Article from the Forward of The Chinese King James Bible
by Mark Aho
You hold in your hands the first true Protestant Bible ever printed in Chinese. Though this Bible first arose in Europe in the 16th Century during the time of Martin Luther, it is just now coming to China.
The history of the Protestant Bible distinguishes it from all other Bible versions available today, as the most accurate, the most loved, and the most spiritually vindicated Bible of all time. This is the Bible version used by Martin Luther, by William Tyndale, David Livingston, John Bunyan, and Jonathan Edwards. This is the Bible from which Charles Wesley preached his sermons, and so did John Knox, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, Charles Finney, Dwight Moody, Hudson Taylor, William “Billy” Sunday, William “Billy” Graham, and William “Billy” Branham. This is the Bible through which revival fires have been lit in nations all around the world for hundreds of years, saving souls through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the Bible trusted by the Reformers to counter the false doctrines of the Catholic Church, and every other wind of false doctrine that has arisen through the centuries. In the history of the world, no Bible version has been more mightily used by God to spread the gospel, edify hearts, and save souls. And for almost 400 years, this was the only Bible version available to the Protestant church.
Underneath its translation into various languages lies a Greek text known as the Textus Receptus. The history of the Textus Receptus itself is remarkable. Church history reveals that God watches over His Word, and the progress of Bible versions parallels the anointing of God upon different ages. In the 1382, John Wycliff translated the Bible into English from the Latin Vulgate. But Latin was not the original language of the New Testament, Greek was, and it was necessary to go deeply into this language to create a truly accurate Bible. The Textus Receptus, written in Greek, arose in the season when God was anointing Reformers to restore the true Gospel to the church, lifting it out of the gross errors of the Catholic church through the Dark Ages, from 312-1520 AD. One of the earliest and best known of these Reformers was Martin Luther, who challenged the Catholic church with a list of 95 Theses, nailed to the door of the Wittenberg Chapel in Germany, on Oct. 31st, 1517 AD. Up until that time the Catholic church was able to succeed in spreading false doctrine because the common people did not have access to the Bible. Printing was a long and arduous process done by hand, and those Bibles which did exist were kept in churches and printed in Latin, which was a dying language. With no Bible by which to check what the Catholic Church was teaching, the masses were deceived.
But when God by His grace inspired Martin Luther to challenge these false doctrines, another scholar named Desiderius Erasmus was already working to create a single accurate Greek Bible, from the best ancient Greek manuscripts available. Erasmus compared these to the Latin Vulgate, which had been the standard bible of the church for over 1000 years. Erasmus was correct to consult the Vulgate, because it had been translated much earlier, in the 4th century by St. Jerome, who had access to much older manuscripts. Still, Erasmus was not afraid to deviate from the Vulgate, when the preponderance of manuscript evidence argued against it. Erasmus was aiming for “majority” readings, those found in the greatest number of existing manuscripts. Combining the best of these sources, the Textus Receptus was created. This would be the first Greek Bible to become widely distributed, and it arrived at precisely the right moment in church history.
Erasmus spent his life on this project, examining the best Greek texts in existence, filtering out readings that were deviant and untypical, and collating them into one Greek version. Its completed name, “Textus Receptus” means: “received text,” or “that which is agreed upon.” He continued improving this version for years to come, updating it no less than four times, as more Greek manuscripts became available for consultation, and feedback from readership pointed out slight errors and improvements. This Greek Bible was printed using the newly developed moveable-type printing machine, which allowed many copies to be printed quickly. It was this Bible that fell into the hands of Martin Luther, and the many Reformers who surrounded and followed him. These learned men, many of whom were also adept in Greek as well as Latin, were well qualified to check Erasmus work against the original sources, and confirm it to be an accurate record of what the original Apostles had handed down. The “Textus Receptus” was in fact, “agreed upon,” by the Reformers. They chose this version for their translations, and they took this Bible to the world.
In the years that followed, Reformation scholars translated the Bible into the languages of the world, using the Textus Receptus as their starting point. Translations were made into French in 1534, Dutch in 1558, Swedish in 1541, Spanish in 1569, Danish in 1550, Czech in 1602, Italian in 1607, Welsh in 1563, and English numerous times. No longer would the Bible be confined to Latin, or locked up in churches. Every man could have a copy of the Bible in his own language, and could trust that he was holding an accurate copy of God’s Word, translated from the very languages in which the Prophets and Apostles had written it.
