Historical outline

Although Henry Martyn's translation of the New Testament into Persian (1812) stands almost unconnected to the ensuing Protestant mission work in the Middle East, his work was often seen as the beginning of it. Martyn, an East India Company chaplain sent to India in 1806, spent little more than a year in the Middle East (1811-12), but he was the first to translate the New Testament into one of Islam's important languages, an achievement which won the admiration of generations of missionaries in the same region. However, it was not in Persia and not among the Muslim population that the next steps were taken: the Church Missionary Society (CMS) took up work in the Middle East by establishing a mission post on Malta, then a British possession, in 1815, and from there started work on the isle of Syra (Syros) in 1828, in Egypt in 1825 and in Smyrna (Izmir) in 1830. Although the work was led by the Briton William Jowett, most of the CMS missionaries of the time were of German descent, such as F. Schlienz on Malta and J. R. T. Lieder in Egypt. German-speaking missionaries were also active in the Russian Caucasus, where the Basel Mission started work among German immigrants in 1821, but also established contacts with local Armenians and Muslims in Shusha and other towns of the region. Another of their missionaries was Karl Gottlieb Pfander, sent out in 1825 to the Caucasus and Persia. He became famous for his apologetic work Mizan ul-Haqq, 'The balance of truth', which defended Christianity against Islam and was translated into many other Middle Eastern languages, remaining popular among Protestant missionaries throughout the nineteenth century. In the years up to 1830, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) also laid the foundations for its Middle Eastern missions. Between 1819 and 1825, Levi Parsons and Pliny Fisk travelled from Malta to Syria and Palestine, distributing Bibles and tracts, but were unable to establish a permanent mission post. In the late 1820s, 'missionary researches' to identify suitable mission posts were undertaken by Eli Smith and Harrison G. O. Dwight, who travelled all the way through what is now Turkey into western Persia. Itinerant work was also undertaken by the eccentric Joseph Wolff of the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews (or London Jews' Society - LJS), who visited Jewish communities all over the Middle East, Central Asia and India, whereas John Nicolayson went back and forth in Syria and Palestine between 1826 and 1828.

Between 1830 and 1845, mission work in the Middle East became firmly consolidated, and Protestant missionaries succeeded in establishing and maintaining permanent posts, the CMS in Egypt (1825-65), the LJS in Istanbul (1826)

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