Birthday: August 9, 1788
Died At Age: 61
Sun Sign: Leo
Also Known As: A. Judson
Born in: Malden
Famous as: Missionary
Spouse/Ex-: Ann Hasseltine Judson, Emily Chubbuck, Sarah Hall Boardman
children: Edward Judson
Died on: April 12, 1850
place of death: Bay of Bengal
U.S. State: Massachusetts
Founder/Co-Founder: American Baptist International Ministries
education: Brown University, Andover Newton Theological School
Adoniram Judson was an American missionary who served in Burma for almost 40 years. Some other missionaries like James Chater and Richard Mardon had served in Burma before him, but they did not stay in the Burmese territory for long. Even though Judson was not the first missionary to Burma, he was the first Protestant missionary from North America to preach in Burma. He first arrived in Burma when he was in his mid-twenties and spent almost four decades in the country preaching Christianity to the masses. He started learning Burmese soon after arriving in Burma and over the next few years he translated the Bible into Burmese. Born as the son of a Congregational minister, he was exposed to the tenets of Christianity from an early age. An intelligent boy, he read a chapter from the Bible to his father when he was only three years old. His delighted father hoped that his son would one day follow in his footsteps. However Adoniram became disillusioned with religion for a while and was wandering away from his faith when the death of a friend made him return to Christianity. He decided to become a missionary and headed to Burma to enlighten the people about the Christian faith.
Childhood & Early Life
Adoniram Judson, Jr. was born on August 9, 1788 in Malden, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, to Adoniram Judson, Sr., a Congregational minister, and his wife Abigail.
His religious parents instilled in him a love for God and the little boy started reading the Bible when he was just three. As a school student he loved to read and was a quick learner.
When he was 16, he enrolled at the College of Rhode Island & Providence Plantations (now Brown University) and here too, proved to be an exceptional student. However, during this time he came into contact with skeptic friends who tried to lead him away from the Christian faith.
When one of his skeptic friends, Jacob Eames, fell ill and died, Judson was shaken beyond belief. This incident prompted him to return to his faith which he had almost abandoned by now.
He then went to the Andover Theological Seminary and in 1808, he made a solemn pledge, dedicating himself to God. He decided to become a missionary during his final year at the seminary.
In 1810, he became a part of a group of mission-minded students at Andover who called themselves "the Brethren". Judson drafted a petition which was presented to the General Association of Massachusetts (Congregational), and ultimately led to the establishment of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
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The newly formed board sent him to England to visit the London Missionary Society in January 1811 as a missionary-sending agency did not yet exist in America. However, his vessel was captured by a French privateer and all the occupants were imprisoned for a short while. He visited the Missionary Seminary at Gosport upon his release and returned to New York in August.
Later in 1811 he was appointed by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions as a missionary to the East and ordained in February 1812.
Married by now, he traveled to Calcutta, India, with his wife in June 1812, and both of them were baptized in September. After realizing that there was not much scope in India to evangelize Hindus, they traveled to Burma in July 1813.
The initial years in Burma were marked by great difficulties for the missionaries. They suffered from tropical illness and also lost a son, Roger. However the brave couple never gave up on their faith.
Adoniram Judson spent a few years in learning the Burmese language and adapted the local customs to evangelism. He opened his first preaching place in 1819, and baptized Maung Naw, his first Burman convert. He also began the work of translating the Bible into Burmese.
Over the next few years he founded a church and established schools. He also worked tirelessly to build a Baptist Christian community which eventually grew to include around 500,000 followers.
In the mid-1820s, when the First Burmese War with Britain was in full swing, Judson was imprisoned by Myanmar forces. Along with some other foreign prisoners, he was subjected to extreme torture. Still he remained steadfast in his faith. His wife, Ann, who was free, worked hard to secure his freedom even as she herself struggled to keep herself and their new baby alive.
Judson was finally released at the end of the war. But his troubles were far from over as his wife and baby died shortly after he was freed from prison.
Ever the resilient soul, he continued his evangelism, and resumed his translation and literary works. In 1834, he finally completed the translation of the Bible into the Burmese language. He took some more years to revise his work and the book was ready for the press in 1840.
He continued toiling for the cause of Christianity until the very end of his life. At the time of his death, he left behind the translated Bible, 100 churches, and over 8,000 believers.
Adoniram Judson’s translation of the Bible into the Burmese language is considered to be his greatest gift to evangelism. It took him several years to translate the book which ultimately aided the works of the future missionaries to Burma. Even today, his translation remains the most popular version in Myanmar.
Awards & Achievements
He is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on April 12.
In Myanmar, Baptist churches celebrate "Judson Day" every July commemorating his arrival as a missionary.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1812, he married Ann Hasseltine, who became one of the first female American foreign missionaries. Ann suffered from one miscarriage and gave birth to two children later on. Unfortunately, both the children died while they were still babies. Ann died of an illness in 1826.
In 1834, he married Sarah Hall Boardman, widow of fellow missionary George Boardman. The couple went on to have eight children, of whom five survived to adulthood. His second wife died in 1845.
The writer Emily Chubbuck became his third wife in 1846. She gave birth to two children, of whom one died shortly after birth.
In 1850, Adoniram Judson developed a serious lung infection and was advised to go on a sea voyage by doctors. He died onboard ship in the Bay of Bengal on April 12, 1850 and was buried at sea. At the time of his death, he had spent 37 years in missionary service in Burma.