Weitbrecht, Herbert U.

1851 - 1937
Bible translator, missionary, writer

Herbert Udny Weitbrecht, known for his revision of the Urdu New Testament and drawing on the intersection between the Muslim and Christian worldviews to present the gospel, was a British Anglican missionary. Born on January 24, 1851 to Johann Jakob Weitbrecht of German origin and his wife Martha Edwards, in London; when Herbert was born, J.J. Weitbrecht was stationed as a missionary in India. On hearing the news of his son’s birth, the father filled with joy wrote, “May our little Herbert grow into the likeness of Jesus and be baptized by His Spirit”.[1]

In 1873, H.U. Weitbrecht received his PhD from the University of Tübingen and a year later he was ordained as a deacon, and then as a priest by the Bishop of Chester. In 1876, at the age of 25, he joined the Church Missionary Society (CMS). Weitbrecht married Ellen Louise Stanton in the same year. The Society sent Weitbrecht to India as the Vice Principal of St. John's Divinity College in Lahore, Punjab. By 1879-80, Weitbrecht was appointed acting secretary of Punjab Corresponding Committee for CMS and eight years later he became the examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Lahore. He was also appointed honorary Canon of Lahore. On January 18, 1884, Weitbrecht’s beloved wife Ellen passed away in England, after eight years of their married life.

In 1892, Urdu scholar and missionary, Mr. Perkins who was the President of the Punjab Auxiliary Bible Society issued a pamphlet entitled Principles Suggested for the Revision of the Urdu Bible, in which he discussed certain questions of principle and procedure, and pointed out some of the remediable defects of the present version of the Urdu Bible in respect of idiom, style, and rendering. The question as to the need of a revision was referred to the auxiliary committees of the British and Foreign Bible Society at Lahore and Allahabad. Both natives and foreigners expressed a remarkably unanimous opinion that a revision ought to be undertaken. Mr. Perkins, at the request of the committees, convened a meeting of delegates from the various Urdu-speaking missions to consider the matter.

It was unanimously decided to elect a seven-person committee for the revision of the Urdu New Testament, with Mr. Perkins as the Chief Reviser. Rev. H.U. Weitbrecht was one of the seven. When Mr. Perkins was compelled to retire from India early in 1894, the work of Chief Reviser fell upon the Rev. H. U. Weitbrecht. 

During the first three years the work was carried on in sessions averaging rather less than thirty days annually as the Chief Reviser was unable to prepare for more, on account of his charge of a missionary station. At this rate of progress, the revision would have taken nine or ten years, during which period the personnel of the Committee would in all probability entirely have changed and that, to judge by the experience of other revisions, would have been likely to result in upsetting much of the former work, and so in further indefinite delay.

It was therefore resolved, with the consent of the CMS, that the Rev. H. U. Weitbrecht should be entirely set free for this work. The Chief Reviser prepared his own draft of alterations, which was gone through, discussed, and modified at each session of the committee. It was then printed and sent for criticism to some hundred and fifty persons, of whom one-sixth on an average sent back their copies with varying numbers of annotations. At the subsequent session these criticisms were sifted and considered, and the printed copy sent again circulated. 

From April 1896, the Chief Reviser set to work with his fellow-revisers, Mr. Chandi Lal, and a Muhammadan scholar as assistant, to prepare draft revision of the remainder of the New Testament, portion by portion. These were circulated as before to members of the Committee and outsiders, the criticisms received were examined and collated by the Chief Reviser and his assistants, and then submitted to the Committee at its session, where the draft was carefully scrutinised and passed.

At the final session, the Committee also considered many revised points of idiom and terminology. In this they were assisted not only, as in previous sessions, by two paid assessors, but by three well-known Urdu scholars and authors. Weitbrecht and his team completed the meticulous task of publishing a revised Urdu New Testament in 1899.[2]

S.M. Zwemer, an American missionary, published articles by Weitbrecht in two of his books, The Mohammedan World of Today published in 1906 and Islam and Missions published in 1911. These books contain Weitbrecht’s detailed analysis of the reform movement by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan of Aligarh. Weitbrecht explains how the Aligarh college and the Annual Educational Conference for Mohammedans started by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan helped Muslims to become more progressive, even to the extent of reading the Bible with an open-mindedness not seen before.[3]

In 1911 Weitbrecht resigned from the CMS and was appointed as the Secretary of the Central Board of Study for preparation of Missionaries. Two years later Weitbrecht published A Bibliography for Missionary Students. In 1914, Weitbrecht was invited to take up literary work that mostly included works on the Mohammedans. His first work Raymond Lull and Six Centuries of Islam was published in 1915. This book tells about the life of Raymond Lull, who was an evangelist to the Muslims. Weitbrecht teaches us through this book, to rely upon the same forces that moved Lull’s evangelism — the understanding and love for our Muslim brothers and sisters and to most importantly show Christ as He really is, in life and word to the Muslim world.[4]

Even in his late sixties, Weitbrecht’s writing ministry did not cease and two of his major works were published in 1919, The Teaching of the Qur'an and The Gospel According to St. Matthew. He also played a major part in translating Modern Doubt and Christian Belief by Theodore Christlieb who was also Weitbrecht's brother-in-law, from German to English.

