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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


James Legge and the Christian Term Question

Vol. 37 No. 2   12/2007    


James Legge and the Christian Term Question


Tow-yung Keong









Key words

James Legge, Christian, term question, translation, Deity, God, Confucian, thought, ideology


 This article focuses on James Legge's contribution in solving the Christian term question. The translation of Deitythe highest God-into─Chinese has long been controversial. Legge regarded both 上帝and God as relative term: both refer not only to the highest God “in Himself" but also to the relationship between Him and all other beings. Hence he chose 上帝 equivalent to Elohim in Hebrew, Theos in Greek, and God in English. William J ones Boone, Legge's main opponent, chose the term instead.

  Legge made two significant contributions in solving this term question. Firstly, by using the term 上帝, he boldly challenged the Evangelicals' dogmatic view, according to which “heathens" are unable to conceive of the concept of God. Secondly, by elucidating the ConfucÏan world view, he elevated Confucianism's status in matters concerning religion.

  The concept of 上帝should be traced back to the world of thought in ancient Chinese high culture. Unfortunately, Legge failed to understand this; instead, more often than not, he argued from an ideological perspective, which was intertwined with political intentions. However, the critical esprit and comparative approach characteristic of his research are commendable.



Author: Tow-yung Keong
Genre: Article
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