Two themes of the Renaissance proved especially important in the new developments which began to reshape Christianity, especially in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.
1. Growing criticism of scholasticism. Humanist authors had little time for this theolo- gical movement. One of the criticisms that they leveled against scholasticism is of particular importance. Humanists regarded scholasticism as impeding access to early Christian writers – such as Augustine of Hippo – by presenting later interpretations as a definitive interpretation of his writings. The Renaissance urged a direct engagement with Augustine and other writers, and produced editions of his texts to make this possible.
2. A return to the New Testament. Renaissance Christian writers regarded the New Testa- ment as the title-deeds of Christianity, and insisted that theology and spirituality should be based on a direct engagement with this text, preferably in its original Greek. This second point is of particular importance, and we shall consider it further below.
The humanists were primarily scholars, men of letters, who insisted that this systematic return to the Bible should be done on the basis of the best possible scholarship. The actual content of the Bible would have to be established by the most reliable textual methods, and it would have to be read in its original languages. Immediately, the authority of the Latin Vulgate translation came under threat. As humanist scholars began to examine the history of the text in detail, problems began to emerge. Probing questions were pressed with increasing vigor concerning its textual integrity and philological reliability. As the Vulgate text was painstakingly compared with the best Greek manuscripts, errors began to be noticed. Variant readings were identified.