Back Home Next

1.  The earliest writing by Christians of the 'modern' period in 'Malaya' may be the Kitab salat as-sawai (Christian prayers) of Gregorio de Gregorus, printed in Arabic type in 1514.  (Published in Fano, Italy, a copy is held in the British Museum - Gallop 1990, 86f.)  Gregorus apparently worked for a time in Melaka (Malacca).

     Possibly the earliest recorded words of a 'Malay' Christian (in the colonial period) is the speech of Manuel, chief of Hatiwi, and a disciple of Xavier.  The exhortaton to his fellow Christian chiefs in Ambon c. 1546, is given in a letter of Nicolo Nunes.  (Jacobs 1981, I. 363.)

2.  Amongst the catechisms composed in Malay in the early sixteenth century were those by Francis Xavier (c. 1545) and Jeronimus Rodrigues (b. Madras c. 1543, in Maluku [Moluccas] 1571-1586).

     Extensive letters and reports are extant, in both European and Malay languages, for both Xavier and Rodrigues, and from other members of the Society of Jesus.  These include

Alfonso Martinez in Melaka 1515-1549); 

Nicolo Nunes (in Maluku 1548-1573) - a prolific writer of reports and of a Survey of Maluku and a history of the Portugese mission (Doct. 213, 1576); 

Afonso de Castro (d. 1557); 

Juan de Beira (1512-1564) of Moro and Ternate; 

Marcos Prancudo (b. 1531) of Moro and Ambon; 

Pero Mascarenhas (b. 1532) of Ternate, Celebes and Ambon;  

Paulo Gomes (b. 1535, Melaka) of Maluku and Malacca.  (Jacobs I, 1975.)

3.  Writings of the few Portugese or Dutch administrators and Ministers of this period, who also actively promoted policies of inter-religious reconciliation or supported Christian initiatives, include the letters and reports of Antonio Galvao (1536-1540), Admiral van der Haghen (c.1600), Vlaming van Outshoorn (fl. 1650, analysed in de Graaf, 1977), and others such as members of the group of scholars and landowners around Governor-General Johannes Camphuys (1684-1691) in Batavia.  (Vlekke 421)

            Justus Heurnius (Malay-speaking Minister, in Batavia and Ambon 1624-1638) argued for the presence of missions in the East Indies in De Legatione evangelica ad Indos cap essenda admonitio (1618).

            The Report of Governor Balthasar Bort on Malacca (1665-1677) has been translated by M.J. Bremner and edited by C.O. Blagden (JMBRAS 5.1, 1927).

            Frederick de Houtman compiled the first Dutch-Malay dictionary and also Malay translations of Christian prayers (in an Achinese prison) in 1599. 

            Letters are extant from such early Dutch pastors as Caspar Wiltens.  (Ambon 1617-?)

4.  Narratives and histories.  The more significant examples include:

            Antonio Galvao (in Malukus 1536-1539) A Treatise on the Moluccas (c.1544).  Available only in the preliminary version edited by Hubert Jacobs (Rome, Jesuit Historical Institute, 1970).

            Gabriel Rebello (in Ternate 1543-1544 and 1556-1570) Informacao das Cousas de Maluco.... (1569).  The "fullest description of the Spice Islands ... from a Portugese", printed in Lisbon 1856 and 1955.

            S. Dankaets (Minister in Ambon 1617-1621) Historisch ende grondich verhael van de standt des christendoms int quartier van Amboina (1621, reprinted by Nijhoff, 's-Gravenhage, 1859).  Concentrates on religious life and the development of the Christian mission.

            Francois Valentijn (1666-1727) Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien (5 vols.) first printed in Dordrecht/Amsterdam in 1724-1726, and later in Indonesian (3 vols.) 1856-1858.  Vol. III deals with the church and education.  Versions of some Indonesian sources included are inaccurate.

5.  In the seventeenth century a missionary press was founded in Batavia in 1624, but as in the case of publications from Christian schools in the Malukus and other islands in the period, systematic research to establish bibliographical details has been only just begun.  (See the current de Jong - van den End Project, Leiden).

6.  Amongst catechisms produced at this time were one in Malay, by Alb. Cornelius Ruyl (fl. 1625), who also composed Malay liturgies; an anonymous catechism in Jawi script (1677); and the Ichtilsaar Catechisme by Ab. van den Eede.  (Batavia 1685.)

7.  Poetry written in Dutch in the Indies included some works on Christian or religious themes, notably those of 

Jacob Steendam (fl. 1660, superintendent of a Batavian orphanage), such as his didactic poem 'For the Youth of Batavia' (1671),  

Pieter van Hoorn who discussed Confucianism in poetic works (c.1700).  

     After 1770, poetry was included in publications from government presses, as were several plays by Dirk van Bogendorp (for example his Berigt, 1799), advocating a radical reform of all aspects of the political and economic structures of the Indies and opposing all forced systems of cultivation and production along with distinction between Indonesian and European peoples.

8.  An interesting integration of the Christian faith within the adat of the lesser Sunda Islands occurred in Flores in the sixteenth and seventeenth  centuries.  The Old Catholics of Laruntuka so preserved the regalia, artefacts and practices of the Confreria de Rosario diaconate from the 1590s to the mid-nineteenth century, that these became enshrined in local adat, to be rediscoverred in 1853.  (Webb 1986, 12ff.)

