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The Gospel in Mandarin: Discover the Holy Bible in Chinese

Discovering the Bible in Chinese

Contrary to some recent speculations, devout theologians had begun several attempts at bible translations in Chinese. This development commenced before the 1900s. However, the challenge was more about uniformity in translated versions. There was no standardized process that guided the various translations. Thus, it was difficult to prescribing the texts as outstanding testaments of the Christian Good News or for bible study in Chinese. The Good News was not available in Chinese until 1919, which would later be known as the Chinese Union Bible version.

This time, missionaries and bible scholars from different Protestant denominations supervised the Chinese Bible project. Then, China received its first official Bible version in classical Chinese and an alternative in vernacular. The translation project comprised more than just Chinese Christians. Contributions from British and American translators helped attain a standardized result. Considering the population of China, it was ideal to use a widely spoken language like Mandarin other than the local dialects. A standard version of the bible in Mandarin meant a mass appeal to the population, beyond the barriers of class and education.

The Uniqueness of Chinese Bible Translation Processes

The Chinese Bible translation needed to be authentic to the original text and very understandable in Chinese. For instance, parables were very notable teaching forms of Jesus. These elements were very essential to delivering the Word of God in Mandarin. Thus, the translators needed to be accountable to the original allegoric references or metaphorical representations in the bible. They should be rendered in their exact and original semantics and not as interpreted in Chinese cultures. These translation practices underscore the complexity of faithful and standard translation. The scholars never had the luxury of language translation apps like we do now. It's essential to execute a project as delicate as the Chinese Christian bible scriptural translation with the best results in mind.

While some modern bible versions relied on the King James Version as the original text, the scholars in the Gospel in Chinese project adopted an expatiated approach. A good example is the translated work in vernacular. They reviewed the English Revised Version as a significant source while considering more original materials in Greek, as well as the King James Bible. 

The Chinese Bible Project

The gospel is for all humankind, irrespective of classification. Before his ascension in Matthew 26:10-20, Jesus instructs his followers to share the gospel with all humanity. This commission is the foundation of all Bible translation projects, including the Chinese bible. Perhaps, there’s something more intimate and personal about experiencing God’s words in something as familiar as Mandarin.

From Aramaic to speaking in Koine Greek, many theologians believed Jesus himself understood more than one language when sharing the Good News to people outside Galilee. Today, the gospel isn’t only rendered in Mandarin but even many more human languages.

Initially, the bible was available in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Aramaic scriptures. However, many Chinese bible scholars, American and European missionaries, including Christian rulers and religious leaders in Asia, Africa, and Europe, have sponsored more daring theological projects. Their purpose was to see the Word translated in more familiar languages. Examples of these projects were the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, the King James Bible, the Chinese Union Version, among other modern Bible translations in Chinese.

The Chinese Union Version Bible

In Europe, the translation projects were to ensure the gospel was relatable in different languages. Elites at the time of King James (16th century) considered French, Latin, and Greek languages of “class.” But some of these languages (Latin and Greek) were already going out of use. English, the vernacular, became the only alternative.

Like its European counterparts, the Classical Chinese bibles went out of mainstream use. The vernacular version enjoyed widespread usage. The dawn of the 1900s saw a quick departure from classical Chinese to the vernacular Chinese translations or Chinese protestant bibles. Today, the version carries an official designation as the Chinese Union Version (CUV) or Mandarin bible. This version is still highly circulated among Chinese Protestant denominations. Although, modern demands for more Mandarin bibles have inspired the need for another revised version of the CUV.  

Bibles on Smartphones

More bible projects are still in the pipelines. This time, technology is a player. So with bible apps, we can experience God's Word right on our smart devices.

Like regular apps, bible apps are beginning to explore creative ways to share the Word. For instance, you can bookmark a favorite verse and share it on social media. Also, there are innovative features that bring daily Bible verse notifications and encouragement.

Christians should know that it’s crucial to study and meditate on the Word (Joshua 1:8). It’s true that life can get busy but these daily Bible feeds come in handy. So it’s reassuring knowing you can access God’s words wherever you are. In fact, there are also bilingual bibles, including Chinese bible apps that optimize the gospel for bible study in Mandarin. Christians and believers who long for a personal encounter with God through His Word have the Chinese bible for Android and iOS.

God’s word gives light and understanding to the simple (Psalm 119: 130). Now, why don't you check out our review of the Best Chinese Bible Apps to get started.