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Phillips an Early Translation? Hardly.

Robin Jordan makes an interesting statement about translations of the Bible into English:

I have been reading J. B. Phillips’ translation of the Gospels into modern English. It is one of the earliest translations of the Gospels into the vernacular. The Gospels are the part of the Bible with which I am the most familiar. I have read the Gospels dozens of times in several different translations. The Gospels are the part of the Bible to which I turn again and again.

Translations of the Bible into English have been done since the days of Wycliffe and Tyndale, but what I think he’s referring to is “modern English” translations. Unfortunately his statement doesn’t pass muster, because, once we get past the flurry of KJV revisions such as the RV and ASV, the first “modern” translation to get widespread currency was the Twentieth Century New Testament. The copyright dates on this are 1900-1904; I have a copy. This translation is a favourite of mine, and I “reissued” it in my Positive Infinity New Testament.

On the other hand Phillips’ translation of the Gospels is copyright 1952, and the entire New Testament 1958. I also have a copy of this as well. Phillips revised the translation in 1972; the whole story of Phillips and many other translations from the last century (including the TCNT) can be found in So Many Versions? Twentieth-Century English Versions of the Bible. (For a “successor” book to this, you can read my book review here.)

I agree that the Sermon on the Mount gets the short shrift in Evangelical focus. As to whether Robin and I adhere to this, take a look at the comments section of this post and decide for yourself. It’s easier said than done, although the attempt is worth the effort.


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