J A Shurman ~ Bible Translator ("Benares Version")

J A Shurman ~ Urdu Linguist & Bible Translator

J A Shurman was involved, initially together with an inter-denominational group of missionary fellows in Benares, in the translation of the the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament into the regional vernacular, Urdu (Hindoostani) using the Roman (Latin) alphabet.  The following articles are reproduced organised by date.

An extensive account on the "Hindustani or Urdu Language and Versions" in relation to Bible translations has been published by Samuel Bagster & Sons, The Bibel of Every Land. A history of the sacred scriptures in Every Language and Dialect into which Translations have been Made.1 ]  They refer to J.A. Shurman:

... the revision of the Old Testament [Urdu in Roman letters] version was gradually proceeding. It continued to advance in regular order from the Pentateuch to the end of the 2nd Book of Kings, when it was brought to a stand on account of the ill health of Mr. Thomason, and his consequent removal to Europe. His anxiety to complete a version which he considered of the first importance, and which he was most peculiarly qualified to execute, induced him to return to India, but his valuable life was shortly afterwards terminated. After the decease of Mr. Thomason, this version was carried forward by the Missionaries at Benares; and the Committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society made a grant of 1000 to the London Missionary Society, for time and services rendered by their missionaries in prosecuting the work. In 1844 the Committee announced that the Old Testament was at length completed; and that editions, both in Arabic and Roman characters, were in course of distribution. It was brought to its conclusion and revised by Messrs. Shurman and Kennedy of Benares, assisted by the Rev. Wilson of Allahabad, and J.A.F. Hawkins, Esq.

In 1839 the Calcutta Committee published 2000 copies of the New Testament in Roman characters, and 1000 copies of Anglo-Hindustani, in the same characters; the English and Hindustani texts arranged in opposite columns on the same page. Several missionaries had expressed a desire for such a version, as one adapted to the wants of native Christians, drummers, etc. acquainted with the English letters.

In addition to their labours in the revision of the Old Testament, the Missionaries at Benares were, in 1838, preparing for the Calcutta Committee a new or revised version of the Gospels and Acts, to be printed in Persic characters. In 1842 the Calcutta Committee announced the completion of a thorough revision of the entire New Testament, for which they acknowledged their obligation to the joint labours of the missionaries of the London and of the Church Missionary Society, who had for five years devoted all their spare time to this important work. During the same year, the Committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society, on the application of the Directors of the London Missionary Society, paid the expenses of printing, in London, 5000 copies of the Hindustani New Testament, prepared b Mr. Buyers and other missionaries at Benares. This edition was printed in Roman characters. When the edition of the Old Testament in Roman characters was passing through the press, this version was selected by the Calcutta Committee to accompany it, as it was deemed desirable to have the Old and New Testaments in an uniform translation. An edition of 1500 copies of the New Testament was therefore determined upon; but the work was previously revised by the Rev. Mr. Shurman in communication with Mr. Hawkins; and in the course of the revision, Mr. Shurman saw reason to revert, in a great measure, to the translation of Henry Martyn especially in the latter half of the version. The edition had left the press in 1844.

It appears, therefore, that besides the version by the Rev. Henry Martyn, there are now three different versions of the Hindustani New Testament in existence; namely, the version of a Committee at Benares, the version of Mr. Buyers above noticed, and a version prepared by the Baptist Missionaries of Calcutta in 1841. Among these new translations, the idiomatic and faithful version of Henry Martyn still maintains its ground, although from the lofty elegance of its style it is better understood by educated than by illiterate Mahommedans.

  1. London 1848. Pages 78-83. The quoted passages from Pages 82-83. [Google Books]. [ ▲ ]

For reference:

Administrator. J A Shurman ~ Bible Translator ("Benares Version") :: J A Shurman ~ Urdu Linguist, in: Pirltawardli Research Website. Adelaide 2019.
(Created: 19.01.2015. Last updated: 11.02.2016.)
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