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Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg

1682-1719. Co-founder with H. Plütschau* of the first Protestant mission to India,* and the first to translate the NT into an Indian language. Born in Saxony, he was converted at sixteen, and was a theological student at Halle when a request came for missionaries to the overseas territories of Frederick IV of Denmark. After some hesitation about their official acceptance, Ziegenbalg and Plütschau arrived in 1706 at the Danish settlement of Tranquebar on the Coromandel coast. There they encountered incredible opposition from the authorities, apart from the predictable hostility of Hindus and Roman Catholics. As a result of one controversy Ziegenbalg was imprisoned for four months by the commandant. This first attempt to establish a Protestant mission to Indians was fought tooth and nail, but Ziegenbalg had the needed tenacity. The missionaries gathered Portuguese-speaking and Tamil congregations and built a church. The Tranquebar method became a pattern for later missions: schools, orphanage, Bible translation, printing, training of preachers, catechizing the young, and all aimed at personal conversion. Ziegenbalg produced the Tamil NT (1714) and translated the OT up to the Book of Ruth.

Annual letters of the missionaries, sent out from Halle and distributed in Britain, had great influence in stirring missionary interest (e.g., in the rectory where the Wesleys grew up). Ziegenbalg was received by the king and the archbishop of Canterbury when he visited Britain on his one home leave. “English” missions in the territories out from Tranquebar came to be financed from England although staffed by the German Lutherans of the Danish-Halle Mission. In the “home board” of the mission at Copenhagen, however, Ziegenbalg's institutional methods were severely criticized. and apparently unfairly, in his latter years. His writing on Hinduism was presumably an irrelevance to some in Europe, for it appeared in print only long after his death (one book in 1926). In every sense a pioneer, Ziegenbalg swam against the tide. He died at Tranquebar.

See H.M. Zorn, Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg (in English, 1933).

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