Testament to the Scot Korea calls its 'father of the Bible'

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HE may be little known in his own country but to thousands of Koreans he is hailed as the "father of the Bible".

Scottish missionary and one-time Edinburgh minister John Ross, who died in 1915, became the first man to translate the New Testament into Korean.

Now he is being honoured in the South Korean capital, Seoul, thanks to the efforts of an Edinburgh church.

A memorial plaque has been sent to a church in Youngnak, which has 50,000 worshippers, making it the biggest Presbyterian congregation in the world.

The money was raised by Mayfield Salisbury Church in Newington, where Reverend Ross became a church elder after retiring to Edinburgh in 1910.

Mayfield's minister, Reverend Scott McKenna, said: "We wanted to give a gift to the Youngnak congregation as Reverend Ross was just such a prominent figure in Korea. We are delighted to commemorate his life and work in this way."

A presentation ceremony was held in Edinburgh attended by a number of members of the Youngnak congregation, who had travelled from Korea especially for the occasion. Among them was Youngnak's minister, Rev Chul Shin Lee. Rev McKenna added: "It was just wonderful to share the service with the Koreans."

Elaine Duncan, chief executive of the Scottish Bible Society, was also at the ceremony.

She said: "It was a privilege to be involved with the congregation of Mayfield Salisbury and some of the Christian Korean population living in Edinburgh, to acknowledge the lasting heritage of John Ross.

"The story of the Scot and his commitment to mission in China and Korea is enormously challenging.

"His dedication to the task of translating the Bible into Korean is a real inspiration.

"A friend once told him that it was better to be a spark in China than a flame in the Highlands. He certainly proved that to be true."

The memorial plaque is made from brass set in wood and is written in both English and Korean. It reads: "In memory of Reverend John Ross, Doctor of Divinity 1824-1915. Missionary in Korea and China. Translator of New Testament into Korean and elder of Mayfield United Free Church."

Ross was born in Easter Ross in 1842 and spoke fluent Gaelic as well as English. Between 1865 and 1869, he studied at the United Presbyterian Divinity Hall in Edinburgh.

In 1872, he sailed to China where he settled in Manchuria in the north-east. He was the first Protestant missionary in the area. In 1876, he founded Dongguan Church in Shenyang, which is still open to this day and seats 5000 people.

By 1879, Reverend Ross had begun to reach out to Koreans near the Chinese border. In 1882, he printed the gospels of Luke and John in Shenyang and it is believed that the first Gospels to reach Korea were smuggled in around this time.

Reverend Ross was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity degree for his writings on China and Korea.

In 1910, he returned to Edinburgh due to poor health. He lived at 12 Marchhall Crescent, Newington, and began serving as a church elder. He continued to write about China up until his death in August 1915.