Chinese Christians Awakening To Torah

August 8, 2018

6 min read

It’s risky to be a Christian in China today. Despite this, the numbers of Chinese Christians interested in studying Torah, learning Hebrew and visiting Israel is skyrocketing.

According to San Diego, CA-based Pastor Grace Wang, underground churches are very active and growing rapidly in China. Wang told Breaking Israel News that her weekly Torah messages, which she records in Mandarin Chinese using her iPhone, are distributed through an underground network of churches and are heard by more than 10,000 people each week. “They are hungry for Torah,” she explained.

Wang shares a passion for the Temple Mount with Rabbi Yehuda Glick. She translated Meir Antopolsky’s book Arise and Ascend: A Guide To The Temple Mount, to which Glick’s Temple Mount Heritage Foundation contributed, into Chinese. The first 2,000 copies sold out quickly and she just got funding to reprint another 2,000 copies.

Asked how she understands the phenomenon of Chinese Christians being fascinated by Torah and Israel, she said, “We are almost in the End Times. This is the work of God, to open the heart of people to have a desire for Torah. It’s above nature. It’s so powerful. This is totally supernatural.”

Wang noted that, after studying with her for a time, many of her students begin to celebrate the Biblical festivals, although it’s not safe for them to observe Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) outside of their homes in China.

“They celebrate with the Jewish calendar. They fast and pray on Yom Kippur (Jewish day of Atonement) and Tisha B’Av (day of mourning for the destruction of the two Holy Temples in Jerusalem).”

They do this, despite the fact that, according to Wang, “In Mainland China, there is no freedom. It’s really amazing! They love the God of the Jewish people. They don’t have money to come to Israel, except maybe once in their lives. They never see Jewish people. They study the Bible. Their only wish is to come to Israel.”

According to Wang, “There are at least a million Torah-loving Chinese Christians. It’s growing.” She guesses that more tourists come to Israel from China than from any other country.

Canada-based Dafei (Stillwater) Tang started a weekly Torah study in Shanghai in 2010, after he, “was expelled from an ‘underground’ church for teaching the Law (Torah) which is contrary to church doctrine. After being expelled from my church, I started my weekly Torah study at home with three other church members who decided to follow me. This was probably the first Mandarin Torah study group ever in China.

“Torah is a new concept in China, but the past eight years have certainly ushered in an awakening, primarily in the Christian communities, to acknowledge Torah as the foundation of our faith.”

“We are almost in the End Times. This is the work of God, to open the heart of people to have a desire for Torah. It’s above nature. It’s so powerful. This is totally supernatural.”

His own interest in Torah began in 1998, “when I came across a teaching by a rabbi on a church channel in my Shanghai apartment, through an illegally installed satellite dish. I found his message intriguing at the time and started to pay attention to the ‘Jewish’ stuff.

“I came to realize that Torah is the ‘seed’ for all the subsequent revelations in the Bible and [that] the New Testament has been grossly misunderstood by church traditions.”

Tang’s students are all Chinese-speaking Christians. His weekly teachings, published in Chinese, reach 3,500 subscribers and he has 400 active students. “Since 2010, my routine has been to study all these materials in English and share them every week in Chinese for free, and whosoever is thirsty can come and learn with me.”

For He has satisfied the thirsty, filled the hungry with all good things. Psalms 107:9


Tang explained to Breaking Israel News how he understands the burgeoning interest in Hebrew, Torah and Israel among Chinese Christians. “I think the reason is that Torah is the foundation of the faith. One can easily misread the New Testament if there is no solid foundation in Torah basics.”

Asked why Chinese Christians would risk studying Torah, he said, “A man of faith by definition has no fear for potential religious persecution, which actually makes him stronger. Torah study, on the other hand, can make one wise, for Torah is wisdom, so I would say, if Christianity makes them stronger in the face of persecution, Torah comes to make them wiser.”

Tang does all of his Torah teaching without compensation, “My weekly study is arduous, and it is entirely done through my spare time as I do have a full time job and a family to support. What’s keeping me marching forward tirelessly is the conviction that Torah is a code book from heaven, and I have been called to dig for treasures, and to share them with others. Once in a while, the grace of God will help me with a find, which is simply beautiful, and my soul would rejoice with awe and praise.”

