In their search for justification in a scriptural text, both Christian and non-Christian Chinese intellectuals in the modern era found the Old Testament a rich and promising source at times of cultural and national crises. In this paper, three major topics will be taken up. First, it will explore the ways in which the Chinese Old Testament and its idea of God were anthropologically interpreted by Chinese intellectuals in light of modern scientism, European and American philosophy, and Chinese traditional culture. Second, it will analyze how the idea of one God was utilized by Chinese intellectuals in their efforts to explain human nature and to promote individual morality. Finally, it will discuss how universal love, which was of special importance in the context of monotheism, was interpreted by Chinese intellectuals. These three topics lead to a common interest or agenda of the time: building up a society of human perfection.
This article explores beliefs about the afterlife and how they are informed by religious and cultural narratives. If the Bible contains little definite information about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, then how is it that so many of us are able to readily envision them? The scattered information about the afterlife from religious texts is supplemented by our reading, viewing, and consumption of other forms of culture. Stories of the afterlife and of angels, demons, ghosts, vampires, and zombies remain popular. Perhaps more important, stories of the afterlife are often used as ways to shape stories about this life, adding resonance to narratives from Batman to Harry Potter by appropriating or echoing the powerful plots, themes, and characters of the afterlife. Thus even a reader or viewer who does not believe in the dogma of Purgatory may be powerfully affected by stories using the trope of Purgatory.
What can animal studies contribute to feminist biblical interpretation? This essay explores this question by calling attention to the role of feminist and gender analysis in contemporary interdisciplinary animal studies. Such studies point out that animals are often associated with women and with racial and ethnic others. After summarizing key positions from animal studies, the essay turns to several texts from the Pentateuch and the Former Prophets to outline the association between animals and women and ethnic others (especially Philistines) in biblical literature. The association demonstrates that another layer of complexity to male domination—or carnophallogocentrism—structures biblical literature.
Though it might seem surprising at first, video games can work a lot like apocalypses. Both offer imaginary visits to otherworldly spaces that were designed to offer metaphysical comfort. Both, through theology or programming, allow us to temporarily enter into structured spaces that are more predictable than our own world. However, instead of depicting God as the means of control over the world, as apocalypses do, some video games place the player in the position of realizing renewed order through the performance of virtual violence. This chapter considers how the video game Darksiders draws on biblical apocalyptic imagery and also utilizes traditional apocalyptic elements like an us-versus-them structure, the glorification of violence, and a desire for renewed order in the world. Darksiders also reorients the agency of order-making, placing the player at the center of the action and depicting God as largely absent from human struggle. Games like Darksiders may comfort uneasy players, just as apocalypses do, by depicting a world that can be controlled. But they typically do so in a way that demands virtual violence of the player, calling us to question what role such games may play in shaping how we see ourselves in the real world.
The chapter examines the feminization of elite pagan men in Apocryphal Acts of Andrew. It argues that the ancient author constructs ascetic Christianity as the ideal realization of masculinity, whereby male and female converts control their passions and appetites. Simultaneously, elite pagan men are portrayed as appetitive, passionately emotional, and lacking self-control. Such ethical weakness was commonly thought to be characteristic of women. While attributing such ethical “femininity” to pagan men trades on ancient notions that women are prone to moral weakness, the author’s portrayal also dislodges ethical character from biological sex. Thus, men and women who take up Christianity in its ascetic forms are superior in ethics and gender, compared to those who reject ascetic Christianity.
This essay examines the first Chinese New Testament translated by the missionary of the Paris Foreign Missions Society (M.E.P.) Jean Basset (1662–1707) in collaboration with Confucian convert Johan Su in the early Qing period. Though they did not complete a full translation of the New Testament, the work carried unique characteristics that went beyond the limitations of its time. One of the original manuscripts also exerted direct influence on nineteenth-century Protestant translations. With in-depth analysis of this exemplary piece among early Catholic endeavors, the essay addresses a set of key concerns that have not been sufficiently studied, including Basset’s vision of a Chinese Bible, the translation principle and techniques, Christian and Chinese terminology, and the interface of biblical translations and Chinese language and literature. The findings of this study offer fresh insights and facilitate a re-evaluation of Catholic contributions and legacy in the history of the Bible in China.
Sara M. Koenig
The biblical texts about Bathsheba have notorious gaps, even by the laconic standards of Hebrew narrative. Post-biblical receptions of the story flesh out the terse chapters of 2 Samuel 11–12 and 1 Kings 1–2, ascribing feelings and motives to Bathsheba and David that are not contained in the Hebrew text. This essay examines the intersection of reception history and feminist biblical scholarship by considering eleven novels about Bathsheba from the twentieth and twenty-first century. These novels expand Bathsheba’s character beyond the text, but in fairly gender stereotypical ways, such that feminist readers of the novels may be left wanting more.
