John Colet (1467-1519) English scholar and theologian

John Colet (1467-1519) was an English scholar, theologian, and one of the principal Christian Humanists of his day in England. Born in London to wealthy parents, he studied at Oxford and Cambridge universities, and in Italy, and lectured at Oxford on the New Testament from about 1495 to 1505, Erasmus being in his audience.

He is a major figure to contribute to the development of education in England. His influence as the chief Christian humanist of England had acted admirably upon the educated people of the country that made the Renaissance ‘the instrument of Reformation’. A typical Englishman, he was conservative, as well as practical and explained the scripture independently, and declared that God could not be imprisoned in formulas. He said unambiguously that the latter was killed but the spirit gave life.

As dean of St Paul’s (1505), he founded and endowed St Paul’s School. Colet is remembered for his educational work and Latin Grammar that he wrote along with William Lily, the first headmaster of the St. Paul’s School, wrote the syntax; later known as the Eton Latin Grammar, and that book on Grammar was a seminal one to influence the English Language.

He was a famous preacher and lecturer; he has been seen as a precursor of the Reformation. He first came to notice with his lectures on the Epistles of St Paul at Oxford in 1497-8 which draw on Florentine Neoplatonism from Plotinus to Pseudo-Dionysius to Pico Della Mirandola. A friend of Erasmus and Thomas More, he was a vitriolic and powerful opponent of scholasticism, of ecclesiastical abuses, and of foreign wars. There is a biography by J. H. Lupton (1887), who also edited his expositions of the New Testament.

Also read: John Knox, Scottish reformer, and his famous works