William McElwee Miller

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

William McElwee Miller (December 12, 1892 – July 7, 1993) was an American missionary to Persia, and author of several books.[1]

Born in Middlesboro, Kentucky, Miller received a M.A. in 1913 from Washington and Lee University, and a B.D. in 1919 from Princeton Theological Seminary. He went to Persia (Iran) as a missionary of the Presbyterian Church and, except for a short period around 1932, he remained in Persia until 1962.

As a part of his missionary work, he learned Persian and strove to genuinely understand Islam, particularly Shi'a Islam, Persia and Persian culture. During his missionary work in Persia, he also encountered the Bahá'ís, a large religious minority there. Much of his ministerial work involved developing Christian apologetic responses to these religions.

With respect to the Bahá'í Faith, his 1931, Baha'ism, Its Origin, History and Teachings was the first of two books, and several apologetics articles on the subject. Along with Earl E. Elder he translated Bahá'u'lláh's Kitáb-i-Aqdas, one of the central books of the religion; this translation was published by the Royal Asiatic Society in 1961. In 1974, a new follow-up, The Baha'i Faith: Its History and Teachings added additional material not available previously.

This latter book was also critically reviewed by academics. One reviewer noted:

"The title suggests (and this impression is supported by the "blurbs" on the back cover) that we have in our hands a "standard" work on Bahá'ísm ... In fact what we are presented with is an all-out attack on, a merciless tirade against, Bahá'ísm, but treated not, as one might expect from the author's credentials (Presbyterian missionary in Iran for 40-odd years), from the Christian, but from the Azali point of view....Of course Dr. Miller may argue that he and his collaborators have done little more than present facts, from which only certain conclusions can be drawn. But contrary to common belief, the mere accumulation of facts is no guarantee of impartiality."
(Elwell-Sutton, 1976)[2]

In 1976 this latter book was also reviewed (and its distortions debunked) by Douglas Martin; see the References below for the details.

After 1962, he retired with his wife to Mount Airy, Pennsylvania, where he lived until she died, and then went to live in a retirement home until his own death in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1993.


  • 'Translation of Al-Babu'l-Hadi' Ashar by Al-Hilli, a treatise on the theological doctrine of Shi'ite Muslims'; London, Royal Asiatic Society, 1928.
  • Baha'ism, Its Origin, History and Teachings. New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1931.
  • A Christian's Response to Islam; Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1976
  • Ten Muslims Meet Christ. Grand Rapids, Michigan; Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans. 1969.
  • Tales of Persia: A Book for Children, ISBN 0-87552-292-0; Presbyterian and Reformed Pub Co, 1988
  • Tales Of Persia: Missionary Stories From Islamic Iran, ISBN 0-87552-615-2, Presbyterian and Reformed Pub Co, 2005


  1. ^ "Interview with William McElwee Miller - Collection 387". Billy Graham Center. 2005-04-08. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  2. ^ Elwell-Sutton, L.P. (1976). "Review of "The Baha'i Faith" Its History and Teaching by William McElwee Miller". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (2): 157–158. JSTOR 25203713. Retrieved 2012-03-16.