Paul Bettex: Early Pentecostal Linguist, Missionary, Martyr


This Week in AG History–February 25, 1928
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in PE News, 25 February 2015

Paul Bettex (1864-1916) possessed one of the most impressive academic and social pedigrees of any early Pentecostal. Yet when Bettex accepted Christ and felt a definite call to be a missionary, he gave up all his advantages and set sail for lands afar, where he suffered war, famine, and persecution.

The Swiss-born Bettex was the son of a distinguished Christian educator and theologian, Jean Frederick Bettex. The elder Bettex, an evangelical Huguenot, contributed a chapter to the noted series of books, The Fundamentals (1910-1915), which affirmed orthodox Protestant beliefs against the emergence of theological liberalism. Despite his evangelical heritage, Paul Bettex did not make a personal commitment to Christ in his youth. Bettex studied at the University of Geneva, various Italian schools, and the Sarbonne. He studied ancient languages and political science, purposing to enter the French diplomatic corps.

While at the Sorbonne, Bettex was struck by the courage displayed by young women associated with the Salvation Army in Paris. He began attending Salvation Army meetings and yielded his heart to God. Following in his father’s footsteps, Bettex felt drawn to ministry. He moved to America, where he attended Princeton Theological Seminary and pastored several churches. He also served as a missionary in Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil in the 1890s. While Bettex originally planned to be a French ambassador, he ultimately served a much higher king and became an ambassador for Christ.

Bettex’s linguistic training served him well on the mission field; he was proficient in 13 languages. He put his scholarly and theological abilities into practice by living amongst the people to whom he ministered. Stories of the hardships he faced in South America circulated among American Christians, and he returned in 1903 as a missionary hero.

Upon his return to America, Bettex taught at Central Holiness University (Oskaloosa, Iowa). He attended meetings at the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, joined the ranks of the Pentecostals, and in 1910 headed for China as a missionary. Bettex published a periodical, Canton Pentecost, of which there are no known surviving copies. His wife, Nellie, died in China in 1912. In 1916, Bettex disappeared and was never again seen alive. Chinese Christians expended great energies in searching for Bettex and finally found his body, buried six feet under the ground with three bullet holes in his chest.

During his missionary work in South America, Bettex wrote, “And the more truly a Christian is a Christian the hotter rages the battle about him. All heaven and hell take part in his fate. Here there is no place for amateur Christians. It is a fight for life and death … Few are the martyrs on whose heads crowns have been lighted while they were asleep. Their preparatory school has ever been sorrow, suffering, poverty, year-long fulfillment of duty.” For Bettex, these were not mere words. He lived and died in absolute surrender to Jesus Christ.

Stanley Frodsham, long-time editor of the Pentecostal Evangel, took it upon himself to document the life story of Bettex, the fallen Pentecostal missionary hero. Frodsham wrote a tribute to Bettex in the February 25, 1928, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel and later wrote a book, Wholly for God: A Call to Complete Consecration, Illustrated by the Story of Paul Bettex, a Truly Consecrated Soul (Gospel Publishing House, 1934).

Read the tribute by Stanley Frodsham, “A Remarkable Pentecostal Missionary,” on pages 4 to 5 of the February 25, 1928, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “How the Dog Trainer Was Won,” by Mrs. Walter Searle

• “Starlight: A True Story of a Chinese Girl,” by A. O. Stott

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: Archives@ag.org

1 Comment

Filed under History, Missions

One response to “Paul Bettex: Early Pentecostal Linguist, Missionary, Martyr

  1. Thank you for posting this. I am just now reading “Wholly For God,” about Paul Bettex. What an inspiring man!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s