I’ve been troubled by this funny phrase in the Bible (Chinese version) for many years. Not until a few minutes ago did I finally decided to figure how to make some sense out of it.

In John 15:4 (Chinese version), it says this:


Translated, it means:

“You must always live/exist (physically) inside me, and I must you. If a branch is not always attached to the vine, it can’t bear fruits. Similarly if you don’t always live/exist inside me.”

This is extremely disturbing. Jesus is a man, or mostly a man, and believers are human beings. How could a human be, literally, INSIDE another human, except for having sexual intercourse or being pregnant? I’m not doing either of those  to Jesus even if for the love of God or whoever.

So I check the King James Version of the Bible, and in John 15:4 it says:

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruits of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.”

The key here is “abide”, not “in”. “Abide” could have several meanings in Chinese, including “to be together with”, “to persist”, or, in the problematic translation of the Bible, “to live (in)” or “to exist (in)”. The translator happened to pick the most improper meaning decades ago, and later his translation was eventually appointed as the authenticate copy for Chinese Christianity.

This is not much of problem in theory, consider back then the Chinese language was quite different from its shape today, and there was no such advanced English education. However, in practice, the mistranslation managed to create a major problem in, for lack of a better name, “Chinese Christian divinity”.

Because “abide in me” shows up in the New Testament quite frequently, the Chinese ministers when preaching do have to explain how come Jesus could physically go into a believer and reside there. Over the years I’ve heard several different theories, and none of them sounds satisfying enough. Here is one example I just found on the web:


The author argued in Chinese that Jesus was brought back from death by the God, as a spirit. And in Greek, “spirit” shares the same word with “wind/air” (I don’t know if that’s true, honest). Jesus = spirit. Spirit = air. Consequently Jesus = air. That’s math for you, amen. Thus solves the problem how Jesus could be INSIDE one: as a human being, one has to breathe in order to sustain life, and breathing is nothing but taking in the air, and the air is Jesus, so Jesus is inside you. QED.

I appreciate the determination to go so far in order to prove something that’s not even a problem. But is this necessary? A whole debate in divinity just for a mistranslation? Why waste breath on this? To waste breath is to waste air, and to waste air is to waste Jesus. Shame on you ,sinner.

Thus my point is very simple: the Chinese Bible should be retranslated, by proper people, in proper modern Chinese language. That’s it.

And for the record, I’m a Buddhist, honestly.