The Diffused Story of the Footwashing in John 13: A Textual Study of Bible Reception in Late Imperial China
Author: Yanrong Chen
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The first Catholic missionaries of the early modern period arrived in mainland China in 1582, but the first Catholic Bible did not appear until 1968, long after Protestant missionaries already had published several versions. The mystery behind the four-hundred-year gap is not a why question but instead involves many how questions—primarily, how did communication of the Bible take place in the Chinese context without a written text in the Chinese language?
The Diffused Story of the Footwashing in John 13 uncovers narrative forms of biblical stories and explores the ways they were delivered to Chinese audiences. Relying on textual evidence, it presents a diversified exploration of a specific biblical story from the Latin Vulgate Bible—the footwashing in John 13—and its translation into various Chinese texts. In different religious milieus, the biblical narrative provided Chinese audiences a core source of faith, connected them with the most commonly accepted beliefs, and fostered their religiosity across communities in China from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. The interdisciplinary approach adopted herein sheds new light on the history of the Bible in China and paves the way for further studies on the abundance of Chinese biblical stories and texts.
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