If you’re a Christian and you love China, today (October 14) is officially Joseph Schereschewsky day. (Joseph who?)

In the spirit of Hebrews 12, here’s 9 fun facts about this hall of fame brother in Christ:

  1. Born in Lithuania on 6 May 1831 into a Jewish family.
  2. While studying to be a rabbi, he was given a copy of the New Testament in Hebrew, which gradually convinced him that in Jesus, the promises of the Old Testament and the hopes of his people had been fulfilled.
  3. He was baptised in a Baptist church, but trained for seminary at a Presbyterian college, then joined the Episcopal (US branch of Anglican) church as a missionary to China.
  4. God gave Schereschewsky a gift of languages: he could speak 13 languages, read 20, and no other Western missionary was able to equal him in the mastery of spoken, idiomatic Mandarin. While William Tyndale lived in a different era and context, Schereschewsky’s impact on Bible translation is arguably just as important.
  5. Dating tip: When Schereschewsky and a fellow missionary heard that a smart, capable single woman was travelling to China to serve as a missionary, both resolved to marry her. While his friend waited at the docks for Susan Mary Waring’s ship to arrive, Schereschewsky walked hundreds of km’s up the Yangtze (長江) and hitched a ride on another boat to reach her first. When their ship arrived in port, Joseph and Susan were already engaged – much to his friend’s amazement (and disappointment). “Gifted with a fine intellect, good judgment, and a most amiable disposition,” Susan became Schereschewsky’s indispensable companion, co-worker and helpmate over 38 years of faithful marriage.
  6. He served as the Anglican Bishop of Shanghai from 1877 until 1883, when sunstroke forced him to give up his duties and reduced his ability to serve.
  7. By 1895 he became “paralysed in every limb, and with his powers of speech partly gone”. Yet, sitting for nearly twenty-five years in the same chair, he used two fingers to slowly and painfully type out a Mandarin translation of the entire Old Testament, and an Easy Wen-li translation of the whole Bible (with the help of Susan and several Chinese assistants).
  8. According to later translators and scholars, the final result of the CUV (和合本), still the most-used Chinese Bible, was largely based off Schereschewsky’s own translation work.
  9. Schereschewsky moved to Tokyo in the last 10 years of his life where he died and was buried. Marshall Broomhall, a fellow missionary, called him “probably the greatest Bible translator China ever had”.

You can read a fuller biography of Joseph and Susan here, or hear more about his story in this excellent podcast:

O God, who in your providence called Joseph Schereschewsky to the ministry of this church and gave him the gifts and the perseverance to translate the Holy Scriptures: Inspire us, by his example and prayers, to commit our talents to your service, confident that you uphold those whom you call; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lectionary reading, October 14 in the Episcopal Church