Christian culture 基督教文化学刊

Facts, Meaning and the Interpretation of Christian Testimony: A Study of Oral History in Religious Studies

Author: HUANG Jianbo, Professor, Institute of Anthropology, East China Normal University



Christian communties have always emphasised testimony, and most important among these are conversion testimonies. Research on the topic, however, remains highly contested in terms of the collection, analysis and explanation of testimony. With reference to Paul Cohen’s History in Three Keys, this article treats Christian conversion testimony both as fact and as meanings ascribed to previous events, with an emphasis on the idea that the narrative itself is meaningful to the storyteller. The article presents both a case study of oral history and a broader comment on religious studies. It argues that scholars need to take Christian testimony more seriously, without resorting to a literal approach or discarding it as unreliable data. Christian testimony, especially conversion testimony, is central to Christian life and the understanding of Christianity. Taking it more seriously could produce fruitful insight into Christian faith in China, which might in turn correct some misunderstandings and reductionist concepts of religion.



conversion, testimony, oral history, meaning, event


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