Like Wang, Tang believes that this interest in Torah emanating from Chinese Christians is related to geula (redemption). “I believe we’re at the end of days, in that the inner dimension of Torah is being studied in the least likely place, which is not by ‘chance’ but Divine providence, or hashgacha pratis. According to the Baal Shem Tov (18th century founder of Hasidic Judaism), when the inner dimension of Torah is taught throughout the world, it is the time of Mashiach (messiah), and we’re participating in this epochal moment in history right now.”

“Jewish people believe in the Bible and have a relationship with God. That is new information for so many Chinese Christians. I am trying to crack that understanding and show them the evidence.”

While Tang frames the reason for the strong interest in Torah, Israel and Hebrew among Chinese Christians in a positive light, Shirley Burdick reveals a darker agenda. A US citizen who was born and raised in China until the age of 17, Burdick has spent years in Israel.

Shirley Burdick in Israel. (Credit: Shirley Burdick/Facebook)

Four years ago, she returned to China for a visit and noticed the extensive selection of Jewish books that have been translated into Chinese. Burdick described one of the motivations of Chinese people for learning more is respect for how the Jewish people have survived, despite centuries of persecution. “They [the Jews] are amazing people. How do we learn from them? That’s their approach. We must learn from them and learn to collaborate with them,” she explained.

There is a second motivation for Chinese Christian interest in Israel and Torah that is a good deal less endearing. Burdick told Breaking Israel News that the Chinese interest in Israel may also be tied to the Back to Jerusalem movement. According to their website, “Back to Jerusalem is the goal of the Chinese church to evangelize the unreached peoples from eastern provinces of China, westwards toward Jerusalem.” But will they stop evangelizing when they reach Israel?

Tang suspects not. Asked what percentage of Chinese Christians are motivated by a desire to convert Jewish people to Christianity, he replied, “The answer is 100% and the reason is that preaching the Gospel is the Great Commission.” Tang says about himself, “I’m not personally involved in missionizing to Jews.”

Burdick, granddaughter of a Christian pastor and fifth generation Christian, has lived and volunteered in Israel for the past seven years. She is on a mission to help Chinese Christians appreciate Jewish people and what Jewish people believe.

Toward that end, she has begun a modest project whose goal is “to get Chinese Christians to see Jewish people first. They have no idea who Jews are.” Burdick says that they know almost nothing about Jewish history. They are unaware that, “Jewish people have tremendous faith in Hashem (God) and in Hashem’s Word.

“Chinese Christians are practical people. They have to be shown concrete evidence.” So she starts building her case by illustrating the ingathering of the exiles because, she says, “The most concrete evidence is the return from exile. I show them pictures. I explain how Jewish people built the country. I connect it to the Bible. They are making the desert bloom.

The arid desert shall be glad, The wilderness shall rejoice And shall blossom like a rose. Isaiah 35:1

“Jewish people believe in the Bible and have a relationship with God. That is new information for so many Chinese Christians. I am trying to crack that understanding and show them the evidence.”

Once she has convinced them that there is more to the Jewish people than they previously understood, she likes to take them to Friday night prayer services at a local synagogue. “They come out crying,” she explained. I have to show them Jewish faith, that it’s not just Christians who have belief in God.”

Burdick also points out the need, “to fix Christian doctrine in order to have a meaningful relationship with the Jewish people. Christian doctrine eliminated the Jewish people from God’s plan for salvation. It doesn’t mention the Jewish people, which is just wrong,” she explained.

Her central message is nothing less than a paradigm shift. “When we first came to Israel, we were shocked that Jews understand the Bible,” she said about herself and her husband.

“This is deeper than replacement theology. The covenant is established with the Jewish people. Without the covenant, there is no salvation and that is with the Jews. Jews have to be part of the picture of salvation. Without Jews, that picture is not complete.”

Eventually, Burdick wants more Chinese Christians to come to Israel to see for themselves what she now understands. She knows hers is not a popular message. “It took me 10 years to be able to articulate these things. In the beginning, I had no idea who Jewish people are and what they believe in. We discovered that reality is different from our doctrine. Obviously Hashem is doing something that doesn’t agree with our doctrine. How do you talk about it?”

“Hashem wants the nations to know the word of the Lord. We’re hoping that our lessons will free Christians from their ulterior motive and be able to rejoice with the Jewish people in Israel,” she concluded.

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