Thursday, 8 July 2010

More reading in Croatia

One of the first 'grown up' books I remember owning is a small hardback translation of the New Testament. It was J B Phillips New Testament in Modern English. My mother has lovingly inscribed my name and address in the frontispiece, David Bartlett 5 Mareth Road Bedford 1965. 5 Mareth Road, the house I was born and lived in for my first 17 years.


J. B Philips began his work of translating the New Testament (NT) into modern English whilst a young curate in a South London parish during the second world war. His youth group struggled with the King James version, so Phillips set about the task of bringing the language up to date, giving one morning of every week to the work. He started in 1943 and completed the NT in 1946.


It's not particular well known today although certain phrases within it have found their place, of note is his translation of Romans 12.2 ;
Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its mould, but let God re-mould you from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of try maturity'.


Whilst in Croatia I have enjoyed reading Phillips' translation of Mark's gospel alongside some comments by the translator, it's called  Peter's portrait of Jesus, and it's well wroth getting hold of a second hand copy.

In writing about the incident in Mark 1 where Jesus is confronted by a man who is, 'in the grip of an evil spirit', Phillips comments,

Mark is at pains to point out that various spirits of evil recognise the power of  Jesus immediately..today in our cleverness nearly all of us reject the idea of possession by an 'evil spirit'. All can be explained by psychology etc. But the deep set evil that spoils our common life cannot so easily be explained away.

And then when speaking of the subsequent verses when Jesus speaks to the afflicted man, 

Jesus speaks in a sharp rebuke, and,  if we take the Greek word literally, he tells  the evil spirit to 'be muzzled'. It is not a polite expression and I must say I was tempted to translate it by the modern slang, 'belt up'!

I've enjoyed reading the thoughts of a translator grappling with the text-and not just any old text. As Phillips recounted in his book describing the translation process, 'it's been rather like being an electrician rewiring an old house without being able to turn off the electricity at the mains'.


The New Testament is that powerful. If it's been a while since you picked it up and read it why not  get yourself a modern translation like Phillips, or the more readily available NIV translation and give it a go. You might be 'shocked'!
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