MICHAEL SOLOMON ALEXANDER (1799-1845)
Dr. Alan Poyner-Levison
Michael Solomon Alexander was born in Posnan, Poland. The son of a
Rabbi in a very strict Jewish community, he was trained in all the
principles of Rabbinic Judaism.
At the age of sixteen, Michael became a teacher of the Talmud.
He had begun to
question the very nature of his Jewish faith, and his convictions were
such that after the death of his father, he decided to leave home. At the
age of twenty he came to England and, at the age of twenty, took a job as tutor
for a Jewish family. Now it was while he was here in Colchester that he was first
introduced to the New Testament. This stimulated him and inspired him to
further his questionings.
Michael was later appointed to the post of Rabbi at Norwich, and from there
moved on to Plymouth, were he was asked to give Hebrew lessons to an
Anglican curate. These lessons required him to study Psalm 22 and Isaiah
53, and once again he found himself having to deal with the concept of the
Messiah. Within a year the young Rabbi had become a believer in Yeshua
Hamashiach (Jesus). As a result, he was suspended from his
duties in the synagogue and was told to curse the God of the Christians before the ark,
which he emphatically declined. Upon leaving the synagogue, he joined the
congregation of St Andrews church in Plymouth, where he was baptized before a
large congregation in June of 1825.
Within five months of his baptism, Alexander’s wife, whom he had recently
married, also came to faith. Although the Rabbi with all his rabbinical
skill had only been converted two years, he became the priest for the
Anglican Church in December 1827, following the suggestion of the
Archbishop. However, his long-term burning desire was to take the good
news of Yeshua back to his own people in Posnan. He was eventually able
to fulfill this desire through the London Society for Promoting
Christianity among the Jews. After residing in Posnan for a while, he was called home again to
work among the Jews of the East End of London.
His Preaching took place in the Episcopal chapel for the Jews in Palestine
Place, Bethnal Green, as well as in the Mission House in Petticoat Lane.
His sermons would attract large numbers of Jewish people and many of them
would remain behind afterwards to debate with him after the meeting.
was appointed Professor of Rabbinic Literature and Hebrew Studies, at
Kings College, London in 1832. One of his most important works for both
London and Jerusalem was to help with the revised translation of the New
Testament. As time passed on, it was decided that the appointment of bishop
should be offered to him in Jerusalem; and when asked he decided to take
He arrived in January of 1842 and, at his arrival, there was a salute of guns
at the Jaffa Gate by the Pasha, who was the military ruler of the
Ottoman Empire in Jerusalem. The Pasha declared that Bishop Alexander was the ‘apple of his eye’.
The Jews also considered it a great honour, as well, until they realized
what his mission was. In the early stages, conditions were very
primitive and resources scarce; but with very hard work, the building of a
new church called ‘Christ Church’ had begun.
In March of that year, he was to hold his first ordination, whilst in
May he baptised his first Jewish family. By October he had confirmed
eight Jewish children and presided over two Messianic Jewish marriages.
Also that year he saw the conversion of three rabbis who were putting
pressure on the other converts to return to Judaism. He protected them by
opening not only a school for converts, but a house of industry to
give them all work.
He later established a Bible depot for the purposes of distributing the
scriptures and, in 1884, a hospital for poor sick Jews. In 1885
whilst he was journeying to Egypt, Alexander died of an heart attack. At his death, a group of thirty-one Messianic
Jewish believers wrote this in a letter to comfort his wife:
“We feel that we have not only a true father in Christ, but also a loving
brother and most kind friend.”
Like the Apostle Paul before him, Alexander never lost the desire for
his fellow Israelites to be saved. He was the first
Bishop of Jerusalem, and as well as being steeped of the faith of his
fathers, he was an excellent teacher of the New Testament. He became known
as the ‘Brightest Earthly Star’. The church he built in Jerusalem, ‘Christ
Church,’ is still, to this day, at the heart of evangelism, and now belongs to CMJ (Christians Mission to the Jews).
This snapshot of Michael Alexander is an edited extract from
The Messianic Movement the Second Reformation
Dr. Alan Poyner-Levison, and may be obtained at
Dr. Poyner-Levison is
at Beit Shalom Ministries
at various locations in the United Kingdom,
and is the AMC