Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg Converts the Tamils of India

Bartholomew Ziegenbalg died on February 23, 1719.

Born in Saxony in 1682 and raised in the university town of Halle, Germany, Ziegenbalg became a pioneer Protestant missionary to India, and the first to translate the Scriptures into an Indian language … some 80 years before the more famous William Carey.

This young German had been converted at the age of 17, and fired with Christian zeal by the Pietist movement within the Lutheran Church.

It was King Frederick IV of Denmark who saw the need to send missionaries to the fledgling Danish settlement of Tranquebar, on the southeast coast of India (in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu). August Francke, who was the leader of Pietism at the University of Halle, recommended Ziegenbalg as one of two men for the task.

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On 9 July, 1706, at the age of 22, Ziegenbald arrived at the Coromandel Coast in South East India with Heinrich Plütschau; the pair being the first protestant missionaries to India and encountering opposition both from Roman Catholicism and ungodly merchants. But within eight months Ziegenbalg was able to converse in the native Malabar Tamil tongue, within 10 months of his arrival he was baptising the first five converts, and on 14 June, 1707, he laid the foundation stone of his church “in spite of official jeers and opposition.” By 14 August, 1707, he could write that “63 persons gathered for worship and another to be baptised tomorrow”.

Ziegenbalg took keen interest in the new printing technology emerging in Europe. He preferred the printed word to the spoken sermon. He began writing books on Tamil language, dictionaries and manuals on printing.

After 2 years in India Ziegenbalg had compiled Biblithece Malabarke, a list of 161 Tamil books he had read, describing the content of each book.

However all was not clear sailing for this enterprising and gifted missionary. Militant Hindus opposed the work of the missionaries and the local Danish authorities did not want unrest in their new settlement.

In 1708 opposition reached its height, and Zeigenbalg was imprisoned for four months, charged with encouraging rebellion by converting the natives. But “the converts multiplied.” In October, 1708, free from prison, he commenced his translation of the Tamil New Testament, a task that was completed in three years.

Ziebenbalg found the weather a further challenge, added to the religious and official opposition. He wrote, “My skin was like a red cloth. The heat here is very great, especially during April, May and June, in which season the wind blows from the inland so strongly that it seems as if the heat comes straight out of the oven”.

In 1709 Ziegenbalg asked that a printing press be sent from Denmark and he sent back drawings of Tamil type faces he needed made into printing blocks. When the Tamil type blocks arrived in 1712 they were too large, so Ziegenbalg had locals caste smaller type blocks, from cheese tins.

The first press and paper came through the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SPCK) in London, arriving in 1713, but the printing hand sent with the press ran away. Ziegenbalg then recruited and trained a German soldier to print his first book in India, in Portuguese.

Ziegenbalg was further assisted by Johanne Adler, a printer who arrived in Tamil Nadu in 1713 and who set up a type-making factory near Tranquebar to supply Ziegenbalg’s press. In 1715 a paper mill was set up in the village. And then Adler began making printing ink as well. Ziegenbalg’s printing ambitions were ready to be met, locally.

In 1716, the press produced the first English language book printed in Asia; “A Guide to the English Tongue”. Next year, the press produced a Portuguese ABC book.

Ziegenbalg and Plütschau encouraged the indigenous Indian Christians into positions of leadership. In 1733 they ordained the first Indian pastor, whom they had converted from Hinduism.

When Ziegenbalg died, at the age of 36, he left behind 350 converts, a missionary seminary, a grammar and lexicon of nearly 60,000 Tamil words, and the entire Bible in the Tamil language, along with Luther’s Catechisms, and other works translated into Tamil. We might add that he brought to India a respect for Christian missionaries, and an example for others to follow.

Ziegenbalg is credited for not only printing the first English book in Asia but also writing the first Tamil dictionary.

Ziegenbalg married in 1716 and at the same time official opposition lessened with the arrival of a friendlier governor. He set up a seminary to train the native pastors.

Another contribution from Ziegenbalg is seen in his keenness to reach the marginalised. He reached out to the untouchables and others whose place in the caste system restricted them. He sought to elevate them socially, as equals in the gospel. He also started the first school for girls, so they could be given opportunities previously denied them.

We are told that on his deathbed he shaded his eyes and cried out: “How is it so bright, as if the sun shone in my face …”

Upon his death in 1719 he was buried at The New Jerusalem church in Tranquebar, which he and his associates completed the previous year.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Philip Melanchthon Anchors Reformation Theology

Philip Melanchthon was born February 16, 1497 in Bretten, Western Germany. His birth name was Philip Schwartzerd, meaning ‘black earth’, but he changed his surname to Melanchthon, the Greek equivalent, during his education.

He was a brilliant student who excelled in his humanist studies so well (here humanist means – non-theological) that he entered Heidelberg University at age 13 and was deemed too young to receive the B.A. degree he earned in just 2 years. He went on to earn an M.A. at Tuebingen University by age 17, whereupon he was put to lecturing to the students, much to the displeasure of his peers.

