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I Understand
Volume 8.1 / From Grace to Guilt Trip: Misunderstandings in Biblical Patronage by Asian Christians


From Grace to Guilt Trip: Misunderstandings in Biblical Patronage by Asian Christians

Jerry Hwang
In the hierarchical structures that characterize Asian societies (and Asian American subcultures by extension), the concept of grace is typically presented as a form of unmerited favor which places the recipient into some kind of debt-relationship with the giver. Ironically, grace can become a guilt trip that leads Christians of Asian and Asian American descent to conceive of God as a cosmic Patron who can never be repaid. On a similar note, Western missiologists have recently advocated the recovery of patronage concepts in the Bible which are supposedly nearer to non-Western cultures, without realizing how their misapplication has often created and reinforced the very kinds of hierarchy in Asian Christian communities that the Bible subverts. This article engages the latest work on gift-giving, patronage, and covenant to reexamine how the concept of grace can be truly good news for Asian and Asian American Christians in a manner that is biblically accurate and culturally relevant.

In a Christianity Today article from 1996, Helen Lee coined the influential term “silent exodus” to describe second-generation Asian immigrants leaving the ethnic churches in America that had nurtured them in the faith.[1] Since the 1990s, numerous studies have explored why these churches struggle to retain the American-born and -raised children of Asian immigrants,[2] with ethnographic research highlighting the cultural tensions between poles, such as Asian-language/English congregations, tradition/modernity, communalism/individualism, and hierarchy/equality, which arise in the life cycle of ethnic churches.[3] These studies reveal a complex picture in which the first and second generations inhabit differing cultural realities, with each bearing some responsibility for the conflicts.

To this point, though, there has been no theological critique of how Asian cultural values, such as the Confucian hierarchy, have been (mis)endowed with a biblical garb by ethnic churches and taught as timeless Christian values. For nearly 30 years, sociologists of religion have observed that the syncretism of Confucian-style patronage with the Christian faith is the de facto reality for both Chinese and Korean churches in America since retaining traditional values, such as hierarchy and patriarchy, is by design rather than by accident.[4] However, the last three decades have yet to see the second generation’s frequent observation—that cultural preferences are conflated with biblical teaching—undergo any sort of theological critique.

The present study aims to rectify this by examining what the Bible says about patronage and clientage in its ancient context while tracing how they are understood by immigrant Asian Christians when they encounter these familiar institutions in the Bible. This task requires understanding how the first generation may be misusing the Bible to reinforce cultural hierarchies instead of relying on the potentially subjective testimony of second-generation Christians (whose disillusionment is nonetheless well-documented).[5] Limitations of scope require focusing only on the Confucian understanding of patronage as found in Chinese Christianity though much the same dynamics appear in non-Chinese or non-Confucian Christian contexts with social hierarchies, such as the Philippines and its characteristic value of utang na loob (“debt of gratitude”).[6] To be specific, conclusive evidence for syncretism in culturally Confucian churches must come from Chinese scholars and preachers in how they handle Scripture passages about patronage, as witnessed in their commentaries on the Bible, theological works, and sermons that are publicly available. Interestingly, we see that the attribution of biblical authority to practices of hierarchy and patriarchy tends to come from male Chinese leaders among the first-generation immigrants, namely, the main group in Chinese churches that benefits from traditional power structures.

Such an analysis demonstrates that generational conflicts in ethnic Asian churches are never merely cultural misunderstandings but also theological misunderstandings of core biblical themes, such as sin, grace, and servanthood. The doctrine of grace is particularly vulnerable to syncretism since, culturally, Asian Christians often understand it as a form of unmerited favor, which places the recipient into a debt relationship with the giver, whether God as a divine Patron or immigrant church leaders as human patrons. This so-called “debtor’s ethic”[7] resonates with Asian social hierarchies in a manner that can even result in grace becoming its opposite—a guilt trip for clients who owe honor to their patrons, which can never be repaid.[8] In this regard, Western missiologists have recently advocated the recovery of patronage concepts in the Bible (e.g., reciprocity, honor/shame), which are supposedly nearer to non-Western cultures,[9] without always realizing how their misapplication in Asian Christian communities has reinforced the kinds of hierarchy, oppression, corruption, and oversensitivity to a status that the Bible itself subverts. Now that appeals to the Bible in the cultural contextualization of “Asian” values come from both Asian Christians and Western missiologists, there is an urgent need to re-examine the use of biblical traditionalism in the service of cultural traditionalism while paying inadequate attention to the gaps between them.

