Alumni Update: Li Jung-Fang, T’ 1918

Chinese Bible, circa 1929During the visit of a group of theological educators from China to Drew Theological School on April 15, 2012, the name of Dr. Li Jung-Fang soon came up in conversation between the Chinese theological educators, Dean Jeffrey Kuan and members of the Drew Theological School faculty. In theological circles on the Asian continent, Drew Theological School is known as the alma mater of Dr. Li Jung-Fang, renowned Chinese biblical scholar and founding father in the historical critical tradition.

The first Chinese doctoral graduate from Drew, Li Jung-Fang (Li Rongfang, 1887-1965), came from China to America to pursue theological studies. He entered Drew seminary in 1913 and earned a B.D. degree in 1916, a Th.D. in 1918. His major was the Old Testament and Biblical Hebrew, and he is considered “the first Chinese to undergo vigorous training in Western critical biblical scholarship.”[1] He returned to China, taught Hebrew Bible at Yenching University and became Dean of the School of Religion of Yenching University.

Li’s research was founded in the historical-critical method. He also undertook archaeological investigations in Palestine. His many articles were very influential in China. Deserving special mention is the fact that he wrote and edited the first Hebrew-Chinese Dictionary published in China.[2] He also trained many influential biblical scholars in China. Li was appointed as “the committee member of the Second Chinese Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee.” He engaged the socio-intellectual context of the May Fourth Movement in China, which was a movement of modernization, democratization and Westernization of China.  He has been considered the best Old Testament scholar of twentieth-century China and a pioneer in academic biblical studies.[3]

—Dr. Jung Doo Kim, T’12

Dr. Li Jung Fang with theology students
Dr. Li Jung Fang with theology students at Yenching University



[1] Archie C. C. Lee, “Critical Biblical Hermeneutics of Li Rongfang: In the Socio-Intellectual Context of China,” in Border Crossings: Cross-Cultural Hermeneutics, Edited by D. N. Premnath (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2007), p. 71; Dr. Vivian Bull also provided some useful information regarding Li Jung-Fang.

[2] Ibid., p. 72.

[3] Ibid.