Sunday, March 21, 2010

China: Bibles Abound

This evening as I sat in a Bible study class (really great!  About The Book of Revelation ... hitting the differing viewpoints and interpretations!), I noticed that the Bible I recently bought -- an English Standard Version -- was published in China!!!!  I was so surprised!  I was checking the year of print (2002) and that's when I saw the "Printed in China."  It's a copyrighted edition by Crossways Bibles and published by Good News Publishers of Wheaton, IL.  I was a little saddened to see that my new spiffy Bible was printed in the USA ... but, why should this be any different from any other product bought and sold here?

But, it did remind me of this interesting headline I saw on The Christian Post the other day (emphasis added):

Demand for Bible Outstripping Supply in China

Sat, Feb. 20, 2010 Posted: 10:17 AM EDT

LONDON – The U.K.-based Bible Society has reported a growing demand for copies of the Bible in China where an estimated 500,000 people convert to Christianity every year.

Although some four million Bibles were printed and distributed across China last year, the rapid growth of the church year on year means that demand for Bibles is now outstripping supply, according to the Bible Society.

The official number of Christians in China stands at 28.6 million, but it is believed the true figure could be as high as 90 million if the estimated number of worshippers at unofficial house churches is included.

The Bibles are printed at Amity Printing Company, the only government-approved Bible printing press in China. It has printed around 70 million Bibles since it was established in 1987. Around 50 million of them have gone to Chinese believers.

Religious freedom group China Aid Association has kept a critical eye on the publisher. The group has claimed that the company has made availability and accessibility of the Bible difficult for the growing Christian population.

The distribution of the Bibles has been limited to government sanctioned Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) bookstores and distribution points, making it difficult for Christians who live in rural areas to access them. Cost has also been an issue, as most churchgoers in China live in poverty.

To deflect the cost, the Bible Society subsidizes the cost of printing Bibles. Keeping the price low is vital for Christians living in China’s rural heartland, where 70 percent of churchgoers are found and half the population live on less than $2 a day.

“As more and more people are joining the church they are asking for a Bible,” said Bible Society’s China Partnership coordinator Kua Wee Seng.

“Every year we have to raise funds for Bible subsidy. The reason is that in the rural areas where most Christians are found, they are living in relatively poor conditions. In order for them to have a copy of the Bible we have to provide paper so that a Bible is affordable for most of the Christians in China.

“This is a time of opportunity in China. Many of us feel that we mustn’t miss this opportunity or people will turn to something else, other than Christianity.”

Charles Boyd
Christian Today Reporter 
What great news in light of the years I received solicitations to help send Bibles to our Christian brothers and sisters in China!  Although I do find it a bit disconcerting that China has only one officially sanctioned Christian publisher.

I do wish, in some way, that my new Bible had been printed here ... supporting American workers.  I chose this new translation (new to me), because it is supposed to be a more literal translation, so I thought I would give it a try.  (I love the beauty and clarity of the NIV, which I have recently learned is about halfway between a literal and a thought-for-thought translation.)  

On the other hand -- how cool that I, here in the U.S., have a Bible printed in China!  God is, indeed, making inroads in a country that once banned, persecuted (still does) and slaughtered Christians.  The Bible is truly covered with the blood of many martyrs that have sacrificed to make it possible for me to own one ... and so easily and cheaply.

Sorry -- I can't resist: Mao must be rolling over in his grave!  Jesus does, indeed, have the final word.

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