“YISU DAS – WITNESS OF A CONVERT”: A REVIEW ARTICLE

Filed in Review by on March 17, 2014

By: Jan Henningsson
(Dr. Henningsson was former Ambassador of European Union to Arab world. A scholar inIslam and comparative philology, he taught at Gurukul too. He is the Senior AdvisorForeign Affairs, the MENA, Government of Sweden and also the Former Director, Sweden Institute, Alexandria, Egypt. He is now living in Sweden)

Yisu Das – devotee and scholar
Before the book under review here, precious little about YDT was known to the academic world in India outside the circle of Bible translators and theological educators. The bulk of the manuscripts now published by his youngest son were found tucked away in desk drawers. Apparently the author was not keen on publicizing his “theological diary” too widely, but at the same time, the style of these texts is that of a lecture, a discourse intended for readers and listeners of various persuasions. A quick glance through the biographical chapters is enough to reveal a curious doubleness in YDT’s character: at times he comes across as highly self-disciplined, verging on the ascetic, with a towering spiritual authority; at other times he seems shy – wounded, perhaps – reluctant to appear in public, refusing to publish the fruits of his scholarly labour. This latter aspect of his personality is labelled by Tiwari Jr as “utter humility” and may very well be interpreted as the mirror image of a very high sense of self, as illustrated below in the passages on spiritual authority.

This ambiguity (with its concomitant ambivalent attitudes to the world) of a person who feels both elected and rejected, is reflected in YDT’s writings in some interesting ways. Thus, it appears that he identified himself with John, the Evangelist, who had seen and understood so much but was not able to communicate it to others. In this commentary to John 14:9 (“Have I been with you so long…”), YDT opens a window on his own soul:

“It often happens that a friend or relative fails to understand us; husband and wife, father and son sometimes misunderstand each other for a long time. It is natural that the innocent partner will be astonished and deeply hurt. [—] One can also perceive, behind these words, the heart of the writer of the Gospel. He had left his land and was now residing in Ephesus, a city in Asia Minor. He had some disciples, but most of them were just listeners. He could only partially succed in making others understand the good news of Jesus”, (:58-59).

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