1. Patron-Client Relations in the Biblical, Ancient Near Eastern, and Greco-Roman Worlds

What, then, does the Bible say about patronage, hierarchy, and reciprocity? In Western missiology, to name a representative discipline, it is common nowadays to assert that the Bible fits well in its ancient cultural environment of patronage and clientage.[10] The corollary is that, culturally, Western missionaries can proceed to draw analogies with modern non-Western contexts from the Bible’s adoption of patron-client relations in its context. The laudable goal of such analogies is for Western individualists to relate better to the non-Western collectivists whom they are trying to reach with the gospel. However, these blanket statements in Western missiology conceal major disagreements over whether the patron-client dynamics that social scientists have observed in modern Mediterranean societies are even applicable to ancient Mediterranean societies (such as OT Israel in the ancient Near East and NT Israel in the Greco-Roman world), not to mention modern societies in Latin America or East Asia, which lie far outside the rim of the Mediterranean.

Social scientists once advocated the model of “Mediterraneanism,” which viewed the ancient and modern Mediterranean as a unified cultural bloc of reciprocity, gift giving, and social hierarchy based on shared values of honor and shame. However, in the past 30 years, the irony is that Mediterranean anthropologists abandoned their overgeneralization about “honor-shame societies,” just as biblical scholars, such as Bruce Malina and his so-called “Context Group,” were adopting them. Unfortunately, this history of essentializing other cultures in the 1980s has repeated itself across disciplines, for just as biblical scholarship in the new millennium has questioned the pan-Mediterranean models of the Context Group,[11] Western missiology has been repeating doubly outdated descriptions of “honor-shame cultures” as uniformly collectivist, hierarchical, honor sensitive, and patronage oriented.[12]

In fact, Western missiology goes even further than both anthropology and biblical scholarship by applying the categories of “Mediterraneanism” to the entire Majority World, as when claiming biblical warrant for ministry methods in “honor-shame” or “collectivist” cultures.[13] These methodological problems of essentialization and reification appear frequently enough to require much closer attention to deeper cultural differences across time and geography, despite the presence of superficial similarities.[14] For this reason and also since East Asian cultures figure prominently in Western missiology, we examine patron-client relations in Confucian cultures and their appropriation by Chinese Christians. Then, we return to the Bible’s witness and contextualization concerning patronage, hierarchy, and reciprocity.

2. Patron-Client Relations in Confucian Cultures

Ministry handbooks to Asians or Asian Americans often attribute a “Confucian” essence to East Asian cultures as if this designation has a stable or uniform meaning.[15] In reality, the sayings of Confucius and the later writings of “Confucianism” have been contested since the days of the ancient sage himself in the sixth and fifth centuries BC. The complicated development of Confucian traditions can be summarized only in brief here. In short, Confucius’ teachings highlighted the responsibility of the individual to cultivate his/her own character (xiushen, 修身) in “compassion/benevolence” (ren, 仁). This commitment to personal growth and propriety assumed the social equality of all people as well as the potential for anyone to become an “ideal person” (junzi, 君子) who was impervious to peer pressure, personal whims, and shifting morals.[16]

