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scope of this paper.

With Mandarin translations the case is very different. Not only
is the field covered by those who speak one form or other of this dialecfe
immense, but, outside of this field, written Mandarin is quite current as
a vehicle for certain kinds of literature. Hence in universality of use it
is only surpassed by Wen-li, while it has the decided advantage over at
least the higher styles of We7i-li in intelligibility, addressing Mandarin
itself, as it does, not only to the eye but to the ear, so that versions.
understanding may as often come by hearing as by sight. It also puts
at once the facts and doctrines of our holy religion into the language -of
daily life, and thus facilitates the repetition of the Gospel story by
unlearned Christians.

The earliest attempt to put the New Testament into Mandarin was

made under the direction of Messrs. Medhurst and Stronach at Shanghai

about the year 1854. It was but little more than an un- ,, ^u . ^
"' . » 1 1 1 Medhurst aud

skillful rendering of the delegates version into the Nan- stronach.

king dialect by a youthful native. The style, though idiomatic, is by
no means of a high order; is well interspersed with localisms, and is
injured by undignified and unworthy expressions, such as ^, to kill, a3
a sign of the superlative. A good many copies have been put into
circulation, but it cannot be called a great success.

When, after the war of England and France against China in 1860,
Peking was opened to the residence of foreign missionaries, it was soon
occupied by representatives of the leading societies, both of England
and America. These, feeling the need of a Mandarin version for their
own use, and believing that a version carefully prepared at Peking would
be generally acceptable in all the Mandarin-speaking provinces — which,
roughly speaking, comprise two-thirds of the population of China — a
Committee was formed of Messrs. Burdon (now Bishop of Victoria) of the
Church of England Mission, Dr. Blodget of the A. B. C. F. M., Dr.
Edkins of the London Mission, Dr. Martin (now president of the Peking
College) of the American Presbyterian Mission, and Mr. (now Bishop)
Schereschewsky of the American Episcopal Mission, to prepare such a
version. The various books of the New Testament were portioned out
and assigned to individuals for the first drafts. These, when finished,
were circulated among the other members for criticisms and emendations,
and then, sent with the drafts to the author, were, so far as they com-
mended themselves to his judgment, used in the formation of pekin^
new drafts. These new drafts, with the notes which the first version,
drafts had called forth, were again circulated amongst the other members
of the committee. Thus the preliminary work was largely done by the
members separately, with the help of their Chinese scribes. The com-
mittee then met to discuss and determine finally upon this preparatory
labour. Verse by verse, almost word by word, it was submitted to the
searching criticism of the Committee, assisted by competent native
scholars, a majority of the Committee .decidiog finally in all cases of


disagreement. Eight years were thus passed before the whole was ready
for the press.

It would have' heen strange if a version, so carefully prepared by men
so competent, should not have met with a degree of approval by mission-
aries and natives in Mandarin-speaking fields. But even the Committee,
^^ on.. conscious as they were of the painstaking of their labours,

xiS ST1CC6SS* ■ • ^

could not have anticipated a success so immediate, so wide,
and so permanent as fell to the lot of their work. Almost immediately
in one half of the empire the new Mandarin Testament supplanted the
Wen-li in the family, the class-room, the street chapel and the Church
services of the Sabbath, and has held its place securely ever since. The
Old Testament soon followed, though this, unlike the New Testament,
was substantially the work of one member of the Committee, Dr. Sche-
reschewsky, who by education and taste was specially fitted for it. In
this version ^ ^, the term finally adopted by the Roman Catholics, was
used for God, though many editions with other terms have since been

