PRESSLY, JOHN TAYLOR: United Presbyterian; b. in Abbeville District, S. C., Mar. 28, 1795; d. at Allegheny, Pa., Aug. 13, 1870. He was graduated at Transylvania University, Ky., 1812, and studied theology under John Mitchell Mason (q.v.); he was ordained and installed, 1816, pastor of the Cedar Spring congregation, the one in which he had been brought up; and was professor of theology in the theological seminary, and pastor at Allegheny, Pa., after 1832. He took a leading part in organizing the United Presbyterian Church, which in 1858 was formed out of the Associate and Associate Reformed Presbyterian Churches; and the strength of this denomination in Pittsburg and its neighborhood is largely due to him. As preacher, pastor, and professor, be exerted a lasting influence upon his denomination.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: F. Piper, Lives of the Leaders of our Church Universal, ed. H. M. MaeCracken, pp. 778-783, Philadelphia, 1879.
PRESTER JOHN: A legendary Christian king of Asia, who in the twelfth century was supposed to have conquered the Mohammedans in a bloody battle and to have protected the crusaders. Bishop Otto of Freising, followed by Alberic, in his chronicle for 1145, relates that a bishop of Gabula told Pope Eugene III. of a Nestorian king and priest named Presbyter Johannes, who ruled "beyond Persia and Armenia," the double office being due to a confusion of kam ("priest") with khan ("prince"). In his chronicle on 1165, moreover, Alberic states that Prester John, "the king of the Indians," sent letters to various Christian rulers, especially to Manuel of Constantinople and the Roman Emperor Frederick. Influenced by rumors of such a king, Alexander III. sent his physician in ordinary in search of the monarch, directing his letter, dated at Venice Sept. 27, 1177, "to the king of the Indians, the most holy of priests," but the messenger disappeared without leaving a trace.
A new epoch for the legend began with the Dominican and Franciscan missions to the East after 1245. The majority of reports agreed that Prester John no longer lived, but had fallen in battle with Genghis Khan, the chief authority for this form of the legend being the Franciscan Wilhelmus Rubruquis. On Jan 8, 1305, the archbishop of Peking, John of Monte Corvino (q.v.), told of a King George of the Nestorian sect, a descendant of the famous Prester John of India. This monarch had ruled in a land called Tenduch, twenty days distant, had become a convert to the Roman Catholic faith, and, after receiving minor orders, had ministered in his royal robes. This king, termed by Marco Polo the sixth after Prester John, had died in 1299. The fall of the Mongol dynasty in China in 1368 put an end to the missions in the East, but the way was already prepared for the third, or African, phase of the legend by the vague use of the term "India" and the accounts of a Christian kingdom of "Abascia" in middle India. This transfer from Asia to Africa was aided by the similarity of the names of the Abchases in the Caucasus (also called Abasi and Abassini) and the Abyssinians. The Roman Catholic Jordanus, bishop of Quilon in southern India, called the king of Ethiopia simply John. Envoys of this monarch appeared in Europe c. 1400, and when the Portuguese undertook to voyage to the East Indies, they were encouraged in great part by the fame of the realm of Prester John, and when they found the Christians of St. Thomas in Malabar, they fancied that region a Christian kingdom.
A careful study of medieval travels led to the
According to Gustav Oppert Ghaur Khan or Kor Khan was changed by phonetic laws to Yor Khan, which was corrupted through the Hebrew Yohan nan and the Syriac Yuhanan into Johannes. It is a historic fact, moreover, that Kushluk's wife, the daughter of the last Ghaur Khan, was a Christian, and that descendants of this royal family who later ruled in Tenduch were also Christians and ruled over a Christian population.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: F. Zarneke, in the Abhandlunpen of the Saxon Academy of Sciences, philological-historical class, vol. vii., 1879, vol. viii., 1883-88; G. Oppert, Der Presbyter Johannes in Sage and Geschichte, 2d ed., Berlin, 1870; G. Brunet, La Légende du Prétre-Jean, Bordeaux, 1877; S. Baring-Gould, Curious Myths of the Middle Ages, London, 1884; Schaff, Christian Church, v. 1, pp. 437-439.
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