Feast of J. B. Phillips (July 21)   2 comments

Anglican Priest; Bible Translator; died in 1982

John Bertram Phillips (1906-1982), ordained a priest of the Church of England in 1930, began translating parts of the Bible for members of his London parish in the 1940s.  Many parishioners, especially younger ones, experienced difficulty understanding the archaic language of the Authorized (or, as we on this side of the pond call it, King James) Version.  Phillips published his New Testament translation in segments, beginning in 1947, culminating eleven years later with the complete New Testament in Modern English.  The priest published portions of the Old Testament in 1963, and the final version of the New Testament in 1972.

I own a copy of the 1958 New Testament in Modern English and the 1972 revision.  The latter is better than the former.  Consider the Beatitudes, according to Matthew.  First, the 1958 rendering:

When Jesus saw the vast crowds he went up the hillside, and after he had sat down his disciples came to him.

Then he began his teaching by saying to them:

“How happy are the humble-minded, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!

“How happy are those who know what sorrow means, for they will be given courage and comfort!

“Happy are those who claim nothing, for the whole earth will belong to them!

“Happy are those who are hungry and thirst for goodness, for they will be fully satisfied!

“Happy are the merciful, for they will have mercy shown to them!

“Happy are the utterly sincere, for they will see God!

“Happy are those who make peace, for they will be known as sons of God!

“Happy are those who have suffered persecution for the cause of goodness, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!

“And what happiness will be yours when people blame you and ill-treat you and say all kinds of slanderous things against you for my sake!  Be glad then, yes, be tremendously glad–for your reward in Heaven is magnificent.  They persecuted the prophets before your time in exactly the same way.

Now, the 1972 translation:

When Jesus saw the vast crowds he went up the hill-side and after he had sat down his disciples came to him.

Then he began his teaching by saying to them,

“How happy are those who know their need for God, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!

“How happy are those who know what sorrow means, for they will be given courage and comfort!

“Happy are those who claim nothing, for the whole earth will belong to them!

“Happy are those who are hungry and thirsty for true goodness, for they will be fully satisfied!

“Happy are the merciful, for they will have mercy shown to them!

“Happy are the utterly sincere, for they will see God!

“Happy are those who make peace, for they will be known as sons of God!

“Happy are those who have suffered persecution for the cause of goodness, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!

“And what happiness will be yours when people blame you and ill-treat you and say all kinds of slanderous things against you for my sake!  Be glad then, yes, be tremendously glad–for your reward in Heaven is magnificent.  They persecuted the prophets before your time in exactly the same way.

The old Authorized (King James) Version rendering of the first beatitude blesses the “poor in spirit,” but the 1972 Phillips wording, “those who know their need for God,” works for me.  (The King James translation does not.)  It is no accident that I keep a copy of the 1972 Phillips New Testament by my bed, but make the Authorized Version live on a book case in another room, where I use it merely for reference purposes.

Phillips was also the author of other books, such as Your God is Too Small, a classic work.  He explained that many crises of faith result from inadequate concepts of God.  In other words, God being God, and thereby refusing to fit into any theological boxes, leaves us confused.  The problem is within us, not with God.  This is true, is it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2009

Lord God, you have surrounded us with so great a could of witnesses.  Grant that we (encouraged by the example of your servant J. B. Phillips) may persevere in the course that is set before us and, at the last, share in your eternal joy with all the saints in light, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 9:1-10

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Luke 6:20-23

Advertisements

2 responses to “Feast of J. B. Phillips (July 21)

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Thank you for making all this available. As one who has a hard time keeping a copy of JB Phillips’ New Testament [keep giving mine to friends], i am highly interested in its development.

    • You are very welcome! I prefer the early 1970s Phillips NT, which has become dated by now, yet is superior to most more recent versions of the New Testament.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: