Hi Hugh. Feels to me that you are about at that point with this clause where it's best to move on and revisit it later with fresh eyes, but in your tenacity I see myself!
I have to confess, in any case, that I simply don't understand your "A" and "B" alternatives. But I'm really enjoying being pulled into 'Praise of Folly' by your questions, so let me tell you what my current understanding is, with the help of Hylander and Michael.
If someone, without context, simply asked us to translate the Latin phrase e cuius unius eruditione licet omnes aestimare
, I think we'd all come up with a more-or-less identical and accurate literal translation. The question is, who are the omnes
and how is eruditione
to be understood in the context.
So let's review the context, broadly. In this section of 'Praise', Folly sets aside poking fun at the follies of the uneducated masses and girds herself (!) to take on various professions with some claim to knowledge (eruditi
, as she calls them): Ad eos accingar, qui sapientiae speciem inter mortales tenent
. She begins with the grammarians, then the poets, rhetoricians, book writers in general, lawyers, logicians and sophists, scientists, and, at the point we're at now, reluctantly (always tongue-in-cheek), the terrorist theologians.
She gives examples of their absurd subtilissimas subtilitates
, but even subtiliores
are those of the scholastic sects (Thomists, Scotists, etc.). Why, the apostles themselves would have needed help if they were to be engaged in such arguments:
- In quibus omnibus [the scholastics] tantum est eruditionis, tantum difficultatis, ut existimem ipsis apostolis alio spiritu opus fore, si cogantur hisce de rebus cum hoc novo theologorum genere conserere manus.
Paul could present faith, the apostles could preach charity and grace, etc., but parum magistraliter
, parum dialectice
, non pari acumine quo Scotae ...
[the apostles] peccatum, at emoriar, si potuerunt scientifice definire, quid sit illud quod peccatum vocamus, nisi forte Scostistarum spiritu fuerunt edocti. Nec enim adduci possum ...
And so here we are. You and I got the main idea, I think, which is why I put 'eruditio' in quotes. But I think Michael is right. When Folly says, 'Why, I just can't be led to believe ... ', she is being completely tongue-in-cheek, and that is what I was not fully appreciating. Clearly from the context, what she really means is that Paul and the apostles - yes, I agree with Michael and Adams, omnes
refers to the other apostles - had no eruditio
at all, to speak of at all (the quaestiones, disceptationes, genealogias, λογομαχίας that Paul preached against in the epistles were mere child's play compared to the subtilissimas subtilitates
of the modern theologians.
So, Hugh, I think context is the key here. Literal translations, like the early one you cited (I have a 1964 edition that translates "upon whose learning others can be judged"), are fine, but Adams has woven a little more interpretation, and not incorrectly (I gladly stand corrected!), into his.