This article examines the misuse of biblical texts in order to underpin the ideology of an ‘Aryan’ or ‘German Christendom’. Seen against the backdrop of anti-Semitic ideologies, it asks to what extent were biblical texts of the Old and New Testament misused in order to uphold anti-Semitic ideas or within the framework of anti-Semitic propaganda? The focus is on typical, regularly appearing motifs, which can be encountered in anti-Semitically motivated exegesis, especially in the National Socialist milieu. The same exegesis reappears — fatally enough — in the form of stereotypically reiterated statements among authors who can by no means be reproached with an anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic mindset. The case becomes even more precarious once said stereotypes catch on in wide circles of the church and society — to break through them after their acceptance involves an immense struggle and strain.
Jeremiah Zhu Shuai
In China, calligraphy has become an important element of Christian art and Christian localization in the proclamation of the gospel. This essay surveys the history and characteristics of Nestorian, Catholic, and Protestant use and understanding of calligraphy in relation to Scriptures and textual meaning. Since “holy words” have transcendental characteristics in Christianity, and the Chinese language itself is combined with its visual form, so the holy words in the Bible expressed by Chinese calligraphy have an ontological meaning of “incarnation.” To many Chinese Christians, the Chinese people’s aesthetic pursuit of handwriting means that beautiful writing itself reveals and witnesses to God’s glory.
Christianity came to China four times since the Tang dynasty, bringing with it the gospel of Jesus Christ with various biblical texts, interpretations, hymns, and songs. This essay surveys Chinese church music and shows the multi-cultural richness of worship life in the Chinese church. It will show that cultural differences do not hinder people of God in foreign cultural settings from understanding the Bible and seeking new ways of expressing their love and devotion to God. Yet, it also will show that, at the same time, Chinese believers seek to imitate and preserve the dominant musical style of Euro-American traditions.
Ethnic minorities mainly live in border areas, especially in the southwest of China. These ethnic minorities do not have “advanced” cultures and do not adhere to their cultural values strictly. When they encounter Christian belief, they regard it as strength and an opportunity to achieve their national rebirth and liberation. Their ancient myths and legends are quickly replaced and renewed by the Christian faith. This essay looks at the complex relationship between the biblical message and the cultures of ethnic minority, such as ethics, music, song, and dance, literature and education, festival, and marriage and family.
Guangqi Rong and Zhaohui Bao
With the arrival of Christianity and the translation of the Bible in China, Chinese culture and society have experienced tremendous transformation. On the one hand, the Chinese Bible, Chinese Union Version (CUV) in particular, influences modern Chinese poets in that they learn from the Bible words, images, imagination, stories, and narrative modes different from traditional literature; on the other hand, it affects them spiritually, with concepts of life, world, and values from the Bible. This essay looks at the above relationship between the Chinese Bible and Christian poetry in People’s Republic of China. Many Chinese poets in the twentieth century have indispensable dialogues with Christianity in their writing, particularly the Bible, which endows Chinese modern literature with unique life experience and world imagination. From modern to contemporary times, Chinese Christian literature has gradually improved, from the initial superficial influence of the Bible to the internalized life experience, thus leading to a profound artistry that gains respect in the public sphere.
Archie C. C. Lee
The Bible has taken various journeys all over the world and has come into engagement with religious writings outside of Christianity. In the process of translation of the Bible into other languages, religious notions from indigenous writings have been employed to express biblical conceptions, giving rise to cultural fertilization and religious enrichment on the Bible and the target languages into which the Bible has not only taken on a new form, but also some sort of transformation. This essay explores first the historical encounters of Christianity with Chinese culture in the tradition of Jingjiao (mistakenly labelled as Chinese Nestorianism). Second, an attempt is made to analyze the Daoist terminology of hundun in Daodejing and Zhuangzi adopted for the articulation of the “void” (“Chaos”) in the creation narrative of Genesis. Finally, the Daoist quest for immortality is read cross-textually with the Wisdom book of Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes).
Bernard K. Wong and Song Jun
Confucianism, the dominant ideology of Chinese culture, exerts significant influence on how Chinese Christians read the Bible for ethics. Confucian pragmatism and emphasis on ethics causes readers to accentuate the ethical function of the Bible. Early converts in the nineteenth century championed a common morality between the Bible and Confucian classics as an apologetic strategy. The Confucian ethical framework of “inner sageliness and outer kingliness” has been widely adopted by Chinese interpreters, informing how Christian intellectuals read the Bible for “national salvation by character” in the early twentieth century. When Christianity became rooted in China, Confucian concepts and maxims continued to be used to help Chinese understand the Bible. Besides Confucianism, other factors that shape how an interpreter reads the Bible for ethics include the reader’s historical and social context, theological tradition, and intellectual and educational background.
