Talk:John Colenso

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Hope it is not a suprise to link official encroachments to the Zulu war. Wikiwizzy


I've added a few stub signals, as the whole article needs to be reworked, not just wikified. It needs a fuller biographical section, then something of his theology, his political and social work, and his role as bishop and development of Anglican ecclesiastical polity, not just in south Africa, but throughout the Anglican communion. This cannot be done as a quick fix. SteveH 14:55, 14 August 2006 (UTC)[]


This copy below has been removed from Colenso, KwaZulu-Natal. Can it be incorporated into this article? --Jcw69 06:44, 26 September 2006 (UTC)[]

Bishop Colenso (referred to above) [1814-1883], after whom the town is named, was a highly controversial figure involved in the development of biblical scholarship in the nineteenth century. He was born in St Austell, Cornwall and studied as a scholarship student at St Johns College, Cambridge where he became a Maths Wrangler. While tutoring maths at Cambridge he wrote a successful maths textbook for Longmans - "Colenso's Arithmetic" - that first brought his name to the public's attention. He married Frances Bunyon after he was ordained in 1846 and in 1853 he was recruited by Robert Gray, bishop of Cape Town to become a missionary bishop of Natal.

Though he wrote on a number of subjects he came to public prominence following publication of his works of biblical criticism. His The Pentateuch and Book of Joshua Critically Examined (1862 to 1865) was the first major critique of the literal truth of these books of the Old Testament to be published in the United Kingdom. In view of his controversial interpretations of scripture and the practices of native Africans (for example, Colenso believed that though polygamy should be condemned as a practice, those men who were polygamist and wanted to become Christian should not be made to renounce their polygamous spouses and thereby condemn such women and their offspring to poverty and/or social obloquy), he came into conflict with Bishop Gray who put him on trial for heresy and purported to depose him as bishop of Natal and to excommunicate him in December 1865. Colenso, who did not accept that Bishop Gray had legal power to take such action and had not attended at the hearing, then took his case to the Privy Council in England and succeeded in establishing that Bishop Gray's actions had been illegal. Though Colenso returned to Natal as bishop he no longer had the same funds for his missionary work and he became a more and more marginalised figure within the Anglican community in South Africa.

Colenso was also a significant figure in the history of the published word in nineteenth century South Africa. Using the printing press he brought to Ekukhanyeni in Natal, he published the first Zulu Grammar and English/Zulu dictionary. His 1859 journey across Zululand to visit Mpande (the then Zulu King) and meet with Cetshwayo (Mpande's son and the Zulu King at the time of the Zulu War) was recorded in his book "First Steps of the Zulu Mission". The same journey was also described in the first book written by native South Africans in Zulu - "Three Native Accounts" (with accounts written by Magema Fuze, Ndiyane and William Ngidi).

He was a critic of the Zulu war and maintained a close relationship with the native African in the Natal area - to whom he was known as Sobantu (father of the people) - and members of the Zulu royal family (one of whom he taught at his school in Bishopstowe). After his death his daughter continued his work supporting the Zulu cause and the organisation that eventually became the ANC.

Colenso was a prominent participant in the intellectual debate about creation following the publication of Darwin's "Origin of Species" (one of the few churchmen at that time who could recognise the force of the scientific arguments raised against creationism and that Christianity did not depend upon the Bible expressing a literal truth about events in the distant past). He was also a Christian Humanist with what were, at the time, advanced views about the dignity of native Africans.

One interesting aspect of his career is that it demonstrates that Liberation Theology is not merely a product of Latin America and the 20th century, but is more widespread a phenomenon. He has been presented as "A Father of Liberation Theology" in an article by Patrick Wright of Windhoek.



An article in Cornish World, No.63, April 2009, pp. 25-27 by John Jenkin "John William Colenso: St Austell's controversial bishop" is illustrated by a photograph of a window in the Church of the Holy Trinity in St Austell, commemorating Bishop Colenso. It bears the words "He hath spoken blasphemy. . . heard his blasphemy", a reference to the trial of Jesus, as reported by Matthew 26:65. I will try to get a picture of the window for this article. Vernon White . . . Talk 20:26, 25 June 2009 (UTC)[]