Peter Heyling

1607/8-1652. First German Protestant missionary. Born in Lübeck, he was from childhood noted for piety. When he began legal studies at Paris in 1628 he came under the influence of the Dutch legal scholar Hugo Grotius,* who resided there. His tract, On the Truth of the Christian Religion, was a handbook for missionaries. A member of a band of pious German students concerned about the church in the Near East, Heyling volunteered for missionary service without ecclesiastical support or connection. He studied Arabic on Malta and then went to Egypt where he encountered opposition from Orthodox and Catholic clerics. The Coptic Abuna (bishop) invited him to come to Ethiopia in 1634 where Heyling tutored children of prominent families and even gained the king's favor. He translated the gospel of John into Amharic and assisted in preparing a compendium of Roman law for use in Ethiopia. In 1652 he was martyred by a Muslim fanatic.