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Mediating between the Bible and its Chinese Readers, Upholding Inter-denominationalism: The 1890 Shanghai Conference Committee on the Notes to the Scriptures and Their Biblical Annotations

Sun, June 26, 1:00 to 2:50pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 106


Starting in the 1860s, Protestant missionaries gradually extended their work into the inner parts of China from the treaty ports. Having more personal, direct contact with the Chinese people, the missionaries found that cultural and religious discrepancies between Chinese society and the societies depicted in the Bible made it difficult for a Chinese to understand the Bible simply from its plain text. Such a problem prompted Protestant missionaries to contemplate adding some explanatory readings to the Chinese Bible, which gave rise to the formation of the Committee on the Notes to the Scriptures at the General Conference of the Protestant Missionaries in China convened in Shanghai in 1890.
Drawing on primary sources from missionary archives in Britain and the United States, this paper studies the formation and the work of the Committee on the Notes to the Scriptures. It argues that the compilation of biblical annotations not only represented a cross-cultural initiative to improve the prospects of Protestant mission work in China, it also provided an opportunity to foster international and interdenominational cooperation among the missionaries stationed in different parts of China. The biblical annotations that the committee prepared for publication are examined to throw light on the strategies adopted by Protestant missionaries to bridge the gap between biblical teachings and the socio-cultural context of the Chinese people.