Title：The Reception of the Bible: Building a Christian Textual Community in Late Imperial China
Contributor：Standaert, Nicolas (Supervisor)
China missionaries who were active from the late 16th century through the 18th century never published a Chinese-language Bible insofar as the Sacred Books of the Catholic Church were only published in Latin at the time. Nonetheless, the Chinese, Christian converts included, still had both knowledge of and access to the Bible despite not being able to read Latin. This dissertation studies the Chinese reception of the Bible in the absence of a Chinese Bible translation during the late Ming and early Qing. It focuses on one biblical narrative in particular—the foot-washing prototype from the Latin Vulgate Bible (John 13:1–15)—exploring the narrative’s appearance in a wide variety of Chinese Christian texts and examining how these texts presented the foot-washing narrative to different audiences. This dissertation identifies 41 fragments rendering the foot-washing account into Chinese; these fragments are found in 33 Chinese Christian texts. By doing a close reading of the foot-washing excerpts and the Christian texts that contain them, this study develops its own textual approach. The dissertation’s first part focuses on the foot-washing prototype and its Chinese renditions, adopting a structural method of narrative analysis to scrutinize the Latin verses and the individual Chinese foot-washing excerpts. It demonstrates how the foot-washing prototype was transformed from the version presented in the Latin Vulgate Bible into its diverse Chinese renditions. The second part of the dissertation investigates the 33 Chinese Christian texts, exploring their inherent textuality and intertextuality in search of their respective readerships and genres. It eventually characterizes individual texts and collects together those with shared audiences and uses. This study thus shows the trajectories of the foot-washing narrative from its prototype in the Latin Vulgate to specific Chinese audiences. It demonstrates that the foot-washing narrative was diffused in the Chinese Christian texts in a specific pattern: the Chinese renditions were incorporated into Christian jing texts, texts open to outsiders and texts intended for insiders, thus ready to engage with different types of audiences. This dissertation argues that the Bible was in fact received in late Ming and early Qing China, at least at the level of biblical narratives, despite the absence of a complete Chinese Bible translation. The reception of these narratives was mediated by Christian texts which bridged the Latin Bible and Chinese audiences. Through the Christian texts, the Chinese who encountered the biblical narrative were informed of the Bible and of the ways in which it related to specifics of Christian religiosity. They also engaged with these texts in different manners, thereby sharing a common textual experience within the Christian discourse. The audiences of these texts thus formed a Chinese Christian textual community in which members came from different backgrounds but created a common identity.