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The Trinitarian Bible Society was founded in 1831 as a Protestant organisation seeking to provide faithful and accurate translations of the Word of God in many different languages. In recent years, the Lord has provided the personnel and resources for the Society to begin working on a new translation of the Scriptures into Mandarin Chinese. This new translation endeavours to create a faithful and accurate Chinese translation from the Hebrew Masoretic Text and the Greek Received Text. The Word of God cannot and may not be altered and thus the Society seeks to maintain the Scriptures which God has providentially given to us in this new translation.
Prior to the commencement of translating the Scriptures an analysis was conducted of Bibles currently available in Chinese, comparing them to the original texts and analysing the method of translation that was used. The popular Chinese Bible, the Chinese Union Version, was found to have been translated from the English Revised Version with reference made to the Greek Critical Text. Further, most modern Chinese Bibles have been translated from the Greek Critical Text, making the Society’s translation the first in recent times from the Hebrew Masoretic and Greek Received Texts.
Since 2012 the Society has had a small team of native Mandarin Chinese translators prayerfully undertaking a new translation of the Scriptures directly from the Hebrew Masoretic and Greek Received Texts. It was upon this very same foundation that the first edition of a Chinese Bible was translated in the earlier part of the nineteenth century. Today it is our aim to translate the Chinese Scriptures into current literary Mandarin Chinese while utilising the accepted ecclesiastical and theological terminology used in the Chinese language. With God's continuing providence the Society has been able to publish the Gospel according to John in Chinese and in a Chinese-English diglot.
In addition to having printed the Gospel according to John, an appendix was included with the Gospel explaining to Chinese readers why a new translation is needed. The Society’s article The Lord Gave the Word written by Malcolm H. Watts was also translated and published in 2017.
We would encourage you to remember the TBS Chinese Bible project in your prayers. Please lift up in prayer the Chinese translators and proofreaders, the advisers, the project partners and the Editorial Department as they all undertake to produce a faithful and accurate translation of the Bible into Mandarin Chinese.
Chinese Translation Queries
Please click on a question to view the answer.
Who speaks Chinese?
Mandarin Chinese is spoken by approximately seventy percent of people living in China. Geographically Mandarin covers a large part of China: from Yunnan in the southwest to Xinjiang in the northwest and Heilongjiang in the northeast. It is believed that Chinese is the language with the largest number of native speakers in the world and has the second most number of speakers in total (including native and non-native speakers). Although the Chinese language has various dialects, such as Cantonese, almost all the dialects use the same written form. That means the new translation can be read and understood by most the people who speak different dialects of Chinese.
How many people speak Chinese?
Mandarin is by far the largest of the Chinese dialect groups, spoken by 70 percent of all Chinese speakers, with close to one billion native speakers.
What religion are most Chinese speakers?
China is officially an atheist state (and has some of the highest rates of atheism and agnosticism seen in the world today), meaning that it is hard to determine religious demographics. However, in 2018 Open Doors estimated that Christians make up approximately 6.9% of the population. Christians were violently persecuted following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, but the Christian faith survived all efforts to eradicate it, and even became deeply rooted in Chinese society. The number of Christians in China has seen a huge increase since the 1980s, and the recent Open Doors report states that ‘Since the 1980s China has witnessed an enormous growth in the Christian community and still faces growth, although nobody is able to give exact numbers. What is clear, however, is that it was the pressure of persecution which actually helped the Church to grow.’ Today, Christians and churches still appear to be thriving and increasing in number, but persecution, although not as intense and violent as in times past, appears to be increasing again. For example, in 2018 the Chinese government banned the sale of Bibles online.
Are there Bibles currently available in this language?
Prior to the project starting, an analysis was conducted of Bibles currently available in Chinese, comparing them to the original texts and analysing the method of translation that was used. The popular Chinese Bible, the Chinese Union Version, was found to have been translated from the English Revised Version with reference made to the Greek Critical Text. Further, all modern Chinese Bibles have been translated from the Greek Critical Text, making the Society’s translation the first in recent times from the Hebrew Masoretic and Greek Received Texts. The Chinese language has changed over time.
Why is a new version needed?
The primary goal of the TBS Chinese Bible project is to achieve an accurate translation directly from the Biblical languages using current literary Mandarin Chinese. However, whilst the new translation will be faithful to the original languages, it will be easier to read and understand than the commonly-used Chinese Union Version, which is in a considerably older form of the language. Today it is our aim to translate the Chinese Scriptures into current literary Mandarin Chinese while utilising the accepted ecclesiastical and theological terminology used in the Chinese language.
When was the project started?
The Society has been working on a new translation of the Bible into Chinese from the original Hebrew and Greek texts since 2012, rather than attempting to revise the Chinese Union Version as originally planned.
Who is involved in the project?
This project is being overseen by the TBS, alongside a small team of native Mandarin Chinese speakers with considerable abilities in the Biblical languages.
What progress has already been made towards the Chinese translation?
In early 2017 the Chinese Gospel according to John was published. It is available in two forms—Chinese and Chinese-English—and includes a brief publisher’s introduction and a comprehensive translator’s appendix to help explain the basis of this new translation. These are published on our website, along with a Chinese translation of the article The Lord Gave the Word. We also produce a Chinese Words of Life Calendar.
Translation work has continued on the New Testament, and thus far much of the Chinese New Testament is in second draft and Matthew, Mark, John, Romans and part of Hebrews are in final draft. God willing, this second draft of the New Testament will be finalised by December 2019. It is hoped that the New Testament will be ready to publish in 2020 and the entire Chinese Bible within the next seven years, God willing.
What are the primary obstacles that the project faces?
Translating the Chinese Bible is very challenging. Both the translators and the Society’s staff are mindful that it is important to try and maintain a level of continuity between our new translation and the widely-used and much-loved Chinese Union Version. Therefore, in addition to the usual translation challenges of remaining faithful to the Biblical text and using a standard literary form of the receptor language, our Chinese translators have the additional challenge of maintaining some continuity with the Chinese Union Version, which although expressed in beautiful language, is often not very close to the underlying Hebrew and Greek.
Other challenges include the printing and distribution of Scriptures in China.
What are the needs for the project?
Very few Chinese Christians or church leaders are aware of the significant distinction between the Greek Critical Text and the Received Text, and very few hold the position of the Received Text. Currently, almost all the Chinese pastors are influenced by the mainstream seminaries which teach and promote the Critical Text only. This means that the most urgent need of the project, besides the translation work itself, is to educate the Chinese churches to know and accept the Received Text.