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This article is part of a series that looks at various English translations of the Bible.

New light on familiar truths

From the June 2005 issue of The Christian Science Journal

"IT'S LIKE SEEING AN OLD PICTURE after it's been cleaned." J.B. Phillips, The Ring of Truth: A Translator's Testimony (Wheaton, Illinois: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1977), p. 30 .This was C. S. Lewis's assessment of his friend's English translation of Colossians. The friend, J. B. Phillips, treasured this comment. That's precisely the effect he was hoping for.

An Anglican priest, Greek scholar, and author, Phillips set out to convey the "living quality" of the New Testament—"to create in my readers the same emotions as the original writings evoked nearly 2,000 years ago." J.B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, rev. (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1972), p. Viii . Many readers have found that he successfully met this goal with his translation, The New Testament in Modern English. This translation—which is contemporary and lively in style while still true to the Greek text—is a good choice for research, or for those looking for a version to read through as a whole.

Phillips began his project in 1941 for his youth club and members of his congregation. He believed that the New Testament—written for Christians in danger—would benefit those who were living in danger now, including members of his own parish, who had suffered severe bombings in southeast London. Because he felt his parish was already quite familiar with the Gospels, he began by translating the epistles, and published Letters to Young Churches in 1947. When this was well-received, he moved on to translating the rest of the New Testament, which he finished in 1960. Phillips later did a major revision of the whole work, which was published in 1972.

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