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Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg monument in Tranquebar, Tamil Nadu, South India

Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg (June 24, 1683, Pulsnitz – February 23, 1719) was a member of the Lutheran clergy and the first Protestant missionary to India.

Contents

Early life

Ziegenbalg was born in Pulsnitz, Saxony on June 24th, 1683 to poor but devout Christian parents. He showed an aptitude for music at an early age. He studied at the University of Halle under the teaching of A. H. Francke, then the center of Pietistic Lutheranism.

Missionary work

Part of a series on
Protestant
missions
in India
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Background
Christianity
Thomas the Apostle
Pantaenus
Protestantism
Indian history
Missions timeline
Christianity in India

People
Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg
Joshua Marshman
William Ward
Alexander Duff
Anthony Norris Groves
V.Nagel
Henry Martyn
John Hyde
Amy Carmichael
E. Stanley Jones
Luther Rice
James Mills Thoburn
The Scudders
more missionaries

Works
Serampore College
Scottish Church College
Wilson College
Madras Christian College
St. Stephen's College
Gossner Theological College

Missionary agencies
London Missionary Society
Church Missionary Society
Baptist Missionary Society
Scottish General Assembly
American Board

Pivotal events
Indian Rebellion of 1857
Indian Republic
Interactions with Ayyavazhi

Indian Protestants
Bakht Singh
Krishna Mohan Banerjee
Michael Madhusudan Dutt
Pandita Ramabai
Sadhu Sundar Singh
Jashwant Rao Chitambar
Victor Premasagar
Y. D. Tiwari
P. C. John

He answered the call of King Frederick IV of Denmark for clergy who would spread the Gospel in India. On July 9, 1706, Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Plütschau arrived in the region of Tranquebar, thus becoming the first Protestant missionaries to arrive on the Indian sub-continent and starting the Danish-Halle Mission. The two labored intensively, despite opposition from the local Hindu and Danish authorities in Tranquebar, baptizing their first Indian converts on May 12, 1707. A printing press was established and the New Testament was translated into Tamil by Ziegenbalg in 1715. This translation, with minor revisions by his successor, Johann Fabricius, is still in use today, as is the Church of the New Jerusalem, which he dedicated in 1718.[1]

Ziegenbalg is reported to have published the first book in English in Asia in 1716. This was a guide to English by Thomas Dyche.[2]

Despite opposition from the Copenhagen Mission Board which sponsored Ziegenbalg’s mission, he felt that the preaching of the Gospel also included the care of souls and concern for the social wellbeing of converts. The society had simply wanted missionaries to preach the Gospel and allow indigenous churches to develop without much further instruction out of a concern that such a church would be nothing more than a transplant of European Christianity.

Ziegenbalg was publicly critical of some members of the Brahmin caste, accusing them of disregard for lower castes in Hindu society. For that reason, at least one group plotted to kill him. This reaction by native Indians was unusual and Ziegenbalg's work did not generally encounter unfriendly crowds; his lectures and classes drawing considerable interest from locals. [3]

Ziegenbalg was jailed by the Danish authorities for four months during 1708-1709 for reasons which are connected to the rivalry between the different Christian clergy in Tranquebar. In 1708 a dispute over whether the illegitimate child of a Danish soldier and a non-Christian woman should be baptized and brought up as a Roman Catholic or a Protestant resulted in Heinrich Plütschau being brought before a court. Although Plütschau was released, Ziegenbalg wrote that "the Catholics rejoiced, that we were persecuted and they were authorized."

He connected this incident, which he took to have emboldened the Catholics, directly with a second nearly two weeks later, which resulted in his imprisonment. This incident arose from Ziegenbalg’s intervention on behalf of the widow of a Tamil barber over a debt between her late husband and a Catholic who was employed by the Company as a translator. The commander of the Danish fort in Tranquebar, Hassius, regarded Ziegenbalg's repeated intervention in the case, including his advice that the widow kneel before him in the Danish church, as inappropriate and sent for Ziegenbalg to appear before him. When Ziegenbalg demurred, requesting a written summons, he was arrested and, because he refused to answer questions, imprisoned.

Although released after a little more than four months, Ziegenbalg’s relationship with Hassius remained difficult and was one reason for Ziegenbalg's return to Europe in 1714-1716. Ziegenbalg was also married in 1716. He was also active in cooperation with the Anglican Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge, making his work one of the first ecumenical ventures in the history of Protestant missionary work.

Death and legacy

Ziegenbalg was troubled by ill health his entire life, a condition aggravated by his work in the mission field. He died on February 23, 1719 at the age of thirty-six in Tranquebar.

He left behind a dictionary and grammar in Tamil, his translations of the New Testament and the Old Testament up to the Book of Ruth, several tracts, also in Tamil, two church buildings, a seminary for the training of indigenous clergy, and over 250 baptized Indians. The first Indian bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tamil was consecrated at Tranquebar on the 250th anniversary of Ziegenbalg’s arrival.

External links

Sources

  1. ^ Philip H. Pfatteicher, Festivals and Commemorations: Handbook to the Calendar in Lutheran Book of Worship, 92-93.
  2. ^ The legacy that Ziegenbalg left, S. Muthiah, The Hindu, 6 July 2006 retrieved 5 April 2008
  3. ^ Beyreuther, Erich (1955). Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg. The Christian Literature Society. pp. 54–55. 

See also

Lutheranism
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Luther's Seal
 Lutheranism portal
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