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Colenso, John W. (1814–1883)

  1. Iain S. Maclean

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc0324

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Maclean, I. S. 2011. Colenso, John W. (1814–1883). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


Born on January 24, 1814, in St. Austell, Corn-wall, John William Colenso, the first Anglican bishop of the colony of Natal, South Africa, was a famed if controversial missionary to the Zulus. He was a pioneer Zulu linguist, a controversial Old Testament scholar, and political opponent of the British colonial government. The last-mentioned earned him the names of Sobantu (Father of the People) and Sokhuleka (Father of Respectful Supplication). He married Sarah Frances Bunyon in 1846 and through her met Frederick Denison Maurice, whose ideas were to influence him. While teaching mathematics in East Anglia, he met Bishop Robert Gray of Cape Town, who was touring England to raise support and clergy for the missionary see of Natal. Accepting Gray's offer of a missionary bishopric for Natal, he was consecrated and left shortly afterwards for a visitation to Natal. Upon his return he published Ten Weeks in Natal (1855), which gave an outline of the colonial situation, his missionary vision, and proposals for financing the mission. The same year he also published his argument against the American missionaries in Natal, who held that baptism of polygamists was admissible.


  • Colenso, John W. (1814–1883);
  • first anglican bishop, colony of natal, South Africa;
  • ten weeks in natal;
  • legal decisions, and long-lasting schisms;
  • Colenso's mastery, of zulu language;
  • pioneer, of indigenous people's right and culture