The Chinese Communist Party, China’s ruling regime, has been on a mission to rewrite the Bible through a communist lens. This quest has reportedly resulted in shocking distortions of Scripture and Gospel truth.
Todd Nettleton, spokesman for The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), a persecution watchdog serving Christians across the globe, told Faithwire about the Chinese government’s ongoing efforts to reimagine the Bible.
“This is a project that the Chinese Communist Party announced in 2019. At the time, they said it would be about a 10-year process … to release a new translation of the Bible,” he said, noting it would include Confucian and Buddhist principles, among others. “This new translation … would really support the Communist Party.”
Watch Nettleton discuss the shocking Bible translation as well as broader religious freedom issues raging in China:
VOM recently shared a reimagined version of the Bible’s revered story centered on Jesus’ love and corrective compassion for a woman caught in adultery.
“The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) announced plans to update the Bible to ‘keep pace with the times.’ The revisions will include adding ‘core socialist values’ and removing passages that do not reflect communist beliefs,” a VOM Facebook post read. “In a textbook for high school students released in September 2020, the authors included a passage from John 8, as revised in their new version.”
Before we explore the revised communist version, let’s look at John 8 as it stands in the genuine and authentic Bible.
As the famous forgiveness story goes, the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery before them and challenged Jesus, proclaiming, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
The Bible notes that these Jewish leaders were “using this question as a trap” to accuse Jesus. Still, Christ started writing on the ground with his finger (it’s a mystery what he was writing) and then uttered some transformational words (verse 7): “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
After the people — clearly shaken by Jesus’ words — walked away, Christ and the woman were left standing together, and their exchange went as follows (NIV):
Christ: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
Woman: “No one, sir.”
Christ: “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”
The Chinese Communist Party, though, reportedly has a different vision for how this interaction unfolded — an anti-biblical, faux account that flies in the face of scriptural truth.
In the Chinese government’s new version — purportedly observed in a textbook published in September 2020 — the crowd disperses, but then the text states, “When everyone went out, Jesus stoned the woman himself, and said, ‘I am also a sinner.’”
Why is China re-writing the Bible?
The transformed language directly aims at Jesus’ divinity, something Nettleton said is quite shocking.
“In one sense, it’s just like so arrogant to think, ‘I’m going to rewrite the story of Jesus’… but then you think about denying the deity of Christ,” he said. “If Jesus is a sinner, then he’s not God.”
For anyone wondering why the Chinese Communist Party would take such troubling steps to try and diminish the Gospel, Nettleton said it has everything to do with control.
“The issue for the Chinese Communist Party is control. It is always about control,” he said. “And they see the … Christian message as something that would take control away from the communist party.”
Rather than citizens waking up and pledging allegiance to a loving God and pondering ways to serve Jesus, Nettleton said the government’s goal is for Chinese nationals to wake up every day and say, “How can I serve the party today? How can I be a good communist today?”
A much broader persecution problem
While bombastic and troubling, the rewrite of the Bible is just part of the Chinese government’s ongoing attempts to crack down on the Christian faith. The nation’s Three-Self Patriotic Movement is a Protestant denomination controlled by and registered with the Chinese Communist Party.
“The officially sanctioned Protestant church of China has always tried to kind of co-opt Christianity and use it for communist purposes,” Nettleton said. “But they even in recent years have taken that a step further.”
He said images of Jesus have been taken down inside churches and have, in some cases, been replaced with pictures of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Christian hymns, too, have been replaced with communist party anthems.
The new Bible translation, it seems, is just another step toward anti-biblical anarchy within the Chinese Communist Party ranks.
“This new socialist translation of the Bible is just another step for the Chinese Communist Party as they try to control the church, and really co-opt Christianity as a means of controlling the people and helping them serve the Party’s interests,” Nettleton affirmed.
The new Bible version becomes even more troubling when one considers it could become the only officially available version of scripture in the strictly-controlled, government-run church system.
“The only way you can legally get a Bible in China is at a registered church and if those are mostly in the big cities. [and] if you’re in a rural area, you have almost no access to Bibles,” he said.
Limited access to Bibles has always been a problem. Still, now the issue is compounded by a socialist-laced version of Scripture that purportedly doubts Christ’s divinity and conjures up inaccurate details.
That’s why Nettleton’s organization continues to help get Bibles to Chinese citizens.
“That’s one of the reasons why Voice of the Martyrs and other groups are are so committed to delivering Bibles into China — even smuggling Bibles into China — because it’s not available,” he said. “One of the things I hope about this new translation is that it will backfire, and people will wonder, ‘Why was it so important for the Chinese government to retranslate the Bible. Why was it so important for them to change this?’”
Nettleton hopes Chinese citizens compare the new version to the old and see through the changes. Let’s continue to pray for the Chinese people amid increasing cultural and theological control at the hands of the communist regime.