For centuries to follow, Bibles based on the Textus Receptus became the standard in many lands; there was no other version. The most famous English Version, and by many accounts the most successful Bible of all time, was named the King James Version. The King James Version was translated into English from the Textus Receptus under a commission funded by King James of England in 1611, by a team of 47 scholars. Included on this team were the best linguists and scholars available, and it is sometimes claimed that the famous playwright and poet William Shakespear was consulted. These men were able to translate the bible into English not only with great accuracy, but with great poetry and power, so that the Message of God to men would be as gripping in English as it had been in Greek and Hebrew. History proves that the translators of the King James Version had hit their intended target, for the spiritual results were overwhelming. Every major revival ever experienced by the English speaking world from that time on had the King James Version at its center. God was clearly vindicating and validating the King James Version on the most important proving ground of all: the souls of men.
With so much spiritual success surrounding the King James Version for so long a time, it is amazing that it could ever come into question. But in the late 1800’s after the Textus Receptus had proven its worth for almost 400 years, two English scholars began to promote a different idea about Bible translating, and created a different translation. These two men, named B.F. Wescott and H.J.A. Hort, became intrigued with some newly discovered Greek manuscripts. One, named the Sinaiticus, was found in a trash can in St. Catherines Monestary in 1844 where it had lain undiscovered for centuries. Another, called the Vaticanus, was rediscovered in the Vatican Library in 1845. What intrigued Wescott and Hort was that many readings in these two texts were different from the Textus Receptus. Since these manuscripts had not been in circulation, they were in fair condition. Wescott and Hort began to wonder if Erasmus and the Reformers had considered the differences found in these manuscripts when the Textus Receptus was created. It should be understood that texts similar to Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were in existence at the time of the Textus Receptus, and the Reformers, anointed to task of the correction of error, had rejected them.
But Wescott and Hort’s wondering led to their actually producing a new English translation, which relied heavily on the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. This version, called the Revised Version, was different from the King James Version in thousands of places, changing verse readings, and at times actually omitting whole verses, or parts of Bible verses. Wescott and Hort thought that since the manuscripts they were using were the oldest known, older than the Textus Receptus, they must be more accurate. What they apparently failed to consider was that the Sinaiticus might have been thrown into a trash can for a good reason. Important manuscripts were never treated this way, even then. Sinaiticus is incomplete, and shows signs of having been edited and corrected by up to ten different scribes. Is it not just as possible that the Sinaiticus had already been rejected centuries before as an unreliable text and discarded? As for the Vaticanus, even the knowledge of its existence is due to the discovery of letters from Erasmus to the prefects of the Vatican library that mention Vaticanus, and ask specific questions about it. In other words, Erasmus was aware of Vaticanus at the time of his collating the Textus Receptus, considered it, and rejected its readings. Erasmus was aiming for the center, the majority, the readings found in over 5000 existing manuscripts copied through many independent streams, and was not deterred by variant readings in a couple of old and incomplete manuscripts. Yet, centuries later, Wescott and Hort accepted them.
It should be noted at this point that Wescott and Hort were not reformers; they were not anointed to the task of discerning spiritual truth, as were Martin Luther and those around him. Wescott was a Bishop in the Church of England, which was never a part Luther’s Reformation, and Hort was a professor at Cambridge University. They did not preach spiritual sermons, as did the Apostles and Revivalists, but rather they gave theological lectures to students and professors. It would be difficult to find one saved soul credited to either man’s ministry. Wescott and Hort were neither Reformers nor Ministers, but scholars, probing ancient texts from their offices at Cambridge University, from a scientific rather than a spiritual perspective—and that long after the revival fires of the Protestant Reformation had burned down.
There is a lesson here on the difference between Spiritual Discernment and Natural Scholarship. 1 Cor. 2:14, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Even an unsaved man can be a “Bible Scholar,” but it requires the Regenerating work of the Holy Spirit to have Spiritual Discernment. The Reformers clearly were using Spiritual Discernment, while Wescott and Hort, only applied Natural Scholarship. It is instructive that Wescott and Hort, as well as those who criticize the King James Version today, are ignoring the most important factor in the equation: the testimony of God through history. With thousands of manuscripts available containing many slight differences, it is impossible by scholarship alone to determine the exact words written by the apostles and prophets. But God is not silent on the subject. The bible is a life-carrying book, like a seed. If a seed is fertile, it will grow when planted. So is the true Word of God. If God vindicates a Bible version by making its contents come alive, producing salvation and holiness and the fruits of the Gospel, this is more proof that it is the true Word of God than scholarship could ever provide—but it is only proof to the believer. The believer has faith that God has supernaturally preserved His word through the ages, for the salvation of souls. The unbeliever treats the Bible like any other ancient document.
