In 1874, a group of Chinese and Western language scholars commissioned by the American Bible Society completed the first translation of the Bible into colloquial Chinese, allowing everyday Chinese people to read and understand the Word of God. Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky, a Jewish convert and Episcopal bishop of Shanghai, worked for 11 years to transform the elegance of the Old Testament Hebrew into Chinese; and for the next 40 years, the text became the standard Bible for the Chinese.
Yet today, most Chinese Christians have never read this Jingwei Version Bible or even know of its existence, as few copies survived the missionary martyrdoms and Bible burnings in the early 20th century and the Cultural Revolution in the ’70s. In its place, the 1919 Chinese Union Version gained popularity and is now the only Bible version the Chinese government allows, rolling hot off the presses of the government-controlled Amity Press in Nanjing, China.
The Union Bible, used by the tens of millions of Christians in China, is a literal translation of the English Revised text, and also relies heavily on the earlier Jingwei Bible with about 80 percent of the text remaining the same.