionem in his Commentary on Romans, but refers also to the affectus Spiritus in his gloss.

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