Chinese Government Reinterpreting the Bible for the Masses

In this April 9, 2017, file photo, a Chinese Catholic deacon holds a bible at the Palm Sunday Mass during the Easter Holy Week at an 'underground' or 'unofficial' church near Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province in China. China, an officially atheist country, places a number of restrictions on Christians, allowing legal practice of the faith only at state-approved churches. The policy has driven an increasing number of Christians and Christian converts 'underground' to secret congregations in private homes and other venues. While the size of the religious community is difficult to measure, studies estimate more than 80 million Christians inside China.

By Published on April 5, 2018

The Chinese government removed Bibles from online stores after announcing it is working on re-interpreting and translating the Bible so it conforms to “Chinese-style Christianity.”

The Chinese government announced the impending “Chinese-style” reinterpretation of the Christian scriptures via an official document, “Principle for Promoting the Chinese Christianity in China for the Next Five Years (2018-2022),” released in Nanjing on March 28, according to ABC. Soon thereafter, online shoppers in China noticed Bibles were no longer available for online purchase in the country — neither digital nor print.

Bibles disappeared from the largest Chinese online marketplaces, including Taobao, Jingdong, DangDang and Chinese Amazon. Certain books on Christianity were also blocked from purchase on Taobao.

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The purge of Bibles from online markets coincided with the Chinese government’s Tuesday release of a white paper titled, “China’s Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief.” The paper lists the ways religious liberties are allegedly protected in China. The government released the paper as part of an effort to prove China’s effort to establish good relations with the Vatican.

Religions in China “should adhere to the direction of localizing the religion, practice the core values of socialism, develop and expand the fine Chinese tradition and actively explore the religious thought which accords with China’s national circumstances,” the paper states.

Some speculate part of the reason for the ban of online Bible sales is China has not officially approved the Bible for circulation or given it an issuance number. Technically, the Bible is an illegal publication in China.

William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, called for the country to reverse its online Bible sale ban and said the move is likely a response to governmental fears of the spread of Christianity — a belief system that professes a higher power than the state and therefore clashes with “Chinese culture.”

“Most likely this ban on the Bible is an attempt to limit the spread of what the Government fears is an alternative belief system,” Nee told ABC.

The ban on online sales of the Bible and the effort to reinterpret it falls in line with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “sinicization of religion” policy — “to conform to Chinese culture.” In this case, it means to make religion conform to the ruling Communist party’s policies and submit to Beijing.

Religions that are “Chinese in orientation” may operate in China and the government “must provide active guidance to religions so that they can adapt themselves to socialist society,” Xi declared, according to ABC.

The government’s efforts to reign Christianity in may actually be backfiring, according to Nee, despite making life extraordinarily difficult for believers in certain areas of the country.

“Despite all the pressure put on Christians, and indeed, perhaps because of it, China is seeing a surge of religious belief,” Nee said. “The situation for freedom of religion varies greatly form location to location, with some people going to church and holding Bible studies and other activities with little interference, while in other areas the Government is much more hard line.”


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  • My first reaction was “just like the Communist Chinese” to re-translate and reinterpret the Bible to conform to “Chinese-style Christianity.” Then I realized that they are just doing the same thing that some in this country have done or are working on: a Bible that conforms to “feminist-style Christianity” or “LGBT-style Christianity,” or perhaps “intersectional-style Christianity.” I’m not sure they’ve bothered with whole “translations” yet, but they sure have done a lot of “reinterpreting.”

    • ericdijon

      It’s been going on for 500 years. When Luther delivered the bible in text suitable for the “patois,” it started an avalanche of copycat bible translators. The most humorous translation I can recall is where in the far north where seals are more prevalent that even ever using the word lamb in a sentence, it was the seal of God who takes away the sins of the world…

  • lighthouseseeker

    Rejoicing that approximately 80 million Chinese in China are Believers in Jesus Christ. Though the government is highly repressive to true Christian faith in Him, they cannot repress the Spirit and soul of these people. Pray that they remain faithful in continuing to spread the gospel even under suffering and tribulation.

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