W. T. Chu’s Jesus, the Proletarian
Best known as a biblical scholar, the two main works by W. T. Chu (Zhu Weizhi 朱維之 1905–1999), Christianity and Literature and Twelve Lectures on Biblical Literature are regarded as classics in the field. But Chu also used his extensive knowledge of the Bible to portray Jesus in his often overlooked work Jesus, the Proletarian, a book deserved of more attention than it has so far received. Touching on many issues central to liberation theology and Christian socialism, Jesus, the Proletarian has major implications for our evaluation not only of Chu himself, but also for our understanding of Christian socialism in pre-Communist China, the social and cultural milieu in which it developed, and its influence on how Christians at the time understood the Bible. In contrast to the highly theological approach of T. C. Chao’s The Life of Jesus, Chu’s Jesus, the Proletarian attempts to sum up the revolutionary spirit of Christian thought of the time, and can be grouped together with Zhang’s The Revolutionary Carpenter and N. Z. Xie’s The Gospel of the Oppressed as one of the three main works on Christian socialism in China. This article examines Chu’s oft-overlooked work, focusing on how he applies a Marxist perspective to his portrayal of Jesus, as well as his ideas on how Christianity has historically been misappropriated and used as a tool of capitalist and imperialist aggression. The article then discusses the reasons why this portrayal of Jesus as a liberator of the oppressed was published in 1950, only to fall into obscurity soon thereafter.
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