- Wolff, Joseph
- (c. 1795-1862)Jewish convert who led missions to JewsJoseph Wolff was born in Weilersbach, Bavaria, Germany, the son of a rabbi. As a youth, he left his family and converted to Catholicism; Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier became his role model. Baptized in 1812 in Prague, Wolff pursued studies at Vienna and then at the University of Tübingen, where he studied Middle Eastern languages and absorbed Protestant leanings.In 1817, he enrolled at the Propaganda Fide College in Rome, but was expelled when his Protestant beliefs were uncovered. Traveling around Europe, he met Robert Haldane, who invited him to England, where he formally converted to the Church of England. He also came to know people associated with the London Jew's Society (LJS). With the society's sponsorship, he attended Cambridge University and studied under Charles Simeon (1759-1836), who influenced a number of students to become missionaries.After two years at Cambridge, in 1821 Wolff headed for the Middle East under LJS sponsorship. Based on his early reports, the society accepted his recommendation to open a permanent mission center in Jerusalem. He traveled from Egypt to iran (Persia) as the society's emissary, preaching when he could to Jewish audiences. In 1826, he returned to England, where he met Lady Georgina Walpole, whom he married in 1827.Returning to the Middle East in 1828, Wolff continued his pioneering work in Jewish Missions, and also began a quest to locate the fabled Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. His quest took him to Jewish communities from Armenia to southern India.In 1837, he traveled to the United States, where he was ordained an Anglican priest in 1838. He settled in England as a parish priest in Linth-waite, Yorkshire, and then, from 1845, at Ile Brewers, Somerset. His parish life was interrupted in 1843, when he traveled to Bokhara in present-day Uzbekistan to assist two British officers in what became a hair-raising adventure and the subject of a best-selling book. He died in England on May 2, 1862.Further reading:■ Hugh Evan Hopkins, Sublime Vagabond: The Life of Joseph Wolff, Missionary Extraordinary (London: Churchman, 1984)■ H. P. Palmer, Joseph Wolff. His Romantic Life and Travels (London: Heath Cranton 1935)■ Joseph Wolff, Narrative of a Mission to Bokhara (London: John W. Parker, 1864)■ ----, Researches and Missionary Labours among the Jews, Mohammedans, and Other Sects (London: the author, 1835)■ ----, Travels and Adventures of Joseph Wolff, 2 vols., (London: Saunders, Otley, 1860-61).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.