About Korea > Religions in Korea

History of Bible Translation

History of Bible Translation

Following is a brief summary of the process by which the Christian Bible became available in the Korean language. Source: "Korea: A Historical and Cultural Dictionary" by Keith Pratt and Richard Rutt (Curzon 1999)

In 1872. Rev. Dr. John Ross (1842-1915) who had studied at the United Presbyterian Hall in Edinburgh from 1865-69, began serving his church in Manchuria.  Becoming a distinguished missionary, cultural historian and linguist in Manchuria, Ross also persuaded Korean visitors to teach him their language. Yi Ung-chan, an educated merchant of herbal medicines, instructed him in his native tongue. Under the direction of John Ross, he and others produced the first Korean translation of the New Testament. Separate books appeared in 1882 with the complete New Testament being published five years later in 1887. Using the Korean alphabet, Ross and his team enabled the New Testament to be read and used by a wide indigenous audience. By the time that missionaries arrived in the Korean peninsula in 1885, there were already established Christian communities in Seoul and elsewhere. Their presence confirmed two of Ross's leading missiological principles - first, local people made the most effective church leaders because of their understanding of cultural context, and, second, the Bible was sufficient in itself to enable people to resolve upon the most decisive issues in their lives.

In Japan Yi Su Jung published the Gospel of Mark from Ross's version revised with the help of the Chinese Bible in 1883. Two years later when first missionaries Horace G. Underwood and Henry G. Appenzeller came to Korea they took Yi's Version with them. Arriving in Korea, Underwood and Appenzeller published their own version of Mark in Seoul in 1887 and established a permanent translation committee.

In 1893 the British and Foreign Bible Society established its Seoul Bible House and the existing translation committee was reorganized as their Board of Official Translators, with the addition of Gale, Scranton and (the future Anglican bishop) Trollope. By 1900 all the gospels and Acts had been published by them in Korean. This version was revised in a modernized spelling system that was published in 1902, revised again in 1905. After ten years of work, the complete (Protestant) bible was first published in 1910, later revised in 1937. All these versions were printed entirely in the Korean alphabet, Hangeul.

1925 saw the publication of a new Korean translation of the Bible prepared by James Scarth Gale and two Koreans, also using Hangeul but this was never officially recognized or widely used. In 1926, Cheong Tae-yong published a version, probably inspired by Japanese models, where all words of Chinese origin (about 50% of the Korean vocabulary) were printed using the Chinese characters that only people who had received an education could read.

K4E Editor: Korea4Expats.com tries to ensure that the information we provide is accurate and complete, so should you notice any errors or omissions in the content above please contact us at info@korea4expats.com.


Last Updated on 2021-02-08

In the same header
Buddhist Temple in Central Area of Korea Buddhist Temples in Seoul
Buddhist Temples in Southern Area of Korea Buddhist Temples Northern Area of Korea
History of Bible Translation History of Buddhism in Korea
History of Christianity in Korea Religious Affiliations
COVID-19 Updates -Free Screening Centers by Districts, SeoulFree screenings continued until further notice. See lists of centers here.
SGVC-Beginners Minwha, Korean Folk Painting, 18 Jan-22 Feb 2022, Seocho-gu, SeoulKorean traditional painting class for beginners
IGVC - Intro to Pilates, 17Jan -23 Feb 2022, Online from SeoulFree online Pilates Class for foreign residents of Seoul
KF - Horse Head Photo Exhibition, Ends 9 Feb 2022, Jung-gu, SeoulBelgian photographer Frederick Buyckx photos of Kyrgyzstan
Korea International School-KIS, PK-12 English, Pangyo, Gyeonggi-do
JZ Associate
A Plus Apgugeong - 27 May 2020
Seoul Foreign School, K-12 English School, Seodaemun, Seoul
Dwight School Seoul, English Pre-School-High School, Seoul
I want to convert
Helpul telephone numbers seoul korea
Cocoonfice, Business Center, Gangnam-gu, Seoul