Chinese Versions of the Scriptures
Chinese Versions Of The Scriptures or, rather, Versions in the Languages of China. — The preparation of an accurate version of the Bible in the Chinese language has engaged the attention of many missionaries since a very early period. The translations of the Nestorians in this direction, during their residence in China for nearly eight hundred years, have not reached us; but it is unwise to infer therefrom that they did nothing in this respect, for else how could they have taught the messages of their God and Saviour to a literary, intelligent people? The Roman Catholics, who went to China about three hundred years ago, have had many learned and earnest men in their missions, some of whom have turned their attention to a translation of the Bible into those languages. The portions which are found in their missals, used in the public service, were translated soon after gathering congregations, and as early as 1636 one of them published a careful version of all the portions read on Sundays and feast-days, with comments on each lesson. Others of them prepared similar treatises for their converts, but, though often proposed, none of the hundreds of missionaries who have lived in China have ever put into the hands of their disciples a complete version of the Bible. All the versions belong to this century, and at present there exist five leading versions in Chinese, i.e., in the literary or book language (Wan-Le), as distinguished from the colloquial.
I. Classical Versions. —
1. Dr. Marshman's Version of the whole Bible, printed at Serampore in 1822. It was commenced at Bengal in 1806, and completed by Dr. Marshman and his son. During the first decade of the century, while this version was in preparation, several portions of the New Test., translated by. Mr. Joannes Lassar, professor of Chinese in Fort William College, Calcutta (Dr. Marshman's instructor), were issued as tentative essays. The Reverend Josiah Goddard, who went to the East in 1839, was especially commissioned by the American Baptist Board of Foreign Missions to carry through a revision of Marshman's version, and brought out a new translation of the New Test. in 1853, with the title Shing king sin e ehadu
tseuenz shoo. At his death, in the following year, it was found that. he had made but little progress with the Old Test., and his labors were continued by the Reverend Dr. Dean of the same mission, residing at Bangkok, but whether he has issued anything beyond the Pentateuch we are not aware. A copy of Marshman's Bible is now a rarity. A version of the New Test. was also published by the Reverend T.H. Hudson, in installments, completed about 1867.
2. The whole Bible, as translated by Morrison and Milne, was first printed in 1823, with the title Shin teen shinq shoo, in 21 volumes, on wood blocks, at Malacca. When Dr. Morrison presented, in 1824, the sacred volume at the anniversary meeting of the British and Foreign Bible Society, Mr. Butterworth related the following incident: "It is now many years ago, that in visiting the library of the British Museum, I frequently saw a young man who appeared to be deeply occupied in his studies the book he was reading was in a language and character totally unknown to me. I asked the young man what it was; he replied, diffidently, 'The Chinese,' and said; 'I am trying to understand it, but it is attended with singular difficulty; if the language is capable of being surmounted by human zeal and perseverance, I mean to make the experiment. Little did I think,'" continued Mr. Butterworth, "that I then beheld the germ, as it were, of that great undertaking, the translation of the sacred Scriptures into the Chinese language." The New Test. of this version was made by Dr. Morrison on the basis of an old version of the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles, which he obtained in England, copied from a MS. in the British Museum, and brought out with him to China. The book of Acts was revised from the old MS., and first printed in 1810; Luke was printed in 1811; most of the Epistles in 1812; the Pauline Epistles being merely revised by Dr. Morrison. The New Test. was completed in 1813. In the Old Test. Dr. Morrison translated Genesis to Numbers, Ruth, Psalms to Malachi. The remaining books were translated by Dr. Milne. A new and slightly revised edition of this Bible was published in large type on wooden blocks in 1832, at Malacca. A revision of Morrison Luke and Acts, by Dr. Milne, was published in London in 1845, on English paper.
