John Colenso

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John Colenso_table_infobox_0

The Right Reverend

John William ColensoJohn Colenso_header_cell_0_0_0

ChurchJohn Colenso_header_cell_0_1_0 Church of EnglandJohn Colenso_cell_0_1_1
SeeJohn Colenso_header_cell_0_2_0 NatalJohn Colenso_cell_0_2_1
In officeJohn Colenso_header_cell_0_3_0 1853 – 20 June 1883John Colenso_cell_0_3_1
PredecessorJohn Colenso_header_cell_0_4_0 noneJohn Colenso_cell_0_4_1
SuccessorJohn Colenso_header_cell_0_5_0 Hamilton BaynesJohn Colenso_cell_0_5_1
Personal detailsJohn Colenso_header_cell_0_6_0
BornJohn Colenso_header_cell_0_7_0 (1814-01-24)24 January 1814

St Austell, Cornwall, EnglandJohn Colenso_cell_0_7_1

DiedJohn Colenso_header_cell_0_8_0 20 June 1883(1883-06-20) (aged 69)

Durban, Natal ColonyJohn Colenso_cell_0_8_1

Previous postJohn Colenso_header_cell_0_9_0 Rector of Forncett St MaryJohn Colenso_cell_0_9_1

John William Colenso (24 January 1814 – 20 June 1883) was a Cornish cleric and mathematician, defender of the Zulu and biblical scholar, who was the first Bishop of Natal. John Colenso_sentence_0

He was a scholar of the Zulu language. John Colenso_sentence_1

As a churchman, he is now remembered for his theological views of the Bible, that set off intense controversy. John Colenso_sentence_2

Early life and education John Colenso_section_0

Colenso was born at St Austell, Cornwall, on 24 January 1814. John Colenso_sentence_3

His surname is locative and it originates from the place name Colenso in the parish of St Hilary, near Penzance in West Cornwall, it is a Cornish language (Celtic) name, from the Cornish "Kelyn dhu" meaning "dark hollies". John Colenso_sentence_4

His father (John William Colenso) invested his capital into a mineral works in Pentewan, Cornwall, but the speculation proved to be ruinous when the investment was lost following a sea flood. John Colenso_sentence_5

His cousin was William Colenso, a missionary in New Zealand. John Colenso_sentence_6

Family financial problems meant that Colenso had to take a job as an usher in a private school before he could attend university. John Colenso_sentence_7

These earnings and a loan of £30 raised by his relatives paid for his first year at St John's College, Cambridge where he was a sizar scholar. John Colenso_sentence_8

In 1836 he was Second Wrangler and Smith's Prizeman at Cambridge, and in 1837 he became fellow of St John's. John Colenso_sentence_9

Two years later he went to Harrow School as mathematical tutor, but the step proved an unfortunate one. John Colenso_sentence_10

The school was at its lowest ebb, and Colenso not only had few pupils, but lost most of his property in a fire. John Colenso_sentence_11

He returned to Cambridge burdened by an enormous debt of £5,000. John Colenso_sentence_12

However, within a relatively short period of time he paid off this debt by diligent tutoring and the sale to Longmans of his copyright interest in the highly successful and widely read manuals he had written on algebra (in 1841) and arithmetic (in 1843). John Colenso_sentence_13

Career John Colenso_section_1

Colenso's early theological thinking was heavily influenced by Frederick Maurice to whom he was introduced by his wife and by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. John Colenso_sentence_14

In 1846 he became rector of Forncett St Mary, Norfolk, and in 1853 he was recruited by the Bishop of Cape Town, Robert Gray, to be the first Bishop of Natal. John Colenso_sentence_15

Life in Africa John Colenso_section_2

Colenso was a significant figure in the history of the published word in nineteenth century South Africa. John Colenso_sentence_16

He first wrote a short but vivid account of his initial journeying in Natal, Ten Weeks in Natal: A Journal of a First Tour of Visitation Among the Colonists and Zulu Kaffirs of Natal. John Colenso_sentence_17

Using the printing press he brought to his missionary station at Ekukhanyeni in Natal, and with William Ngidi he published the first Zulu Grammar and English/Zulu dictionary. John Colenso_sentence_18

