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Book.” Revs. S. N. D. Martin and H. V. V. Rankin. 8vo.
274. Shanghae, 1874. Rom. char.
Ah-la kyiu-cü Yia-su kyi-toh-go sing iah shü. “ The New Testament.” Rev. E. C. Lord, D.D. 8vo. pp. 412. Shanghae, 1874. Rom. char.
Jih-tsih yüih le pu-tsoh. “ Lines left out." Miss Laurence. 8vo. pp. 200. Shanghai, 1875. Rom. char.
Di-li reng-teh. “ Catechism of Geography.” Rev. F. F. Gough. 8vo. pp. 112. Shanghai, 1875. Rom. char.
The Power of Prayer. Rev. J. Butler. 8vo. pp. 70. Shanghai, 1875. Rom. char.
THOUGHTS ON THE TERM QUESTION.
By Rev. R. H. GRAVES, M.D. I, CONTROVERSY is not to be deprecated in itself, for it is the
wind that separates the chaff from the wheat. The steel and the flint must strike before the light is elicited. No harm should result from Christian missionaries comparing notes and presenting arguments on any subject. Controversy then is not to be decried; but we must beware of the spirit in which we conduct our discussions. If anywhere, certainly in discussing the term we are to use for “God,” should we show a Christian temper. We should put off the shoes from our feet as we tread on this holy ground, all self-sufficiency, uncharitableness, sneering, and unfairness, should be for ever.banished from the discussion. The moment a man shows these remains of a corrupt nature, he shows that however well qualified he may be intellectually, he is spiritually disqualified for the task he takes upon himself. In fact, sneers and unfairness and exclamation points are generally only tricks to cover up a weak point, and only serve to prejudice the calm earnest investigator against, rather than in favor of the writer. History shows us that where solemn questions are discussed, the odium theologicum is too often evolved, though it is often on the most petty points; somehow or other, the momentousness of the subjects discussed seems to justify a man's showing an unsanctified temper on the most trivial occasion.
It is to be hoped that these dangers will be avoided in the renewal of the discussion of the “Term” question, which is evidently upon us. What we specially need in this discussion are candor and common sense. Learning, acuteness and a vigorous pen should be subsidiary to these.
II. Distinguishing the Question. It seems to me, that much of
the difference of opinion that has prevailed, and of the confusion of the discussion, have arisen from the fact, that men have failed to distinguish clearly that there are two questions under discussion. One is, What is the most suitable Chinese term to designate the Supreme Being ? The other is different and should be always kept distinct, viz. What is the best Chinese term by which to translate DinzX (clohim) and 0ɛos, deol (theos, theoi) in the Bible? Of course these two questions are intimately connected, and to some extent run into each other; yet for the sake of clearness and candor of discussion they should be kept separate. For the appellation of the Supreme Being we need a singular term. In the midst of polytheism, the more intensely singular our term is, the more do we call attention to the fact of the unity of God. To translate elohim and deos, we need a term that is at least susceptible of a plural; for these words are often used in the plural, and are applied to false or imaginary deities, as well as to the true God.
III. The Designation of the Supreme Being. God cannot be defined. The nearest approach to a definition we find in the Scriptures are the expressions "God is a spirit,” “God is love.” Our only way to find an appellation is to emphasise some one of His attributes. This however gives a very imperfect conception of His essence, and we see sometimes one attribute and sometimes another appropriated to designate Him. Sometimes it is His goodness, as in the French expression le bon Dieu, and perhaps our English word God.* “The name of the Supreme Being appears usually to have reference to His supremacy or power. (Webster)
The Chinese have a word for a superior Being E# (Shang-ti) which (putting aside etymological niceties and subtleties) we may best translate “the Lord.” Many scholars and probably most of the native Christians think that this Shang-ti of the Chinese classics is identical with Jehovah of the Bible; if this can be clearly shown, and the onus probandi lies with those who assert it), we have good reason to use this term as an appellation of the Deity. Many others are not satisfied that the terms ever did refer to the same thing, and find an insuperable objection, in the fact that they are now the titles of deities in the Chinese pantheon (Yuh-hwang and Peh-ti), and will be understood of such if used in our books and chapels.
That the term is in itself an eminently suitable one, must be admitted. We find the same idea of rulership,--lordship,-sovereignty—in the Hebrew 'J TX (Adonai), the Greek Kuplos (Kurios) and our “the Lord.” This idea has in its favor also the consensus of most of those who have attempted to express the idea of God in Chinese in other ways than by translations of the Bible. The Mohammedans use
* In Saxon “God" and "good" are written alike. Some however derive our English
word from Persic goda, “lord," or Sanscrit guth, “mysterious one." Vid. Webster,-Ogilvie, sub voc.
# (Chin-chü), “True Lord,” and the Roman Catholics after much controversy settled on F! (T"ien-chü), “Heavenly Lord.” When we add to this the fact, that in most languages the name for the Supreme Being is expressive of His power and lordship, we can easily understand why many missionaries insist so strongly on the term Shangti as the best that can be found in the Chinese language, to use for “God.” It certainly has strong claims to be used as a designation of the Supreme Being. IV. The translation of elohim and theos.
When we come to translate the Bible, we find our need of something more than a term suitable as an appellation of God. We need a generic term; for both elohim and theos are used in the plural, and used as including other objects of worship than the Supreme Being. A new question here opens out before us, viz.
" What Chinese word shall we use to express deities, whether true or false, imaginary or real?”
Few, scarcely excepting the most extreme partisans on the Shangti side, will deny that is (shin) is the word which the Chinese employ to denote this idea. Can this generic term be used with individual reference. We have seen above that one way in which men have expressed their idea of God is to emphasize some one attribute and call Him “the Great One,” “the Good One," &c.; another way is to take the generic term, and by the definite article or by some adjective, to endeavor to raise one of the class to an elevation par excellence, and so to distinguish the Supreme Being from other objects of worship. This is the way employed by the writers of the Old and New Testamentsguided by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—to express the idea of God.
