He came from a family with a radical streak: his great-great-great-grandmother shocked her Nambudiri family, the highest caste of the Hindu priesthood, by converting to Christianity. With conversion came a new surname, Zacharias, and a new path that started her descendants on a road to the Christian faith.
In the Indian state of Kerala, his paternal great-grandfather and grandfather produced the 20th century’s first Malayalam-English dictionary, which enabled the first Malayalam translation of the Bible.
In 1984, he founded RZIM and developed it into an organisation with offices around the world, including in Britain, Latin America, India, Singapore, Hong Kong and the US.
His work as a Christian apologist involved defending the faith from philosophical attacks, insisting instead the faith’s world view was coherent and free from contradiction on central questions such as the meaning of life, morality and destiny. He debated the staunchest atheists, Hindus and followers of other faiths, defending Christianity from criticism.
He was a prolific author and his books included the bestselling Can Man Live Without God? and Seeing Jesus from the East.
In 1992, he expanded into academia, launching the Veritas Forum, hosted on the campus of Harvard University. He went on to speak at many other campuses around the world. In 2004, he established the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics at Oxford University, where he was an honorary senior research fellow between 2007 and 2015.
, where he ministered to the faithful alongside champion boxer Manny Pacquiao.
Zacharias is survived by Margie, his wife of 48 years, and their three children and five grandchildren.
In a statement, Davis said: “It was his Saviour, Jesus Christ, that my dad always wanted most to talk about. Even in his final days, until he lacked the energy and breath to speak, he turned every conversation to Jesus and what the Lord had done.
“His thoughts and conversations in recent years and his final weeks were saturated with gratitude for this team of evangelists, apologists, and staff that he called family.”
The same line that led Zacharias to Christianity would be etched on his gravestone, his daughter said.
“The Gospel of John records these words of Jesus: ‘Because I live, you also will live’ (14:19) – seven words that changed the trajectory of Ravi Zacharias’ life some 57 years ago,” she said. “It is a verse etched on his grandmother’s grave stone and will be etched on his too.
“Today my beautiful father is more alive than he has ever been. We thank God for him and recommit our lives to sharing this truth with all who will hear, until He calls us to our eternal home.”
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