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The Gospel in Pictures

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This year is the 100th anniversary of the publication of the Chinese Union Version (CUV) of the Bible. The Wechat blog Micro Bible recently shared several early 20th century Chinese Christian gospel paintings and tracts that give a look at contextualization of Bible passages to a Chinese context. While some are paraphrases, most are direct citations from the CUV. Here we provide a translation of those materials and the article.

Gospel Posters from 100 Years Ago Describe Jesus’ Parables[1]


Screens depicting the seeds of the Word | Luke 8:5-18

The seed is the word of God. 
As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, 
hold it fast in an honest and good heart, 
and bear fruit with patience. 

Luke 8:11, 15

Text on the screens:

[from right to left according to traditional Chinese layout]

Panel 1: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Luke 8:12

Panel 2: And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. Luke 8:13

Panel 3: And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. Luke 8:14

Panel 4: As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. Luke 8:15

Article:

The Bible is a long and rich book, with hundreds of stories. This issue of Christian posters draws from an important part of Bible stories: the stories and parables told by Jesus.

In this issue’s posters, we see greater variety and greater localization in the posters. Of course, there are still particular pictures which are drawn in the likeness of Jewish people. The more obvious would be the parable of the prodigal son, as well as the story of the good Samaritan.

In the other pictures, we see clothing, hats, and shoes with Chinese characteristics. We see palace-like buildings with traditional Chinese flavor. We see early rural scenes. We see scenes of people working, and we even see images of feasts and officials and soldiers.

Why are these short stories so favored? One important reason is that these stories are easy to remember, lively, and vivid. When one sees the picture, interest is immediately generated. The pictures are well drawn, easy to remember, and easy to understand.

In addition, people at the time who were not educated could see a lot of detail in these posters. Such drawings broke down the limits of writing for some people, so that all people, whether or not they were literate, could receive the gospel and learn about Jesus’ teachings.

And localizing these posters helped people feel more familiar. This sense of familiarity will not cause people to feel that the gospel is Western, or distant. On the contrary, the gospel is beside us. It is something we can touch and feel.


Parable of the Silver Ingots| Luke 19:11-27

Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.
1 Corinthians 4:2

Text on the poster:

Calligraphy hanging on the wall: Faithfully Serving the Lord

The picture talks about a parable Jesus told. One the one side are ten servants. The master gave each servant an ingot of silver, and told them to use it faithfully for Him. The other side represents them reporting what each has gained for the master. The faithful are rewarded. The unfaithful are punished.

Luke Chapter 19

Title: Parable of the Ingots of Silver

Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2

Small font at bottom right of picture: 19 of Year 31 (1942)


The Rich Man and Lazarus | Luke 16:15-31

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor rust destroys
and where thieves do not break in and steal. 
For where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also.  

Matthew 6:20-21

Text on poster:

This is a parable painting, representing the judgement on relying on wealth and not repenting. The rich man enjoyed happiness in life and now suffers pain. Lazarus has also suffered, and now is comforted.

Title: The Rich Man and Lazarus

Luke Chapter 16

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:20

Small font at bottom right of picture: 16 of Year 31 (1942)


Parable of Seeking the Sheep | Luke 15:1-7

For the Son of man came
to seek and to save the lost.

Luke 19:10

There will be more joy in heaven
over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous persons
who need no repentance.

Luke 15:7

Text on panels: 

[reading from right to left]

Panel 1: Of the shepherd’s hundred sheep, one was lost.

Panel 2: Go after the one that is lost, until he finds it.

Panel 3: And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

Panel 4: Rejoice together, for the sheep that was lost has been found.

Bottom right: Jesus told the story of the lost sheep. Luke 15

Bottom left: For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10

Small font at bottom: Copyright by China Sunday School Association


Two Foundations | Matthew 7:24-27

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them
will be like a foolish man
ho built his house on the sand.

Matthew 7:26

The Lord is good,
a stronghold in the day of trouble;
he knows those who take refuge in him.

Nahum 1:7

Text on Poster:

Upper right: And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. Matthew 7:26-27

Upper left: The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. Nahum 1:7

On the rock: Rock

Bottom: They are turned back and utterly put to shame, who trust in carved idols, who say to metal images,     “You are our gods.” Isaiah 42:17

Small font at bottom: Christian Book Room, 205 Yuen Ming Yuen Road, Shanghai


Two Foundations | Matthew 7:24-27

For no one can lay a foundation
other than that which is laid,
which is Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:11

Text on poster:

Upper bubble: Jesus Christ is the foundation of life. 1 Corinthians 3:11

Middle left, beneath the bubble: Matthew 7:24-27

On the poster with a cross: Creating a new man

Small font at bottom: Printed by National Christian Council of China Audio and Video Division


The paths of righteousness and evil | Psalm 1

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 1:6

Text on Poster:

Title: The paths of righteousness and evil

In the picture: The Lord is God, and knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Lower section: Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous: for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. Psalm 1 


The Parable of the Sower | Luke 8:4-8; 11-5

As for that in the good soil,
they are those who, hearing the word,
hold it fast in an honest and good heart,
and bear fruit with patience.

