Gobat, Samuel


Samuel Gobat was a Church Missionary Society (CMS) missionary to Abyssinia. Born to a Lutheran family in Crémine, Berne, Switzerland, Gobat studied at the Basel Mission Institute, the Missionary Institute in Paris, and the CMS training institution in Islington (London), England. Ordained in the Lutheran church, he nevertheless volunteered for service with the CMS. During six years of service in Abyssinia (Ethiopia), broken by a short stint in Europe from 1833 to 1834, during which he married Maria Zellerin, Gobat worked energetically and to some degree successfully at building rapport with the Orthodox Coptic Church. In 1836 he was forced by poor health to return to Europe. He was subsequently sent to Malta, where, between 1839 and 1845, he supervised the translation of the Bible into Arabic and served as vice-president of the Malta Protestant College. In 1846 he was nominated by King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia to succeed the recently deceased bishop in Jerusalem, Michael Solomon Alexander. Within the space of a few days, Gobat was ordained an Anglican priest and consecrated (at Lambeth, on July 5, 1846) as bishop of Jerusalem. Until his death in Jerusalem, Gobat was notable for the energetic practicality and consummate Christian diplomacy that marked his fulfillment of this difficult and frequently exasperating role. In addition to his several publications cited below, and the Arabic translation of the Bible mentioned above, Gobat left behind thirty-seven Palestinian schools with a combined enrollment of 1,400 students, and twelve indigenous churches.

Jonathan J. Bonk


Samuel Gobat, Journal of Three Years’ Residence in Abyssinia, in Furtherance of the Objects of the Church Missionary Society… (1834) and Samuel Gobat: His Life and His Work (1884). John S. Conway, “The Jerusalem Bishopric: A ‘Union of Foolscap and Blotting-paper,’” Studies in Religion 7, no. 3 (1978); Eugene Stock, The History of the Church Missionary Society: Its Environment, Its Men, and Its Work (1899).

This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.