According to Jost Oliver Zetzsche, "the first edition of the completed Mandarin Union Version Bible was received from the printer on April 22, 1919." We have just passed the 100th anniversary of the first printed edition of the Chinese Union Bible (the CUV). That Bible is the defining version of the Chinese church, and its impact cannot be overestimated. This is worth remembering in the face of threats by the Mainland Chinese authorities to “sinicize” the Bible - to rewrite the Bible to “adapt to socialist society.” The idea is to “implement socialist core values by ‘retranslating’ the Old Testament with some Buddhist scripture and Confucian teachings and adding new commentary to the New Testament to make socialist ideals and Chinese culture seem more divine” (The Christian Post).
ChinaSource recently listed some helpful facts about the Chinese Union Bible. They are worth pondering to help us understand its deep importance.
The Union Bible has places of less than perfect translation. “One example of word choice error was the word used for “sin” (ἁμαρτία in Greek, or “to miss the mark”) which was translated as zui (罪), crime, rather than guofan (过 犯), miss the mark, a more accurate translation. This created the misconception among many generations of Chinese listeners that sin is the breaking of civil and moral laws, rather than missing God’s mark.” (Mark Strand). But to attempt to improve translation is a very different approach than to exchange the truth for “some Buddhist scripture and Confucian teachings.”
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