Reformers – João Ferreira de Almeida (1628 – 1691)


João Ferreira Annes d’Almeida, or simply João Ferreira de Almeida (Torre de Tavares, Portugal, 1628 – Batavia, Indonesia, 1691) was a preacher minister of the Reformed Church in the Dutch East Indies, especially recognized for being the first to translate The Holy Bible for the Portuguese language(…) The first single-volume edition of a complete translation of the Bible into Portuguese was printed only in 1819 in London. Besides the translation of the Bible, João Ferreira de Almeida also wrote some works against the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Conversion to Protestantism

In 1642, at the age of fourteen, João Ferreira de Almeida left the Catholic Church and converted to Protestantism. While sailing between Batavia and Malacca, both Dutch possessions in the East, Almeida was able to read an anti-Catholic treatise in Castilian, titled “Difference of a Christandade“, later translated by him in Portuguese language. This pamphlet attacked some of the doctrines and concepts of Roman Catholicism of the time, including the use of Latin during religious offices. This caused a great effect in Almeida, so that, when arriving at Malacca that same year, it joined the Dutch Reformed Church and it was dedicated immediately to the translation of passages of the Gospels from Castilian to Portuguese.
Holy Bible Translator

Two years after rejecting the doctrines of the Catholic Church, João Ferreira de Almeida embarked on a huge project: the translation of the whole New Testament into Portuguese, using as a basis the Latin version of Teodoro de Beza, also referring to translations in Castilian, French and Italian. The work was completed in less than a year, when Almeida was only sixteen years old.
In the time of Almeida, a translator for the Portuguese language was very useful for the churches of that region. In addition to being the language commonly used in Presbyterian congregations, it was the most widely spoken language in many parts of India and Southeast Asia. It is believed, however, that the Portuguese employed by Almeida both in preaching and in the translation of the Bible were quite erudite and therefore difficult to understand for the majority of the population. This impression is reinforced by a statement given by him in Batavia, when he proposed to translate some sermons, in words, “into the adulterated Portuguese language known to this congregation.”

The main principle of translation used by Ferreira de Almeida was that of formal equivalence (following the syntax of the original text in the target language), and he utilized the Textus Receptus as textual basis. His Portuguese style is described as “classical and erudite”; the Brazilian Bible Society states that Ferreira de Almedia sought to reflect both the form, style, and language register of the original texts in his translation.

(…) the Inquisition had ordered that a portrait of Almeida be burned in a public square in Goa. It was also during the stay in Ceylon that probably the translator met his wife and got married. From Roman Catholicism to Protestantism, like him, he was called Lucretia Valcoa de Lemmes (or Lucrecia de Lamos). (…) Later, the family was completed, with the birth of a boy and a girl.

João Ferreira de Almeida.
Google images


Ideas and personality

Being considered one of the first Protestant missionaries to visit that country, since he served as a converted missionary in the service of a foreign country, and also because of the direct exposure of what he considered to be false doctrines of the Catholic Church, as well as to the denunciation of moral corruption between The clergy, many among the Portuguese-speaking communities came to regard him as apostate and traitorous. These confrontations resulted in a trial by a court of the Inquisition in Goa, India, in 1661, being sentenced to death for heresy. The governor-general of the Netherlands called him back to Batavia, thus avoiding the consummation of the sentence.

From 1663 (35 years old onwards, therefore), Almeida worked in the Portuguese-speaking congregation of Batávia, where he remained until the end of his life. In this new phase, he had an intense activity as a pastor. The records in this regard show much of your ideas and personality. Among other things, Almeida was able to convince the presbytery that the congregation he led should have his own Lord’s Supper. He also proposed that the poor who received cash help from the church should be required to attend and attend the catechism. He volunteered to visit the slaves of the Company of the Indies in their neighborhoods, giving them classes of religion-a suggestion not accepted by the presbytery-and very often alerted the congregation to “papist influences.”

At the same time, he resumed the work of Bible translation, which began in his youth. It was only then that he came to dominate the Dutch language and to study Greek and Hebrew. In 1676, Almeida informed the presbytery that the New Testament was ready. Then began the translator’s battle to see the published text – he knew that the presbytery would not recommend printing the work without being approved by reviewers appointed by the presbytery itself. And also that, without this recommendation, he would not be able to obtain other necessary permissions for the fact to materialize: that of the Government of Batavia and that of the East India Company in Holland.
In October 1691, Almeida died. On that occasion he had come to Ezekiel 48:31. The translation of the Old Testament was completed in 1694 by Jacobus op den Akker, a Dutch Calvinist pastor. After going through many changes, it was printed in Batavia, in two volumes: the first in 1748 and the second in 1753.


Between October 2006 and March 2007, the RTP1 television program, The Great Portuguese, held a popular vote to choose The Great Portuguese. That vote, indicated João Ferreira de Almeida as the 19th most important character in the history of Portugal.


2 Replies to “Reformers – João Ferreira de Almeida (1628 – 1691)”

  1. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

    And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.

    And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.

    And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Revelation 12:14-17


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