3. Medhurst's Version. — The New Test., as translated by Dr. Medhurst, was printed in Batavia by lithography in 1837, with the title Sine chaeu shoo. This version was nominally the work of a committee, consisting of Drs. Medhurst, Gutzlaff, Bridgman, and Morrison, in 1835, but it was understood to be chiefly the work of the first named, and underwent a final revision by him when he returned to England in 1836. Modified editions of this were published at Singapore and Serampore. Dr. Medhurst had also a hand in the Old Test., eventually published by Dr. Gutzlaff. Dr. Medhurst's effort for an improved translation at length resulted in the convention of a committee of delegates from the several stations in China. This met at Shanghai, and the result of its labors was the Delegates' Version of the New Test., first published complete in 1852, under the title Sine tseuen shoo. The delegates who attended the committee were the Reverend Drs. Medhurst, Bridgman, Stronach, and Milne. (It is true the Reverend W. Lowrie of the American Presbyterian Mission was on that, committee, but they had not finished the first chapter of Matthew when he left for a visit to Ningpo, and was killed by pirates on the way. Dr. Milne, of the London Society, was elected in his stead. Bishop Boone was also on the committee, but he never attended for translation one day after the first chapter of Matthew. Dr. Bridgman, on the part of the American Board of Commissioners, was also on the committee, and attended very regularly, but it has repeatedly been stated by the translators that he never made a suggestion which was adopted, and soon after the completion of the New Test. he repudiated the version altogether. Thus this translation was virtually the work of the English missionaries, Reverend Drs. Medhurst, Stronach, and Milne, all of the London Missionary Society.) When the New Test. was completed, Drs. Medhurst, Stronach, and Milne translated the Old Test. on the same principle, and it was first published at Shanghai in 1855, under the title Kew yo tseuen shoo. Many subsequent editions of the Old and New Tests. are often spoken of under the name of the Delegates' Version, though in fact it was only the New Test. that was done by them in the capacity of delegates, and given out in MS. by the translators with the terms for "God" and "Spirit" left blank, and the express understanding that all and every one of the Protestant missionaries then or afterwards engaged in the work of evangelizing China might insert the rendering of these two words which they approved but no other liberty with the text was to be allowed, except in the single case of the word baptize. From the report of the British and Foreign Bible Society for the year 1870, we see that a New Test. of the Delegates' Version was printed with marginal references for the first time, under the care of the Reverend A.W. Cribb. of Foochow, and in the report for 1873 it is stated that the agent of the 'British and Foreign Bible Society' was instructed to form a committee which shall fairly represent the Chinese missions, and whose object shall be to conserve the text of the Delegates' Version, to receive suggestions from all quarters, and, when needful, to introduce such changes as shall be deemed desirable.
4. Gutzlaff's Version. — The Old Test., translated by Dr. Gutzlaff, was published somewhere about 1840, under the title Kew e chazu shiny shoo. This was commenced, and carried on as far as Joshua, by Messrs. Gutzlaff, Medhurst, Bridgman, and Morrison, in concert, but the remainder seems to have been mainly the work of Gutzlaff. A new edition was cut on blocks by the Chinese Evangelization Society, in 1855. The New Test. published by Dr. Gutzlaff, under the title Kooew sho choo yay soo sine chaou shoo, is a modification of that published by Medhurst. It was several times revised, and ten or more editions were published uinder the sanction of the Chinese Union, a native Christian society. Gutzlaff's version of the Old and New Tests. is notable as having been republished by the Taeping rebels, at first nearly verbatim, but afterwards with some serious alterations.
5. Bridgman and Cuthbertson's Version. — This was commenced soon after the completion of the Delegates' New Test. The New Test. was issued from the press in 1859, with the title Yayg soo ke tuh kew she choo sin ye tseuen shoo. The Old Test. appeared from 1861 to 1863, under the title Kew yo tseuen shoo. According to the report of the American Bible Society for 1879, this version is undergoing revision. Besides these five versions of the whole Bible, the New Test. was translated by the late bishop of the Russian Church in Pekin, and published in 1864, with the title Sin e chaou shing shoo.
II. Colloquial Versions. — Chinese, if written in the style of literary composition, differs so much from the spoken language, that when read aloud it cannot be understood by mere hearers. Though a perfect picture to the eye, it conveys no definite sound to the understanding. A Chinese boy requires from three to four years to become acquainted with the characters, and when he has mastered these, it occupies an equal time to learn their meaning; whereas the colloquial, being the mother tongue of the country, any intelligent person can learn to read it in a few months. For this reasons from time to time colloquial versions were pre pared in the different dialects of the country. Of such versions we name:
1. Mandarini Dialect. — This dialect is the most important, as being the colloquial medium of a large proportion of the people of Northern China. The New Test, was translated by the Reverend Dr. Medhurst, in concert with Reverend J. Stronach, in the Southern or Nankin branch of the Mandarin dialect, and published in 1856, with the title Shin yo tseuen shoo. Another translation of the New Test. was made by a committee in Pekin, consisting of the Reverend Drs. Martin, Blodget, Schereschewsky, Burton, and Edkins, who were several years engaged in the work. This is known as the Pekin or Northern Mandarin, and was published about the year 1870, with the title Sin yo tseuen shoo. A revised version of this Testament has been completed since 1871. The Old Test. was translated for the American Bible Society by the Reverend Dr. Schereschewsky, and published in 1875, with the title Kew yo6tseuen shoo. An edition of this translation was also printed at Shanghai by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1877:
2. Shanghai Dialect. — The New Test. has been translated into the Shanghai dialect by the Reverend J.M.W. Farnham, and published about 1870, with the title Sing yak zen su. The same has been transliterated into the Roman character, with the title Sing yak zen su, published contemporaneously with the other. A committee is now engaged on a new translation, on behalf of the American Bible Society.
