Victor Premasagar was an acknowledged authority on Old Testament. He taught that subject in his early years at the Andhra Christian Theological College in Gandhinagar, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India.
He was well versed in Aramaic, Syriac, Ugaritic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Sanskrit, in addition to Telugu, English and German.
He was a member of the Society for Biblical Studies in India, (SBSI) a society that incorporates Biblical Scholars of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant traditions and whose members research and study the Old and New Testaments. He was also elected as the office bearer of the SBSI. In the year 1972 he served as its Vice-President.
Premasagar was born in Medak
and was raised a Christian
in what is now the Church of South India
. In addition to the ancient Indian epics
, his boyhood was filled with stories from the Bible
. In the foreword to Promise in the Ancestral Narratives
, his doctoral dissertation, Premasagar made mention of the Biblical stories that his mother told during his childhood and the promise they held. He completed his schooling from Wesley
School in Secunderabad
. It was around this time that he to study divinity
He completed his college studies from the century-old Andhra-Christian College (under Andhra University), Guntur. His contemporaries there included Sri N.T. Rama Rao (a film actor and later Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh) among others. Premasagar was involved in athletics. Football and tennis being his favourite sport.
Victor went to the United Theological College
and took his Bachelor of Divinity
. While at UTC, Bangalore, his classmates included Rev. Dr. E.C. John (another Old Testament
scholar and later the Principal of the United Theological College
), Rev. Dr. Sam Amirtham (a renowned figure in the World Council of Churches
), Rev. N.D. Ananda Rao Samuel (Bishop-in-Krishna Godavari and Moderator of the Church of South India
in the 1970s), Rev. Dr. C.D. Jathanna (another Old Testament
scholar who later was the Principal of Karnataka Theological College
as well as Bishop-in-Karnataka Central of the Church of South India) among others.
After graduation, the Church of South India first posted him to a rural congregation.
Post-graduate studies & Lecturership
In due course of time, he was sent to Cambridge University
where he continued to study the Old Testament and was awarded the Cambridge tripos
After returning from Cambridge, he undertook teaching the Old Testament in the Andhra Christian Theological College (ACTC) in the river town of Rajahmundry.
Doctoral studies & return
Later, the Board of Governors of ACTC accorded him study leave which Rev. Premasagar utilized to go to St. Andrews University
for further studies of the Old Testament. He studied in St Mary's College
and was awarded a Ph.D.
. Afterwards, he returned to ACTC to continue his teaching and later became its first Indian Principal.
Together with his wife Mrs. Daisy, they saw to the needs of the students, the staff, and to the faculty. Mrs. Daisy's nursing skills gained in England were put to use. On invitation from Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, in the United States of America, he took sabbatical from ACTC to teach there for a year. On his return, the Board of Governors was pleased to extend the term of Principalship by two more terms. Rev. Dr. K. David, a New Testament scholar succeeded Dr. Premasagar at ACTC.
While continuing to serve at ACTC, he was elected as the General Secretary of the Synod of the CSI based in Chennai
. Later, he was elected as the Bishop-in-Medak
's largest Anglican
bishopric. It was at this time that indigenous methods were devised and put into practice for raising funds from the local congregations for supporting Church programmes which was met with widespread success.
During the 21st
synod (January 13-18) 1988 of the CSI held in American College, Madurai
, Tamil Nadu
, he was elected as the Moderator of the Church of South India
. He was instrumental in bringing rapid development of the Church - congregation-wise as well as in its social action.
As for the educational institutions in the diocese of Medak, schools were made to adapt to modern trends in order to face the changing pattern. St. George's Grammar School, Wesley College and other educational institutions were modernized during Premasagar's tenure.
In the year 1983, the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, came to Hyderabad. On 20 November, 1983, the Queen celebrated her 36th wedding anniversary in the Holy Trinity Church in Bolarum, Secunderabad. The Church service was officiated by Bishop Premasagar and his ministerial colleagues Rev. B. Prabhakar Rao and Rev. B. P. Sugandhar, the present Bishop-in-Medak and the Moderator of the CSI.
The Bishop's of the Church of South India are invited to the decennial Lambeth Conference
held at the Lambeth Palace
, the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury
. Rev. Premasagar attended the eleventh and twelfth conferences in 1978 and 1988 respectively.
Bible Society of India
Premasagar was a translator for the Bible Society of India
(BSI) in its Telugu Bible Common Language Translation Programme since the 1970s. He headed the Translations Committee of the Andhra Pradesh Auxiliary of the BSI till the 1990s and then was followed by Rev. G. Babu Rao, his colleague while at ACTC. Premasagar was also the President of the Bible Society of India headquartered in Bangalore
for a long period.
After retirement from the bishopric, Rev. Ryder Devapriyam, Bishop-in-Nandyal
and a former colleague of Rev. Premasagar while at ACTC, succeeded him as the Moderator while Rev. B. P. Sugandhar
, Presbyter-in-charge of Church of St John the Baptist, Secunderabad
became the Bishop-in-Medak
Post-retirement, Premasagar spent about a year at the Presbyterian Church of Wales as an invitee On his return to India, Premasagar taught part-time at ACTC. He was later invited by Dr. K. Rajaratnam, Director of Gurukul Lutheran Theological College, Chennai to teach and guide doctoral students and was Professor Emeritus of Old Testament.
Later, on invitation from Rev. P.N.S. Chandra Bose, the Director of Bethel Bible College, Guntur and also the Andhra Pradesh Auxiliary President of the Bible Society of India to take up its Principalship, Rev. Premasagar left for Guntur from Chennai and taught the rural students until he died at St. Joseph's Hospital, Guntur on 1 December 2005.
Works and legacy
He wrote several articles in scholarly journals and in other popular Church magazines. He also wrote:
- He emptied Himself - Bible Studies on Jesus Christ Frees and Unites', The Christian Literature Society, Chennai, 1976
- Promise in the Ancestral Narratives: A theme of the early Hebrew traditions, The Christian Literature Society, Chennai, 2000
- Interpretive Diary of a Bishop - Indian Experience in Translation and Interpretation of some Biblical passages, The Christian Literature Society, Chennai, 2002
Some essays were written in his honour (fetschrift) commemorating his shastipoorthi (completion of sixty years) and brought into a book entitled:
- The Church on the move - Edited by H.S. Wilson , The Christian Literature Society, Chennai, 2002