However, the goals of self-cultivation and relational wholeness were subordinated by later keepers of the Confucian tradition (e.g., Mencius) to the firm hierarchy of the “Three Bonds” (sangang, 三綱), which was to govern human relationships: ruler/subject, parent/child, and husband/wife, with the second of this trio taking center stage in Chinese culture. The extension of filial piety to the rest of society made patronage-as-kinship the root metaphor for order, control, and respect toward elders, which today often goes by the label “Confucianism.”[17] Nonetheless, Confucius valued the ideal of ren, which prioritized the individual’s growth in character and relationality, regardless of age and background, more than the later Confucian(ist) goal of maintaining collective harmony through conformity to one’s socially assigned role. In what follows, we outline three kinds of Chinese Christian predilections for Confucianist hierarchy, which claim to draw from the Bible but go beyond it in notable ways. These case studies suggest that maintaining hierarchy is a Confucianist expectation of patronage that Chinese Christians tend to read into the Bible.

3. Patron-Client Dynamics in Chinese Christianity

Our first example of patron-client dynamics in the Chinese Christian context is the unseen role that Bible translation has played in reinforcing cultural hierarchy. In most versions of the Chinese Bible available today, the Chinese character for a divine being (shen, 神) always has an extra space before it when referring to the true God.[18] Chinese Christians typically take this as a theological indicator of reverence and, therefore, reproduce it in their print references to God in books, articles, and sermons. Such is especially the case among Christians from Taiwan, who were reared in a literary culture that required an extra space before the Chinese names and titles of the Republic of China’s founding fathers, Sun Yat-Sen and Chiang Kai-Shek. The evident parallel to the Bible’s references to God has reinforced the common belief among Chinese Christians that the extra space emphasizes God’s transcendence in a language that is otherwise lacking in honorific forms of address (compared with other East Asian languages, such as Japanese, Korean, and Thai).

However, the honorific understanding of the extra space is incorrect. The nineteenth-century controversy among Western missionaries in China over the “Term Question” led to the historical origin of the space. This debate concerned whether to translate “God” (Heb. elohim, Gk. theos) into Chinese using the generic term shen, which is one character and can refer to spiritual beings in general, or the two-character term shangdi (上帝), which has clear echoes of Chinese creation myths. The controversy raged for decades among Western missionaries/translators. In 1919 (and thereafter), the Chinese Union Version (CUV) of the Bible was printed in two editions to accommodate both camps, the shen-edition and the shangdi-edition. Wherever the shangdi-edition used shangdi, the shen-edition added an extra character before shen to facilitate the printing process and maintain pagination across the two CUV Bibles. In the process, a typographic convenience became a theological expectation that archaism of this sort reflects a special linguistic posture toward the hierarchy that the CUV Bible apparently supplies.[19] Subsequent Bible translations in the century since the CUV have continued the convention of the extra space, reflecting the Chinese Christian inclination to view archaism in typography and literary style as inherently reverent toward God.[20]

Another example of reading hierarchy in the Bible can be seen in how Chinese Christian commentators handle the literary genre of call narrative. Compared with the first example, this inadvertent reinforcement of Confucianist cultural values comes on the other end of the power scale. One of the key characteristics of the biblical call narratives is the initial resistance of a novice servant before finally acceding to the divine Caller.[21] How a Chinese Christian commentator interprets the verbalization of the callee’s resistance to God is telling since it can sound like Confucian modesty, as in the Chinese convention of being keqi (客氣), that is, self-deprecation, which invites the other party’s rejoinder to raise them back up.

