Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky

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Joseph Schereschewsky
Anglican Bishop of Shanghai
Joseph Schereschewsky.jpg
ChurchEpiscopal Church
In office1877-1884
PredecessorChanning M. Williams
SuccessorWilliam Jones Boone, Jr.
Ordination28 October 1860
Consecration31 October 1877
by Bosworth Smith
Personal details
Born6 May 1831
Tauroggen, Russian Lithuania
Died15 October 1906
Tokyo, Japan
Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky

Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky (pronounced skĕr-ĕs-kūs'kĭ Chinese: 施約瑟; 6 May 1831 – 15 October 1906), also known as Joseph Schereschewsky, was the Anglican Bishop of Shanghai, China, from 1877 to 1884. He founded St. John's University, Shanghai, in 1879.

Early years[edit]

Schereschewsky was born in Tauroggen, Russian Lithuania, on 6 May 1831. He appears to have been named for his father. His mother was Rosa Salvatha. Orphaned as a young boy, it is speculated he was raised by a half-brother who was a timber merchant in good circumstance. Having shown himself to be a promising student, he was given the best education available and it was his family's intention that he become a rabbi. From the time he left his brother's house at 15, he was obliged to support himself as a tutor and as a glazier. It was at the rabbinical school in Zhytomyr that he was given a copy of the New Testament in Hebrew which had been produced by the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews. The study of that gradually convinced him that in Jesus the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament and the age-long hopes of his people had been fulfilled. At 19 he went to Germany where he studied for a year or more at Frankfurt and for two years at the University of Breslau. To his fluency in Yiddish, Polish and Russian he added German, which he spoke like a native for the rest of his life.[1]

Road to China[edit]

In 1854 he decided to emigrate to the United States. In New York City he connected with Christian Jews but did not enter the Christian Church until 1855 when he was baptized by immersion and associated with a Baptist congregation. For reasons unknown he then became a Presbyterian and went to the Western Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church at Allegheny, Pennsylvania. (WTS is now Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He matriculated as Samuel_Isaac_Joseph, ostensibly to avoid anti-Semitism.) After more than two years he left to enter the Episcopal Church and the General Theological Seminary, where he found a mentor in the professor of Hebrew, Samuel H. Turner. His plan to complete his remaining two years of study was interrupted when he offered himself for work in China. On 3 May 1859 the Foreign Committee voted that he be appointed missionary to China as soon as he was ordained. He was ordained as a deacon on 17 July 1859 at St. George's Church, New York by Bishop William Jones Boone.

Career in China[edit]

Schereschewsky arrived in Shanghai on 21 December 1859 on the ship Golden Rule with Bishop Boone. On 28 October 1860 Bishop Boone ordained him to the priesthood in the mission school chapel, later known as the Church of our Savior, Hongkew. He served in Peking from 1862, including on the Peking Translation Committee.[2]

By 1861, Schereschewsky had begun his Bible translations into Chinese. The first was of the Psalms into the Shanghai dialect. He later translated the Book of Common Prayer into Mandarin with English missionary John Shaw Burdon.[3]

He returned to the United States for health reasons in 1875, and refused a call to become missionary bishop of Shanghai, since bishop Channing Moore Williams had requested division of his huge episcopate (including both China and Japan). However, two years later, Schereschewsky accepted the call to that bishopric from the Episcopal House of Bishops, after receiving assurances of financial support for his dream of building a college to educate Chinese in Shanghai. Schereschewsky was consecrated Bishop in Grace Church, New York, on October 31, 1877[4] and two years later founded St. John's College (later renamed St. John's University). He served as Bishop of Shanghai until 1883, when he resigned his bishopric for health reasons (having become increasingly incapacitated after suffering a sun stroke in 1881).

He returned to the United States with the understanding that he could return to China as translator as his health permitted. That he did in 1895, although he became "paralysed in every limb, and with his powers of speech partly gone, sitting for nearly twenty-five years in the same chair, slowly and painfully typing out with two fingers his Mandarin translation of the Old Testament and Easy Wen-li translation of the whole Bible"[5] His new translations of the New Testament and the Hebrew Bible into Mandarin were published in 1898-1899. However, Schereschewsky yearned to complete a new translation of the Bible into Wenli, China's classical language, finding the previous five attempts inaccurate and some even lapsing into paganism (1902).[6][7]

He continued his translation work, with the assistance of an amanuensis in Chinese and later Japanese, when he moved to Tokyo, Japan during his final decade. A contemporary called him "Probably the greatest Bible translator China ever had".[8]

Death and legacy[edit]

Schereschewsky died on 15 October 1906 and is buried in Tokyo, Japan. St. John's University, which Schereschewsky began with 39 students, mostly taught in Chinese. In 1891, it changed to teaching in English and the courses began to focus on science and natural philosophy.


Schereschewsky is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on 14 October.[9]


  1. ^ Eber (1999), pp. 19-24.
  2. ^ Eber (1999), pp. 85-136.
  3. ^ WorldCat Listing
  4. ^ "THE CYBERPARISH of SAINT SAM". Retrieved 15 October 2015.
  5. ^ Broomhall (1907), p. 374.
  6. ^ "Schereschewsky, Samuel Isaac Joseph". Encyclopedia Americana.
  7. ^ "BISHOP SCHERESCHEWSKY" Project Canterbury, The Bishops of the American Church Mission in China, Hartford, Connecticut: Church Missions Publishing Co., 1906.
  8. ^ Broomhall, Marshall, ed. (1907), The Chinese Empire: A General and Missionary Survey, London: Morgan and Scott, p. 442CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Holy Women, Holy Men p. 635.


External links[edit]

Episcopal Church (USA) titles
Preceded by
Channing Moore Williams
Bishop of Shanghai
1877 – 1884
Succeeded by
William Jones Boone, Jr.