Joseph Schereschewsky vs. Nikolaus von Zinzendorf

Thirty-four consonants between them! That's what we're talking about in the long-anticipated Battle of the Consonants between Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky and Nikolaus von Zinzendorf. You have 24-hours (or 10 fewer hours than consonants) to decide this tongue twister of a matchup.

With only three battles left in the Round of 32, we will be kicking off the Saintly Sixteen on Thursday. The field is narrowing, folks! In case you missed it, on Friday Scholastica schooled Macrina the Younger 64% to 37%. But that's old news. So let's get on with it, shall we?

But first, check out this article about Lent Madness written by Emily Miller of Religion News Service that made its way into various secular newspapers over the weekend.

Oh, and we challenge you to write a limerick based on today's matchup. Just because. Leave your best attempt in the comment section.

Joseph Schereschewsky

Born in Russian Lithuania in 1831 and raised by his half-brother, Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky was groomed to become a rabbi. During his theological education, he received and read a copy of the New Testament in Hebrew. Becoming convinced of Christ’s divinity, Schereschewsky moved to Germany to continue his studies of Christianity and theology before ultimately immigrating to the United States in 1854. He celebrated his baptism as part of a Baptist worship community in New York the following year.

After falling in with the Baptists, he felt led to investigate the Presbyterian experience, and eventually made his way to the Episcopal Church, enrolling at the General Theological Seminary in New York City. In 1859, Schereschewsky offered himself as a missionary to China. The Foreign Committee of the Episcopal Church agreed to his proposed mission and consecrated him a deacon, and Schereschewsky jumped a steamer to Shanghai.

Schereschewsky was a stone-cold genius with language—to call him a polyglot is an understatement. By young adulthood, Schereschewsky could speak Yiddish, Hebrew, German, Polish, and Russian with absolute fluency. When he arrived in China, he began translating the Bible into the vernacular of the people to whom he was ministering. Once the Bible was translated, he also translated The Book of Common Prayer into Mandarin. Schereschewsky’s ministry in China was so vibrant that the House of Bishops called him to serve as Bishop of Shanghai in 1877.

Schereschewsky fell ill after arriving in China. A degenerative neurological disease resulted in the resignation of his episcopate in 1883 and his return to the United States. Schereschewsky spent the final years of his life entirely paralyzed, except for one finger, which he used to painstakingly type out his translations of the scriptures. These translations were so accurate and understandable that they are still used today. By the time of his death, Schereschewsky had translated the word of God into Mandarin, Wenli, and Mongolian, as well as compiling a Mongolian-to-English dictionary.

Collect for Joseph Schereschewsky
O God, who in your providence called Joseph Schereschewsky from his home in Eastern Europe to the ministry of this Church, and sent him as a missionary to China, upholding him in his infirmity, that he might translate the Holy Scriptures into languages of that land: Lead us, we pray, to commit our lives and talents to you, in the confidence that when you give your servants any work to do, you also supply the strength to do it; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

— Megan Castellan

Nikolaus von Zinzendorf

Nikolaus von Zinzendorf was a German poet, preacher, hymn writer, theologian, religious leader, and bishop. The phrase most closely linked with Zinzendorf is Unitas Fratrum or Unity of Brethren. The words have been associated with The Moravian Church since its inception.

Born into one of the great noble families of Austria in 1700, the young duke took a great interest in theology and religion. In 1716, he began his study of law at the University of Wittenberg in preparation for a career in diplomacy. Three years later, Zinzendorf departed the university and traveled throughout Europe. Upon acquiring a Saxony estate, Zinzendorf allowed the religious group Unitas Fratrum to settle on his land. There, the Moravian Covenant for Christian Living was born, reflecting a rich liturgical and devotional life. Zinzendorf said, “All of life becomes a liturgy, and even the most mundane task can be an act of worship.” Unitas Fratrum became the Moravian Church.

Zinzendorf was ordained a Lutheran minister in 1735 and consecrated a bishop in the Moravian Church in Berlin two years later. Regarded as a strong leader, Zinzendorf dedicated his personal funds and fortune to the work of the church, becoming a staunch advocate for ecumenism. In 1741, Zinzendorf and a group of companions arrived in the American colonies to minister to the Indigenous population and German-speaking immigrants. Inspired by their Christmas arrival, the missionaries named the new settlement Bethlehem. Zinzendorf preached the gospel to everyone he encountered—free people, indentured servants, slaves, and Indigenous peoples—including leaders of the Iroquois Nation, Benjamin Franklin, and other notable leaders in the colonies.

By the time Zinzendorf died on May 9, 1760, the Moravians had dispatched an astonishing 226 missionaries across the Americas and around the world to spread the good news of Jesus and his love. One of Zinzendorf’s best-known offerings is the Moravian Common Table Prayer: “Come Lord Jesus, be our Guest and let thy gifts to us be blessed.”

