Robert De’ Nobili, Robert de Nobili was an Italian Jesuit missionary who is known for his novel method of adaptation to preach Christianity. He was born into an Italian noble family. Being the eldest son, his family had many expectations on him. However, he gave up on his family’s dream and fled in disguise to Naples and obtained theological education.
He joined the Society of Jesus, where he was inspired by the stories of the missionaries to Africa and Japan. He prepared himself for the missions and was sent to India.
After months of shipwrecked journey, Nobili arrived in Goa, India in 1605. After working among the settled Europeans, Nobili was challenged by his superior to take gospel into interior India. Hence, he moved to Cochin before finally arriving at Madurai.
He soon realized that European missionaries were dismissed as unclean and inferior by the upper caste people and they refused to engage in any conversation.
Robert De’ Nobili Ministry in India
Hence Nobili decided to become a Sannyasi to reach all kinds of people. He gave up meat, and carried the walking stick and water jug used by Hindu monks. He mastered Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu to expound the Biblical truths to the people.
Although his coworkers didn’t accept his methods of evangelism, Nobili was successful in bringing many people to the knowledge of Christ, including the upper caste Brahmins. By 1610, there were 60 people who accepted Christ and by 1656, Nobili won as many as 4000 souls for Christ. However, some people saw through his strategy and threw him into prison in 1640.
Nevertheless, Nobili overcame all such difficulties with patience. He also translated several books on Christian doctrine into Sanskrit, Tamil, and Telugu. He is known to have provided appropriate Tamil vocabulary for Christian terms, such as “kovil” for a place of worship, “Vedam” for the Bible, “poosai” for Mass.