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. Having lived 7 years in Allentown, part of the Diocese of Bethlehem, and serving on one of the Moravian Cursillo Weekends, I came to admire and love the Moravians, their history, and their practices. Were it not for Zinzendorf's influence as he sheltered them on his estate, there might be no Moravians because they were threatened by the hierarchical church at that time.

    1. Very nice, Patricia. I'm inspired that the simple and honest act of faith by a single person can have immense implications. Just wow!

  2. To read is everything, so I had to go with the Jewish Russian Episcopalian Bishop Missionary Translator who was eventually paralyzed and suffered greatly. Nothing against the Moravians here in Pennsylvania!

  3. Although my membership is at Trinity Episcopal Church in the diocese of North Carolina, for the last 20+ years in Nicaragua I have participated in the Central Moravian Church of Managua, so I had to vote for our Count Zinzendorf. I may be poaching on Neva Rae Fox’s quotes and quips if Zinzendorf advances, but I wanted to share that he was a prolific writer of hymns. Here’s one appropriate for our Saintly Smackdown (we sing it to the tune Bedford):

    Glory to God, whose witness-train, those heroes bold in faith,
    Could smile on poverty and pain and triumph e’en in death.

    Scorned and reviled, as was their Head, when walking here below,
    Thus in this evil world they led a life of pain and woe.

    God, Whom we serve, our God can save, can damp the scorching flame,
    Can build an ark, or smooth a wave for such as fear His Name.

    If but His arm support us still, is but His joy our strength,
    We shall ascend the rugged hill and conquerors prove at length.

    But I think my personal favorite of his hymns is O Thou to Whose All-Searching Sight. Here is a beautiful rendition of that hymn:

  4. Schereschewsky was sent to the east,
    While Zinzendorf blessed every feast.
    And as we have heard
    They both spread the Word
    To greatest as well as to least.

    I voted Zinzendorf because of the insight "even the most mundane task can become worship"

  5. I first became acquainted with Samuel Issac Joseph Schereschewsky while with graduate school and doing research on the work of missionaries in China. His name just resonated with me, so my vote today has to be with our China missionary.

  6. I am impressed with the language abilities of Joseph Schereschewsky, most of us have some difficulty with "proper" English and most of us use the common phrases that even newscasters have adopted. At one time we could depend on them for accuracy. But the thing that impressed me the most, as I was born without patience, was the tedium of translating all those works with just one finger ! Long live Joe !!!

  7. There once were some folks with some consonants
    who traveled upon many continents.
    They loved the good Word,
    and so we have heard
    Their many and awesome accomplishments.

  8. As a Methodist, I had to vote for Zinzendorf. The Moravians had an enormous influence on John Wesley's life and the Methodist movement. Today in the Moravian church in Herrnhut, Germany the busts of John Wesley and Nicholaus von Zinzendorf are displayed side by side.

  9. Translation has been a big theme this Lent Madness. While I admire SIJS's panlingualism, I am touched by the Moravians' seemingly Romantic approach to spirituality: communalism and simple evangelism through preaching. I was reminded of the medieval "hedge preachers." There was a thirst for sharing good news, and we today so terribly need some good news. I couldn't walk away from "rich liturgical and devotional life." Also the collect speaks of "conversion of life." These seem profound themes. I was curious: aren't "Moravians" Czechs? And why were they seeking help in the German states? Was this all the Holy Roman Empire at the time? Von Zed was Austrian. It made me think that perhaps the flux of political boundaries allowed for openness to others. Possibilities opened not closed . . .

    1. The story I remember is that the original Moravians were Czech, but things really took off when Zinzendorf got involved. I think you're right, though, about the fluidity of borders in that area. My husband's Moravian ancestors were from Alsace-Lorraine, and that region is a classic example of border backgammon!

    2. The Unitas Fratrum were followers of Jan Hus, who was burned at the stake for heresy. After his martyrdom, they had to flee what is now the Czech Republic (and then was Moravia), so it was life-saving when Zinzendorf received them on his estate.

  10. As someone who supposedly has Moravian ancestors and was brought up Methodist (the bio didn't mention that John Wesley traveled to Georgia with a group of Moravians and later had his heartwarming experience at a Moravian service in London.), I had to go for Zinzendorf. However, as an ESOL teacher, I am drawn to Bishop Schereschewsky who is a favorite of my older son's godfather.

  11. This was an extremely difficult choice for me, but Schereschewsky it is. The last time he appeared in Lent Madness I was amazed by his life story and disappointed he didn't make it any further than he did. As someone who works in support of Bible translation myself, I greatly admire his dedication.

  12. Moravian brethren by the spirit were led
    to seek assistance from Count von Zed.
    They settled in a new land
    and preached to many a band
    so souls in the good news were fed.

  13. I should possibly have voted for Zinzendorf because 1) in this Episcopalian-dominated community, JS was a shoo-in and 2) NZ was formative to my own ancestor John Wesley. But as a biblical storyteller I'm passionate about translation, and also my son has led scientific expeditions in Mongolia the last two years and I LOVE the cashmere blanket he brought me the last time...

  14. Special men like Nick and Joe
    Willingly accepted their boats to row
    Across the oceans east and west
    They spoke, they wrote and shared their best
    So Jesus's name we all would know

  15. Nic nixed his life as a noble.
    His Unitas Fratum went global.
    But Joe's a humdinger
    Who wrote with one finger,
    So go Joe, on laptop or mobile!

