Notable Swedish Christians: Peter Fjellstedt

Some years ago I came by the 2-volume Dictionary of Evangelical Biography (1730-1860) which I admit is a bit obscure. But I thought I’d trawl its pages for entries on Swedish Christians to learn more about its notable figures and history. We’ll take the series alphabetically. 

P_Fjellstedt (1890)

Peter Fjellstedt (1802-1881) was born into a poor but devout farm family. Peter showed great ability at school and went on to university first at Karlstad and then at Lund where he mastered several languages.

In 1824 he committed himself to missionary service but lack of finances delayed his entry into the mission field. He was ordained in 1828 into the Church of Sweden and in 1831 was appointed by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) as a missionary to southern India. He quickly married his German wife, Christiana, and they left for India.

Unfortunately ill-health forced them to leave India after just four years and he was reassigned to Smyrna, Turkey. While there he translated the Book of Common Prayer into Turkish. However he faced constant opposition from the Greek Orthodox Church and they left Turkey and the CMS in 1840.

Between 1841-1851 he travelled widely in northern Europe to promote interest in foreign missions and in 1846 he became director of a new training institute in Lund for the Swedish Missionary Society (SMS). The institute later moved to Uppsala and is now named after Fjellstedt.

He was a close friend of Carl-Olof Rosenius and together they promoted revival within the Swedish church. He thought that Swedish Christianity was in poor shape,

Kristendomens tillstånd är i Sverige mycket bedröfligt, och orsaken är en okunnighet, som öfvergår all föreställning, och det bland alla folkklasser.

Which is roughly translated as, “Christianity’s condition in Sweden is very pitiful and the reason is ignorance, which surpasses all imagination and is among every class of people.” (He should see it now.)

He was also closely involved in shaping the Swedish Lutheran Church in America and completed notes on the whole Bible (Swedish) which is now freely available on the internet.

He became a parish priest from 1861 to 1872 when they retired to Germany, where four years later his wife died. Fjellstedt returned to Sweden and in 1881 caught pneumonia from preaching in an unheated church, and subsequently died from the illness.

Photo by jonsson

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