Koreans Honour Scottish 'Father of the Bible'

Koreans have honoured a Scottish missionary who was the first man to translate the New Testament into Korean.

The one-time Edinburgh minister John Ross, who died in 1915, is practically unknown in his own country, but his name has left an indelible mark on thousands of Koreans who fondly refer to him as the "father of the Bible".

As a lasting testimony to the missionary, who first started to reach out to Koreans near the Chinese border in 1879, a memorial plaque has been sent to a 50,000-strong church in Youngnak - the largest Presbyterian congregation in the world.

The money for the plaque was raised by Mayfield Salisbury Church in Newington, where Reverend Ross became a church elder after retiring to Edinburgh in 1910, The Scotsman reports.

Mayfield's minister, Reverend Scott McKenna, said: "We wanted to give a gift to the Youngnak congregation as Reverend Ross was just such a prominent figure in Korea. We are delighted to commemorate his life and work in this way."

Members of the Youngnak congregation travelled to Edinburgh specially to take part in a presentation ceremony, including Youngnak's minister, Rev Chul Shin Lee.

Rev McKenna added: "It was just wonderful to share the service with the Koreans."

Elaine Duncan, chief executive of the Scottish Bible Society, was also at the ceremony.

She said: "It was a privilege to be involved with the congregation of Mayfield Salisbury and some of the Christian Korean population living in Edinburgh, to acknowledge the lasting heritage of John Ross.

"The story of the Scot and his commitment to mission in China and Korea is enormously challenging.

"His dedication to the task of translating the Bible into Korean is a real inspiration.

"A friend once told him that it was better to be a spark in China than a flame in the Highlands. He certainly proved that to be true."

The inscription on the brass and wood plaque reads in English and Korean, "In memory of Reverend John Ross, Doctor of Divinity 1824-1915. Missionary in Korea and China. Translator of New Testament into Korean and elder of Mayfield United Free Church."

The Easter Ross-born missionary spoke fluent Gaelic as well as English and studied at the United Presbyterian Divinity Hall in Edinburgh between 1865 and 1869.

In 1872, Ross arrived in China where he became the first Protestant missionary to settle in the area of Manchuria in the north-east. In 1876, he founded Dongguan Church in Shenyang, which is still open to this day and seats 5000 people.

By 1879, Reverend Ross had begun to reach out to Koreans near the Chinese border. In 1882, he printed the gospels of Luke and John in Shenyang and it is believed that the first gospels to reach Korea were smuggled into the country around this time.

Reverend Ross was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity degree for his writings on China and Korea.