The Reason for Revising CUV

Changes in language as time goes by have resulted in the revision of English Bibles at 30-year intervals. Likewise, the Chinese language had experienced lots of changes in the last century, and many terms in the Chinese Union Version (CUV) have become rare or ambiguous in meaning. In addition, in recent years, the discovery of old manuscripts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and research such as the Septuagint have provided new directions and methodologies in translation of the Biblical verses. Revision of the CUV is therefore necessary.

In 1983, the United Bible Societies reached agreement with leaders of Chinese churches to revise the CUV. With strong support of Three-Self Patriotic Movement/China Christian Council (TSPM/CCC), scholars, translation consultants and editorial experts teamed up to commence this great project. In 2000, the Hong Kong Bible Society took on this mission and published the Revised Chinese Union Version (RCUV) in 2010.

Principles of Revision

To be faithful to the original style of the poetic and popular CUV and facilitate the understanding among young believers and non-Christians, the RCUV has been revised according to principles agreed by leaders of Chinese churches around the world: 

  • (1) Follow closely the original – Draw readers to the essence of original text, while with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, God’s words can also be fully understood by them today. More……

    The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 and other ancient manuscripts in the few past decades has inspired advancement in tackling the problem of use of different words in the scriptures as well as in understanding and interpretation of the biblical scriptures in the Biblical academia. This precious information was not available to CUV translators 100 years ago. The RCUV provides footnotes to the original writings based on these new scriptural sources when the original text is obscure in meaning or has different meanings. 

    The revision of the RCUV deployed two core references, the Greek New Testament (4th edition, 1993) as the basis for the New Testament, and the Hebrew version of Masoretic Text (which is the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 5th edition, 1997, published under consignment by the United Bible Societies to the German Bible Society) for the Old Testament. 

    a. Committed to showing the unique linguistic features of the original text, e.g, distinction between singular/plural form, passive/active state, names/titles of people, nouns/verbs

    b. Direct translation of terms without affecting the sense of Chinese language

    c. To strive for reflecting sentence construction, structure and word order of original text

    d. Footnotes are provided to original texts that carry obscure meanings, various interpretations or meanings of ancient manuscripts.

    e. Occasionally, the Septuagint is recognized as more historic and used in the main text.

    f. In very few cases, the Dead Sea Scroll is recognized as more historic and used in the main text.

  • (2) Minimal changes; not to make amendments for the sake of changes
  • (3) Faithfulness to the style of the CUV – to let parents familiar with CUV share their favourite scriptures with the next generation, so that Chinese churches continue to receive blessings from CUV
  • (4) Conformity to current usages and expressions of today’s Chinese language – enhance understanding by new believers and non-believers More……

    a. Modify or remove areas that have wrong meanings, or that may cause misinterpretation, ambiguity and obscurity

    b. Modify terms of ancient roots, words rare in meaning, strange words, difficult words, vernacular words, etc.

    c. Succinct and practical with supplementary information

    • Inserted coloured standard geographical maps, with coordinates and indexes of places for easy reference
    • Including “compiled list of names of people” and “compiled list of names of places” in the CUV, and having revised inconsistent translations of names of people/places in the CUV
    • Including lists of measurements of length, weight, solid/liquid materials, capacity and monetary values used in Old and New Testaments. Also provided are reference lists of modern measurements based on Metric Units, Imperial Units and Chinese Units.
    • The List of Vocabularies, Terms and Phrases has been amended and expanded to 242 items in total.
    • There are 307 footnotes in the New Testament of CUV. The RCUV has included new entries of footnotes to 496, an increase of 60%. The Old Testament has 2014 footnotes, almost threefold of the number in the CUV.

Journey of Revision

  • 1804
    The first Bible Society – The British and Foreign Bible Society was established and put translation of Chinese Bibles one of their first priorities.
  • 1807
    Rev. Robert Morrison was the first overseas missionary commissioned by The British and Foreign Bible Society to carry out Chinese Bible translation in China.
  • 1823
    The first Bible translated in China titled Shen Tian Sheng Shu was published and it has become the foundation for subsequent Chinese Bible translation and revision.
  • 1919
    The famous CUV made its first appearance in Shanghai as a result of the concerted efforts of the British and Foreign Bible Society, American Bible Society, the National Bible Society of Scotland and various missionary organizations. It has gradually become the world-renowned standard Chinese Bible version. Up till now, it has edified more than 70 million believers in more than 300,000 Chinese churches all over the world.
  • 1950
    The Hong Kong Bible Society was established and the Chinese Bible was printed in Hong Kong for the first time.
  • 1983-84
    As time goes by, usage of Chinese language has lots of changes. In addition, in recent decades, the discovery of old manuscripts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint has provided new insights to translation of the Biblical verses. The United Bible Societies discussed with church leaders in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia, and all agreed to revise the CUV. The revision committee of CUVwas established. The revision principles include:
    (1) Minimal changes; (2) Maintain the style of the CUV; (3) Faithfulness to the original text; (4) Conformity to current usages and expressions of today’s Chinese language
    TSPM/CCC has been involving in the revision of the CUV in the past two decades.
  • 2000
    The United Bible Societies handed over the revision project of CUV to Hong Kong Bible Society to coordinate and manage.
  • 2006
    New Testament – Revised Chinese Union Version was published.
  • 2010
    All 66 books of the entire Bible were revised and published.

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