Henry Martyn was born in the UK in 1781. When he landed in Calcutta, India, in 1806, he exclaimed “Now let me burn out for God!” Six years later, he did just that after contracting a fever and dying on his way home to England. He was buried in Turkey in 1812. Martyn compressed a lifetime of service into those six years! Wikipedia calls him an Anglican priest and missionary to India and Persia (modern-day Iran).
Martyn was a brilliant linguist, competent in six very different languages with different scripts. God called him to India in his early twenties, where he translated the New Testament (NT) into Hindustani, Arabic and Persian. He also translated the Psalms into Persian. The Persian language was the language of the Moghul courts and the judicial system under British rule and was understood from Calcutta to Damascus.
One year before his death, when he was 30, Martyn traveled to Iran to revise the first Persian translation he had done. In one year he, together with Mirza Sayyed Ali Khan, translated the entire NT from Greek into Persian a second time! Three years after Martyn died, the first ever full NT in Persian was published by the Russian Bible Society.
Martyn truly lived what he claimed: “I see no business in life but the work of Christ.”
Another notable aspect of Henry Martyn’s work is that there is no copyright on his translation. Thus, when a Christian from the Persian Speaking World was led by God in 2013 to digitize and revise* the Old Persian Version, there were no copyright laws to work around.
Praise God, this project was completed earlier this year! Persian speaking people can freely download the Persian NT. They can use it for devotions, sermons, tracts, Christian literature, websites, blogs, articles… This is especially wonderful in places where it is almost impossible to get hard copies of the Bible. Furthermore, this version can be printed and distributed to believers and seekers.
We know God’s Word will be used mightily by Him in the PSW for people such as the following: (Please pray for them!)
- M and his family as they continue to be persecuted and live in limbo while waiting for M’s prison sentence to begin.
- J and his little daughter as they have relocated to a new city, healing from a family breakup, looking for employment, a new school, new friends….
- Young Christian couples who would love to start a family but have medical issues.
- Christian couples whose marriages are under attack.
- S who is seeking for answers to the big questions of life.
- R who is trying to have a good Christian testimony to his family while sharing with them and friends what he is learning as a new believer.
Thank God for the faithfulness of Henry Martyn and his excellent work of translating the NT into Persian in 1811. Thank God for the ability to share His Word digitally and thus get it into many homes. Thank God for those who worked on and supported this project. Thank God for believers and seekers in the PSW, who thirst for His Word.
*Even though Henry Martyn’s translation of the NT is extremely accurate, the Persian language has changed since 1812 and thus some updating was necessary, just as was done with the King James Version.