The Chinese Translations of the Gospel of John: From the Orthodox Theological Perspective

約翰福音漢語譯本:從東正教神學角度的研究

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date29 Aug 2017

Abstract

In this research the author attempts to investigate the influence of the Orthodox theological tradition on the Chinese translation of the Gospel of John done by Russian Orthodox missionaries – St. Gury Karpov (1814 – 1882) and metropolitan Innokenty Figurovsky (1863 - 1931). In order to highlight the Orthodox theological influence, the author compares these translations to the Chinese Union Version (CUV, 和合本) (1919) and the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Sinense (SBFS, 思高本) (1968).
There are practically no works dealing with a comparative analysis of Chinese Gospel translations, including those completed by the Orthodox Church or Orthodox missionaries. This study addresses that lacuna, and in so doing intends to make a contribution to the existing body of work.
This research attempts to answer the following questions: (1) How have Orthodox theological traditions influenced the Chinese Bible translations completed by St. Gury of Tauria (1814-1882) and Metropolitan Innokenty (Figurovsky) of Pekin (1863-1931)? (2) What are the major differences and commonalities within the Chinese translations of the Bible representing three Confessions (Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant) in light of their theological commitments and other relevant religious concerns?
This thesis is divided into five chapters. The First chapter describes the background of the Orthodox Bible translators and their translation projects. The Second and Third chapters provide analyses of passages dealing with theology. These chapters aim to answer the question of how Orthodox theological traditions have influenced the Chinese Bible translations completed by St. Gury of Tauria and Metropolitan Innokenty (Figurovsky) of Pekin. Chapter Four presents the major differences and commonalities within the Chinese translations of the Bible representing three Confessions (Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant) in light of their theological commitments and other relevant religious concerns. Chapter Five of this thesis sums up all of the main discoveries and presents a conclusion.The author has analyzed 293 verses of the Chinese renderings of the Gospel of John. Through careful analyses, it is revealed that very few places show significant theological difference; for example, translation of the Greek term θαρσέω/θαρρέω found in John 16:33 reveals the undeniable influence of the Orthodox theological tradition. Nonetheless, such a difference between Protestant/Catholic and Orthodox translations exists not only due to the difference in theological interpretation, but also to translation rules applied by these groups of translators (using a specific Chinese term for translation of a specific Greek term) and their cultural background. The analyses of the theological concepts reveal that most of the theological differences are not crucial, despite the fact that the terms applied by the translators are not at all the same. Most of the analyzed verses have relatively unimportant differences in meaning or no difference at all. This indicates that the work of translating the Bible into Chinese did not result in texts that varied dramatically. This can be explained by the fact that translators treat the Holy Scripture as the word of God, and want to be as faithful and precise as possible by choosing vocabulary that does not deviate significantly from the original meaning. In the Orthodox translations of the Gospel of John, translators followed readings found in the Elizabeth/Russian Synodal Bible, this indicates that Figurovsky and Karpov most likely have used the Greek Standard text which underlies the Elizabeth/Russian Synodal Bible.
Differences between the four Chinese translations of the Gospel of John can be divided into eight categories: differences in the structure of sentences; differences in emphasis; addition or omission of particular words; difference in vocabulary; differences in expression; proper names; similarity found in the CUV and the SBFS that contrasts with the Orthodox renderings; and differences in readings.