3. Ningpo Dialect. — Translations of the various parts of the New Test. had been made at different times by the Reverends W.A. Russell, W.A.P. Martin, and other missionaries. These were revised by the Reverends W.A. Russell and H.V.V. Rankin, and published, with the title Sing jah jun shoo. This work was in the Roman character. A revised version, by the Reverends F.F. Gough and J.H. Taylor, was published in London in 1868 by the British and Foreign Bible Society, with the title Ah lah kyiu soo yiwe-su kyi-toh-go sing-iah shu. The New Test. was translated or revised in the Ningpo dialect by the Reverend E.C. Lord of the American Baptist Mission, and published in the Roman character in 1874, with the title Ah lah kyiu-soo yiae-su- kyi-toh-go sing-iah shu. Genesis, with the title Tsong shoo kyi, and Exodus, with the title Cih yiae-gyih kyi, were translated in the Roman character by the Reverend H.V.V. Rankin, and published in 1871. Isaiah was translated by the Reverend E.C. Lord, in the Roman character, and published in 1870, with the title Yi-soe wo. Steps have been taken by the American Bible Society to secure a version of the entire Old Test.
4. Foo-chow Dialect. — The New Test. was translated by the Reverend W. Welton of the Church Missionary Society, and published in 1856, with the title Shing king sin ybjh chow ping hwa. A Another translation of the New Test. was made by the Reverend L.B. Peet, and published in 1856, with the title Sin yo tseuen shoo. A further translation of the New Test. into this dialect was made by the Reverend Drs. Maclay, Gibson, Baldwin, and Hartwell, which was published in 1866, with the title Sini yo tseuen shoo. The book of Genesis was translated by the Reverend C.C. Baldwin, and published in 1875, with the title Chwang she kee. The book of Joshua was translated by the Reverend J.R. Wolfe, and published in 1874, with the title Yo shoo ya ke. The book of Ruth, with the title Loo tih he, and 1 Samuel, with the title Sa moo urh tseen shoo, were translated by the Reverend S. Woodin, and published in 187M5 The book of Job was translated by the Reverend J. Maclay, and published in 1866, with the title YT pilh ke leb. The Psalms were translated by the Reverends L.B. Peet and S. Woodin, and published in 1868, with the title She peen tseuen shoo. The Proverbs were translated by the Reverend S.L. Baldwin, and published in 1868, with the title Keen yen tseuen shoo. Other books were added since.
5. Amoy Dialect. — The New Test. was translated by the Reverends J. Macgregor, W.S. Swanson, H. Cowie, J.L. Maxwell, M.D., etc., and printed in Glasgow in 1873, with the title Ldn e kiu-tsu id-so ki-tok e sin iok. It is in the Roman character. The Psalms were translated in the Roman character by the Rev, J. Stroloach, and published in 1873, with the title She peen. Besides the Psalms, the books of Genesis to Joshua have also been published.
6. Swatow Dialect. — The book of Ruth was translated by the Reverend S.B. Partridge, and published in 1875 with the title Loo tah she ke.
7. Canton Dialect. SEE PRINT VERSION.
8. Hakka Dialect. — The gospel of Matthew was translated by the Reverend R. Lechler in the Roman character, and published in 1866, with the English title. The gospel of Mark was translated in the Roman character by the Reverend T.S. Lorcher, and published in 1874 with the English title. The gospel of Luke was translated in the Roman character by members of the Basle Mission, and published in 1861, with the title Das Evanjelium des Lucas im Volkesdialekte der Hakka Chinesen. The same gospel was translated by the Reverend E.J. Eitel in the Roman character, and published in 1866 with the English title. The Acts of the Apostles, as translated by the Reverend R. Lechler, were printed in 1874. Besides, there are published the gospel of John, as translated by Reverend Charles Piton, the epistle to the Romans, by the Reverend Mr. Bender, and the epistles to the Corinthians, by the Reverend Kong Ayun, a native missionary, educated at Basle.
9. Kinhwa Dialect. — John's gospel was translated in the Roman character, and published in 1866, with the title Jah-ben jooa foh-ing shoo.
10. Hong Kong Dialect. — The book of Psalms has been adapted to this dialect from the Pekin Mandarin Colloquial, under the superintendence of the Reverend Dr. Eitel. The name "Shanghai" is used for "God" in this version.
11. Chao-Chow Dialect. — The gospel of Luke has been printed in Roman characters in the vernacular of Chao-Chow, in the province of Canton, of which Swatow is the port and chief centre of missionary operations. The translation was adapted by the Reverend William Duffus, from the Delegates' Chinese Version, and carefully compared with the Greek text; and the translator, who is a missionary of the Presbyterian Church of England, was able to carry the work through the press while on a visit in England during the year 1877. This version is intended for the use of the native Christians who have not been instructed in the use of their owns very difficult .written characters, and it is the first portion of the word of God which has been so brought within their reach. See Bible of Every Land, page 5 sq. (B.P.)