  16. Hard choice as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner since both were mission oriented people. But since Joseph went to China, where the first Maryknoll Missioners went, I chose him.

  17. This was much harder than I thought it was going to be. Zinzendorf had the Moravian Church, Mohicans, Dutchess County (land of my ancestors), his usage of his privilege for the good of others, and Bethlehem PA (birthplace of my mother) on his side. But Joseph Schereschewsky's story was powerful and several sources attribute his paralysis to Parkinson's and so—in honor of my grandfather who has Parkinson's—I went with Joseph.

    1. Come Lord Jesus, Our guest to be
      And bless these gifts bestowed by thee
      Bless our loved ones everywhere
      And keep them in your loving care.

      Grace said by my grandfather William Reid, learned from the Moravians in Winston-Salem. I say it to his great great grandchildren!

      1. Hello, fellow Moravian from North Carolina! I'm from Winston-Salem; my husband's family is from Pfafftown.

    2. This was a hard one for me but I had to go with Joseph in honor of my dear friend who was disabled by a stroke.

  18. I voted for Joseph because of his great devotion to the Chinese people's and to the tracks nslating of the word for them.

  19. Voted Joseph S. for his amazing translations and mission work. Also love the faith and work of Nik Z., the Moravians connection to John Wesley and especially his grace: “Come Lord Jesus, be our Guest and let thy gifts to us be blessed.” Too bad we can't move them both forward in the brackets.

  20. Between the Moravian influence on John Wesley (I am United Methodist), and the ability to see all of life as liturgy this was a no-brainer! Not to diminish the contributions of Schereschewsky , but if your name is that long, you've probably had so much practice typing that typing with one finger is more possible than with a name of a more normal length!

  21. How I wish Joe had had,
    A computer, poor lad.
    But to write with one finger,
    In awe makes me linger.
    He persisted! And that makes me glad.

    By the way, where is Oliver?

  22. Today's vote: a man I'll call José
    With a surname not easy to say;
    He was matched with another
    Whose name is not such a bother,
    But the former gets my vote, OK?!

  23. This was a toughie. I wished I could vote for both, but as a Pennsylvania Dutch girl, I had to go with Nikolaus. Not only did I grow up near Bethlehem, but my German ancestors arrived in this area just 9 years after Nikolaus. I don't know much about them, but it's fun to think their lives may have been influenced by his work!

  24. Von Zizendorf for me. I am from Baltimore. Anything Unitas is sacred. Johnny U did a lot for Sundays in our town but not until 2PM. No Colts home game could start before that time so fans church service schedules could be accommodated.

    1. Having grown up in Baltimore as well, one of my earliest memories was eating at the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Restaurant. Remember that place?

  25. I loved reading about the Moravian Church - "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, love." My grandmother came from Bohemia, also.
    I vote von Zinzendorf. I think that church would have died out completely if not for him.
    ( I love how Schereschewski studied and grew in his life of Christ from the Old Testament to the new, as it were, and shared his learning as far as he could reach.)

  26. My goodness- so difficult today! Having gone to Catholic high school in Bethelehem, PA with a Moravian librarian, I'm pulled toward Z, but hearing about the vast travels JS willingly took to far-off lands, and then to perservere with only ONE FINGER at the end- Schereschewsky gets my final vote. (But I'll be happy with either!)

  27. No contest for me: As a descendent of Moravians from Pennsylvania via piedmont North Carolina, I had to vote for Nikolaus. I grew up going to the Christmas Love Feast at Old Salem (kind of a southern Williamsburg ( ), and helped my mama bake Moravian spice cookies and sugar cake. (See links to recipes below.)
    As an adult, I met my husband in Atlanta, but found out later that his family was of Moravian ancestry also via the North Carolina Moravians. Providence!! So we continued with our daughter the family traditions of putting out the Moravian star at Christmas ( ), carefully arranging the tableau of our nativity scene or "putz," and eating our annual Moravian cookies and Moravian sugar cake. The Moravian blessing we both grew up with is
    "Come, Lord Jesus,
    our guest to be,
    And bless these gifts
    bestowed by thee."
    Of course, when I was very small, I thought we were praying for "these gifts bestoved by thee"!

    Here are the recipes for spice cookies and sugar cake:
    Or you can buy them, as well as Moravian stars at

    1. Huzzah, recipes! I missed the saintly snackings this year since no recipes were included in the Saintly Scorecard. Thank you!

      1. My pleasure! If you want to go a little easier, you can use frozen bread dough for the sugar cake. I confess to doing this many a Christmas morning!!

    2. Thank you for the recipes, Susan. I will make the Moravian sugar cake in honor of you.

    3. There is actually a Moravian church in Atlanta...I was raised in it 🙂 VOTE ZINZENDORF!!!!!

  28. Again! These 2 were a tough choice. Although I voted for Nikolaus von Zinzendorf I felt strongly for both their dedication to spreading the word of Christ. Although I felt Joseph Schereschewsky was dedicated to his cause of making the bible accessible to those who were considered "lesser" human beings, and was a prolific translator, Nikolaus got my vote for his dedication to spreading the works of Christianity to the American second class citizens (free people, indentured servants, slaves, and Indigenous peoples). GO NICK!!!