Carole R. Fontaine
This essay explores the socially restrictive traditions that cause scriptural groups to reject the idea of universal rights and equal access to economic, social and cultural rights. This hermeneutical situation is difficult to tolerate, as our multicultural planet is seeking survival. Ethical issues and the principles of a culture’s morality are often partly religious in nature. The UNDUHR recognizes the right to believe and to promote one’s own beliefs, and it considers these particular rights as being part of a cultural “right to affiliate.” Nevertheless, international human rights law has not successfully promoted full human rights in countries of “Religions of the Book.” The essay thus suggests that appeals to the Bible grounded in human rights must be woven into contextual exegetical work, human rights discourse, and feminist critique. Even so, for women, foreigners, and “Others,” the Bible will remain a serious obstacle for enjoying full economic, social, and cultural rights.
Albert C. Labriola
In line with its Greek etymology, ‘iconography’ refers to all forms of visual images, including any material means of artistic representation. Religious iconography typically refers to visual images of personages, events, and objects in the Bible. As such, religious iconography is a means of investigating how the Bible was received and interpreted in various eras. Included in religious iconography are illustrated Bibles, manuscript illuminations, books of hours, missals, sacramentaries, ectionaries, paintings, sculptures, murals, frescos, mosaics, metalwork, stained glass, and the like. This article surveys religious iconography by emphasizing medieval illuminations from the 10th through the 16th centuries, the seedbed of religious imagery. Religious iconography in the Middle Ages, moreover, profoundly affected art in the Renaissance and afterwards. The article focuses on selected but representative personages, events, and objects from the Old and New Testaments.
This essay discusses the link between Bible and iconography in China (seventeenth–eighteenth centuries) in three steps: first it sketches the background of the use of images in the Jesuit tradition in Europe—didactic use, visual meditation, spiritual exercises; next, it gives an overview of the major publications or productions in China by dividing them into sources from the late Ming (1582–1644) and early Qing (1644–1722); finally, it sketches how Chinese and European traditions were interwoven in these images. The essay underscores the fact that biblical iconography had a didactic function of using a narrative approach to mission by preaching the life of Christ with the support of images.
John T. P. Lai
While foreign missionaries to China spared no effort in translating and disseminating the Bible, they recognized the fact that the Holy Scripture, with all its cultural and theological peculiarities, was too alien and difficult for most Chinese readers to comprehend during the early Qing and Republican periods. Some missionaries, Protestant and Catholic alike, were committed to the production of a sizable corpus of Christian novels in Chinese by making creative use of traditional Chinese literary forms to rewrite biblical stories. Fictional representations of the biblical narratives might provide greater leeway to indigenize the Christian thoughts by offering their intended Chinese audiences culture-specific commentaries and nuanced interpretations. The literary fruits of the missionaries not only had facilitated the reception of the Bible and the spread of the associated religious message but also had reshaped the literary and social landscapes of late imperial and early Republican China.
Joseph Tse-Hei Lee and Christie Chui-Shan Chow
This essay investigates the influential role that the Bible played in the sphere of Chinese popular Christianity. It explores the widespread use of the Bible among the lay populace who were traditionally excluded from the concerns and pursuits of Chinese Christian elites in cosmopolitan cities. Beginning with an overview of the cultural influence of the Bible in the mid-nineteenth century, this study argues that the liberating power of the Word was leveraged by peasant converts looking for new cosmologies and norms to change society. The twentieth century witnessed multiple levels of direct engagement with biblical texts, unmediated by foreign missionaries, among Chinese evangelists and congregants. Some drew on new biblical inspirations to found independent churches and sectarian groups, and some relied on the practice of bibliomancy to seek guidance in times of chaos. These examples offer complex view of the symbiosis between Bible reading and conversion in Chinese popular Christianity.
Philip P. Chia
This essay examines the Bible as it manifested in the public square in China, both before and after 1949 as the communist power ruled New China. It looks at: (1) the context and controversy of the Bible in the public square; (2) the concentration and conservation of the Bible in the public square; (3) the culture and control of the Bible in the public square; (4) the current and construction of the Bible in the public square; and (5) the challenge and contribution of the Bible in the public square. A broader and brighter prospect is provided, as insights and lessons drawn from history, with a positive perspective looking forward to the Bible and the public square in China.