The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been implementing its plans for the “sinicization” of the Bible and Christianity for some time now, but only recently has it become apparent what the party believes a more “Chinese” version of Scripture would look like. According to a Sept. 22 report from the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN), a Chinese ethics textbook tells the famous account in John 8 of the woman caught in adultery, but with a significant change to the ending: After the religious leaders leave, Jesus stones the woman himself.
“I want everyone to know that the Chinese Communist Party has always tried to distort the history of the Church, to slander our Church, and to make people hate our Church,” said a parishioner who posted the CCP’s version of the story on social media. According to ChinaAid, which has published a picture of the text in question, the story about the woman caught in adultery is in a textbook called “Chinese Professional Ethics and Law” that was edited by Zhongmei Pan, Gang Li, and Baoyu Xu. The book was published by University of Electronic Science and Technology Press, and according to the National Review’s Cameron Hilditch, is aimed at high school students.
UCAN says that a Christian teacher named Mathew Wang noted that the content of the textbook is not consistent throughout China, but did confirm the existence of the revised biblical account. According to Wang, the Textbook Review Committee for Moral Education in Secondary Vocational Education reviewed the textbook.
CCP: No Mercy for the Woman Caught in Adultery
In John 8:1-11, the Jewish religious leaders try to trap Jesus by bringing a woman caught in adultery to him. They tell him she was caught in the middle of the act and that the law commands them to stone her. Then they ask Jesus, “Now what do you say?”
Instead of responding to the question, Jesus bends down and starts writing on the ground. When the Pharisees and teachers of the law continue to question him, Jesus says, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” He then goes back to writing on the ground. Gradually, all of the woman’s accusers start to leave. When all of them are gone, Jesus asks her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She says, “No one, sir.” He responds, “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”
The CCP’s version of the account totally subverts the character and divine nature of Jesus, not to mention his application of Old Testament Law. The revised story reads:
The crowd wanted to stone the woman to death as per their law. But Jesus said, “Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.” Hearing this, they slipped away one by one. When the crowd disappeared, Jesus stoned the sinner to death saying, “I too am a sinner. But if the law could only be executed by men without blemish, the law would be dead.”
A Catholic priest who wished to remain anonymous told UCAN that the revisions to the account of the woman caught in adultery are part of “a sad social phenomenon in mainland China” and that the changes are “against morality and the law, so how can we still teach professional ethics with this book?”
Apart from the slanderous way the textbook portrays the nature and teachings of Jesus, ChinaAid says the changes reflect the CCP’s desire to bolster people’s view of the law in China. The textbook explains that the law (i.e., Chinese law) will die if it can only be enforced by people who are sinless—implying that people must accept the actions, sinful or not, of Chinese leaders. The CCP has been suppressing and attempting to reinvent Christianity for some time, but “Until now,” says ChinaAid, “Chinese officials rarely, so openly presented an altered biblical passage in an official textbook.”
The Federalist’s Arielle Del Turco believes that the purpose of these changes is to show “that forgiveness, an important Christian value, is rejected and the law must be obeyed without question. In China, the law is whatever the CCP says.”
According to Matthew Taylor King with the Wall Street Journal, at the end of last year the CCP convened a group of “scholars” and “religious people from the grassroots level” to make “accurate and authoritative interpretations of classical doctrines to keep pace with the times.” The Daily Mail says that these “experts” were charged with the task of reinventing religious texts in order to prevent the cultivation of “extreme thoughts” and “heretical ideas.”
A full government-approved translation of the Bible is not yet available. In fact, what the CCP is attempting is an enormous undertaking, says King, requiring “literary achievement and deep religious knowledge, both of which are lacking in the party’s handpicked experts.”
Hilditch thinks these efforts show that the Chinese government has taken some lessons from the former Soviet Union. He says,
The CCP has learned that the long-term survival of a Communist super-state is better served by managing domestic elements hostile to Communist ideology rather than attempting to abolish them outright…The new Chinese Communism is one of social control, not social revolution. And so its architects allow for just enough capitalism to keep themselves in power, and for just enough Jesus to keep out Christ.