Published February 26, 2009
NASHVILLE — An answered prayer for LifeWay Christian Resources is about to become a dream come true for potentially millions of Chinese Christians: a modern translation of the New Testament in their own language.
LifeWay’s Holman Bible Publishers has printed 20,000 Chinese Standard Bible New Testaments, and copies are now available for sale in the United States, Canada, and Brazil. It’s being touted as the first direct Chinese translation by scholars from the original Greek.
“Our goal is that Chinese Christians would read this translation and love it,” said Phill Burgess, executive director of LifeWay’s Holman Bible Outreach International. “The translation that Chinese Christians have been using up to now, the Chinese Union Version, was translated into Chinese from an English copy in the 1920s. The language in that translation is archaic. This one is easier to understand since it relates to the modern Chinese language.”
In 2004, the Asia Bible Society approached LifeWay seeking a New Testament translated from the original Greek. LifeWay grabbed the opportunity to make this happen.
“This request was an answer to prayer,” Burgess said. “Having the opportunity to get the New Testament into the hands of Chinese-speaking people is a precious honor for us.”
Publishing the Bibles in China would be a difficult, time-consuming, and expensive process, according to Tim Jordan, an executive editor with LifeWay's B&H Publishing Group, which houses Holman Bible Publishers.
“In the future, LifeWay hopes to get legal approval from the Chinese government to publish Bibles in China,” Jordan said. “Until then our primary focus will stay in the U.S., Canada, and Brazil.
“So, while the Bibles aren’t published in China, they are printed in Shenzhen, China, and transported back to LifeWay’s distribution center in Lebanon, Tenn.”
Having a current readable Bible in Chinese is important, if based on nothing but the numbers. Worldwide, there are 1.17 billion native speakers of Chinese, compared with 350 million English speakers.*
While spoken Chinese varies from region to region, the written language is common to most readers.
“This new translation is an investment,” Jordan said. “We’ll watch and see what the demand for the new Bible is. As long as we feel like God is telling us we are going to keep going.”
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