To add or not to add? The British and Foreign Bible Society's defence of the 'without note or comment' principle in late Qing China

George K W MAK*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper examines how the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) struggled to defend its 'without note or comment' principle in late Qing China, which was a vivid case attesting the tension between the ideals of Protestant missionary societies and the reality of mission fields. The BFBS regarded the 'without note or comment' principle as its fundamental principle, since the principle not only embodied its biblical ideology but also helped solicit interdenominational support. However, Protestant missionaries in China urged the BFBS to modify the 'without note or comment' principle so as to publish and distribute Chinese Bibles with readers' helps explaining the biblical world to the Chinese people, who belonged to a non-Christian culture. Having refused the missionaries' request for several decades, the BFBS eventually published an edition of the Gospel of Matthew in Chinese including explanatory readings called translational helps in 1911, as the BFBS was concerned about the loss of support from missionaries in the face of increasing competition from the National Bible Society of Scotland (NBSS), which began to publish and distribute annotated Chinese Gospels in the 1890s in response to demand. However, this paper argues that the BFBS did not abandon its 'without note or comment' principle but instead, by adopting a minimalist approach to compiling its translational helps, the BFBS made use of its Chinese Bibles with translational helps as an expedient means to defend its 'without note or comment' principle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-354
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of the Royal Asiatic Society
Volume25
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2014

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities(all)

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