The case of Gideon illustrates how Chinese biblical commentators may allow cultural assumptions to color their understanding of the callee’s resistance as self-deprecation. In Judges 6, young Gideon’s expression of unworthiness at the call is usually interpreted by Chinese commentaries as a trait of modesty instead of disobedience, as the narrative clearly suggests. In response to Gideon’s fear of hiding grain (or himself) from the Midianites (v. 11),[22] the angel of Yahweh assures him, “O mighty warrior, Yahweh is with you” (v. 12). Gideon persists in unbelief and questions whether Yahweh is truly with his people (vv. 13). To this, Yahweh retorts that he has indeed been with Gideon and has sent for him (v. 14). Despite Gideon continuing to refuse and asking for a sign to prove that God is truly at work (v. 16; cf. v. 12), Chinese commentators interpret Gideon’s continued insistence that he is unable to deliver Israel as self-deprecation toward a superior—precisely as the Confucian understanding of patronage would expect. However,  it is evident that Gideon’s conditional statement, literally “If Yahweh is with us,” has the sarcastic and counterfactual sense, “If Yahweh were really with us.” He has already received a theophany and overwhelming evidence of divine favor yet dares to ask Yahweh for a sign to prove “if now I have [truly] found favor in your sight” (v. 17). The tendency to moralize Gideon’s character and overlook his flaws by Chinese Christians is evident in the proliferation of “Gideon Fellowship” as a common name for youth ministries in the Chinese Christian world.

Related to this, Chinese commentators tend to moralize authority figures in the biblical narrative by reading about a patron’s care for a client when these dynamics are muted at best. To cite one instance, in the book of Ruth, Chinese commentators tend to over-interpret Naomi’s cryptic instructions for Ruth to beautify herself with a bath, scents, and clothing before sending her to surprise Boaz at the threshing floor. The Hebrew terminology of Ruth 3 is notable for its potentially sexual connotations, though nothing untoward is said to transpire between Boaz and Ruth. Nevertheless, the Chinese Christian tendency to flatten the narrative’s ambiguities is evident in how the premier exegetical commentary on Ruth summarizes the whole episode as Naomi’s actions in being an ideal mother-in-law who seeks “some security for you [in remarriage], so that it may be well with you” (Ruth 3:1).[23]

Similarly, in the book of Nehemiah, Chinese commentators downplay Nehemiah’s admission of his entanglement with the hierarchy and instead portray him as a noble patron. Chapter 5 of the book records the post-exilic community in Jerusalem at dangerous odds with itself as the poorer members of the community are enraged about the need to mortgage their fields and sell their children as debt slaves to the richer members (vv. 1–5). The sacrifices demanded by Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the wall had evidently deepened class divides and prevented the community from working as usual. The richer members exacerbated this situation by engaging in usury against the poorer members. After Nehemiah confronts his fellow leaders about their involvement in these sins of oppression (vv. 6–9), he finally admits that he is guilty of the same behavior (v. 10). This three-dimensional portrayal of Nehemiah is part of an overall narrative strategy in Ezra-Nehemiah (a single book in the Hebrew canon) to depict Nehemiah as ultimately inferior as a leader to Ezra since the latter never exploited the people and always acted by example rather than coercion.[24] However, Chinese commentators on Ezra-Nehemiah tend to highlight only the positive traits of Nehemiah as a visionary leader.[25] In doing so, they overlook the darker side of such hierarchy, as found both in Nehemiah 5 and in chapter 13, when Nehemiah becomes violent toward those who have broken their vows to God. Nehemiah speaks better than he knows when the book bearing his name concludes with a rather self-directed prayer, “Remember me, O my God, for good.”

Our third and final case study illustrates how the NT’s depiction of grace as patronage can sometimes become distorted in the hands of Chinese preachers. In 2 Corinthians 8–9, the apostle Paul offers his most extensive discussion of grace outside of Romans 5:12–21.[26] By contrast to Romans 5 and its Christological emphasis, 2 Corinthians 8–9 uses the Greek term charis (“gift, grace”) more in its non-theological sense as the relational exchange of gift, return, and gratitude between patrons and clients. The context of this passage is Paul’s collection of funds from Gentile churches for the sake of Jewish believers in Jerusalem who were undergoing financial hardship. Since 2 Corinthians 8–9 addresses the situation of second-generation believers making sacrifices to assist first-generation believers, it is perhaps unsurprising to find this passage making frequent appearances in immigrant Chinese churches. We see that Chinese-language sermons on 2 Corinthians 8–9 are at risk of turning Paul’s countercultural depiction of grace, with God as the ultimate Patron of all believers across localities, into a reinforcement for the Confucian hierarchy in which the local church’s establishment of leaders remains the primary patron.

