Friday, August 22, 2014

Fake Early Manuscripts about Korean Catholicism

Recently, some of the material that (John Baptist) Yi Byeok, one of the scholars who had a great deal to do with  the beginnings of Korean Catholicism, was judged  a fake. Yi Byeok was the one that convinced  (Peter) Yi Seung-hun to be baptized, Korea's  first Catholic.  He brought back books from China that were used to study Catholicism, and they began forming a community of believers.

A Protestant minister who was interested in  early  Christianity in Korea began collecting manuscripts from the these days.  One of writings was Seongkyo Yoji, (Essentials of the Holy Teachings) supposedly written by Yi Byeok. In an essay written by Fr. Youn in the Catholic Times, a priest who has studied the issue for three years, published a book giving reasons whey the manuscript was a fake. The minister donated his collection to a museum  and in 1967, the manuscript was discovered and many Catholic scholars, he says, without verification began using the material.

In the essay, he says  there never was any reference in the writings of the early Church that Yi Byeok ever wrote anything. In the manuscript, there are words that the early Christians did not use, but words that were in use by the Protestants years after the death of Yi Byeok. The book is filled with examples that the early Catholics would not have known from the reading of the books that they had received from China.

The priest mentions that Protestantism came to Korea a hundred years after the beginnings of Catholicism. Thirty years after the death of  Yi Byeok, Protestant Missioners in China were translating the Scriptures into Chinese and these words, that were unknown  to the Korean Catholics appeared in the manuscripts that were supposed to have been written by Yi Byeok.

These facts already were known by the  bishop's committee on beatification back in 2003. However, some had difficulty in accepting this news and even today we do have a few who have problems, however, the majority accepted the information by the priest.

Apparently, the minister who was gathering manuscripts back in  the  1930s  was paying good money for these writings so that they would not get in other people's hands, which  prompted others to see the possibility of making  easy money and began to make  copies of the history of the early church, supposedly written by martyrs. The essay mentions even today there are those that are trying to sell manuscripts from the early days and hopes that we don't continue to fall for these hoaxes.

Fr. Youn finishes the essay by telling those who want to study the matter in more detail, before concluding we are dealing with a fake, facts do  not change.  These people feel that  we are defaming the Church and Yi Byeok, and he finishes by saying what is not true has to to be proclaimed as not true.