If the King James Version has been vindicated by God in the fruits that followed it, the Revised Version has had the opposite legacy. In the little more than a century since its publication, not one true Spiritual Revival has ever been kindled around the Revised Version. Rather, scholars have poured over it, arguing over the meanings of words and the superiority of various readings. The Revised Version has been the intellectual plaything of colleges and seminaries, rather than the soul gripping Bible of Salvation and Regeneration. Worse, it has led to confusion in the English speaking world. For centuries, the English speaking church had one Bible underlying their various translations, the Textus Receptus, which everyone agreed upon. But the Wescott and Hort theory led to translators picking and choosing from different manuscripts and readings to make new Bible translations. This led to the production of dozens if not hundreds of Bible versions, each with its own distinct readings. With no clear standard for the Word of God, the English speaking church was thrown into confusion, and weakened.
In addition, Bible publishing became a multi-billion dollar business. In the West, a “patent” can be issued for an original invention. A Patent is a legal injunction that assures that all the profits from an invention are paid to its creator. New Bible versions are also considered patentable inventions, if they are unique enough. A patent on a piece of literature is called a “copywrite.” So if a publisher wants to copywrite a Bible Version, he must create one that is “substantially different” from any version in existence. This means that publishers who commission Bible translations nowadays are doing the opposite of what the Reformers did. They are not trying to make their version exactly the same as was handed down from the Apostles, they are trying to make a version that is different enough from the versions around it to be copywrited and sold at a profit. To find these differences, they invent new phraseology, and use variations in the readings, using texts promoted by Wescott and Hort. This is the floodgate that was broken open by the Wescott and Hort theory.
However, the danger of the Wescott and Hort bible was not apparent at its very beginning. There was a season, shortly following its first publication, when it was wondered whether Wescott and Hort had actually improved upon the King James Version. It was at this time, in 1922, that the Chinese Union Bible was created, translated into Chinese from English. The Union Bible was created by English Protestants who at that time were accepting the Wescott and Hort theory, and they translated the Bible into Chinese from the Revised Version, rather than from the King James Version. The Union Bible is not based on the Textus Receptus, which was approved by the Reformers. That is why it is not a Protestant Bible, and also why, until now, China has never had a true Protestant Bible. This also explains the many differences between the Union Bible and the Protestant Bible you hold in your hands.
In this Bible you will find many places where the reading has been corrected to agree with the King James Version, and in some places, whole verses have been added, which the Union Bible did not include. In total, about 400 major corrections have been made to the New Testament, and 1000 to the Old Testament. In addition, about 3000 meaning changes have been made, and about 30,000 other modifications. By these changes, this Chinese Bible has been brought into agreement with the King James Version. An index will be made available on a new Chinese Bible website for everyone to view, listing every change made to the Union Bible. Thus we can confidently declare that this true Protestant Bible, for the first time available in Chinese, is the most accurate Bible China has ever had.
The work of creating this Protestant Bible has not been performed by mere scholars, nor by English missionaries, but by Chinese born Ministers of the Gospel, true believers, who are adept in both English and Chinese. These are devout men, whose testimony goes before them, and whose works follow them, the fruit of the Gospel crowning their lives. They have corrected this bible with Spiritual Discernment, rather than with Natural Scholarship. The leaders of the team that created this Bible have over 14 combined years of experience translating English sermons into Chinese, and have lived in America for 14 years. They are uniquely qualified to do this work, and better candidates, in both ministry and linguistic experience could scarcely be found in all of China. The work has been prayerfully done, and no person has reaped any financial reward for the effort. It has been a labor of love, a gift to the Chinese speaking people of the world, out of a sincere burden that the true Protestant Bible, which has been available in the West for 500 years, ought to be available to the true believer in China also. You may have confidence in this version, confidence that it has passed the strictest of tests—spiritual tests–and is part of a legacy of Bible truth that has swept millions of souls into the Kingdom of God over the past five centuries. It is our sincere hope and prayer that through this carefully created Bible, you will be blessed, edified, and illuminated in the glorious light of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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