Second Corinthians 8–9 takes the center stage in Chinese sermons and Bible studies on financial giving. To cite a representative instance, which is far from being an isolated case, a Chinese sermon from a church in Texas features this passage as the crux of the senior pastor’s exhortation for members to go beyond tithing their incomes.[27] The description of the Macedonian church’s generosity toward the Jerusalem collection (2 Corinthians 8:1–4) diverges in notable ways between Paul’s argumentation and the pastor’s appropriation of it. On the one hand, the apostle highlights “the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches” (8:1) in imparting a generous heart toward the saints in Jerusalem. This aspect of divine initiative in grace reflects the Greco-Roman category of patronage, which John Barclay calls priority, namely, “the timing of the gift, which is perfect in taking place always prior to the initiative of the recipient.”[28] Grace as priority empowers another aspect of grace as efficacy as the Macedonians respond with a double commitment to God himself and Paul’s work in the collection: “They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us” (8:5). In these entwined aspects of grace, it is critical to Paul’s logic that God himself is the patron who has already given the heart to “also excel in this grace of giving” (8:7). The priority of divine grace is why Paul explicitly denies that he is commanding the Corinthians in giving as their present duty (8:8) since he is merely reminding them of how the efficacy of grace had already moved their will to give a year prior (8:10–11). There is no permanent patron-client relationship between the Corinthians and the saints in Jerusalem since those who receive may later become the givers when the financial tables are turned (8:13–15).[29]

On the other hand, the Chinese pastor’s handling of this passage exhibits the common feature of passing over the crucial feature of divine initiative before human response.  The Chinese pastor presents grace in terms that highlight the patronage category that Barclay terms superabundance, which “concerns the size, significance, or permanence of the gift.”[30] The sermon changes Paul’s rationale by taking his vertical description of grace as empowerment and turning it into one’s horizontal obligation to give generously as the Macedonians did. Not only this, the willingness of the Macedonians to make financial sacrifices is illustrated using the example of an elderly church member of the first generation who committed his entire pension to the church’s building fund. It is hard to miss a distinctive Confucian accent on the older generation’s provision for the younger generation, which needs to imitate the sacrifice of their elders and show appropriate gratitude. In sum, the senior pastor explains the elderly member’s example as the theological principle that “giving offerings is [itself] God’s generous grace” (“奉獻是神豐厚的恩典”).

The rest of the sermon continues to describe how the superabundance of God’s grace makes financial giving not only a command from God that must be obeyed but the Christian’s joyful duty, which must go beyond the tithe. Numerous points of the sermon do find some basis in 2 Corinthians 8–9, but it is striking that the senior pastor’s emphasis on giving to the church requires downplaying how Paul’s collection was not for his ministry (as in Philippians) but on behalf of others—the impoverished saints in Jerusalem whom the Corinthians would likely never meet. The Chinese sermon’s thrust is noticeably different from the purpose of social justice, which Paul advocated for giving. However, in turning the direction of giving from outward to inward, the pastor is acting as a patron toward members as the clients, whose giving primarily supports the works of the church for which he is clearly the leader. This hierarchical order is then reinforced by a truncated depiction of grace that the sermon’s hearers would likely understand as a theologically freighted debt and obligation toward God—in short, a Confucian guilt trip in which grace has become its opposite.

Nevertheless, as John Barclay observes in his groundbreaking work on Paul and the gift, the relational dynamics that Paul envisions between the Corinthian Christians and Jewish Christians are quite different from the hierarchy of a leader commanding others to give in God’s name: “Rather than one side being permanently the patron, and the other the ever-grateful client, each is equally the client of a surplus-providing patron (God), who gives in order that grace be circulated between them.”[31] Similar examples of Chinese sermons and teachings on 2 Corinthians 8–9, which overlook the apostle Paul’s reworking of patronage and hierarchy, could be multiplied.