The success of this version is due partly to its inherent excellence
as a new and independent rendering of the Bible into Chinese, and partly
to the fact that it is in the familiar speech of the people to whom it was
given. It was, though to a less degree, to the unlearned of North
China what the- Bibles of Wycliffe and Luther were to the English and
Germans. The style is vigorous, terse, clear. It is free, os nearly so,
from localisms, and is sufficiently removed from common-place to be
dignified and reverent without being pedantic. Whilst not perfect as
a translation, and not what the final Mandarin Bible will be when the
assimilation of Christianity by the people has perfected the dialect of
the kingdom, it yet fairly meets — not evades — the difficulties of the
original, and for the most part gives the sense as closely as the present
intelligence of the Church can — without the use of periphrasis — com-
prehend. A speedy call for new editions of the New Testament afforded
opportunities for slight revisions. The Old Testament has also been
revised by Bishop Scherescbewsky, and a new edition, considerably
improved, will no doubt soon appear. Recently a modified form of this
New Testament, with emendations and certain other changes to adapt it
to use in central China, has been prepared by Dr. Griffith John of the
London Mission at Hankow.

The success of this Mandarin version has given rise within the last
decade or more to the idea of an easy Wen-li version, which would com-
bine, so far as possible, the advantages of both styles. Very many of the
people of North China, while using a form of Mandarin in their daily
speech, are not accustomed to see it in print. Not only do they stumble at
its unfamiliar particles and form, but at first sight it seems to them un-
dignified to use colloquial as the medium for expressing sacred and lofty
truths. There are also others who, though not thorough scholars, yet
rank themselves in the literary class, to whom it is a matter of pride not
to read Mandarin books, while still incapable of fully comprehending the
higher styles of Wen-ll, especially when concerned with matters with

May 8tli.] EEV. J. wsieey. 57

which they are wholly TinfamiHar. Again, on {he border lands of the
Mandarin-speaking provinces, and even further South, there is a multi-
tude of dialects which, not Mandarin, yet approach it closely j,^ wen-li
at many points. A simple Wen-U version, especially one in version.
which double characters were freely used, could, by a slight change of
particles and order of clauses, easily be read into any of these dialects by
missionary or native preacher ; and possibly such a version, while meet-
ing present need in large areas unprovided with vernacular Scriptures,
might serve as a connecting link between true Wen-U and colloquial,
even better than a Mandarin version itself, to unify the language of
China, which under the impetus of Christianity all hope will finally be

For these and other reasons the members of the original Commi-ttee,
who-still all survive, have long had it in mind to render their version,
as could be readily done without destx'oying its present grammatical
structure, into an easy double-character Wen-li. The ill-liealth and
departure from Cbina of Bishop Schereschewsky, the change of residence
and the assumption of onerous duties by Bishop Burden, and other causes,
delayed the carrying out of this scheme, which, however, so far as the
New Testament is concerned, has at length been accomplished, while the
Old Testament is well in hand.

As the Peking Mandarin and this easy Wcn-U versions run parallel,
ifc is not necessary to offer a separate criticism of the latter. If the one
is a clear and accurate expression in Chinese of the original Scripture,
the other must be also. They are almost like the same Bible printed in
two diffei'ont alphabets, as is done in India to suit the tastes of different
"classes of readers. And it is evident, and this is a great advantage, that
any emendations of the one, slight or extensive, will be immediately
applicable to the other.

While this easy Wen-U version was in preparation, but before any
part of it, except the Book of Psalms, had appeared in print, a work
closely allied to it was begun on the New Testament and rapidly carried
forward by Dr. John of Hankow. This, too, follows largely, though not
wholly, or closely, the Peking Mandarin New Testament, borrowing
freely from other current Wen-U versions, with not infrequent changes
wholly new. The principal differences in the two are that in -^^ q .John's
Dr. John's, besides emendations changing the thought, and ^^^y Wen-H.
an occasional substitution of words more current in Central China, the
structure of sentences follows more largely the higher Wen-U- usages, and
single, rather than double characters, form the elements of expression >
while in the other the grammatical structure and double-character words
of the Mandarin are, as a rule, retained. Thus the former, like higher
Wen-U, has the advantage of brevity, and appeals more largely to scholarly
taste, while the latter is more easily rendered into any vernacular, and is
more intelligible to those who hear it read aloud. There still remains so
much similarity as to almost make them rivals.

This suggests the question of one common easy Wen-U version which
■will receive tho sanction cf all Protestant missionaries from all lauds, and


whicli will he accepted and published by the three leading Societies

which are doing so much to make the Bible a household book in China.

