In this seminar, I will explore why the National Bible Society of Scotland (NBSS), one of the major Bible publishers and distributors in late Qing and Republican China, published its annotated edition of Proverbs in the Mandarin Union Version in the early 1930s, more than three decades after the NBSS became the first Bible society to publish annotated Chinese Gospels and Acts in the 1890s. I will argue that one of the main reasons was that the NBSS had difficulty securing reputable scholarly Protestant missionaries’ services to prepare the necessary annotations. Moreover, I will suggest that the familiarity of the Chinese people with short and pithy sayings was a condition favourable for the reception of Proverbs in China. This, together with the status of the Mandarin Union Version as the standard biblical text for Chinese Protestants, helps explain why the NBSS eventually published an annotated edition of Proverbs in that biblical version. Selected examples of annotations in the NBSS’s annotated edition of Proverbs will be illustrated to show how they could help bridge the gaps between Proverbs and its Chinese readers, so as to shed light on why such an edition of Proverbs was well-received as an evangelistic tool.
About the Speaker:
Dr. George Kam Wah Mak is Associate Head and Associate Professor of the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Hong Kong Baptist University. A historian of Chinese Bible translation, he authored Protestant Bible Translation and Mandarin as the National Language of China (2017) and The British and Foreign Bible Society and the Translation of the Mandarin Chinese Union Version (in Chinese, 2010). He also guest edited a special issue entitled “The Mandarin Union Version, a Classic Chinese Biblical Translation”, published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (2020). He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in the United Kingdom and the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, as well as Associate Editor of Ching Feng: A Journal on Christianity and Chinese Religion and Culture. He was a visiting faculty member of the Nida School of Translation Studies (2016) and a visiting fellow of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge (2021).
Background Reading (Publication):
Mak, George Kam Wah. (2020). “The Old Testament Also Needs Annotations: The National Bible Society of Scotland’s Annotated Edition of the Book of Proverbs in the Mandarin Union Version“, Journal of the Royal Society, Volume 30 (1) January 2020: 73 – 91.