His 1859 journey across Zululand to visit Mpande (the then Zulu King) and meet with Cetshwayo (Mpande's son and the Zulu King at the time of the Zulu War) was recorded in his book First Steps of the Zulu Mission. John Colenso_sentence_19

The same journey was also described in the first book written by native South Africans in Zulu – Three Native Accounts by Magema Fuze, Ndiyane and William Ngidi. John Colenso_sentence_20

He also translated the New Testament and other portions of Scripture into Zulu. John Colenso_sentence_21

Religious debate John Colenso_section_3

Through the influence of his talented and well-educated wife, Colenso became one of only a handful of theologians to embrace Frederick Maurice, who was raised a Unitarian but joined the Church of England to help it "purify and elevate the mind of the nation". John Colenso_sentence_22

Before his missionary career Colenso's volume of sermons dedicated to Frederick Maurice signalled the critical approach he would later apply to biblical interpretation and the baleful impact on native Africans of colonial expansion in southern Africa. John Colenso_sentence_23

Colenso first courted controversy with the publication in 1855 of his Remarks on the Proper Treatment of Polygamy; one of the most cogent Christian-based arguments for tolerance of polygamy. John Colenso_sentence_24

Colenso's experiences in Natal informed his development as a religious thinker. John Colenso_sentence_25

In his commentary upon St Paul's Epistle to the Romans (1861) he countered the doctrine of eternal punishment and the contention that Holy Communion was a precondition to salvation. John Colenso_sentence_26

Colenso, as a missionary, would not preach that the ancestors of newly Christianised Africans were condemned to eternal damnation. John Colenso_sentence_27

The thought-provoking questions put to him by students at his missionary station encouraged him to re-examine the contents of the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua and question whether certain sections of these books should be understood as literally or historically accurate. John Colenso_sentence_28

His conclusions, positive and negative, were published in a series of treatises on the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua, over a period of time from 1862 to 1879. John Colenso_sentence_29

The publication of these volumes created a scandal in England and were the cause of a number of anguished and patronising counter-blasts from those (clergy and laity alike) who refused to countenance the possibility of biblical fallibility. John Colenso_sentence_30

Colenso's work attracted the notice of biblical scholars on the continent such as Abraham Kuenen and played an important contribution in the development of biblical scholarship John Colenso_sentence_31

Colenso's biblical criticism and his high-minded views about the treatment of African natives created a frenzy of alarm and opposition from the High Church party in South Africa and in England. John Colenso_sentence_32

As controversy raged in England, the South African bishops headed by Bishop Gray pronounced Colenso's deposition in December 1863. John Colenso_sentence_33

Colenso, who had refused to appear before this tribunal otherwise than by sending a proxy protest (delivered by his friend Wilhelm Bleek), appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. John Colenso_sentence_34

The Privy Council eventually decided that the Bishop of Cape Town had no coercive jurisdiction and no authority to interfere with the Bishop of Natal. John Colenso_sentence_35

In view of this finding of ultra vires there was no opinion given upon the allegations of heresy made against Colenso. John Colenso_sentence_36

The first Lambeth Conference was convened in 1867 to address concerns raised by the Privy Council's decision in favour of Colenso. John Colenso_sentence_37

His adversaries, though unable to remove him from his episcopal office, succeeded in restricting his ability to preach both in Natal and in England. John Colenso_sentence_38

Bishop Gray not only excommunicated him but consecrated a rival bishop (W.K. John Colenso_sentence_39 Macrorie), who took the title of "Bishop of Maritzburg" (the latter a common name for Pietermaritzburg). John Colenso_sentence_40

The contributions of the missionary societies were withdrawn, but an attempt to deprive him of his episcopal income and the control of St Peter's Cathedral in Pietermaritzburg was frustrated by another court ruling. John Colenso_sentence_41

Colenso, encouraged by a handsome testimonial raised in England to which many clergymen subscribed, returned to his diocese. John Colenso_sentence_42

A rival cathedral was built but it has long been sold and moved. John Colenso_sentence_43

The new Cathedral of the Nativity, beside St Peter's, honours both Bishop Colenso and Bishop Macrorie in the names it has given to its halls. John Colenso_sentence_44

Advocacy of native African causes John Colenso_section_4

Colenso devoted the latter years of his life to further labours as a biblical commentator and as an advocate for native Africans in Natal and Zululand who had been unjustly treated by the colonial regime in Natal. John Colenso_sentence_45