4. Conclusion

The Asian Christian tendency to reinforce patriarchy, patronage, and hierarchy sits awkwardly within Asian history as a whole. To cite Chinese culture as a representative example, the May Fourth movement of 1919 swept across China as university students rose to challenge the Confucian principles of hierarchy and obedience, which had prevented feudal Chinese society from becoming modernized and joining the world community of nations. The history of the ethnic Chinese in the century since the May Fourth movement has diverged in significant ways,  but every Chinese community around the world has imbibed some degree of its advocacy of Western ideals, such as equality, freedom, and democracy. Not only this, but Christian missionaries in Asia and elsewhere played key roles in steering traditional societies such as China toward modernization, resulting in cultural shifts that are both drastic and irreversible.[32]

The rapid change in Asian societies has made the traditionalists resort to various means to preserve traditions and arrest the pace of change. It is fascinating that both Chinese Christian churches and the Chinese Communist Party sometimes exhibit convergence in their desire to rehabilitate Confucian traditions as a means to counter the corrupting influences of Western values, such as individualism and consumerism.[33] Since theists and atheists make such strange bedfellows, it is all the more urgent for Asian Christians with a Confucian orientation to subject their preferred cultural norms to the test of Scripture. Does this penchant to resist change spring from faithfulness or obsolescence? The difference between them is crucial, for as Jaroslav Pelikan has memorably stated, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”[34]

[1] Helen Lee, “Silent Exodus,” Christianity Today, August 12, 1996, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1996/august12/6t9050.html, accessed January 25, 2023.

[2] The statistic of 90% attrition from church for second-generation Asian American Christians is frequently misattributed to Lee’s article. For further discussion of this exaggeration and a range of alternative statistics, see https://djchuang.com/when-asian-american-christian-youth-go-to-college/.

[3] E.g., Peter T. Cha, “Constructing New Intergenerational Ties, Cultures, and Identities among Korean American Christians: A Congregational Case Study,” in This Side of Heaven: Race, Ethnicity, and Christian Faith, ed. Robert J. Priest and Alvaro L. Nieves (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 259–73.

[4] E.g., Antony William Alumkal, Asian American Evangelical Churches: Race, Ethnicity, and Assimilation in the Second Generation, The New Americans (New York: LFB Scholarly Publishing, 2003), 149–72; Sharon Kim, A Faith of Our Own: Second-Generation Spirituality in Korean American Churches (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2010), 22–26.

[5] Ethnographic work on the second generation remains enormously helpful, e.g., Enoch Wong, How Am I Going to Grow up? Congregational Transition among Second-Generation Chinese Canadian Evangelicals and Servant-Leadership (Carlisle: Langham Monographs, 2021).

[6] On which, see Lourdes R. Quisumbing, “Some Filipino (Cebuano) Social Values and Attitudes Viewed in Relation to Development (A Cebuano Looks at Utang-Na-Loob and Hiyâ,” in Changing Identities in Modern Southeast Asia, ed. David J. Banks (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1977), 257–68.

[7] John Piper, The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in Future Grace (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Press, 1995), 31–39.

[8] Daniel D. Lee, “God,” in Intersecting Realities: Race, Identity, and Culture in the Spiritual-Moral Life of Young Asian Americans, ed. Hak Joon Lee (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2018), 20–21.

[9] E.g., Jayson Georges, Ministering in Patronage Cultures: Biblical Models and Missional Implications (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2019); E. Randolph Richards and Richard James, Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes: Patronage, Honor, and Shame in the Biblical World (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020).

[10] See n. 9.

[11] Especially through the work of David DeSilva, an NT scholar at Ashland Theological Seminary. E.g., David Arthur DeSilva, The Hope of Glory: Honor Discourse and New Testament Interpretation (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2009).

[12] The exception that proves the norm is Christopher L. Flanders, “There Is No Such Thing as ‘Honor’ or ‘Honor Cultures,’” in Devoted to Christ: Missiological Reflections in Honor of Sherwood G. Lingenfelter, ed. Christopher L. Flanders (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2019), 145–66.

