ChinaSource Blog PostsChristian Life

Which Chinese Bible Should I Recommend People Read?


This blog first appeared on the Thriving Turtles website in Australia. It was written to help those who serve among Chinese international students decide what Bible would be a good choice for Chinese students who are reading the Bible, perhaps for the first time. Jane gives a helpful overview of the various versions of the Chinese Bible and abbreviations and terms that are commonly used to describe them.

Choosing a Chinese Bible involves not only choosing a version, but choosing a script and other factors as well. These are identified by a range of symbols that appear with the abbreviation for the name of the Bible translation.

Here are some of the commonly seen abbreviations:

  • Chinese Union Version: CUV, CUVS, CUVT, CUVMPS, CUVMPT
  • Revised Chinese Union Version: RCUV, RCUVS, RCUVT
  • Chinese New Version: NCV, NCVS, NCVT or CNV, CNVS, CNVT
  • Chinese Contemporary Bible: CCB
  • Chinese Standard Bible: CSB, CSBS, CSBT

In addition, sometimes after the abbreviation one of the following words is used:

  • Shangdi (or Shangti)
  • Shen

This document aims to explain the different symbols used, and issues to be considered, so a more informed decision can be made when recommending a Bible version.

1. Simplified (简体字) vs Traditional Script (繁体字)

The simplified Chinese script is used in mainland China and Singapore. The traditional script is used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and by Chinese communities in other parts of SE Asia and the world. When looking at the abbreviation for a Chinese Bible translation, normally an “S” is added at the end to denote the simplified script, and a “T” to denote the traditional script (see lists above). We recommend a person use the script that they are most comfortable reading.

2. “Shen” Edition (神版) vs “Shangdi” Edition (上帝版)

Many of the Chinese Bible translations are available in two editions, the difference being which word is used in translation for “God” (“Shen” or “Shangdi” / “Shangti”). Some protestant Christians used to have a strong preference for one or the other word, but in recent years this generally is less divisive an issue. We recommend people use the version that their home church uses. 

3. Versions

The most commonly used Bible in China is the Union Version, CUV, 和合本. However, this translation uses older language forms and many people who are new to Bible reading find it difficult to understand (a little like English speakers reading the King James Version for the first time). There are several newer versions that are easier to understand. In mainland China, the Union Version and Today’s Chinese Version are legally produced. Other versions need to be carried in from overseas, and may be confiscated at the border. The rise of smartphone and computer use, however, has meant that most versions are now readily available from within China. The CNV is one of the most popular newer versions.

Consideration needs to be also made for what the person’s home church uses. Many churches in mainland China have a strong attachment to the Union Version. When this is the case, we recommend that a new believer read both a newer version (such as the NCV) and the Union Version in parallel. This way they can both understand the Bible text itself and learn to read the more literary form used by their brothers and sisters.

Some details of common translations are:

Chinese Union Version, 和合本, CUV; and Revised Chinese Union Version, 和合本修订版, RCUV

The CUV was first published in 1919, and the text is now in the public domain. It is the most commonly used Chinese translation for Protestants. It “was translated by a panel with members from many different Protestant denominations, using the English Revised Version as a basis and original manuscripts for crosschecking.” (Wikipedia, 2015) 

Spoken Chinese has changed since 1919 so many modern readers find this version hard to understand. In addition, many of the characters used in the original CUV do not appear in commonly available modern Chinese dictionaries. A Revised Chinese Union Version (和合本修订版, RCUV) was completed in 2006 (New Testament) and 2010 (entire Bible) that aimed at updating some of the language to reflect today’s language usage while keeping as much of the original translation style as possible. (Hong Kong Bible Society, 2016)

In addition to this, there are versions of the CUV with modern punctuation, denoted by the letters “MP” (for Modern Punctuation) or “NP” (for New Punctuation), e.g. CUVMPS is the Chinese Union Version Modern Punctuation Simplified script

Chinese New Version, 新译本, CNV

Abbreviated CNV (originally NCV but later changed due to confusion with the abbreviation used for English New Century Version).

