"For Zion's Sake I Will Not Rest": The London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews and Its Nineteenth-Century Missionary Periodicals

By Jagodzinska, Agnieszka | Church History, June 2013 | Go to article overview

"For Zion's Sake I Will Not Rest": The London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews and Its Nineteenth-Century Missionary Periodicals


Jagodzinska, Agnieszka, Church History


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I am grateful to Church's Ministry among Jewish People for granting me permission to use their archive (The Papers of the Church's Ministry Among the Jews --further abbreviated to: CMJ) deposited at the Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.

Since the Evangelical Revival triggered a new wave of British millenarian expectations and aroused religiously motivated interest in Jews, various religious bodies and individuals envisioned the necessity of Jews' conversion, stimulating countless and restless efforts to evangelize "God's chosen people." These efforts, organized within the framework of the vast British missionary enterprise, soon became "nothing short of a national project," to cite Michael Ragussis. This project, dubbed by its critics as "the English madness," expressed itself in activity of various societies, and missions, in a wide flow of literature and in constantly recurring public debates.60 The London Society for Promoting Christianity among Jews61 (abbreviated from here to the London Society or the Society), was probably its most important outcome. Established as a separate missionary enterprise in 1809, it was the oldest and the largest society in field of nineteenth-century British "Jewish missions." It sent missionaries not only to the Jewish communities in British colonial spaces, but also far beyond. The efforts of the Society to convert Jews are well reflected in its numerous missionary periodicals whose function, form, and language I wish to discuss here.

Missionary periodicals of the Society, as all others of such kind, were a powerful element in the missionary and fundraising scheme. For the most part, we do not have any information about their editors, but one should expect that they were recruited from the Society or were its co-workers. Editorial voices, expressed in a form of separate addresses to the readers, or commentaries added to reprinted missionary reports, were mostly anonymous. One must remember, however, that anonymity was one of the most characteristic features of the Victorian press,62 religious and secular alike. The London Society's intelligence departed from this convention only when publishing missionary reports in which it generally tended to identify missionaries who wrote them.

The first periodical published by the London Society was entitled The Instructor . However, none of its copies has been preserved and we have no detailed information about its content. In January 1813, the Society started publishing The Jewish Repository, or monthly communications respecting the Jews, and the proceedings of the London Society . This periodical aimed at informing readers--as its long title suggests--about the progress of the missionary work and tried to encourage their interest and support.63 After three years, the title of the journal was altered to The Jewish Expositor and Friend of Israel (also a monthly) and its content underwent a change too. In comparison with its previous incarnation, it adopted a slightly different approach focusing on "all matters connected with Jews and their evangelization," trying to apply a more scholarly perspective, and offering a broader range of informative articles. At the same time, less attention was devoted to the proceedings of the Society. However, in order to satisfy readers interested in the proceedings, the London Society issued a separate half-year periodical, Jewish Records (1818-[84]64 ), which focused specially on financial and missionary reports.65 Its subtitle informed that the paper was intended "chiefly for the use of collectors and small subscribers to the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews." In the later period, the Jewish Records were printed more frequently--monthly or quarterly--which indicates growing interest in the reports on missionary work.

The Jewish Expositor , on the other hand, was continued only until June 1831. …

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