Koreans and Scots celebrate legacy of Bible translator

Church leaders from Scotland and South Korea recently paid tribute to the Scottish missionary behind the first ever Korean Bible.

They joined together earlier this month for the unveiling of a memorial remembering John Ross, who completed the Koran translation of the Bible a hundred years ago.

The missionary, of Easter Ross, was serving as a missionary in what was then called Manchuria, China, close to the border with Korea, when he started work on translating the Bible into the Korean language in 1875.

The first full translation of the Bible into Korean was completed and published by Ross and his team in 1911, by which time he had moved back to Scotland due to ill health.

The Rev Jae Min Ho, of the Korean Bible Society, credited Ross with helping Christianity to spread more quickly in Korea because of his use of Korean instead of Chinese characters.

“We have come to Scotland to celebrate the efforts of John Ross,” he said.

The head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, said: “It gives a great sense of pride to know that a Scotsman had a profound impact on a distant land before the advent of our modern means of travel and communication.

“John Ross’s work in translating scripture into Korean was the foundation of a now vibrant Christian community in Korea which is eager to commemorate the life of John Ross.”

The publication of Ross’s translation was funded at the time by the National Bible Society of Scotland.

Scottish Bible Society chief executive, Elaine Duncan said: “The Rev John Ross could never have dreamed of the impact his work was to have on the Christian community around the world.

“The church in Korea grew significantly in the latter part of the 20th century and today has some of the largest congregations in the world.

“Missionaries from Korea now serve the church in many nations – so much stemming from the work of a gifted and skilled Scotsman.”