The Bible in imperial Japan, 1850-1950
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This thesis undertakes to apply some of the insights from postcolonial criticism to understand the history of Christianity in Japan, focusing on key Christian thinkers in the period since Japan’s national isolation ended in the mid 19th century. It studies these theologians' interaction with the the Bible as a “canonical”text in the Western civilisation, arguing for a two-way connection between Japan’s reception of Christianity and reaction to the West. In particular, it considers the process through which Christianity was employed to support or criticise Japan’s colonial discourse against neighbouring Asian countries. In this process, I argue that interpretation of the Bible was a political act, informed not simply by the text itself, but also by the interpreter’s positionality in the society. The thesis starts by reviewing the history of Christianity in Japan. The core of the thesis consists of three chapters, each of which considers the thought of two contemporaries. Ebina Danjo (1866-1937) and Uchimura Kanzo (1861-1930) were two first-generation Christians who converted to Christianity through missionaries from the United States, and responded to Japan’s westernisation and military expansion from opposite perspectives. Kagawa Toyohiko (1888-1960) and Yanaihara Tadao (1893-1961) spoke about the country’s situation in the years preceding the Asia-Pacific War (1941-1945), and again reached two different conclusions. Nagai Takashi (1908-1951) and Kitamori Kazo (1916-1998) were Christian voices immediately after the war, and both dealt with the issue of suffering. Each chapter explores how the formation of their thoughts was driven by their particular historical, economic, and social backgrounds. The concluding chapter outlines Christian thought in Japan today and deals with the major issue facing Japanese theology: cultural essentialism.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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