If you visited a Bible seminary in China, you would likely hear young students talking about their favourite book by ‘Uncle Wong’.
There might be tens of thousands of Uncle Wongs in China but in any Bible school environment there is only one, and his full name is Dr Simon Wong – lecturer, translation consultant for Bible Society and, many say, the most published living Chinese biblical scholar.
Chinese Bible students have now got a new book to talk about from Uncle Wong. In April, Dr Simon Wong’s A Panorama of Chinese Bibles was published by Bible Society.
The new book is not only available to the Chinese diaspora in the UK and other countries, but permission has also been granted by the Chinese authorities for distribution in mainland China.
‘It is really a very, very exciting event, given the current difficulties of publishing new books with religious content in China these days. It’s a privilege that Bible Society has been given this opportunity,’ said Arleen Luo, Bible Society’s Senior Mission Specialist for China.
It’s been estimated that the language with the largest number of Bible translations is English, followed by Spanish, with Chinese coming in third. Many of the translations into Chinese through the ages are a result of the kind giving of Bible Society supporters.
The new book is a history of Chinese Bible translations. In its preface, Wong writes: 'I cannot help but marvel at what the Lord has done in Chinese history. These Chinese Bibles are a treasure trove for the universal Chinese Church and a spiritual heritage that many churches and believers have neglected. This booklet is not an academic work, but a reflection of my gratitude. I hope that the publication of this booklet will awaken the interest of Chinese Bible readers in this treasure trove.'
Prior to this Wong spent four and a half years working as chief editor of the Chinese edition of the ESV Study Bible, which was published in 2017. At the moment, it is the only study Bible that the authorities in China have permitted for publication.
Uncle Wong says that right now prayer is very important for Bible mission in China. ‘Pray for good health for Bible workers, for God to open more opportunities for us to serve. The situation in China is difficult, not only from the outsider’s perspective, but also church leaders inside find it challenging. Really, we need to pray for God to open more windows for the church together to serve,’ he says.
‘If we had started the Study Bible project two years later, I don’t know if it would ever be finished,’ he adds. ‘The situation in mainland China has progressively tightened, especially in the past two to three years.’
‘The Church has to be very careful In China. Through the pandemic, churches have been sometimes open, sometimes closed. They just respond to the advice of the government,’ Uncle Wong says. ‘You have to register your name before you go to church, and you are assigned a seat. The Church is very cooperative and careful. In China you don’t have any right to refuse checks, you just get used to it.’
Uncle Wong is full of thanks for the kind giving of Bible Society supporters in England and Wales. The amazing generosity of people such as yourselves enables pastors and lay preachers to be supported in China and more and more young people to be enrolled in Bible seminaries. More church leaders are vital as it is estimated that a million people come to faith each and every year in China.
As for being the one and only Uncle Wong among young Chinese Bible students he says, ‘My mum would never believe I am called Uncle Wong! I have a few books republished in China and have a long history with the Church leadership and previous students. They know my writing, and it gives me a good background to go into China. I always try to be careful in my wording, not to be too extreme or judgemental.’
Author: Simon Bartz, 19 May 2022
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