Claudius Buchanan

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Claudius Buchanan
Claudius Buchanan00.jpg
Born (1766-03-12)March 12, 1766
Cambuslang, Lanarkshire
Died February 9, 1815(1815-02-09) (aged 48)
Broxbourne, Hertfordshire
Nationality Scottish
Alma mater University of Glasgow
Queens' College, Cambridge
Occupation Theologian

Rev Claudius Buchanan DD FRSE (12 March 1766 – 9 February 1815) was a Scottish theologian, an ordained minister of the Church of England, and an evangelical missionary for the Church Missionary Society.[1] He served as Vice Provost of the College of Calcutta in India.

Early life[edit]

Claudius Buchanan was born in Cambuslang near Glasgow. His father, Alexander Buchanan, was the local schoolmaster in Inverary.[2]

He was educated at the University of Glasgow and the Queens' College, Cambridge.[3] He was ordained in 1795 by the Bishop of London, and after holding a chaplaincy in India at Barrackpur (1797–1799) was appointed Calcutta chaplain and vice-principal of the college of Fort William. In this capacity he did much to advance Christianity and native education in India, especially by organizing systematic translations of the scriptures.

Among St.Thomas Christians[edit]

During his visit to Malabar in 1806, present day South-western state of Kerala, Dr. Buchanan had visited Mar Thoma VI, head of the Malankara Church at Angamali, near Kochi. Mar Thoma was very happy to hear Buchanan’s intention of translating the Bible into Malayalam, the local language.

About the Bible[edit]

At this time, a volume of the Bible was found in a remote church of the mountains, containing the Old and the New Testaments, engrossed on strong vellum in large folio, having three columns in the page, written with beautiful accuracy, in the Estrangelo Syriac (the character in which the oldest Syrian manuscripts are written), and illuminated; that the Syrian church assigns to this manuscript a high antiquity; and that it has been handed down to the present time under circumstances so peculiarly favourable to accurate preservation, as may justly entitle it to respect, in the collation of doubtful readings in the sacred text.[4]

This volume was presented to Dr. Buchanan by Mar Thoma VI, and is now deposited among the Oriental Manuscripts in the public library of the University of Cambridge.

About Malankara Church[edit]

After returning to England Rev. Claudius Buchanan had mentioned about The Malankara Church, in his sermon preached at the Parish Church of St. James, Bristol, on Sunday 26 February 1809.

Another monument of the Christian religion in the east is the state of the Syrian Christians, subsisting for many ages a separate and distinct people, in the midst of the corruption and idolatry of the heathen world. They exist in the very midst of India, like the bush of Moses burning and not consumed; surrounded by the enemies of their faith, and subject to their power, and yet not destroyed. There they exist, having the pure word of God in their hands, and speaking in the churches that same language which our saviour himself spake in the streets of Jerusalem. We may contemplate the history of this people, existing so long in that dark region, as a type of the inextinguishable Light of Christ’s religion; and in this sense it may be truly said, “We have seen his Star in the east".[5]

In January 1806 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

He died in Broxbourne in Herefordshire in 1815.


Translation of the Bible[edit]

Two of the Syriac scholars, Kayamkulam Philipose Ramban and Pulikottil Ramban of Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, assisted by Subbayya Pillay translated the four Gospels from a very old manuscript written in Estrangelo Syriac. Dr. Buchanan took the initiative to take this Malaylam translation of the Bible to Bombay and get it printed.

Reading the Bible in their own mother tongue helped the reformation in the Malankara Church. As a result of this reformation, the Malankara Church was split into two. In June 1876 one party continued under Patriarch of Antioch and known as Malankara Jacobite Church. The others, formed independent under their own bishop, which is now known as Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church.[6]


According to Buchanan,[7][8]

Books published[edit]

An account of his travels in the south and west of India, which added considerably to our knowledge of nature life, is given in his Christian Researches in Asia (Cambridge, 1811). After his return to the United Kingdom in 1808, he still took an active part in matters connected with India, and by his book entitled Colonial Ecclesiastical Establishment (London, 1813), he assisted in settling the controversy of 1813, which eventually ended in the establishment of an Anglican Indian episcopate in 1878 in the Travancore-Cochin states. This Church known as CMS Church merged with other Churches in South India on 27 September 1947 to form The Church of south India (CSI).


  1. ^ Adrian Fortescue, The Eastern Churches Trilogy, p366
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Buchanan, Claudius (BCNN791C)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  4. ^ Buchanan, Rev. Claudius. Memoir of the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India Page 76.
  5. ^ Rev. Claudius Buchanan, D. D. The Star in the East. Page 12.
  6. ^ N.M.Mathew, Malankara Mar Thoma Sabha Charitram (Eng:History of The Mar Thoma Church). Vol I. pp. 216-226.
  7. ^ Buchanan, Kerr, Claudius, Richard Hall (1812). The works of the Rev. Claudius Buchanan, L.L.D. New York Public Library: Neal and Wills. p. 369. 
  8. ^ The Panoplist, Or, the Christian's Armory, Volume 2, 1807, Indiana University,

Further reading[edit]

  • Buchanan, Rev. Claudius, LL.D. Memoir of the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India. Second Cambridge Edition, 1811.
  • Buchanan, Rev. Claudius. "The Star of The East". 1809.
  • N.M.Mathew, Malankara Mar Thoma Sabha Charitram (Eng:History of The Mar Thoma Church). Vol.I. E.J.Institute, Tiruvalla, Kerala. 2006.

External links[edit]