Luke 8:15

Text on Poster:

Title: Parable of the Sower

Jesus told a parable, saying, “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”

New Testament Gospel of Luke 8:4-8, 11-15

Small font at bottom: Cat. No. 19331 V. E. Poster (1941) “The Sower” Published by the Religious Tract Society, Hankow


Parable of the Prodigal Son | Luke 15:11-32

“For this my son was dead, and is alive again;
he was lost, and is found.”
And they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:24

Text on the poster:

Title: Parable of the Prodigal Son

There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.” And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So, he went and hired himself out to feed pigs, and he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate. . . And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him. . . And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

New Testament Gospel of Luke 15:11-32

Small font at bottom: Cat. No. 19335 V. E. Poster (1941) “Return of the Prodigal” Published by the Religious Tract Society, Hankow


The Parable of Hidden Treasure | Matthew 13:44

Indeed, I count everything as loss
because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish,
in order that I may gain Christ.

Philippians 3:8

Text on poster:

Title: The Parable of Treasure

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

New Testament Gospel of Matthew 13:44

Small font at bottom: Cat. No. 19332. V. E. Poster (1941) “The Hidden Treasure” Published by Religious Tract Society, Hankow


Parable of the Good Neighbor | Luke 10:30-37

You have heard that it was said,
“You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”
But I say to you,
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Matthew 5:43-44

Text on poster:

Title: Parable of the Good Neighbor

Jesus said “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’” Luke 10:30-37

Small font at bottom: Cat. No. 19336, V. E. Poster (1941) “The Good Samaritan” Published by the Religious Tract Society, Hankow


Parable of the Good Shepherd | John 10:1-18

I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
I know my own and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I lay down my life for the sheep.

John 10:11,14-15

Text on poster:

Title: Parable of the Good Shepherd

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. Old Testament Isaiah, 40:11

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me; and I lay down my life for the sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. New Testament Gospel of John 10:14-15, 27-28

Small font at bottom: Cat. No. 19334. V. E. Poster (1941) “The Good Shepherd” Published by Religious Tract Society, Hankow


Parable of the Weeds | Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Do not be deceived:
God is not mocked,
for whatever one sows,
that will he also reap.

Galatians 6:7

Text on poster:

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So, when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So, the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” The Evil One is the enemy. He wants to sow sin and bitter hatred in this world. We must be always alert so that he cannot sow bad seeds.

We must remember: For whatever one sows, that will he also reap. Galatians 6:7


Parable of the Banquet (Part I) | Luke 14:15-23

Jesus said,
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

Text on poster:

Couplet in picture: All under heaven are one family, from the four seas all are brothers.

I. A man once gave a banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to invite all the guests. But the guests made excuses and would not come. Therefore, the master told the servant, “Go and invite those who are hungry, poor, lame, and blind to come feast with me.” The servant went out to invite those people, and they came immediately because they were willing to come and joyful to come.

We must remember: Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28


Parable of the Banquet (Part II) | Luke 14:15-23

God, be merciful to me, a sinner!
Luke 18:13

Text on poster:

Couplet in picture: All under heaven are one family, from the four seas all are brothers.

II. This picture represents the scene of those hungry and poor people coming to the banquet. When the master welcomes them, he has a joyful look on his face. Our Lord Jesus Christ loves us, and invites us to him, to believe and trust him. He has already prepared for us a banquet. He has already prepared for us a heavenly home. He invites the poor and rich, the Chinese and the Western all to go. He wants that we all become one family. Would we also make excuses and refuse to go? Jesus invites you today. If you are rich, he invites you. If you have no money, he also invites you. He wants to bless you with joy and peace. Do you want to know how to go? You must not be like the guests who refused to go, but be like those hungry and poor people who desperately needed the banquet. Know that you are a sinner and need to ask Jesus to forgive your sins. Jesus has already died for you.

We must remember: God, be merciful to me, a sinner! Luke 18:13


The widow and the wicked judge | Luke 18:1-8

That they ought always to pray
and not lose heart.

Luke 18:1

Ask, and it will be given to you;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.

Luke 11:9

Text  on poster:

Title at top: Ought always to pray and not lose heart. Luke 18:1

Top right panel: [text unclear]

Bottom right: Ask, and it will be given to you. Luke 11:9

Bottom left: And Jesus said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Luke 11:5-9

Bottom small font: Please go to the Gospel Hall to listen to sermons and study the Bible. V. E. . . . Poster “A New Friend” Cat. No. 3081. Published by Religious Tract Society, Hankow & Shangai [Somewhat unclear]


Preparing a Great Feast | Luke 14:15-24

But we preach Christ crucified,
a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
but to those who are called,
both Jews and Greeks,
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1 Corinthians 1:23-24

Text on poster:

Title: Preparing a Great Feast

The Gospel of Saint Luke 14:16-24

Original Article: 100年前的福音海报,这样描绘耶稣的比喻 by 微读圣经

Notes

  1. ^ Translator’s Note: While the article is titled "Gospel Posters From 100 Years Ago," this turns out to be inaccurate. A number of the tracts were dated to the early 40s.
 All image credits: 微读圣经

ChinaSource Team

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