Colenso, John

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Colenso, John (1814–83). Bishop of Natal. A Cornishman, Colenso was educated at St John's College, Cambridge, where he became mathematics fellow (1842–6). Originally an evangelical, he became, partly under F. D. Maurice's influence, a naïve radical. As first bishop of Natal (from 1853), his over-simplistic Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (1861) and Pentateuch (1862–70) dismayed Liberals and played into Conservative hands. Bishop Gray of Cape Town, his metropolitan, deposed him (1863). When the Privy Council annulled his deposition (1865), Colenso was warmly welcomed back. Gray nevertheless publicly excommunicated him (1866) and appointed a successor. Colenso continued his successful Zulu ministry, creating a schism that lasted until 1911. He publicly supported the Zulus before and after their resounding victory over British troops at Isandhlwana (1879). He wrote a Zulu grammar, an English–Zulu dictionary, and a Zulu translation of the New Testament. His support of Cetewayo and the Zulus was worthier than his unwise sortie into theology.

Revd Dr William M. Marshall