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Serious Tools for Serious Study

Since returning to China after an absence of several years, one of the things that has most impressed me has been the increase in availability of high quality reference tools for serious Bible study in Chinese.  Given the general increase in the resources available to the Chinese church—whether in finances, education, or literature—it is not surprising that more sophisticated study tools are gradually emerging.  If anything, these more technical reference works are a good reminder that those of us coming from outside need likewise to develop our own skills if we hope to continue to be of assistance to an increasingly capable local church.

One title I recently purchased from the bookstore in the main registered church in my city is worthy of special mention.  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 gives the Chinese Union Version translation (the scan is from John 17), rearranged to reflect the order of the original Greek text with small superscript numerals assisting the reader to reconstruct the Chinese Union 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 supplied, 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 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 aorist is “不定过去.”

Obviously, giving a tool such as this to a local believer may not be particularly helpful.  It takes a certain amount of training to learn how to make proper use of technical reference works.  Without a proper understanding of how they work they can even become tools of abuse.

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. 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.

Image credits: Swells in the Middle Kingdom

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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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