Weitbrecht went to his heavenly abode on May 30, 1937.

Weitbrecht has urged us through his works to make our Muslim brothers and sisters conscious of the fact that we value and live by the great truths common to both religions, no less than they. The Muslims too, like us, believe in One God Almighty creator of heaven and earth and that Jesus Christ who was born of the Virgin Mary has ascended into heaven and shall come again. By striving to preserve this common possession, we shall be the better able to lead them to the truth, which their prophet has omitted, which is the assurance of forgiveness by faith in Christ Jesus, the power of sanctification and the sure hope of eternal life.[5]


  1. ^ Mrs.Weitbrecht, Rev.John James Weitbrecht, Late Missionary of the Church Missionary Society at Burdwan, in Bengal, ed. A.M.W. Christopher (London: James Nisbet and Co, 1854),  481, Memoir of the Rev. John James Weitbrecht : compending a history of the Burdwan mission ; compiled from his journal and letters by his widow ; with a recommendatory notice by the Rev. Henry Venn ; and an introduction : Alfred Millard Williams Christopher : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
  2. ^ H. U Weitbrecht, “The Urdu New Testament : A History of its Language and its Versions, Bible House Papers, no.3 (London: The British and Foreign Bible Society, 1900), 18-22, The urdu new testament: a history of its language and its versions (archive.org) 
  3. ^ H. U Weitbrecht, “The New Islam in India”, in The Mohammedan World of Today: Being Papers Read at the First Missionary Conference on behalf of the Mohammedan World, eds. S.M Zwemer, E.M Wherry, James L. Barton (New York, Revell, 1906),191-198, The Mohammedan world of to-day; being papers read at the first missionary conference on behalf of the Mohammedan world held at Cairo April 4th-9th, 1906; : Zwemer, Samuel Marinus, 1867-1952 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive 
  4. ^ H.U.Weitbrecht, Raymond Lull and Six Centuries of Islam (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1915), 16, Raymond Lull and six centuries of Islam : Stanton, H. U. Weitbrecht (Herbert Udny Weitbrecht), 1851-1937 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
  5. ^ H. U Weitbrecht, “Reform Movements in India”, in Islam and Missions: Being Papers Read at the Second Missionary Conference on behalf of the Mohammedan World, eds.  S.M. Zwemer, E.M. Wherry, C.G. Mylrea (Fleming H. Revell company,1911),286-287. Islam and Missions: Being Papers Read at the Second Missionary Conference on Behalf of the ... : Samuel Marinus Zwemer , Elwood Morris Wherry : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

Preethi Samuel

The author has a master's degree in Computer Science and Engineering and works as a software developer in Bangalore. Apart from her job, Preethi loves to write to glorify the Lord.



Mrs.Weitbrecht. Rev.John James Weitbrecht, Late Missionary of the Church Missionary Society at Burdwan, in Bengal, edited by A.M.W. Christopher. London: James Nisbet and Co, 1854.https://archive.org/details/memoirrevjohnja00chrigoog/page/n14/mode/2up

Weitbrecht, H. U. “The Urdu New Testament : A History of its Language and its Versions” .Bible House Papers, no.3 (London: The British and Foreign Bible Society, 1900): 1-53.https://ia903400.us.archive.org/21/items/dli.ministry.06978/23190.160%2…

Weitbrecht, H. U. Raymond Lull and Six Centuries of Islam. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1915. https://archive.org/details/raymondlullsixce00staniala

Weitbrecht, H. U. The Teaching of the Qur'an. London: Central Board of Missions, 1919.https://archive.org/details/teachingofquran00stan

Weitbrecht, H. U. The Gospel according to St. Matthew. London : Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. 1919. https://archive.org/details/MN41935ucmf_6

Weitbrecht, H. U. “Reform Movements in India”. In Islam and Missions: Being Papers Read at the Second Missionary Conference on behalf of the Mohammedan World, edited by  S.M. Zwemer, E.M. Wherry, C.G. Mylrea, 273-287. London: Fleming H. Revell Company,1911. https://archive.org/details/islamandmission00whergoog/page/n16/mode/2up

Weitbrecht, H. U. “The New Islam in India”. In The Mohammedan World of Today: Being papers read at the first missionary conference on behalf of the Mohammedan world, edited by S.M .Zwemer, E.M Wherry, James L. Barton, 187-204. London: Fleming H. Revell Company,1906. https://archive.org/details/mohammedanworldo00zwemuoft/page/n7/mode/2up