Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Christ's socio-political significance diluted by 8th century

Part of my reflection paper on Chinese Christian Sutras, ancient records dating 8th century AD, found in China, probably written by Syrian Christian monks:

The Sutra of Jesus Christ is a remarkable work of which enables us to witness how contextualization of Christianity worked in the 6th-7th century AD. The Christian belief was seen meticulously translated in a different language for a different culture. There is an obvious adaptation to the ancient Chinese’s filial piety in emphasizing the virtue of honouring one’s parents as the third most important (chapter 4.3)...

Although the missionaries’ translation of the Christian’s story into vernacular language is commendable, yet such attempt has swayed the transmitted belief from its previous cultural expression. The using of pregnant terms like ‘karma’ was unconventionally casual and to some extend redefine its socio-linguistic meaning... For example the idea of ‘original sin’ is being parallel with ‘karma of previous lives’ (chapter 2.25). The concept of the former is hereditary while the latter is re-incarnational...

Besides being too casual with the translation, the lacking of recorded historical context behind the life of Jesus in the sutras has utterly diluted some of the significant events in his ministry, for example the deep socio-political meaning of the crucifixion within the Greco-Roman empire, not to mention its profound theological meaning. All that is left is about escaping from King Yama (chapter 3.19)...The obvious one is the diminution of the strong political overtone in Jesus’ message. The status of the Chinese emperor is being bloated out of the proportion than that of the New Testament (chapter 3.25-34). ‘Honor the Emperor’ is even listed as the second most important aspect of Christianity (chapter 4.2), an aspect that is not in the Old, nor the New Testament. The authority of emperor or any rulers is not to be so elevated. Such aspect has no place in the 10 Commandments or Jesus’ teachings. The consistent depiction of the dynamics of political authority on earth is grounded in how one treats his/her neighbours, and not how one pleases the emperor.

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