The God described in the Bible is the same God the ancient Chinese worshipped at the beginning of their civilization. This was the conclusion reached by Dr. Chan Kei Thong, a Christian who built his career in leadership and dedicated seven years to research the ancient historical records that led him to these results. His book, Faith of Our Fathers: Finding God in Ancient China, details how the meaning of the words in the Chinese characters refer to situations and places found in the Sacred text of Christianity.
The Brazilian Creationist Society (BCS) published the book Descoberta do Gênesis na Língua Chinesa (Discovery of Genesis in the Chinese Language), written by Reverend C.H. Kang and by Dr. Ethel R. Nelson, on this topic.
Born in Singapore, Thong helped to establish Leadership Development International (LDI), and was its executive director. He made LDI one of the most influential international systems of education, with seven schools in China and one in the Middle East, employing more than 800 people and having a yearly income of more than 35 million dollars. Today, he is a professor in the master’s program in leadership at Trinity Western University in Canada, and dedicates the rest of his time to mentor leaders in China and in the Middle East.
In this interview, given to the South American Adventist New Agency, during his first visit to Brazil, he talks about some of the evidence he has found and how they help prove the existence of God and the reliability of the biblical text.
How did you become interested in researching this topic?
I grew up in a traditional Chinese home. When I became a Christian, at 19, I thought I had walked away from Chinese culture, because most Chinese see the Christian faith as a Western religion. It was painful. My family and my Chinese friends thought that I was less Chinese. However, I accepted that as a price I had to pay for knowing Jesus personally. Then, I went to work in China and I lived there for over 20 years. Bit by bit I discovered that, actually, the ancient Chinese worshipped the one true God, and that is why I pursued this. Now I realize that because I became a Christian, I was going back to the core of my ancient roots.
How did you find the relation between the Bible and the Chinese characters?
I think what impressed me the most was the Altar of Heaven, in Beijing. This is the imperial sacrificial system. The official English translation would be Temple of Heaven, but actually, the real meaning is Altar of Heaven. It is one of the finest architecture in China. All tourists go there because it is a place that must be visited. At first, I did not go there because I did not like temples. As a Christian, I do not like idols, but I had friends who came to visit and wanted to go there, and I went with them. I was there and I realized, “wait a minute…there are no idols in this so called Temple of Heaven.” I only saw the tablet for God.
I started to investigate and I realized that they describe this God as a personal God. That he is love, he is all-powerful, all-knowing, he is immutable, he does not change, he is eternal. The good thing is that by then, all Chinese classics are digitalized, so I can do a very simple search through the PDF files and locate every instance where they talk about this God. I found his characteristics are the very same that appear in the Bible, so that led me deeper and deeper and to look into other areas. That is how I started, at the Temple of Heaven.
How long did your take research take?
Seven years. It was a journey. I started out not thinking of publishing a book. It was an interest, as I said earlier on. I was feeling very bad that I had left my Chinese culture. When I started to find these things out, I saw they were very much Chinese culture. I researched and it took me seven years.
What were the main results of your research?
The main conclusion is that the ancient Chinese, and I’m talking about the very core, not in between, worshipped the God of the Bible, that they knew him as a personal God, who is intimately interest in us, we can have a relationship with Him, and that the forgiveness of sin is very much embedded in the Chinese culture.
Is this understanding accepted or recognized in China?
No. Most people do not know about this, that is why I decided to write the book. I did not just keep it to myself because I want every Chinese to know. As I said, China has few thousand years of history. It is like an onion, it has many layers. If you peel only half way you come to Confucius. A lot of people think of Confucius as representing Chinese culture. Yes, if you are only looking 2,500 years ago. However, if you go before that, you have 4,000, 5,000 years of Chinese history. Therefore, what I’m writing about is 2,000 years before Confucius, which is the core.
Most Chinese now do not know this, they are not aware of the things I have discovered. Nevertheless, when I reveal it to them, they are excited. There is more research being done.
Today you are trying to show this reality to them?
Yes, that is what I am trying to do.
In what way do these evidences help to prove the truthfulness of the biblical text and of the literal existence of the Creation of the world described in the Bible?