For instance, in the book of Genesis, Moses usually denotes the Creator, not by a term emphasizing any one attribute, but by taking the word Elohim which denotes false deities as well. The word is seldom used in the singular except in poetry, and in later usage; but even the plural form is retained ; and the idea of unity is expressed by the use of a singular verb or adjective. By a Hebrew idiom (pluralis majestatis), the plural form only served to express a more intense unity of idea, especially when the corresponding verbs and adjectives are in the plural.
So in the New Testament, Paul went in the midst of the heathen Greeks. He found them using a term for their deities, Acou, theoi. He did not scruple to put the definite article before it and say ő @enç (ho Theos) for Jehovah. In modern languages the only distinction we make, is to write the word with a capital when referring to the Supreme
Being—God. Following this analogy, we are fully justified in using Shin for the Supreme Being, especially in translating the Bible.
V. Neither term is free from objections. Especially is this seen when we come to translate the Bible. With regard to Shang-ti-to use a specific term where a generic one is found in the original, must produce confusion. Hence the translators are obliged to interpolate or to use expressions which the Chinese say are simply ridiculous; e. g. in Gen. xxxi. 30, Labon accuses Jacob of having stolen his elohim. In Medhurst's version, seang "images" is interpolated; but this does not mend matters much, for the Chinese do not admit that the Shang-ti of the classics has any image. In Acts xix. 35, the Greek dea "goddess is translated by Shang-ti, and we have the singular combination-Diana Shang-ti-which no native scholar would allow. The fact that the
— deity worshipped was a female is necessarily omitted; for to say ☆* neu Shang-ti would be to make confusion worse confounded. So when the barbarians at Melita called Paul “a god” (Acts xxviii. 6), they by no means meant to call him the Supreme Being. To use Shang-ti here is utterly unallowable. So in many other cases. In fact where Elohim and Theos are in sense interchangeable with Jehovah, there alone is the use of Shang-ti possible.
Nor is the other term-shin-free from objections. While in some respects much like elohim, especially in the fact that it is both singular and plural, in others it differs widely. We cannot in Chinese as in Hebrew make any difference of singular and plural in our verbs and adjectives, nor have we any definite article by which we can single out one of a class. Not only so, but shin has a wider meaning than elohim or theos, and includes a portion of the ground covered in Hebrew and Greek by ruach and pneuma, “spirit.” In many instances the Chinese reading the Bible would naturally refer shin to the human soul; e. g. in our Saviour's exclamation on the cross, # # jih log itt #M, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me ?” the Chinese reader would naturally understand it as the Saviour's address to his own spirit, like the dying Roman emperor's “ Anima blandula &c.”
If we translate elohim and theos by shin, we are involved in difficulty on account of the fact that it covers too much ground, and that it is hard to give it the force of the singular; on the other hand if we translate by Shang-ti, we have the philological difficulty—that seems insuperable—of using an appellative of a single being for a class. Besides these, there are the practical difficulties arising from the paganism of the people with whom we are dealing; if we urge them to worship Shin they will understand it to mean “the gods;" if we urge them to worship Shang-ti, they understand us to mean the idols Peh-ti or Yeh-hwang. Whichever term is used must be explained.
We do not escape difficulties by using either of them ; but are shut up to the choice of a term beset with difficulties. Shall we then use an appellative and speak of God as only “the God,” “the Supreme Ruler,” “the Judge;" or shall we, following the Scriptural analogy, endeavor to elevate one of a class as God kar'ěžoxhv? It is not surprising that there should be differences of opinion here. On the whole I incline to the latter plan ; though the parallel between Elohim and Theos and Shin is not a strict one, still there is a parallel.
There is perhaps a third method, viz. the interchangeable use of two terms as far as possible. Though extremists may object, still there is reason and Scriptural analogy for such a course. Moses used the generic term Elohim interchangeably with the appellative Jehovah. By applying sometimes one term and sometimes the other to the Supreme Being, he elevated the term Elohim from the level to which it had been dragged by polytheism. Perhaps some such solution of the difficulty may take place in the future in China, though Shang-ti is as deeply sunk in heathenism as Shin. In the providence of God both terms are in use in Chinese Christian literature; perhaps He, “from evil still educing good,” may bring about in the future the interchangeable use of both terms.
VI. With regard to F# (Tien-chü), “Heavenly Lord, I only say, that it seems to me open to all the objections that Shang-ti is obnoxious to, except that it is not the name of an idol. On the other hand, it is objectionable as implying, according to Chinese dualistic notions, a te! (T'i-chü), “Earthly Lord;” it is also open to the objection, that in actual usage it enters into the distinctive name of Roman Catholicism, F# (Tlien-chü kiau). As an epithet for
# ( God it is suitable enough, but scarcely preferable to the Mohammedan term 1 # (Chin-chü), “ True Lord.” The term F (Tfien-fu),
Heavenly Father” was an epithet which our Saviour loved to apply to God; it conveys the Gospel idea of the fatherhood of God, and is in many respects more suitable than one implying rulership merely. But these and many others, while suitable enough as appellatives, will not do for the ordinary word for “God.”
VII. To sum up: i. Shang-ti is a term in itself appropriate as a title of theSupreme,and corresponding nearly to Kvpíos, Dominus, “Lord.”
The objections to it as the ordinary word for God are.
1. It is not generic, and hence there is an insuperable difficulty in the way of using it to translate elohim and thcos.
2. It is by no means certain that the Shang-ti of the classics refers to our God.
3. Shang-ti in popular usage is the name of an idol.