  • Simplified Chinese: 新译本, CNVS (or NCVS)
  • Traditional Chinese: 新譯本, CNVT (or NCVT)

CNV was completed in 1992 by the Worldwide Bible Society with the assistance of the Lockman Foundation.

This is the first Chinese Bible translated by Chinese Biblical scholars directly from the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic languages into modern Chinese ever in the history of the Chinese churches . . . was a joint effort of a team of around 100 prominent Chinese Bible scholars and language scholars from around the world. (Bible Gateway, 2016)

The CNV is one of the most popular versions of the Bible in China.

Chinese Contemporary Bible, 当代圣经, CCB

Also called the Chinese Living Bible.

Translated by the International Bible Society of Colorado Springs.

Translated from the original languages and designed for a general audience with a seventh grade education or above. Completed in October 2010. (Biblica, 2014)

Chinese New Living Translation, 新普及译本

A dynamic equivalent Chinese Bible. The base text is the English New Living Translation with comparison with the Greek originals.

Chinese Standard Bible, 中文标准译本, CSB

Produced in 2009 by Global Bible Initiative and Holman Bible Publishers. Currently, this translation only contains the New Testament.

The goals of this translation are:

  • To provide Chinese-speaking people across the world with an accurate, readable Bible in contemporary Chinese
  • To give those who love God’s Word a text that has numerous reader helps, is visually attractive on the page, and is appealing when heard
  • To equip serious Bible students with an accurate translation for personal study, private devotions, and memorization

To affirm the authority of Scripture as God’s Word and to champion its absolute truth against social or cultural agendas that would compromise its accuracy.  (Global Bible Institute, 2015)

Chinese Recovery Version, 恢复本

This is used by the “Local Church” movement in Taiwan, and contains commentary notes written by Witness Lee. It is said the translation is good, but some Christians say the commentary notes are questionable—this movement is considered by some as a cult. (Intervarsity International Student Ministry, 2016) (Lucy Hsu and Yii-Shyun Lin, 2016)

Translations we do not recommend:

Chinese Pastoral Bible, 牧灵圣经

The Chinese edition of the Christian Community Bible, published in China by Amity Printing Company. This translation has received criticism over several significant issues, and is not generally recommended for lay people. (“Pastoral Bible (Chinese),” 2014)

New World Translation, NWT

Published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, used by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

References

Bible Gateway. (2016). Chinese New Version (Simplified) (CNVS) – Version Information – BibleGateway.com. Retrieved January 18, 2016, from https://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Chinese-New-Version-Simplified-CNVS/

Biblica. (2014). Chinese Contemporary Bible (2010). Retrieved January 18, 2016, from http://www.biblica.com/en-us/bible/bible-versions/chinese-contemporary-bible-2010/

Global Bible Institute. (2015). Chinese Standard Bible. Retrieved January 18, 2016, from http://chinesestandardbible.com

Hong Kong Bible Society. (2016). Revised Chinese Union Version> Revision Principles and Process. Retrieved August 13, 2016, from http://www.hkbs.org.hk/en/content/14-revised-chinese-union-version3

Intervarsity International Student Ministry. (2016). Analysis of Various Translations of the Chinese Bible. Retrieved from http://ism.intervarsity.org/resource/analysis-various-translations-chinese-bible

Lucy Hsu and Yii-Shyun Lin. (2016, January 21). An Explanation of the Different Chinese Bibles. Available at the previous article "Analysis of Various Translations of the Chinese Bible."

Pastoral Bible (Chinese). (2014, December 7). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pastoral_Bible_(Chinese)&oldid=637046232

Wikipedia. (2015, June 18). Chinese Union Version. In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chinese_Union_Version&oldid=667447748

Which Chinese Bible Should I Recommend People Read? was originally published on Thriving Turtles on June 20, 2016. It was subsequently updated, most recently on August 17, 2018. It is reprinted here with permission.

Jane

"Jane" spent 20 years living in China with her husband and three children.  Now back in Australia she works with Thriving Turtles, a ministry that prepares Christians to return to China. View Full Bio


Are you enjoying a cup of good coffee or fragrant tea while reading the latest ChinaSource post? Consider donating the cost of that “cuppa” to support our content so we can continue to serve you with the latest on Christianity in China.

Donate