How this is to be brought about it is not for the writer to say. But

Desirability ^^ should be the joint production in draft, criticism, and final

eaayWen^i adoption of text, of a committee fully representative of the

version, leading societies of Europe and America. Any production o£

individual men, or of a non-representative committee, however good it

may be in itself, will not be likely to be accepted, and will only add

another to the numerous private translations of the Scriptures. The

new English translation of the Scriptures should be the basis, not the

textus recejptus, which is universally admitted to be full of errors which

should not be perpetuated in China,

Is the time ripe for it ? The increasing numbers of spiritually
educated men in the Church of Christ is hastening the formation of a
definite Christian terminology and vocabulary. Many crude and imper-
fect expressions for Biblical thought have been discarded, as the thought
itself has become more familiar and clear. What has taken place in the
English language is now taking place in the Chinese. Happy theological
expressions, becoming more and more current, remain as a permanent
part of the language, while unhappy ones are discarded or amended until
The time is they, too, suit the genius of the regenerated and sanctified
ripe font. Qj^j^ggQ tongne. While this growth, which cannot be forced,
is taking place, a permanent, final version cannot be expected, but a new
version may gather np and preserve what has already been attained.
Finally, the translators of the new version, if one be made, shonid be
perfectly free to use in their -own way and to any extent all the existing
material that will further their purpose of giving the pure Word of
Goi> in the most acceptable form to this most needy people. We can
well afford to lay aside any prejudices that may stand in tb© way of an
end SQ desirable.


Mr. John Archibald (N"- B. S., Hankow.) — Mr. President and Mem-
bers of Conference, It is with mnch diffidence I venture to address you.
Not only are there so many here who are held in high reputation
amongst us, before whom it is trying to speak, but I also feel that
whoever addresses you should do so under a deep sense of the serious and
far-reaching responsibility which doing so involves.

I wish to point out that there is a factor in this question of how to
secure a standard union version for China, which wo must on no account
ignore, and that is, the action which tho three Bible societies at work in
the China field may likely tako with regard to it. It is obvious that
Bible societies iinless these three will mutually agree to support tho about-
mustamie, to-be-authorised one, and to discountenance all others, other
versions will still bo demanded, and other versions will continue to
eirculato, to the confusion of the scheme. Under these circumstances, you
must be prepared with very strong arguments to induce these societies to
unite, and many more, stronger ones still, to keep them united. Now,
what action other societies may take in the matter I cannot tell you, but
I can tell you how our society is at present advised, and what the advice
is which it will follow, unless most potent arguments to the contrary can
be placed before it by this Conference.

This advice is contained in a report to our directors by one of its
Secretaries, Mr. Slowan, of which I have here a copy. Many of you are
aware how he was sent out a year and a half ago to enquire into the
various problems Bible work in China presents, and how he visited all
the leading mission stations from Canton to Peking, seeking light on this
and other questions. In Section 46 of this report he says :— " Amid
conflicting statements it is clear that no scholar or mission is perfectly
satisfied with any of the existing versions. There is a general desire
for a union version, but the impression prevails that the time j,^^^ ^^^^
for it has not yet come. There is not yet entire agreement for union
on the term question. Nor are scholars at one in the use of "^^ereion.
tho language itself. Native scholarship must have time to ripen. It is
impossible for any foreigner to translate into absolutely pure and
idiomatic Chinese. The number of versions is not a disadvantage but
a preparation for union. In the meantime it may be better to wait
rather than make a premature effort for union, which must ultimately
come out of the heart of China itself. The subject will doubtless have
attention at the Missionary Conference to be held in Shanghai in
May, 1890."

You will note, then,, that according to Mr. Slowan the number of
present versions is not a disadvantage ; and that he thinks the time for
union has not come. He gives as his reasons the present non-agreement
of missionaries in general as to terminology, and of our scholars in
particular as to their usage of the language, which means that they are
not in harmony with regard to many other things besides terms ; and
points out the desirability of giving native scholarship time to ripen. 0£
course he may be mistaken, but unless this Conference can show that he
is, I think our Society will not join in adding yet another version to the
number of those already existing.

