In each language, there are many different versions of the bible. Even with Chinese, there is a huge number of translations and versions, though not as many as English. This article hopes to help you navigate the different Chinese versions available, so that you might make an informed decision.
There are many translations of the Chinese bibles, and I have listed some of the common Chinese translations, as well as some that belong to other church movements, so that you can make an informed decision which is inline with your beliefs:
Published 1919. This is the most well-known and most common of Chinese bibles and is the choice for Chinese churches worldwide, and the standard for memorization and use in church services and activities. However, as it was printed over 100 years ago, the language can be quite archaic and stilted. It was translated from the English bible, based on the English Revised Version In bilingual Bibles, it’s often paired with the NIV, although it might be more similar to KJV. This version is legally available in China, in both printed and digital forms.
Published 1988. This is the CUV Bible with updated punctuation inline with modern usage.
Published 2010. Some of the language in the CUV was updated to a more modern and common expressions, while keeping as much of the original translation style as possible. It was reported that only 20% of the Old Testament and 15% of the New Testament were revised. With the update, it is easier to read and understand than the CUV. The revised edition also includes a lot of information including the book introductions to enable readers to have a better understanding of the author, the object, the historical background and the central theme, for enhanced comprehension. The entire Bible has a total of 2,400 footnotes.
Published 1992. (formerly known as the “New Chinese Version” (NCV), but the English name and abbreviation was changed to avoid confusion with the English New Century Version.). Translated directly from the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic languages into modern Chinese, unlike the CUV which is translated from English. This project was a joint effort of a team of approxiametely 100 prominent Bible and language scholars from around the world. The project kickstarted in 1972 and finished twenty years later in 1992. Many have found this version of the bible easier to understand. Usually paired in bilingual Bibles with the English Standard Bible or the NIV.
Published 2012. Informal (uses modern spoken language) and is easy to understand, designed for a general audience with a seventh grade education or above.
Published 2012. A dynamic equivalent Chinese Bible. The base text is the English New Living Translation with comparison with the Greek originals. A few parents have reported that this is a good translation for chidlren, as it is easy for them to understand.
Published 1979 and revised 1997. The TCV Bible uses simple, easy to read Chinese, and might be viewed as a paraphrase rather than a translation. Paired with the Good News Bible or Today’s English Version in bilingual versions.This version is legally available in China.
New testament Published 2009. Old Testament is still in progress. The available NT is an accurate and readable translation, and is good for Bible study and evangelism.
Published 1968. Catholic Bible. Do note the characters used for Bible names, and consequently for many Bible books, differ from those in Protestant Chinese Bibles. For example, “John” is 若望 in this bible and 约翰 in in Protestant Chinese Bibles. Read the Studium Biblicum Version online.
Lu Zhen Zhong Bible Translation LZZ 呂振中譯本
Published 1970. This bible was translated by Mr Lu. This never became popular or widely used, possibly because it is the work of one man instead of a translation committee. I do not know enough about it to make a recommendation.
New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT) 新世界譯本／新世界譯本
Published 1961. Translation by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and used and distributed by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Only use this if you are a Jehovah Witness as their doctrines and beliefs differ from mainstream Christianity.
Chinese Pastoral Bible 牧靈聖經 /牧灵圣经
Published 1999. This translation has received criticism over several significant issues, and is not recommended.
Chinese Recovery Version 恢复本
This is used by the Local Church movement, which some consider a cult, in Taiwan, and contains commentary notes written by Witness Lee. Some Christians say the commentary notes are questionable. As some of the beliefs differ from mainstream Christianity, only use this if you belong to the movement.
Comparison of Major Bible Versions – John 3:16
|Chinese Union Version CUV 和合本||神 愛 世 人 ， 甚 至 將 他 的 獨 生 子 賜 給 他 們 ， 叫 一 切 信 他 的 ， 不 至 滅 亡 ， 反 得 永 生 。|
|Revised Chinese Union Version RCUV 和合本修訂版||神愛世人，甚至將他獨一的兒子賜給他們，叫一切信他的人不致滅亡，反得永生。|
|Chinese New Version CNV 新譯本||神愛世人，甚至把他的獨生子賜給他們，叫一切信他的，不至滅亡，反得永生。|
|Chinese Contemporary Bible 當代譯本||因為上帝愛世人，甚至將祂獨一的兒子賜給他們，叫一切信祂的人不致滅亡，反得永生。|
|Chinese Standard Bible CSB 中文標準譯本||神愛世人，甚至賜下他的獨生子，好讓所有信他的人不至於滅亡，反得永恆的生命，|
|Chinese New Living Translation新普及译本||上帝如此深爱世人，甚至赐下自己的独生子，叫一切相信他的人不至灭亡，反得永生。|
|Today’s Chinese Version TCV 現代中文譯本||上帝那么爱世人，甚至赐下他的独子，要使所有信他的人不致灭亡，反得永恒的生命。|
|Studium Biblicum Version 思高本||天主竟這樣愛了世界，甚至賜下了自己的獨生子，使凡信他的人不至喪亡，反而獲得永生，|
Characters used in the Bible – Traditional and Simplified
Most bibles come in Traditional and Simplified Chinese. The abbreviation for a Chinese Bible translation will usually have a T or an S at the end to denote the script, e.g. CUVT or CUVS.
Bible Edition – 神版 and 上帝版
Some of the Chinese Bible translations are available in two editions – 1. “Shen” Edition (神版) and 2. “Shangdi” Edition (上帝版) – the difference being which word is used in translation for ‘God’ (‘Shen’ or ‘Shangdi’ /’Shangti’).
Reading the Bible Online
Many of the above bibles can be read online at Bible Gateway. This website also allows you to do a side by side comparison of bibles, including in different languages.
Which Version is Right For You?
This is a very personal choice, but I will share my personal opinion here. Regarding traditional or Simplified characters, go with the script you are more familiar with, as well as what your church is using. Likewise for Shen” Edition (神版) and “Shangdi” Edition (上帝版) , go with what your church is using.
Regarding the translations, if you are very fluent in Chinese, you might consider Chinese Union Version CUV and Chinese New Version CNV in parallel – CUV to relate to others who use this (as it is the most widely used), and CNV for a deeper understanding, as that is the version most relatable language. Many native Chinese choose to use CUV for memorization, as this is the most widely used version.
For children, or evangelism, you might want to pick something with easier to understand language, such as Chinese Contemporary Bible CCB. I have seen Chinese New Living Translation 新普及译本 recommended for children, but have no experience with it yet, as it is not available online.
You might also choose to have two different languages in parallel. For example e.g. CUV with NIV, or CNV with NIV. My usual combination is Chinese New Version CNV with New International Version (NIV) in English.
Finding more information about each version can be found on Bible Gateway website.
Which bible version are you using? What do you like about it? Please share your experience, so that others can understand more about the different versions.