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The story of Joseph Schereschewsky is unique in the annals of the Church. He was born on May 6, 1831, of Jewish parents, in the Lithuanian town of Tauroggen. His early education was directed toward the rabbinate, but during graduate studies in Germany, he became interested in Christianity through missionaries of the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews, and through his own reading of a Hebrew translation of the New Testament.
In 1854 Schereschewsky immigrated to America and entered the Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh to train for the ministry of the Presbyterian Church. After two years, he decided to become an Episcopalian, and to ﬁnish his theological studies at the General Theological Seminary in New York City, from which he graduated in 1859.
After ordination, and in response to Bishop Boone’s call for helpers in China, Schereschewsky left for Shanghai. Always facile in languages, he learned to write Chinese during the voyage. From 1862 to 1875 he lived in Peking, and translated the Bible and parts of the Prayer Book into Mandarin. After Bishop Williams was transferred to Japan, Schereschewsky was elected Bishop of Shanghai in 1877, and was consecrated in Grace Church, New York City. He established St. John’s University, in Shanghai, and began his translation of the Bible and other works into Wenli. Stricken with paralysis, he resigned his see in 1883.
Schereschewsky was determined to continue his translation work, and after many difﬁculties in ﬁnding support, he was able to return to Shanghai in 1895. Two years later, he moved to Tokyo. There he died on October 15, 1906.
With heroic perseverance Schereschewsky completed his translation of the Bible, typing some 2,000 pages with the middle ﬁnger of his partially crippled hand. Four years before his death, he said, “I have sat in this chair for over twenty years. It seemed very hard at ﬁrst. But God knew best. He kept me for the work for which I am best ﬁtted.” He is buried in the Aoyama Cemetery in Tokyo, next to his wife, who supported him constantly during his labors and illness.
I O God, who in thy providence didst call Joseph Schereschewsky from his home in Eastern Europe to the ministry of this Church, and didst send him as a missionary to China, upholding him in his inﬁrmity, that he might translate the Holy Scriptures into languages of that land: Lead us, we pray thee, to commit our lives and talents to thee, in the conﬁdence that when thou givest unto thy servants any work to do, thou dost also supply the strength to do it; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II O God, in your providence you called Joseph Schereschewsky from his home in Eastern Europe to the ministry of this Church, and sent him as a missionary to China, upholding him in his inﬁrmity, that he might translate the Holy Scriptures into languages of that land. Lead us, we pray, to commit our lives and talents to you, in the conﬁdence that when you give your servants any work to do, you also supply the strength to do it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Lessons: Isaiah 12:1–6, 2 Corinthians 4:11–18, and Luke 24:44–48
Preface of Pentecost
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
Also of interest
St. John’s University song (English)
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