Eighteenth century

9.  The later rich development of Rotinese prayers, chants and sermons in which an indigenous theological language was developed is prefigured in the writings of Rotinese Christian rulers from 1729 on.  These included letters written to officials of the VOC, but also early forms of chants and prayers utilizing both high Malay and Rotinese in a parallelism echoing Biblical patterns.  (Fox 1991, 30ff.)

10. Writings by the Christian rulers in for example, the Celebes in the sixteenth and seventeenth centures, or by later Ambonese Christian leaders such as Zachariah Bintang (d. c.1730) or Thomas Matulesia, alias Pattimura (b. ?1782) do not seem to be extant.

11. Lexicographical and Christian works in Malay were now being printed more frequently in the Netherlands and in  Batavia; a catechism and sections of the Bible in Malay came from Amsterdam (1730, 1735, 1759) and from the Seminary Press in Batavia, with a complete Malay Bible (1740) and a Dutch-Malay Catechism in Arabic types (1742).  (Teh Gallop 1990, 85ff.)  

Christians for whom Malay was the mother tongue assisted in the preparation of these volumes but their names have not yet been discovered.

12. The Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences (founded 1778) issued its Transactions (Verhandelingen) as four detailed studies of the history and culture of Sumatra: by J.C.M. Radermacher Beschryving van het eiland Sumatra, (1778), Charles Miller "An Account of the Islands of Sumatra" (1781), Eschels-kroon Beschreibung der Insel Sumatra (1783) and William Marsden History of Sumatra (1784; Kuala Lumpur, O.U.P. 1975)

13. From this period also came the letters of Jan Frederick Gobius (from 1717 on) favouring pre-Islamic customs, the Malay prayers and catechisms of P. Gernault (in Penang from 1786) and the letters of P.C. Hoynck van Papendrecht (in Melaka 1778-1788) later published as "Some old Private Letters from the Cape, Batavia and Malacca" (JMBRAS 2.1, 1924).

14. Chronicles (Babad) and books (Serat).  An important part of classical Javanese literature, these sometimes include extended references to Biblical figures, to Christians or to Christian belief.  The Babad Surapati (Chronicle of the rebel leader Surapati who died in 1706) includes an episode in which Christians figure prominently.  The Babad seems to have originated at Surakarta c. 1750, author unknown.  (Kumar, 1976.)

     Serat Sekonder (The Book of Kasendar) is a collection of stories from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries depicting in mythical form the relationships of the Dutch "rightful rulers of West Java", to Mataram and the Kraton at Yogyakarta.  With both Islamic and Christian (Spanish-Dutch) ancestors, Kasendar gives his life leading Christian forces against Muslims, yet is revived to rule as the Dutch 'baron' in West Java.  Apparently written by the Surakarta poet Ngabei Judasarta, the fullest version is held in the British Museum.  (Add MS 12289, c. 1810.)

     A sequel is given in the Serat Surja Radja.  (Ricklefs 1974, 373-413.)

Selected References:

Andaya, Barbara  To Live as Brothers - S.E. Sumatra in the 17th and 18th Centuries.  Honolulu, University of Hawaii, 1993.

de Graaf, H.J. (ed.)  De Gescheidenis van Ambon en de Zuid-Molukken,  Treneker, Wever B.V., 1977.

de Sa, Artur Basilio  Documentacao para a historia das missoes ...  5 vols.  Lisbon, 1954-1958.

Fox, James  "Bound to the Core, Held Locked in all our Hearts - Prayers and Invocations among the Rotinese" in Canberra Anthropology 14.2, 1991, 30-48.

Gallop, Annabel Teh  Early Malay Printing 1603-1900: An Exhibition in the British Library 20th January to 4th June 1989.  London, British Library Board, 1990.

------  "Early Malay Printing - an Introduction to the British Library Collections" in JMBRAS 63.1, 1990, 85-112.

Jacobs, Hubert (ed.)  Documenta Malucensia.  3 vols., 1542-1682.  Rome, Jesuit Historical Institute, 1975-1984.

Kumar, Ann (ed.)  Surapati: Man and Legend: A Study of Three Babad Traditions.  Amsterdam, Brill, 1976.

Ricklefs, M.  A History of Modern Indonesia c.1300 to the Present.  London, Macmillan, 1981.

------  Jogjakarta under Sultan Mangkubumi 1749-1792.  A History of the Division of Jawa.  London, Oxford University Press, 1974.

Roxborogh, John  "The Roman Catholic Church" in Christianity in Malaysia: A Denominationial History ed. by Robert Hunt, Lee Kam Hing & John Roxborogh.  Petaling Jaya, Pelanduk Publications, 1992.

Schurhammer, Georg  Zeitgenossichen Quellen ... zur Zeit des hl. Franz Xavier 1538-1552.  Rome, 1962.

Vlekke, B.H.M.  Nusantara: A History of Indonesia.  Leiden and the Hague, van Hoere, 1965.


China ] India ] Indo-China Siam Burma ] Japan ] Korea ] [ Malaya ] Philippines ] Sri Lanka ]