Fisk, Pliny (1792-1825)

Pioneer of the Near East mission of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM)

Born in Shelbourne, Massachusetts, Fisk graduated from Middlebury College and Andover Theological Seminary (1818). After ordination as a missionary, he served briefly as agent of the ABCFM in Georgia. With Levi Parsons he embarked on November 3, 1819, on the first American mission to the Near East, with the primary aim of converting the Jews of Palestine, widely believed to be a necessary preliminary to the millennial age of Christ’s reign on earth. First based at Smyrna, they soon moved to Scio, where they studied modern Greek and published and distributed a tract made up of evangelical passages from Chrysostom. After returning to Smyrna they toured Asia Minor. When Parsons went on to Jerusalem in December 1820, Fisk remained in Smyrna and for a year was acting British chaplain there, preaching and distributing literature. After Parson’s death at Alexandria in February 1822, Fisk went to Malta and was joined by Jonas King. They toured Upper Egypt, crossed the Sinai Desert, and reached Jerusalem before the end of the year. There were troubles with the authorities, instigated by Latin Catholics and Maronite and Syrian patriarchs who disliked these “Bible-men.” In the summer of 1824, Fisk and King toured the major centers of Syria, then returned to Beirut and Jerusalem. In the spring of 1825 Fisk returned to Beirut where he died in October, having nearly completed an Arab and English dictionary.

David M. Stowe, “Fisk, Pliny,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 212-13.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

Bibliography

The obituary of Fisk in Missionary Herald 22 (1826): 128-32 is largely an edifying account of his death. His journeys and activities are reported in some detail in Joseph Tracey, History of the ABCFM (1842), a summary compilation of material from annual reports and the Missionary Herald for the years 1819 to 1825.

Digital Texts


Fisk, Pliny and Alvan Bond (ed.). Memoir of the Rev. Pliny Fisk, A. M., Late Missionary to Palestine. Boston: Crocker and Brewster, 1828.

Tracy, Joseph. History of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Compiled Chiefly from the Published and Unpublished Documents of the Board. Second ed. New York: M. W. Dodd, 1842.

Primary


Fisk, Pliny. The Holy Land, an Interesting Field of Missionary Enterprise. A Sermon, Preached at the Old South Church, Boston, Sabbath Evening, Oct. 31, 1819, Just Before the Departure of the Palestine Mission. Boston: Samuel T. Armstrong, 1819.

_____. “The Holy Land, an Interesting Field of Missionary Enterprise.” [A sermon, preached at the Old South church, Boston, Sabbath evening, Oct. 31, 1819, just before the departure of the Palestine Mission.] In Pliny Fisk, Levi Parsons, Orson Hyde and Rosa E. Lee. Holy Land Missions and Missionaries. New York: Arno Press, 1977. [Reprinted from various sources, 1819-1912.]

Fisk, Pliny and Isaac Bird. Pliny Fisk Papers, 1821-1825. [The collection consists of Fisk's Journal (June 22, 1824-1825; diary continued by Rev. Isaac Bird with notes and miscellaneous matter) and Fisk's book of extracts, records, etc. In Columbia University Library, New York, NY.]

Fisk, Pliny and Alvan Bond (ed.). Memoir of the Rev. Pliny Fisk, A. M., Late Missionary to Palestine. Boston: Crocker and Brewster, 1828. Reprint. New York: Arno Press, 1977.

Parsons, Levi and Pliny Fisk. Sermons of Rev. Messrs. Fisk & Parsons, Just Before their Departure on the Palestine Mission. Boston: Samuel T. Armstrong, 1819.

Stuart, Moses, Samuel Worcester and Joshua Huntington. A Sermon Preached in the Tabernacle Church, Salem, Nov. 5, 1818: At the Ordination of the Rev. Messrs. Pliny Fisk, Levi Spaulding, Miron Winslow, and Henry Woodward, as Missionaries to the Unevangelized. Andover [MA]: Printed by Flagg and Gould, 1818.

Worcester, Samuel. Instructions from the Prudential Committee of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, to the Rev. Levi Parsons and the Rev. Pliny Fisk, Missionaries Designated for Palestine. Delivered in the Old South Church, Boston, Sabbath Evening, Oct. 31, 1819. Boston: n.p., 1819.

Secondary


Bond, Alvan. “Pliny Fisk.” In American Missionary Memorial. Including Biographical and Historical Sketches, edited by Hamilton W. Pierson. New York: Harper, 1853.

Mizrachi, Eli. Two Americans Within the Gates: The Story of Levi Parsons and Pliny Fisk in Jerusalem. Hagerstown, MD: McDougal Pub. Co., 1995.

Obenzinger, Hilton. “Holy Land Narrative and American Covenant: Levi Parsons, Pliny Fisk and the Palestine Mission.” Religion & Literature 35, no. 2-3 (Summer-Autumn 2003): 241ff. [Published by Dept. of English, University of Notre Dame.]

Ozaslan, Bilal. The Quest for a New Reformation: Re-making of Religious Perceptions in the Early History of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to the Ottoman Near East, 1820-1870. Ph. D. diss. Boston University, 2010.

Smith, Lucius E. Heroes and Martyrs of the Modern Missionary Enterprise: A Record of their Lives and Labors. Providence, RI: Potter, [1856].

Sprague, William B. “Pliny Fisk.” In Annals of the American Pulpit. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Carter & Bros., [1856-1869], pp. 622-29.

Tracy, Joseph. History of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Compiled Chiefly from the Published and Unpublished Documents of the Board. Second ed. New York: M. W. Dodd, 1842.

Winger, Faith. L. “Books and the Early Missionaries in the Near East.” The Journal of Library History 6, no. 1 (January 1971).

Portrait


Fisk, Pliny and Alvan Bond (ed.). Memoir of the Rev. Pliny Fisk, A. M., Late Missionary to Palestine. Boston: Crocker and Brewster, 1828. Opposite title page.