The essay explores Bible translation in early nineteenth-century India as a comprehensive and under-appreciated site for intercultural and interreligious interactions involving Christians and Hindus in a complex context of asymmetrical colonial relations. Postcolonial theorists are interrogated for theory-driven approaches that lopsidedly rely on English-language resources without taking into account the actual Indian-language artefacts of translation projects that came into being. Using a philological approach, the essay treats the Dharmapustaka, the Sanskrit Bible translated at the Serampore Baptist Mission, as a case study in ‘transculturation’—a multidimensional process catalyzed by an English missionary, William Carey, on the edges between India and Europe.
Using the example of Nehemiah Goreh, a mid nineteenth-century Brahmin Hindu convert to Christianity, the essay explores how Anglican missionaries interacted with Indian counterparts, sometimes encouraging their ordination (as was the case in the South), or (as was the case in the North) placing obstacles in their way. After an agonistically 'cognitive' struggle with Christian faith, Goreh was recommended for ordination by the Low-Church Anglican missionaries of Benares, only to be denied 'Holy Orders' by superiors in Calcutta, who felt that ordination would entail social intercourse of a kind detrimental to British status in colonial society. Having been a 'subaltern' of mission for some twenty years, Goreh converted again, this time to High-Church Anglicanism. I demonstrate that he did this not only to secure his ordination (High-Church Anglicans being less averse to having Indian counterparts), but also because, in the process of understanding the faith he had embraced, he had become convinced by High-Church Tractarians of the “Grace of Orders.” I argue, therefore, that Goreh's little-known ordination quest demonstrates exemplary integrity, politically and theologically.
Drawing on first person accounts,
Asia in the Making of Christianity studies conversion in the lives of Christians throughout Asia, past and present. Fifteen contributors treat perennial questions about conversion: continuity and discontinuity, conversion and communal conflict, and the politics of conversion. Some study individuals (An Chunggŭn of Korea, Liang Fa of China, Nehemiah Goreh of India), while others treat ethnolinguistic groups or large-scale movements. Converts sometimes appear as proto-nationalists, while others are suspected of cultural treason. Some transition effortlessly from leadership in one religious community into Christian ministry, while others re-convert to new forms of Christianity. The accounts collected here underscore the complexity of conversion, balancing individual agency with broader social trends and combining micro- with macrocontextual approaches.