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This year marks an important anniversary for Chinese Christians: It is the centennial of the publication of the Chinese Union Version (CUV) Bible, the most commonly used Bible translation in the Chinese world. Walk into nearly any Chinese church on a Sunday morning, and you’ll likely see members reciting verses from the CUV and see black CUV Bibles tucked into the backs of pews.
Chinese Bible translation has been ongoing since the Tang dynasty in the seventh century, when the Nestorians began evangelizing to the Chinese. Joshua Marshman and Johannes Lassar, missionaries in India, published the first completed Protestant Bible translation in Chinese in 1822. A year later, British missionaries Robert Morrison and William Milne published their own translation of the Bible. While early translations of the Bible were written in classical Chinese that only scholars could read, subsequent versions were written for a larger audience: The 1878 Peking Committee Bible was the first Bible written in vernacular Chinese.
In 1890, missionaries of different denominations in China gathered in Shanghai and decided to create a new Bible translation. The version was translated from the English Revised Version and cross-checked with the original Greek and Hebrew. It took 16 years to translate the New Testament and another 13 for the Old Testament. In 1919, two versions of this translation—the Chinese Union Version—were published, one in classical Chinese and one in vernacular Chinese.
Even though the CUV’s language is considered outdated today, and many new Bible translations exist, the CUV remains the most popular translation. Pastors read from it in sermons, and congregations often recite CUV passages aloud, so it’s difficult to switch to another translation.
Grace Chou, a 55-year-old ministry leader in Taiwan, said that when younger people are interested in Christianity, she encourages them to read modern translations of the Bible. But once they start attending church, she’ll refer them to the CUV so they can follow along and understand commonly used Christian phrases.
“The language of the CUV Bible is what I grew up with,” Chou said. “Even though I realize there are areas that could be improved, I still stick with the CUV because it’s most helpful to my meditation and study.”
Man knows not his time
Warren Wiersbe, a pastor and teacher whose many Bible commentaries brought the Word of God to life for late 20th- and early 21st-century Christians, died on May 2. He was 89. As a 16-year-old in Indiana, Wiersbe heard evangelist Billy Graham speak at a Youth for Christ rally and became enthralled with the Bible in the following years.
“I had developed an insatiable appetite for the Word of God, and I wanted to study and understand the Bible more than anything else in all the world,” he wrote in his autobiography Be Myself. He went on to become a pastor, teacher, and author of more than 150 books, including the bestselling “Be” series of commentaries.
Wiersbe also pastored the Moody Church in Chicago from 1971 to 1978, taught theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and served as a Bible teacher for the Back to the Bible radio program. A prolific reader, he had a personal library at his home in Lincoln, Neb., of more than 10,000 books. —Lynde Langdon