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A Tool for Studying the Chinese Bible

The autumn ChinaSource Quarterly discussion of the Chinese Union Version (CUV) of the Bible provides a helpful reminder that God’s Word is central to all we do. As the Chinese church matures and grows, a similar desire for deeper and more technical study of the scriptures is also developing. Given the general increase in the resources available to the Chinese church over the past two decades—whether in terms of finances, education, or literature—it should not be surprising that more sophisticated biblical study tools are also emerging.

At the bookstore in the main registered church in my city, I recently purchased one such reference work that has greatly assisted my own efforts to interact more technically with text of the CUV. Printed at Amity Press in Nanjing in 2006 by the national Protestant Twin Committees (list price: 220 RMB), the Chinese-Greek-English Word-by-Word Multilingual Interlinear New Testament 《汉稀英逐字五对照新约圣经》 provides ready access to the grammar and syntax of the original language New Testament for Chinese-speaking Bible students.

The first line of this interlinear New Testament gives the CUV translation, rearranged to reflect the order of the original Greek text with small superscript numerals assisting the reader to reconstruct the CUV text in proper Mandarin word order. The second line, for those less familiar with Koine Greek, supplies a “literal” Chinese translation from the Greek text—again, following the original Greek word order. After that, the Greek text is given, followed by an English version of the text based on the Authorized translation. Next, each word is parsed, listing its grammatical characteristics according to both an English set of abbreviations and a Chinese set of abbreviations. Finally, the Strong’s number for each Greek word is listed.

This makes for a very thick book, but it also enables careful readers to examine New Testament syntax in great detail. Of particular use to English-speaking scholars trying to do sophisticated biblical study and/or training in Chinese are the helpful charts in the introduction that provide terms and examples of the various Greek parts of speech: for instance, thanks to this book I now know that the Chinese term for the aorist mood is “不定过去时.”

It is important to note that putting a tool such as this into the hands of a local believer is not necessarily helpful. It takes a certain amount of training to learn how to make proper use of technical reference works, regardless of one’s nationality. Without a proper understanding of how these resources function they can even become tools of abuse. Accordingly, this is not a book for every Christian; but for those gifted and called to dig deeper into God’s word it is a great aid.

Serious scholars may complain that this book does not use the latest reconstruction of the Greek text and it includes only the barest of textual critical information. In this sense it is not (nor does it claim to be) a substitute for working directly with original language texts and all their textual apparatuses. Nevertheless, this Chinese language interlinear text is a valuable and most welcome tool for bringing Chinese Bible students one-step closer to the original text of the New Testament—a vital task for a church facing growing isolation and oppression.

Image credit: Swells in the Middle Kingdom.

Swells in the Middle Kingdom

"Swells in the Middle Kingdom" began his life in China as a student back in 1990 and still, to this day, is fascinated by the challenges and blessings of living and working in China.View Full Bio

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