Let’s not lose sight of this still-useful old timer (my copy is published by Harold Shaw Publishers, Wheaton, IL , copyright 1967; ISBN: 0-87788-724-1). The author is J. B. Phillips, Anglican priest, who translated the New Testament during the era of the Second World War, in London, UK.

What I find keepable about this work, aside from its author’s devout and humbled Christianity, is the clarity of his observations about the texts which flowed from Phillips’ mental transformation during the years it took him to complete his translation.

He set to his task with his mind fixed in a very conventional — respectful but distant — perception of the Holy Scriptures. Because he dug into the original languages of the Bible, he slipped behind the seductive beauty of the King James Version and the ball-and-chain of some intervening church doctrines laced with human opinion, and surprised himself into a totally new and productive relationship with the books of the Bible, their authors, original auditors and readers.

The book records his discoveries, his doubts and questions — their reassurances and at least partial answers.

Fashions in theology come and go, as in almost every department of life, but the Bible scholar who works with the original languages has the most likelihood of producing a lasting translation. Phillips’ intellect gained substance through his submersion in the spirituality of the early Christians. He found himself a more effective pastor, especially with young people, after he could share the New Testament in dignified but contemporary language.

Shades of William Tyndale, the first Englishman to translate Scripture from its original languages. Tyndale, working under the prying noses of Henry VIII and the Holy Roman Emperor, was martyred for his achievements. By Phillips’ time, Bible scholarship had become safer, and we are blest that he could leave us a completed translation as well as this memoir of his efforts.

Perhaps unknowingly, Phillips experienced the ring of truth that permeates the following passage from the works of another Christian Bible scholar and theologian:

“Acquaintance with the original texts, and willingness to give up human beliefs (established by hierarchies, and instigated sometimes by the worst passions of men), open the way for Christian Science [i.e., Christianity itself] to be understood, and make the Bible the chart of life, where the buoys and healing currents of Truth are pointed out” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 24. first published, 1875).

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