In 1874 he took up the cause of Langalibalele and the Hlubi and Ngwe tribes in representations to the Colonial Secretary, Lord Carnarvon. John Colenso_sentence_46

Langalibalele had been falsely accused of rebellion in 1873 and, following a charade of a trial, was found guilty and imprisoned on Robben Island. John Colenso_sentence_47

In taking the side of Langalibalele against the Colonial regime in Natal and Theophilus Shepstone, the Secretary for Native Affairs, Colenso found himself even further estranged from colonial society in Natal. John Colenso_sentence_48

Colenso's concern about the misleading information that was being provided to the Colonial Secretary in London by Shepstone and the Governor of Natal prompted him to devote much of the final part of his life to championing the cause of the Zulus against Boer oppression and official encroachments. John Colenso_sentence_49

He was a prominent critic of Sir Bartle Frere's efforts to depict the Zulu kingdom as a threat to Natal. John Colenso_sentence_50

Following the conclusion of the Anglo-Zulu War he interceded on behalf of Cetshwayo with the British government and succeeded in getting him released from Robben Island and returned to Zululand. John Colenso_sentence_51

He was known as Sobantu (father of the people) to the native Africans in Natal and had a close relationship with members of the Zulu royal family; one of whom, Mkhungo (a son of Mpande), was taught at his school in Bishopstowe. John Colenso_sentence_52

After his death his wife and daughters continued his work supporting the Zulu cause and the organisation that eventually became the African National Congress. John Colenso_sentence_53

Polygenism John Colenso_section_5

Colenso was a polygenist; he believed in Co-Adamism, i.e. that the different races had been created separately. John Colenso_sentence_54

Colenso pointed to monuments and artifacts in Egypt to debunk monogenist beliefs that all races came from the same stock. John Colenso_sentence_55

Ancient Egyptian representations of races for example showed exactly how the races looked today. John Colenso_sentence_56

Egyptological evidence indicated the existence of remarkable permanent differences in the shape of the skull, bodily form, colour and physiognomy between different races. John Colenso_sentence_57

Colenso believed that racial variation between races was so great, that there was no way all the races could have come from the same stock just a few thousand years ago, he was unconvinced that the climate could change racial variation, he also with other biblical polygenists believed that monogenists had interpreted the Bible incorrectly. John Colenso_sentence_58

Colenso said "It seems most probable that the human race, as it now exists, had really sprung from more than one pair". John Colenso_sentence_59

Colenso denied that polygenism caused any kind of racist attitudes or practices, like many other polygenists he claimed that monogenesis was the cause of slavery and racism. John Colenso_sentence_60

Colenso claimed that each race had sprung from a different pair of parents, and that all races had been created equal by God. John Colenso_sentence_61

Later life and death John Colenso_section_6

Colenso died at Durban on 20 June 1883. John Colenso_sentence_62

His daughter Frances Ellen Colenso (1849–1887) published two books on the relations of the Zulus to the British (History of the Zulu War and Its Origin in 1880 and The Ruin of Zululand in 1885) that explained recent events in Zululand from a pro-Zulu perspective. John Colenso_sentence_63

His oldest daughter, Harriette E Colenso (b. John Colenso_sentence_64

1847), took up Colenso's mantle as advocate for the Zulus in opposition to their treatment by the authorities appointed by Natal, especially in the case of Dinizulu in 1888–1889 and in 1908–1909. John Colenso_sentence_65

Personal life John Colenso_section_7

Colenso married Sarah Frances Bunyon in 1846, and they had five children, Harriette Emily, Frances Ellen, Robert John, Francis "Frank" Ernest, and Agnes. John Colenso_sentence_66

(In the marriage register, her name is spelt Bunyan. John Colenso_sentence_67

There had long been variations in the spelling of a surname that goes back at least to the 12th century in England and in Normandy.) John Colenso_sentence_68

In popular culture John Colenso_section_8

John Colenso_unordered_list_0

  • In the 1979 film Zulu Dawn, Colenso is sympathetically portrayed by Freddie Jones, as a principled critic of the decision to declare war on Cetshwayo and the Zulus.John Colenso_item_0_0

Published works John Colenso_section_9

Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: Colenso.