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Journal of the Bible and its Reception

Managing Editor: Kraemer, David / Marsengill, Katherine

Ed. by Black, Fiona C. / Oekland, Jorunn / MacDonald, Nathan / Ocker, Christopher

Together with Strawbridge, Jennifer R.

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Dramatizing the Bible in Chinese: The Making of Martyrdom in The Story of the Maccabees (1918)

John T.P. Lai
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Cultural and Religious Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
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Published Online: 2018-09-05 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jbr-2016-0028


This paper investigates the Chinese reception and transformation of the Bible through dramatic texts during the early Republican period, and the ways in which members of the Catholic community attempted to resolve the cultural and moral conflicts, mainly through the lens of the martyrdom narratives in the dramatic text Majiabai’a zhuan

(The Story of the Maccabees, 1918). The Chinese playwright Fei Jinbiao, well aware of the contesting moral values in the Chinese cultural contexts, adopted some dramatizing strategies to resolve the moral dilemma among most Chinese audiences. The dramatization of biblical and martyrdom stories in Chinese were employed as a tool of proselytization and religious education in Catholic families and schools. The reading and performing of the dramatic texts on martyrdom also contributed to the identity building of the Chinese Catholic community as a distinctive group on the borders of the mainstream Chinese society. From a broader perspective, the making of martyrdom in Chinese Catholic dramatic texts and the performance of martyrdom stories in China facilitated the “re-membering” of not only the Western saints into the Chinese church but also the Chinese martyrs into the universal Catholic Church.

Keywords: Biblical drama; Catholic Church; Republican China; martyrdom; Maccabees; re-membering

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About the article

Corresponding author: John T.P., Associate Professor, Department of Cultural and Religious Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

Published Online: 2018-09-05

Published in Print: 2018-09-25

Citation Information: Journal of the Bible and its Reception, Volume 5, Issue 1, Pages 61–79, ISSN (Online) 2329-4434, ISSN (Print) 2329-440X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jbr-2016-0028.

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