Personally, I believe a union version is not only not feasible at
present, but also not desirable. One of the chief glories of union versiou
the past decade has been the deeper interest taken in Scripture undesirable,
tranislation. Faithful men have been doing much valuable work in this


^^ DISCUSSION.. ':; [Second day,

department, and the cliarch of China is all tho richer for it; and we
trnsc the work of improving will go on till perfection is reached. Had,
however, Morrison, Grutzlaff, the delegates, or any other been able to
stereotype their works as union, or authorised versions, the result would
have been to block further effort in this direction ; and why should we do
this for those who follow us ?

If a union version could be made, the plan suggested by the able
writer of the paper is no doubt the simplest and best. He bids us take
some present version as a basis, and import into it all the good points of
all the others. But what version shall wo take for our basis? The
delegates ? Half of ns have never recognised it. The Bridgman and
Culbertson ? The other half of us have never recognised it. Any of the
newer ones ? Many of us have not made up our minds about them. If,
then, wo cannot agree as to tho foundation, I think it is no use talking
about the superstructure. As to the plan itself, allow me to tell a little
story. Oneo upon a time a Christian minister iu his wanderings lighted
upon a village where there was no place of worship. He was much
distressed to find a community living in heathen darkness, so be collected
funds and built a chapel. Afterwards a brother of a different denomina-
tion came along, and feeling sorry that the people should bo deprived of
the benefit of his way of presenting the truth, he also collected funds and
built another. But other brethren came, and reasoning in the same way
built more churches and chapels till all denominations were represented
in the village, now grown a goodly town. At last came a Plymouth
brother, and being much scandalised and grieved at the divisions of tho
Christians iu the place, he started still another, a Union meeting place,
•with the object of gathering into it the good people out of all the
churches, and, Mr. President, the union attempt was the poorest success
of all !

ITow, no one can object to the improving of old versions, nor even to
the preparation of new ones, if needed ; only don't let the latter be
advocated in the delusive name of union. Brethren, it will be worth our
while to watch well that word union throughout this Conference, a-nd
whenever we find that uniformity is being demanded in tho name of
union, oppose it. It is an idea in which there is much essential falsehood.
True union we have already, let us prize and cultivate it, but to force
on uniform Scriptures, uniform terms, uniform methods and uniform all
things else, before their time, tends not to draw ns together, but to
driv.e us asunder.

Eev. W. Wright, D.D. (Editorial Secretary of the B. and "P. B. S.):—
Mr. Chairman and dear friends, I am here as the representative of the
British and Foreign Bible Society, chiefly to hear and learn your wants,
and report to my Committee. It is nob my duty to try in tho least to
influence your decisions, or to place arguments of any kind before you,
but Mr. Archibald's address obliges me to speak when I should have
preferred to bo silent. .

Mr. Archibald has tried to impress upon you the impracticability of
producing united versions of the Scriptures which you seem so much to
desire, and he lays the blame on Mr. Slowan and the National Bible yocie-
tj of Scotland. I am iu a position to tell you that tho blame in this

May 8th,] eev. w. WEiaaT, d.d. 61

matter does not rest with either Mr. Slowan or the Society which he repre-
Benls. My committee aro exceedingly desirous that such versions should
be undertaken, and that the version-strife of forty years be brought to a
close. In 1887, oa behalf of my Committee, I entered into correspond-
ence with the N'ational Bible Society with a view to the production of a
version of the Scriptures which should unite tho highest intelligence and
the best scholarship of tho entire missionary body in China, and in which
the Bible Societies should all share. During the discussion of the ques-
tion I had tho honor of appearing before tho Committee of tho National
Bible Society of Scotland, and I found the gentlemen on that Committee
as anxious to produce a version which would bo satisfactory to tho
greatest number of missionaries in China as were tho members of my own
Committee. On this matter there rests not tho shadow of a doubt. It
v^iis tlieir.wish to givo to China not * a one-man version,' but the very
best version that the united scholarship of tho various missions could

I do not believe in the impracticability of this undertaking. The
difficulty is not at home, but here. T think with Bishop
Butdon, that the preparation of such "a version for the Uuiou version
whole of China would bo one of the best results that could
arise from this Conference."