I think that it is a secondary result, but I think that it is just as important, because now with evolutionary theories many people think that the Bible is not accurate. When you open the Bible in Genesis and it talks about creation. It is very damaging. Imagine if a young person is told the world came about through evolution and not Creation, and the very first few pages of the Bible talks about Creation. If they reject that, then they have to reject the whole Bible! You cannot go on and believe this book if you think this is not accurate, even at the very beginning. Therefore, what is discovered was, the Chinese records are independent from the Bible, but from the same time or even older, from when the Bible was written, and it shows the ancient Chinese knew of and recorded the accounts that are in the Bible. This forms and independent support for the reliability and authenticity of the Bible.
And what was the relation of the Chinese with the study of the stars and how is this linked to the episode we find in the Bible?
The Chinese are very committed to study the stars for information. It is not astrology, in that it does not say the stars control our lives, our fortune. And certainly it is not about individuals. But the Chinese understood that the God who threw the stars into space can also give us key messages for the whole world, not just about one person. This is the main thing to remember. I have the text to show you why they believe, why they wanted to study the stars. They believed God could show them major events.
Just like why you study people, and this is what it said in the Chinese text, if you study people, you will know how to govern them. I discovered two astronomical events related to Jesus. In the Bible, we know the wise men were led by the stars to come to Jerusalem. They were from the East of Israel, we think maybe Babylon or Persia. The time difference between Israel and China, the capital, maybe about 4 or 5-hour difference, time zone. Then Babylon maybe, 2-hour difference from China. If the wise men saw the star, did the Chinese see it? This would be the most obvious question. I found out, yes. They had in fact recorded in about 5 b.c. that there was a major star that shone bright for 70 days.
The recording of that is very interesting, but even more interesting and significant is that they interpreted that event. This is all recorded in Chinese history. Not new, this is 2,000 years ago. They say this star represents the beginning of a new era and this star represents sacrifice. Is it not a good description for Jesus? He came to bring in a new era, and he came to sacrifice himself for humans. Now this is a star from the East. Then, the Chinese records show us there was another big star, thirteen months later, and this is the star of Bethlehem. After the wise men did not know where to go, they went to King Herod, because it was the logical thing to do. When they saw the sign on the East, they knew it was about the newborn king, so they went to see king Herold. However, Herod did not know, so they left Herod and the star showed up again. Now Jerusalem to Bethlehem is only a little more than 3 miles, or 6 kilometers, and they found him. The Bible does not tell us when Herod killed the boys two years and under, but I think the Chinese records gives us a clue because the Chinese records show us there is a thirteen month difference between the first star and the second star. It took them that long to get to Jerusalem.
So, then, there is another astronomical event, and that is on the day of the crucifixion. When Jesus was crucified, from 3pm to 6pm in Jerusalem, it went completely dark. There was a solar eclipse. Did the Chinese experience the eclipse? They were on the same continent. The answer is yes! Thirty-three years from the time of those two stars we talked about, the Chinese recorded a major eclipse. Their emperor was so frightened that he said, “from now on, do not mention the word holy”.
More important than the recording of this event, was the interpretation. We do not know how they are so smart. However, remember this is a few thousand years of accumulated wisdom. They watched the stars every night, fourteen of them, and they recorded every detail for a few thousand years, not just for a short time. We do not know how because we lost that wisdom, but they interpreted that event, the solar eclipse. They said the eclipse meant the people have sinned, that sin is now in one man, and that there is forgiveness for all. Then, one more thing. Another commentator said: The God-man died. In addition, the word for die is the death of a king.
Therefore, if I were to translate it, I would say, the God-man king died. You cannot more accurate description of what happened in the cross. Once again, these were commentaries written 2,000 years ago, before they had any knowledge of the Bible.
Where did you find these evidences? In historical documents?
In my book, I have given all the references. All of these are authoritative records. The astronomical events I talk about. In the Chinese kingdom, every emperor would have his history, events. But the astronomic events are in a separate section, always together with court history. This has not been changed by anybody because, first of all, you cannot go in and change them. There are multiple copies of them. The other thing, what would be the motivation for changing them?
Nowadays, what is the relevance of rescuing and showing the Creationist point of view presented by the Bible?
It helps people have faith in the reliability of the Bible. The Bible is not just a good book to tell us morals. The Bible is not a history book either, but it guides us and shows us how to live as humans. So, if the Creation account is not accurate, why should we believe the Bible? What the Chinese records have done for us, because the Chinese civilization is as old as the biblical account, we now have confidence that the Bible is supported independently by Chinese history. Therefore, we have an obligation to listen and obey the Bible, because it is accurate.