This year, 2019, marks the centenary of the release of the Chinese Union Version (CUV) Bible, which is widely used and most influential in the Chinese speaking world and is a classic that many Chinese believers often read.
Recently, Lin Peiquan, an Old Testament lecturer at Jinling Union Theological Seminary and a visiting associate professor at Nankai University, talked in an exclusive interview with Gospel Times about how to guide the Chinese church out of "recognizing only CUV" and about promoting the work of exegesis.
Professor Lin believes it is difficult to promote the popularity of different Bible translations in the Chinese Church. Before it became the authoritative version, various translations were available. However they were gradually forgotten or abandoned, such as, Lü Zhenzhong's version, and New Translation, which can only serve for auxiliary readings. Because when a translation becomes authoritative, it cannot be changed for a long time especially at a religious level.
Professor Lin has also helped promote Mandarin translation and Chinese standard translation, but it is not easy. To position itself to replace CUV is not possible. Those translations that need to provide as much background information as possible, not spiritual but contextual, may be important additions.
The pastors of the Chinese church do need to be educated. CUV is an authoritative translation but not the only one nor is it solely accurate. It is a product of compromise, which may lose some of its original meaning. Biblical researchers will find that there are many places that need to be revised, while others do not agree. A revised version of the copy was published in 2010, but in fact it was revised in 1998, so Professor Lin suggested changing it to "The 2010 edition of CUV ".
In fact, all translations are accurate, but they possess their own outstanding characteristics, for example, Modern Chinese Translation adopts modern Chinese and is easy to understand, but its "free translation" component is too large, which may meet the needs of modern people but not necessarily in the future. It should be considered in each translation where its highlights are. In addition, what are the principles of translation? It is also necessary to judge a translation's accuracy versus its ability to reflect the richness of linguistic expressions.
Traditional Christians have for a long time believed that CUV is the most acceptable and authoritative, but they also need to absorb some of the basic ideas of translation. The original text is accurate and the various translations may be flawed. Therefore, not a single line of Scripture is to be abolished, refering to the original text, not the Chinese translation.
It took 26 years to publish the Revised Version, which is the best version of the translation of CUV, turning out as much as possible of the original text, such as Genesis 3:6, "Eve ate the fruit of knowledge of good and evil and then gave it directly to her husband". But according to the Hebrew text, her husband Adam had been by her side. Yet the original CUV does not show that fact in its translation. It should be Adam and Eve committed sin together. The Lord's Prayer says, "Do not lead us into temptation". Yet according to the Greek text, it should say, "Do not lead us to fall into temptation." It is all revised in the 2010 edition of CUV.
As to how the Chinese Church promotes Bible translation and exegesis, Professor Lin indicated that there is a serious shortage of talent in this area. Those who can do bible translation need to have solid knowledge of Hebrew, Greek and Chinese, in addition to education in Latin, German and English. Although many theological colleges are teaching Hebrew and Greek, the teaching level needs to be further improved. If the Chinese Church is to re-translate the Bible now, the difficulty will be enormous and the work needs to make huge investments in human, material and financial resources as individual translation would be hard to accept, unless of course the Chinese Christian Church and the Three-Self Patriot Movement organized experts and scholars to do so. It would be impossible to personally carry out this great work. So, first of all, the Chinese Church needs to reserve much talent in the area of biblical studies.
Under the present circumstances, the revised version of CUV is being promoted. However, the exegesis work needs to be continuously promoted. First, more brothers and sisters should be encouraged to learn more about the history of Bible translation and the background of the Bible without simply ignoring the 2,000 year church tradition of Bible interpretation. Secondly, brothers and sisters who study the bible are encouraged to master Hebrew and Greek. Thirdly, in the interpretation of scripture, we should respect the basic church traditions and doctrines. Christians should be accountable to the church for the study of the Bible and should not be groundless and self-opinionated. Fourthly, the academic community should be welcomed to participate in bible research and interpretation. However, Professor Lin, who is a visiting professor, suggested that scholars remember that the Bible is a classic of Judaism and Christianity, and that the 2,000-year history of the translation cannot be ignored. The meaning of its faith also cannot be ignored.
- Translated by Charlie Li