Collect for Nikolaus von Zinzendorf
God of new life in Christ, We remember the bold witness of your servant Nikolaus von Zinzendorf, through whom your Spirit moved to draw many to faith and conversion of life. We pray that we, like him, may rejoice to sing your praises, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

— Neva Rae Fox

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Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky—Unknown Artist, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Nikolaus von Zinzendorf—Unknown Artist, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons


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263 comments on “Joseph Schereschewsky vs. Nikolaus von Zinzendorf”

    1. What madness it is to choose
      Between one born among Jews,
      And the other a Count,
      When both lives amount
      To greatness in spreading Good News!

      1. Barrett, that is really good. I write poetry all the time but still I didn't want to take on the challenge of writing a limerick.

      2. Another difficult decision, however I was somewhat biased by the fact that I am 1/4 Lithuanian Jew, so I voted for Schereschewsky.

    2. Wikipedia says that the pronunciation of Schereschewsky is (skĕr-ĕs-kūs'kĭ).

      1. I think it would rhyme with Krzezewski (as in Coach K of Duke)--Sheshefski)--
        and Paderewski (as in the great pianist)--Paderefski. The w is somewhere between f and v.

      1. Oops! I see Margaret has addressed your question. Mine was not an official pronunciation, so take with grain of salt. Since I'm here, I'll point out that
        "Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky Bishop of Shanghai" (all in one breath) has a music all its own.

  1. For Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky and Nikolaus von Zinzendorf
    Tune: St. Thomas (Williams) Hymnal ’82, 524 I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord.

    All praise and thanks to God
    Who hast done all things well;
    Like giving us two awesome saints
    Whose names we cannot spell.

    A faithful Jewish man;
    a linguist, scholar too,
    Through scripture Sam found Jesus Christ
    And pledged his life thereto.

    A priest; he eastward went
    to China, gave his all,
    as priest and bishop; translator –
    it was his final call

    There was a rich young man.
    Who could have power too.
    But Nick’s true heart was turned to Christ
    To love his whole life through.

    We need community.
    We need to sing and praise.
    Nick’s wisdom and his hymnody
    Encouraged life in grace.

    Again how can we choose,
    Between amazing saints?
    Whose lives give us examples of
    God’s oft amazing grace.

    1. Mary, I totally agree! Limerick schmimerick--Diana is surely the poet laureate of Lent Madness!

    2. Humor and succinct information! Wow! (The first stanza had me snorting coffee - who needs a neti pot with Diana's on-the-spot hymns in the morning?)
      You win the golden laurel crown of the poets, for sure.

      1. Gretchen, I am geographically humbled by your accuracy. In my own defense, it was very early and I hadn't had my coffee yet. Thank you for pointing out what any fifth grader should know.

    3. Wow! This is fantastic! Well said. I voted for the Moravian because I love their music written here in America patterned after the music of Haydn and Mozart. There are some wonderful songs.

  2. Schereschewsky is my man. He is the absolute exemplar of dedication and perseverence.

  3. I am impressed by Schereschesky's language abilities, but I admire Zinzendorf's ecumenism, and how he spread the word to everyone he encountered, regardless of their stature (or lack thereof.) He was someone born of wealth and nobility who put used that status and those resources to bring the love of God to everyone he encountered. I also have always been a fan of the Moravian common table prayer. Nikolaus gets my vote.

    1. i agree Chris and cast my vote for Nikolaus and also for the great Moravian tradition of music. He hasn't got a hope , I fear but I persist. I love Lent Madness!

    2. Do you know why the Moravians (a small European denomination) could put together one of the most massive missionary endeavors this continent has ever experienced and still we see so few Moravian churches to show for it? They did NOT come to build Moravian chucrhes but to support those that already existed. Maybe you and I are among their benefactees.

      I think I'll go with the Count!

  4. Oh dear! A tricky one. I was all for Joseph right up until the grace by Nikolaus... that is the first prayer my kids learnt.

  5. Really hard choice for me, but Joseph traveled so far spiritually and physically and struggled so valiantly so I voted for him.

    1. I, too, struggled to choose among such inspiring saints, but finally decided Joseph had given so freely of his life and talents that I had to vote for him.

  6. The consonant matchup? Oh gee.
    They're both men of valor to me.
    But the prayer I love best
    Goes, "Come, Jesus, my guest,"
    So I voted for Nicky von Z.

  7. Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians established missions to slaves in the Caribbean . A genealogical mystery seems to point to a Moravian connection with my unknown slave ancestor. Zinzendorf could literally be the reason my people became free. My vote is for him.

  8. Had to vote for Nikolaus. He gave refuge to the persecuted and used his wealth and status as a noble to further ecumenism at a time of religious bigotry. The Moravian church's ministry to the marginal (at that time, indentured servants, slaves, Native Americans) caused deep suspicion among their neighbors. They were expelled from New York and found safety in Pennsylvania. So, Nikolaus has to get my vote.

