Karl Wilhelm Isenberg (Barmen, September 5, 1806 – Stuttgart, October 10, 1864), spelt or known by names Carl Wilhelm Isenberg or Charles William Isenberg or C. W. Isenberg or Carl W. Isenberg or Charles Isenberg, was a German Church Missionary Society missionary and linguist to East Africa and Western India.
Isenberg compiled a dictionary and comprehensive grammar of the Amharic language, including several vocabularies in the Afar and Oromo languages. He also translated the Anglican Book of Common Prayer into Marathi and Amharic and assisted revisions of Bible translations into those languages. He was related to Hermann Hesse.
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Coming from a tinsmith background, he joined the Basel Mission in 1824. After finishing his education, he worked for some time as a teacher of Biblical Greek. Having trained at the Basel Mission seminary in Switzerland and received Anglican orders, he was transferred to Church Missionary Society (CMS) in 1830. Later on, he was ordained by the Church of England.
CMS already sent his first missionaries Samuel Gobat, a Swiss Lutheran, and Christian Kugler to Abyssinia (present Ethiopia), East Africa in 1829. As Kugler died in Tigre in 1830, his place was supplied by Isenberg as a CMS recruit. Isenberg joined Samuel Gobat, a Swiss Lutheran, in Cairo, Egypt, and studied Amharic and Arabic language.
In 1834, he joined the mission station at Adowa, Ethiopia where they stayed till 1838; however, Gobat was compelled to quit the mission from ill-health at Tigre, also spelt Tigray. After the departure of Gobat, he was joined by his fiancee Henrietta Geerling, Charles Henry Blumhardt, another missionary, and Johann Ludwig Krapf, a German Lutheran and missionary to East Africa, in 1837. They taught and converted a few boys, who were in-turn expelled by the Ethiopian Orthodoxy clergy. He spent his years between 1834 and 1838 at Adowa and Tigray. Unlike Gobat with whom he initially served in Ethiopia, he kept a social and cultural distance from Ethiopians.
From 1838, he and fellow-missionaries faced obstacles thrown in their way by the native priesthood, especially expressed his differences with the beliefs and practices of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in blunt. Sometimes with direct terms that the Orthodox Christian clergymen found offensive. In March 1838, he was expelled from the country due to his inability to reach any accommodation with Ethiopian Orthodoxy clergymen and unwillingness to accept the Gobat's advice over the location of the mission. In 1839, he along with his new fellow missionaries Johann Ludwig, Krapf, and Carl Heinrich Blumhardt removed the mission station to Shoa, Ethiopia, where he spent for four months before leaving for London; later, he was responsible in mission expulsion from Ethiopia in 1843 forever—In 1842, when Isemberg returned to Shoa, his mission was refused entry forcing him to turn his attention to Tagray again. However, his expulsion in June 1843, effectively ended CMS activities in Ethiopia.
With no possibility of return to Ethiopia, he was transferred to the CMS mission in Bombay (present day Mumbai), Western India – Bombay Presidency. In Bombay, he devoted most of his missionary work to a settlement for freed African slaves, some of whom returned to Africa after being trained as evangelists.
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While in London, he published a number of small dictionaries in several Ethiopian languages like Afar(Danakil), Amharic, and Oromo language(Galla) in 1840, 1841, and 1842; however, Oromo language dictionary was based on German manuscript by Krapf. – These dictionaries were considered as the first dictionaries of these languages.
In 1841, he published Dictionary of Amharic, and a comprehensive grammar in 1842. In addition to these, he also published several books to be used in [future] missionary schools, his mission tried to establish in Ethiopia—The texts which Isenberg wrote in Amharic plays a role in early Amharic literature. For evangelizing the natives, he translated Anglican Book of Common Prayer into Marathi and Amharic language in 1842, including his missionary efforts in revising Bible translations into local languages of respective missionary stations—Marathi and Amharic languages.
In 1843, in association with his colleague Johann Ludwig Krapf, he published at London a memoir of his time in Ethiopia entitled Journals of Isenberg and Krapf, detailing their proceedings in the Kingdom of Shoa and journeys in other parts of Abyssinia in the years 1839, 1840, 1841, and 1842. This journal contains the information about the theological controversies that were raging in the Ethiopian church of those times, including the details about the people, politics, and its geography.
- Grammar of the Amharic language.
- Dictionary of the Amharic language.
- A small vocabulary of the Dankali language.
- Dictionary of the Amharic Language in Two Parts, Amharic and English, and English and Amharic.
- Journals of the Rev. Messrs. Isenberg and Krapf, missionaries of the Church missionary society:detailing their proceedings in the kingdom of Shoa, and journeys in other parts of Abyssinia, in the years 1839, 1840, 1841, and 1842.
- Vocabulary of the Galla Language.
- Abyssinia and the Evangelical Missions. 1844.
- Anderson, Gerald H. (1999). Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 322. ISBN 9780802846808.
- Uhlig, Siegbert (2007). Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: He-N. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. xxii-198. ISBN 9783447056076.
- Royal Geographical Society (1844). The Journal of the Royal Geographical Society. Murray. pp. cix–I.
- H. Gundert Biography of the Rev. Charles Isenberg, Missionary of the Church Missionary Society to Abyssinia and Western India from 1832 to 1864 (1885).
- "Johann Ludwig Krapf(1810 to 1881) – Lutheran – Ethiopia / Kenya / Tanzania". dacb.org. Archived from the original on May 20, 2012. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
Johann Ludwig Krapf was a German Lutheran pioneer missionary in Kenya. Born in Tübingen, he trained for mission work at the Basel Mission seminary in Switzerland. He was accepted by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and sent to Ethiopia in 1837 to work with C. W. Isenberg among the non-Christian Galla (now known as Oromo). They taught a few boys but were expelled at the instigation of the Ethiopian Orthodox clergy.
- "Krapf, Johann Ludwig". dacb.org. Archived from the original on May 15, 2012. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
The Journals of the Rev. Messers Isenberg and Krapf, Missionaries of the Church Missionary Society was published in 1843. It consists of edited extracts from Krapf's journals with much shorter additions from Isenberg's letters, and although not in the first rank of writings on Ethiopia, it contains valuable information about the theological controversies that were raging in the Ethiopian church at that date, as well as about the people and politics, and the land itself and its geography.
- Isenberg, Charles William (2010). Dictionary of the Amharic Language in Two Parts, Amharic and English, and English and Amharic. BiblioBazaar. ISBN 9781149962527.
- Isenberg, Charles William; Johann Ludwig Krapf; James MacQueen (1843). Journals of the Rev. Messrs. Isenberg and Krapf, missionaries of the Church missionary society:detailing their proceedings in the kingdom of Shoa, and journeys in other parts of Abyssinia, in the years 1839, 1840, 1841, and 1842. the University of California. Seeley.
- Liturgia, seu Liber Precum Communium, et Administrationis Sacramentorum, Aliorumque Rituum et Cæremoniarum Ecclesiæ, juxta Usum Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ et Hibernicæ unà cum Psalterio, seu Libro Psalmorum cui accedit Forma et Modus Creandi, Ordinandi, et Consecrandi Episcopos, Presbyteros, et Diaconos – Isenberg's 1842 translation of the Book of Common Prayer, digitized by Richard Mammana
- Eclectic magazine: foreign literature, Volume 7; Volume 70 – Authors:John Holmes Agnew, Walter Hilliard Bidwell – p. 405
- Journals of the Rev. Messrs. Isenberg and Krapf, missionaries of the Church – Authors: Charles William Isenberg, Johann Ludwig Krapf, James MacQueen, Church Missionary Society