John Bertram Phillips (1906-1982) was born in Barnes, Surrey, England. He did his honours in Classics and English at Cambridge and was ordained an Anglican clergyman when he was 24. While ministering in London during the blitz of WW 2, he used the time in the bomb shelters to start translating Colossians. With the help of CS Lewis, Geoffrey Bles became the publisher of:
- Letters to Young Churches (1947)
- The Gospels (1952)
- The Young Church in Action (Acts. 1955)
- The Book of Revelation (1957)
- The New Testament in Modern English (revised 1972)
As have other modern translators (e.g. NIV) been harshly criticized, so too has Phillips. They have been called blasphemers and heretics. Phillips’ translations are dubbed paraphrases that no born again Christian should buy!
Well, I am a born again Christian and I couldn’t disagree more. And, I might add, I am in the company of many more erudite Christians than I! For example, CS Lewis!
It’s interesting to compare the English translation of Bible verses on www.BibleGateway.com.
Millions of Christians have found Phillips’ translation a great blessing and benefit: the New Testament becomes vivid, alive and modern. When I was a child in Sunday School, the teacher used to enthusiastically pull out maps or flannel graphs and we would hear about Paul’s journeys from here to here and there to there. Such a bore! But read Phillips’ Young Church in Action (Acts) and it seems like reading an exciting novel. And yet it is truth and I couldn’t put it down when I first read it! The same applies to The Book of Revelation. I had read it and scored passages for years but read it laboriously. I read Phillips’ translation enthralled and without stopping.
With Christmas coming up, his translations would make a wonderful Christmas gift. They are 20th c Christian classics. I suggest The New Testament in Modern English where one can look inside it on Amazon and learn much about JB Phillips and his translations from his own pen! Available second hand from Amazon or reprints (HarperCollinsPublishers Australia: on sale 2009 in paperback or Collins UK 2000 in hardback.)