Original Research

In Praise of Folly: A cursory review and appreciation five centuries later

Raymond Potgieter
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 49, No 1 | a1962 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v49i1.1962 | © 2015 Raymond Potgieter | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 March 2015 | Published: 29 September 2015

About the author(s)

Raymond Potgieter, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa


Desiderius Erasmus was a humanist reformer concerned with reforming the civil and ecclesiastical structures of his society. In reformed circles, much attention is paid to his role in the Lutheran controversy. Despite this, his powerful influence continues to this day. Erasmus’ particular fool’s literature, Moriae Encomium (1509), revealed his humanist concerns for civil and ecclesial society as a whole. He employed folly as a rhetorical instrument in satirical manner, evoking readers’ amusement from numerous charges against the perceived multilayered social reality of the day. Five hundred years later the person of Folly may still perform this same task in Christian society. That was Erasmus’ point – the church is not to be seen as an island, it shares in the structures of society and is therefore still subject to its share of critical comments.

‘Lof der Zotheid’: ‘n oorsig en evaluering vyf eeue later. Desiderius Erasmus was ’n humanis wat gepoog het om hom te beywer vir die hervorming van die burgerlike en kerklike strukture van sy tyd. In gereformeerde kringe word sy rol in die Lutherse twisgeskil beklemtoon. Sy verreikende invloed word steeds vandag gevoel. Erasmus se gekke-literatuur, Moriae Encomium (1509), het sy besorgdheid rakende die burgerlike en ekklesiastiese samelewing vanuit ’n humanistiese standpunt openbaar. Hy gebruik dwaasheid as retoriek en met behulp van satire vermaak hy die leser terwyl hy die veelvuldige lae van die sosiale realiteit van die dag ontbloot. Die personifikasie van die ‘gek’ of ‘dwaas’ is 500 jaar later steeds relevant vir hierdie rol in die Christelike samelewing. Erasmus was van mening dat die kerk nie as ’neiland beskou moet word nie. Dit maak deel uit van die samelewingstrukture en is daarom steeds aan kritiek onderworpe.


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