[13] E.g., Werner Mischke, The Global Gospel: Achieving Missional Impact in Our Multicultural World (Scottsdale: Mission ONE, 2015), 76–77.

[14] For an extended argument along these lines, see Jerry Hwang, Contextualization and the Old Testament: Between Asian and Western Perspectives (Carlisle, UK: Langham Global Library, 2022), 93–140.

[15] E.g., Benjamin C. Shin and Sheryl Takagi Silzer, Tapestry of Grace: Untangling the Cultural Complexities in Asian American Life and Ministry (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2016), 138–50; Samuel D. Ling, The “Chinese” Way of Doing Things: Perspectives on American-Born Chinese and the Chinese Church in North America (San Gabriel, CA: China Horizon, 1999), 146, 164.

[16] Hsieh Yu-Wei, “Filial Piety and Chinese Society,” in The Chinese Mind: Essentials of Chinese Philosophy and Culture, ed. Charles Alexander Moore (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1968), 167–87.

[17] Alex Chu Kwong Chan and Angus Young, “Confucian Principles of Governance: Paternalistic Order and Relational Obligations Without Legal Rules,” SSRN Electronic Journal, 1–17, https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1986716.

[18] The sole exception appears to be the Chinese Standard Bible Translation (中文標準譯本), which was released in 2008.

[19] Another example is that special pronouns are used in written Chinese for divinity. These pronouns are found only in Chinese Bible translations.

[20] On linguistic change and its theological implications for the Mandarin CUV, see Jerry Hwang, “Bible Translation as Contextual Theology: The Case of the Chinese Union Version Bible of 1919,” International Journal of Asian Christianity 5 (2022): 89–114.

[21] The classic study is N. Habel, “The Form and Significance of the Call Narratives,” Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 77, no. 3 (1965): 297–323.

[22] This is a mistranslation by the Mandarin CUV, which has become fixed in subsequent Chinese translations. See discussion in Jerry Hwang, “The Semantics and Pragmatics of Translating the CUV Bible,” Ching Feng 19, no. 1–2 (2020): 165–67.

[23] Wilson W. K. Chow, Tien Dao Bible Commentary: Ruth [in Chinese] (Hong Kong: Tien Dao Publishing House, 2006), 129–37.

[24] Tamara Cohn Eskenazi, In an Age of Prose: A Literary Approach to Ezra-Nehemiah, SBL Monograph Series 36 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988), 152–54.

[25] E.g., 陳再明, 做全方的領袖: 尼希米記對現代生活的啟示 (台灣: 希伯崙出版社, 2012).

[26] John M. G. Barclay, “Manna and the Circulation of Grace: A Study of 2 Corinthians 8:1–15,” in The Word Leaps the Gap: Essays on Scripture and Theology in Honor of Richard B. Hays, ed. J. Ross Wagner, Christopher Kavin Rowe, and A. Katherine Grieb (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 409.

[27] 林永健牧師 (Pastor Brian Lam), “樂意奉獻的心,《什一奉獻系列三》林後9:6–12 [in Chinese: The Heart of Joyous Giving, ‘Tithing Message Series #3,’ 2 Cor 9:6–12],” https://pastorbrianlamsermons.blogspot.com/2019/09/96-12.html, last updated September 17, 2019, accessed January 25, 2023.

[28] John M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2017), 71.

[29] Barclay, “Manna and the Circulation of Grace,” 422.

[30] Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 70.

[31] Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 96.

[32] Robert D. Woodberry, “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy,” American Political Science Review 106, no. 2 (May 2012): 244–74.

[33] Cf. Gerda Wielander, Christian Values in Communist China, Routledge Contemporary China Series 109 (London: Routledge, 2013), 29; Fenggang Yang, Chinese Christians in America: Conversion, Assimilation, and Adhesive Identities (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999), 51.

[34] Jaroslav Pelikan, The Vindication of Tradition: The 1983 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, 1985 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984), 65.


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