Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A New Chinese Bible?

The news release that Lifeways Publishing, arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, is going to publish a Chinese language Bible had plenty of errors. I hope their translation is better than the announcement.

First, Lifeways Publishers said it was the first translation into Chinese direct from Greek and Hebrew. This is wrong as numerous translations have been done by Greek and Hebrew scholars, Chinese and missionaries long before 1880. They went on to say the Union Version now used around the world was translated into Chinese from English in the 1920s. Wrong again. The Union Version was begun in the 1890s. I have copies going back to the 1920s. It was already popular in Chinese communities everywhere. Not perfect, but neither is any other Bible translation in any language.

The Greek copies of copies of the New Testament were only recognized a full 1,000 years after Christ walked the earth. By that time there was no way to find the originals. Comparing copies only led to more problems. No one has a perfect Bible. Those who believe every word of the Bible is God-inspired and sacred are making the Bible their idol. The message of God is there, but not to be taken literally. That too, bothers me about these Fundamentalists translating into Chinese copies of copies of copies of Bibles, which will probably include a present take on things.

The Union Version, used for over 100 years, is so called because it was a cooperative effort of the denominations then working in China. It has no more mistakes than our hallowed King James Version in English. It is stilted but so are older versions in English. Also the "Good News For Modern Man" translation of the New Testament that the American Bible Society published years ago is a "modern" translation.

China's only NGO (non-government organization), The Amity Foundation has published 70 million Bibles and New Testaments since opening a printing press in Nanjing in 1985. This too was a joint project with the United Bible Societies of the world. Our own American Bible Society was a part of that and still is.

Stranger still Lifeways is printing their Bible in Shenyang, China, and shipping it back to Tennessee for distribution in Canada, U.S., and Brazil until they can get permission to sell it in China.

The whole thing just another example of the extreme limits the Southern Baptist leadership will go to express their belief: IF WE DON'T DO IT, IT DOESN'T COUNT. (Man O man, will they get a shock if they get to heaven and see who's there!) What others have done and are doing for Christ means nothing to this group of hardened Fundamentalists. I love my Baptist history and heritage but since the SBC left that all behind a generation ago, I enjoy worshiping and fellowshiping with my new Presbyterian friends, who don't get their drawers in a knot if they don't set a new record in Sunday school attendance. Many mainline groups work openly with the churches of China since the churches there began to re-open in 1979. I tried to get SBC to work openly with the China Christian Council and not care who got the credit, but no, secret "cloak and dagger" missions was the road they took. They still see Amity and the CCC as government controlled or horror of horrors: communists.


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