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Translating Christianity into Chinese


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Early Christianity

Translating Christianity   In the modern period, the European interest in China led to first Catholic and then Protestant missions to China to convert Chinese to Christianity. While the fundamental view of Christianity among Christians is that it is a universal religion, nevertheless it changes character when it is introduced into other cultures. The first place this transformation takes place is at the level of language. In order to bring Christianity into China, the Roman missionaries had to translate the New Testament into Chinese. This meant that they had to find Chinese equivalents of incredibly complex ideas, such as logos and agapé. These early Jesuits approached this difficulty by studying Chinese philosophy and literature in incredible depth; they chose to translate Christian philosophical concepts by utilizing Chinese philosophical concepts.
   How would you translate these Christian concepts? You've learned enough about Chinese thought and you've learned several Chinese terms. Which Chinese terms would you use to translate the following Christan concepts:
  • Logos/Verbum
  • Agapé/caritas
  • Torah/Nomos
  • Spirit and the Letter
   On this assignment, I'd like you to choose one of the four concepts above and find a Chinese equivalent for it based on your readings and classes in Confucianism, Taoism, and other forms of Chinese thought. Going to the glossary on Chinese terms will help you alot. After you've made your choice, I want you to make a good case for your choice.
   But that's only the first half. After you've decided on the proper Chinese term to translate one of these concepts, I want you to tell me what the differences are between the Christian term and the Chinese term. Tell me how translating the Christian concept into the Chinese concept changes Christianity. The ultimate purpose of this exercise is to compare the two world views: Christian and Chinese.


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