'Nov do I believe in the impossibility in China, I am told that a
committee of China missionaries coald not agreo to work on
such a version. I do not believe that the gentlemen whom I ^'^'"'^ version
have met in China aro wanting in tho Christian courtesy and
grace of forbearance necessary to snecessfnl co-operation in this great
■work, especially as it is for the good of the Chinese people, whose salvalioa
they seek.

I speak not to influence your decision, but to_ remove misapprehen-
sion. At the same time I am conscious of the momentous
importance of tho decision at which you are about to arrive, importance
The best of all books should be given to the peoploiu tho of ti"*^i6io°-
very best form. The highest intelligeuco and tho maturest learning
should bo devoted to this work. This you will not grudge as it is a
question of enabling the Chinese people to hear God speaking to them
in the simplicity of their own mother tongue. When it is a question
of the advancement of the Redeemer's Kingdom I am sure yoa will not
permit any petty or personal question to stand between yout and theso
people whom you love. I trust that the decision of this Conference will
Dot only express the wants of the people of China, but be ail unequivocal
call to the Bible Societies.





Eev. John C. Gibson (E. P. M., Swatow.)

J. — Revieio of the various Colloquial Versions.

The subject allotted to me ia so wide that I must strictly select my
topics and set limits to the diBcussion of them. It is also one on which
there is still some difference of view among us, and as I earnestly desire
to give no offence to any who may differ from me, so I will beg of all to
hear without prejudice, remembering how solemn is our responsibility in
choosing the methods to be adopted for putting the Word of Life within
the reach of all those to whom Che Lord has sent us.

Before entering into details I will state one view — which must

be held firmly in discussing all questions of versions of the

oifa^tTans-^^ Bible — that the nature of any version will be largely deter-

lation, mined by the class of readers for whom it is intended. A

translation may be for either of two purposes : —

Either (1) To give a substantially faithful presentation of the
thoughts of Scripture to non-Christian readers, either with a direct
view to their enlightenment and convei*aion, or for general apologetic

Or (2) To supply Christian readers with as faithful a text as can
possibly be given, to form the basis for a minute and loving study
of the niceties of expression, and the minutioe of distinctively Christian

It appears to me that the distinction between these two

objects has not been sufficiently adverted to. Speak-

•^D^f™"*^^' ^"^ broadly, one might say that the former object was

version. the one which the earlier translators had itn view. There

was then no Christian church in China, and the thought

llwaya present to a translator's mind was, necessarily and rightly,


Hay 8tli.] rev. john c. gibsojt. 63

Bow to make the great facta of Christianity and the broad outlines of
Christian thought most- accessible to a non-Christian reader. To disarm
prejudice and bespeak a favorable hearing, it was necessary further to
cultivate refinement of style, and the peculiarities of Christian teaching
were sometimes sacrificed to the requirements of elegant style or of famil-
iar idiom. It is to its happy meeting of these requirements that the
" Delegates' " version owes its wide popularity among us. Its style, from
the Chinese point of view, is faultless ; its narrative portions are clear and
pleasant to read ; the Psalms and the prophecies are appropriately render-
ed, if not accurately translated, in the measured and elegant rhythm which
lends itself naturally to the expression of poetical thought ; while the
profounder discussions of the Epistles are rendered with a general faith-
fulness which yet retains a Chinese cast of expression, and avoids
embarrassing an uninstructed reader with the subtler profundities of
Christian theology and ethics.

These are high merits, and have rendered this version a valuable
instrument for the evangelization of China. In it we have a ita meritB.

Online LibraryGeneral Conference of the Protestant MissionariesRecords of the General Conference of the Protestant Missionaries of China (Volume 1890) → online text (page 14 of 103)