Smith, Eli

Early 19th century Protestant missionary in the Middle East, Created 1st Arabic type printing press, began 1st Arabic translation of the Bible

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Description:
(1801–1857) American Protestant missionary and scholar, graduated from Yale in 1821 and from Andover Theological Seminary in 1826. He worked in Malta until 1829, then in company with H. G. O. Dwight traveled through Armenia and Georgia to Persia. They published their “Missionary Researches in Armenia in 1833” in 2 volumes. Smith settled in Beirut in 1833. His missionary zeal towards the millions of Arabic-speaking people south and east of Malta persuaded the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to agree to his wishes to study the Arabic language. Along with Edward Robinson, he made 2 trips to the Holy Land, acting as an interpreter for Robinson in his quest to identify and record biblical place names in Palestine. In 1834, Mrs. Smith established the very first school for girls in Lebanon. During the same year, 1834, Rev. Smith persuaded the mission board to move the American Printing Press from Malta to Beirut. By then he had become quite competent in speaking, reading and writing Arabic. Translation of the Scriptures into the Arabic language was the top priority for Reformed missions in the first half of the 19th century, not a simple undertaking. It required highly qualified and gifted people. He gathered around himself prominent native Arabic language scholars who had been converted to the Reformed faith. Smith, with them, initiated an effort not only to translate the entire Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Arabic but also to provide the first Psalter-hymnal and an Arabic version of the Westminster Confessional standards for the growing Arabic-speaking Reformed communities. After bringing the first printing press with Arabic type to Syria, he began a translation of the Bible into Arabic, and, although he died in Beirut in 1857 before completing the task, it was completed by C. V. Van Dyck of the Syrian Mission and published 1860-65. The Arabic printing press brought about a revolution in knowledge, education, journalism, etc., the Arabic Bible the first major mass-printed volume in the Arabic language. 7 ¾ x 5 ALS to “Brother Chester,” Np, Nd (“Sabb.[ath] Morning”), anxious to back out of an engagement to preach: “My readiness to help you made me yesterday think less than I might of the positiion in which I stood in relation to the baptists. Upon reflectiion I am convinced that if I preach at all to day, consistency requires me to preach for them. If I do not they will have reason to complain.” He asks Brother Chester to find someone in Smith’s place.

Condition: Very good, two small mount remnants at top verso causes light wrinkling at top
Type:Letter






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