Introduction
The essays in this volume
wer~
written for the Second International
Colloquy on the History of Biblical Exegesis in the Sixteenth Century
held at Duke University on September
23-25, 1982.
The colloquy was
sponsored by the Duke Divinity School in cooperation with the In-
stitut d'histoire de la Reformation of the University of Geneva, which
sponsored the first
(1976)
and third colloquies
(1988).
The colloquies themselves grew out of the recognition that the
intellectual and religious life of the sixteenth century cannot be under-
stood without comprehending the preoccupation of sixteenth-century
humanists and theologians with the interpretation of the Bible. Com-
mentaries on Paul's Epistle to the Romans may serve as a case in point.
In the fifteenth century relatively few commentaries on this epistle
were written, and many of those that were circulated were reissues of
earlier works. In the sixteenth century, however, well over seventy new
commentaries on Romans were published, excluding fresh editions of
older commentaries by patristic and medieval authors. The list of
commentators on Romans includes not only such important and ob-
vious scholars as Erasmus, Luther, and Calvin, but also such lesser
figures as Alesius, Guilliaud, Grimani, and Brucioli.
This burst of commentary writing has been largely ignored by older
scholarship, which regarded biblical commentaries as theological es-
says in unsystematic form, and therefore less accessible to historians
than more systematic theological treatises. Little effort was made to
treat the commentaries as a distinct genre of religious literature,
different in scope and form from systematic theological treatises. His-
torians felt, for example, that everything worth knowing about Cal-
vin's religious thought could be found in his Institutes ofthe Christian
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