  9. What an amazing man. I can't resist a "polyglot," or "polymath," as I have been corrected to say. I'm thankful that our church has been blessed by someone so dedicated. I'm voting for Joe.

  10. The Moravians' calmness on a ship during a terrible storm in the colonies greatly impacted John Wesley who was also on the boat. A quiet devotional life--such as that practiced by the Moravians--provides a haven in today's storm of bombast and attack and controversy. I am deeply grateful to Mr. Z for his support and commitment to this way of religious life.

  11. Well, since Scherechewsky was the patron saint of the old St. Sam's e-list, I feel obligated to vote for him. Plus, of course, the fact that anyone who would type out the whole Bible with one finger deserves every saintly honor available!

    1. I'm with you, Harriet! Attended Lafayette, but the whole Lehigh Valley is thick with the beauty and ministry of Moravians, and our son is at school at Lafayette now. (Easton, PA, near Bethlehem, for the rest of you mad Lenten devotees.)

  12. When I was in seminary one of the ritual hazings was requiring students to officiate at sung Morning Prayer, whether you could sing or not. I couldn't. On my assigned day, not only did I have to sing, but I had to sing the collect of the day for Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky. The full name had to be sung. Despite the fact that he was part of the instrument of my torture I cast my vote for him, in memory of not so great times in my seminary days.

    1. Ritual hazing for those who had to listen also. Well, it stretches one's comfort zone.

  13. Both great men; I admired the tenacity of Joseph however I have always admired the outreach of the Moravians to the North Circle as well as the equator. The table prayer was the clincher which I was not even aware of even though I grew up in the largest Moravian settlement west of the Appalachian Mtns.

  14. I had to go with the linguist - what faith to keep typing with one finger. But there is a soft spot in my heart for the Moravian grace. We said that grace when I was a girl. I always thought it was Lutheran.

  15. I voted for Joseph, though both men were worthy. But I am also impressed at Diana's ability to write a complete hymn about the two of them so early in the morning. Well done!

  16. Wow this was hard. I actually researched a bit more on each of these gentlemen. What swayed me was a quote was supported by the Moravians.

    "There can be no Christianity without community," Nikolaus von Zinzendorf
    Moravian Brethren believed that Christianity should be a "religion of the heart"—which went against the grain of the growing acceptance of Enlightenment beliefs. '

    Another: In Christianity Today Scholar George Forell put it more succinctly: Zinzendorf was "the noble Jesus freak."

    Joseph Schereschewsky has some interesting quotes too. James E. Kiefer wrote that oseph Schereschewsky said before his death in 1906 "I have sat in this chair for over twenty years. It seemed very hard at first. But God knew best. He kept me for the work for which I am best fitted."

    Keifer noted too, Bishop Schereschewsky has been chosen "patron saint' of the Anglican internet mailing list, sometimes known as the "cyberparish of St. Sam's".


  17. Go! Z. Moravian Sugar Cookies for the win, Clemmons, NC. Hope they are back at the NC State Fair this year! A friend sent me a canister when Daddy died & I could practically taste the prayers & comfort.

  18. I was all set to give my vote to Schereschewsky and his determined finger. However, I saw Zinzendorf was responsible for the common table prayer my family has recited for 100s of years. Viel Glück Zinzendorf!

  19. There was a battle by men without vowels
    Played out fully without thrown towels
    Both served the Lord all their lives
    Perhaps without wives
    From China to the U.S. quietly, no houls.

  20. Truly hard vote today - both were stellar witnesses in their time and their field in ways that resonate very strongly with the heart of the Episcopal identity. I ultimately went with SIJS because of the seeds planted in China that continue to endure despite all efforts to the contrary, even though I love NVZ's piety and theology as well. And for the shallow reason that SIJS is a fellow GTS alum . . .

  21. Guess I'm in a Zinzendorf frame of mind on this Monday morning. All weekend I expected I'd vote for Joseph, but when it came time to push the button, Nick it was.

  22. The first prayer I learned as a very young child was the Moravian Table Grace in Kindergarten. It is the one my entire family has used for years. Nice to find its origin.

    1. My godmothers' mother said a variation of it before every meal, and all her family remembers her with much love.
      Nevertheless, I voted for S.I.J. S. because of his translation typed with one finger. Talk about making the most with the abilities we have!

  23. There once was a game called Lent Madness
    It delighted my heart and brought gladness
    Of the saints I would learn
    To the internet I turn
    My weekdays no longer are aimless!

  24. I've been a fan of Scherechewsky for years, and won't desert him now, though von Zinzendorf's bio was compelling. Plus, my former colleague and early Celebrity Blogger Neil Alan Willard+ has Moravian roots--that nearly tipped the balance, but the brave linguist still got my vote.