- Influence, Translation and Parallels: Selected Studies on the Bible in China
Sankt Augustin has been quietly turning out sizeable volumes on aspects of Christianity in China for several years now. Two of the most impressive works from this series, Bible in Modern China, edited by Irene Eber et al., and Jost Zetzsche's The Bible in China: The History of the Union Version or the Culmination of Protestant Missionary Bible Translation in China, are indeed reviewed in one of the chapters in this new book by Marián Gálik. Gálik's volume makes a rich, if eclectic, addition to the series, presenting a compendium of essays, reflections, and commentary on the Bible in Chinese literature from a range of perspectives. A useful addition to the Table of Contents would have been listings of where and when these essays were first published; some are gathered from edited volumes of the 1990s and 2000s, but many were published in Asian and African Studien (Bratislava). The timing of Gálik's writings is notable: as he casually mentions in the Epilogue, it was not possible for him to write freely of the Bible until after 1989. Evidence of the personal and often anecdotal nature of these studies is scattered throughout the volume, from the "Confessions of an Idealist," calling for a Third Covenant of intercultural and interreligious understanding, to recollections of Gálik's conversations with the poet Gu Cheng in the early 1990s. The demonstrations and revolutions in Eastern Europe that enabled the author to develop his topic have clearly left their mark on his writing.
Influence, Translation and Parallels is divided into two sections. Part 1 draws together essays on the Bible, its reception, and use, while part 2 consists of nine studies of individual writers or works. Gálik switches easily between literary criticism, political history, cultural studies, and comments on his colleagues and symposia, in a style that brings a sudden excitement at the connections made but can also be unnerving for the reader. Apart from a chapter considering the relation [End Page 103] of the Old Testament to modern Chinese literature and creative writing, which might have been better placed in part 2, the essays in the first section all cohere around the translation and reception of the Bible, including two book review chapters. The six Western and Chinese works on the Bible from the late 1990s that Gálik reviews demonstrate the sudden flourishing of interest in the Bible and its influence in recent years, which will be further fueled by this volume.
Gálik is stronger on comparative literature than historical writing, much of which is drawn from the work of others. To follow Mote, for example, in condemning Protestant missionaries in the nineteenth century as "full of contempt for ordinary Chinese" is a generalization that does little justice to the contemporary writings of a Morrison, a Milne, or a Legge. To describe "ignorant preachers of the Bible, often completely in despair for the paucity of conversions" (p. 40) likewise oversimplifies a situation where scholars with doctorates in divinity were working alongside newly converted native colleagues. Gálik's emphasis throughout the volume on intercultural understanding leads him in his chapter on "The Bible, Modern Chinese Literature and Intercultural Communication" to champion Timothy Richard, but suggesting that the Protestant modernists were "not interested in the theological, but only in the practical and social aspects of its contemporary interpretation" (p. 42) again presents a partial reading. The interpretative lens of intercultural awareness at times threatens to take over; at the end of this chapter, which ranges through the Christian affiliations of Zhou Zuoren, Guo Moruo, and Yu Dafu, among several others, Gálik concludes: "The accumulated knowledge we have at our disposal in our time is sufficient for the assertion that the excellent achievements of the Jewish faith, Christianity, Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism are of equal value and that they are noble and grand products of humanity" (p. 53...