He considered humanistic learning to be a “wonderful gift of God” and went on to lecture at the new university in Wittenberg. This brought him into contact with Martin Luther.

Europe’s Renaissance humanists were offended by Luther’s suggestion that human achievement plays no part in salvation, but Melanchthon embraced both the reality of faith and the value of secular understanding.

In 1524 Melanchthon began establishing public schools, reorganising Universities, organising teacher training and writing multiple textbooks.

Both colleague and companion of the impetuous Martin Luther, the gentle and scholarly spirit of Melanchthon did much to keep the Reformation true to its theological moorings.

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It was he who drew up the “Confession of Augsburg”, a modified version now being the creed of the Lutheran faith, and it was his commentary on Romans that was held in such high regard that it soon found its way onto the Romish index of banned books.

This commentary, with its ‘divisions and arrangements, became the stereo-typed method followed by all Protestant writers on doctrine’ (Cyclopaedia of Modern Religious Biographies, page 336).

One writer describes Melanchthon as being the only Reformer “who had the scraggy look of an intellectual” (Bamber Gascoigne, in The Christians, page 167).

After Luther’s death, Melanchthon became the acknowledged leader of the Lutheran cause.

His workday started at 2am and continued, tirelessly until 9pm. He and his wife, Katharine, adopted the orphaned children of his sister-in-law, then later added five more children when his daughter died. Katharine died when Melanchthon was 60.

14 years after Luther’s death Melanchthon came to his end. He cut short a lecture on April 9, after staggering to the class. He then languished for another ten days and died on 19 April, 1560.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Karl Hugo Hahn Labours in South West Africa

Karl Hugo Hahn died on November 24, 1895, as the most famous German missionary to Africa, after faithfully labouring among the Herero of Damaraland.

Born in Riga, Latvia on October 18, 1818, Hahn became a Rheinish (Lutheran) missionary to Africa and worked industriously to elevate the tribal people of South West Africa (now Namibia), but ultimately with limited success.

Hahn was sent into Damaraland by the Rheinish Missionary Society of Africa in 1841, as the second missionary to the interior. His mission was to make links with the Herero people if he could. Traveling to “the place of the big spring” where the Herero tribe was last located Hahn arrived to find that they had moved on in search of better grazing for their herds. Hahn built his mission station on the spot, nonetheless, and named is Gross Barmen. This was to be Hahn’s mission base for many years. He later brought his bride, English born Emma Hone (over four years his senior), to join him there.

Tribal tensions were a major problem at the time as the Herero migrated south and met other tribes migrating north. The southern tribes enlisted help from the well armed Jonker Afrikaner, and his Oerlom, who violently attacked the Herero people, killing, maiming and robbing them freely.

In 1851 many Herero had resorted to Hahn for some protection but a massacre occurred at Moordkoppie (Murder Hill) in which a large number of Herero were killed. Women had their feet cut off to get the metal bands around their ankles.

After spending almost ten years in Namibia (1857), Emma wrote to her mother in England: “All is very dull here. To the missionaries it is peculiarly a waiting time, a time for the full exercise of patience, and that is sometimes on the wane, when they see that the Word [of God] is, so to say, daily preached to them in their own language, the people still are as ‘deaf adder that stoppeth her ear’.”

Hahn and Emma enjoyed a four year furlough in Germany and returned in 1863 with a new project in mind. Since the Herero were resistant to the gospel the missionaries would create a western style community which could educate the choicest candidates for future leadership in their own nation. So they established the first production centre in Namibia.

Rather than reach out to the poor and marginalised, Hahn planned to train the sons of chieftains, so they could be preachers and maintain a productive lifestyle. Hahn despised European materialism and sought to raise African Nations which could be free from the evils of the west. However, he did not count on the sheer power of those European nations in their claim upon Africa.

In 1866 Hahn commenced his school, to train men to lead, preach and teach their own people. The project had some impact but was not supported by the mission societies and also could not successfully attract enough of the right candidates. It may have been because of the schooling venture that Hahn broke from the Rheinish Missionary Society in 1873

Among his successes was a young Herero lady who worked as domestic servant to Carl and Helen. She initially came to the mission school and learned sewing, but was soon teaching classes. She became fluent in English, Dutch and German and translated materials into Herero and travelled with the Hahn’s to Europe as an example of their impact.

Hahn had nine books published in Germany in the early 1860’s. And he also wrote a Grammar for the Herero language.

After quitting with the Missionary Society Hahn pastored St Martins German Lutheran Church in Cape Town from 1874 to 1884.

His Gross Barman mission station and school was disbanded in 1902. The German colonialists did not want to give quality education to the tribal people, even though they knew they were just as intelligent as any European. They wanted labourers for the mines and farms, not educated people who might not fit in with their plans.

Carl’s children followed his religious convictions and some returned to Germany, while others served in the armed forces and suffered under the Nazis for doing so. Their daughter Emma married a pastor and moved to New York, where Emma died in 1906.

Karl Hugo Hahn ceased his labours on November 24, 1895.

Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield as a Prince at Princeton

Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (BBW) was born near Lexington, Kentucky, U.S.A., on November 5th, 1851.

His early life on the farm left him with a life-long passion for farming and especially horses, and became a leading world authority on short-horn cattle.

He graduated from Princeton University “with highest honours” in 1871. The following year, at age 21, he acknowledged the claim of Christ on his life and entered Princeton Seminary to prepare for the ministry.

Warfield graduated in 1876 and married Annie Kinkead. He was studying in Leipzig and so the couple honeymooned in Germany. While walking in the Harz Mountains the pair were caught in a terrible thunderstorm. Some say that Annie “was struck by lightning and permanently paralysed” (Great Leaders of the Christian Church, Moody Press, page 344).

Whether that is the case or not, she was traumatised from the experience and never recovered, being an invalid for the rest of her life, needing Warfield’s constant care. For the next 39 years Warfield “seldom left home for more than two hours at a time”.

He became Professor of New Testament at a Presbyterian college, and in 1887 he succeeded A.A.Hodge as a Professor of Theology at Princeton and kept that post until his death 33 years later. He also edited the Presbyterian Review.

In the 1920’s ten volumes of his larger collected writings were published, and in the 1960’s two volumes of his shorter writings were also published. Those books and volumes of his sermons are in print today and are read more widely than in his life-time.

His book, Counter Miracles (1918), was a strong defence of the cessationist viewpoint.

His Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (1948) “asserted that verbal inspiration had been perfect in the original manuscripts” (Dictionary of Religious Biography, page 492).

His writings in defence of Calvinism are also worthy of mention.

He was an excellent lecturer, using a Socratic dialogue quiz style to prompt his students to examine the subject at hand. His writings were described by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “His mind was so clear and his literary style so chaste and lucid that it is a real joy to read his works and one derives pleasure and profit at the same time.”

Warfield preached vividly. Once he illustrated the difference between fate and providence with a story of a Dutch boy who disobeyed his father and played near a windmill. Going too close he suddenly found himself picked up from the ground hanging upside down as a series of blows were rained upon him. What horror, caught in the machine! He thought his end had come. But when he opened his eyes he discovered the windmill’s sail that had taken him up but his own father had. He was receiving the threatened punishment for his own disobedience. He wept, not with pain but with relief and joy. He now new the difference between falling into a machine and into the loving hands of a father. That is the difference between fate and predestination.

On Christmas Eve, 1920, Professor BBW suffered a stroke – he recovered enough to resume his classes on 16 February, 1921, but died that night as a result of a further stroke.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Henry Alford Produces his Greek New Testament

This is the day that … Henry Alford was born in London, in 1810.

The fifth generation of Anglican rectors who made a worthy impact, it was not long before Henry Alford showed himself an exceptional child.  His mother died shortly after he was born and at an early age Henry was in the sole care of his studious father. So it is no wonder his academic preparation was exemplary.

At age 6 he wrote a manuscript on the Travels of Paul. Before he was 10 he wrote Latin odes … and a history of the Jews!! (Dictionary of the Christian Church, page 27).

Higher education took place at Trinity College, Cambridge – and from thence Alford served as a clergyman in the Church of England, eventually, in 1857, being appointed Dean of Canterbury.

He became, says his biographer, a man of many talents – “a poet, a preacher, a musician, a painter, a Bible scholar, a philologist … he could build an organ and play it!”

Adding to his many talents was his determination to see a task through to completion, as the following anecdote affirms. Henry was thrown from his horse in the February of 1847 when going to deliver his first lecture. Despite being very seriously shaken and disfigured he punctually appeared before his audience with his face and head covered with surgical bandages, and — resolutely lectured.

Among his many writings was A Dissuasive against Rome – a polemic against certain High Church tendencies in the Rome-ward direction in the Anglican Church.

A. Bailey tells us that Dean Alford was “a supporter of the Evangelical Alliance, and throughout his life he maintained cordial relations with non-conformists” (Gospel in Hymns, page 390).

But it is his Greek New Testament that is regarded as his magnum opus.  This great work, which appeared between 1849-1861, occupied him for twenty years of his life and “took its place as the standard critical commentary of the later nineteenth century” (Handbook to Church Hymnary, page 251).  The word ‘critical’ should not be misunderstood in that sentence.  Whilst Dean Alford analysed the current theories and textual problems, he held to an evangelical position.

In order to harvest the depth of critical work originating in Germany, Alford taught himself German. Thus he brought to the English scholar insights which had previously not been available.

In the foreword to his New Testament for English Readers, (2 volumes, published 1863), he insists on belief in plenary inspiration – “I hold it to the utmost … the inspiration of the sacred writers I believe to have consisted in the fullness of the influence of the Holy Spirit specially raising them to, and enabling them for, their work, in a manner which distinguishes them from all other writers in the world, and their work from all other works …” (Volume 1, page 27).

Among his well-known hymns still sung today, are “Come, ye thankful people, come” and “Forward be our watchword”.

Dean Alford died in 1871.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.