Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Phillips translation of the Bible

I've read a bit of the "Phillips Modern English" translation of the Bible today. Jill Briscoe quotes from it sometimes, which is what sparked my curiosity.

In some spots, I really dislike the license they take in their translation. For example, in all the current favorite translations 1 Corinthians 15:58 is translated as: "Therefore my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your toil is not in vain." But, in the Phillips translation - the meaning is changed a bit. It reads: "And so, brothers of mine, stand firm! Let nothing move you as you busy yourselves in the Lord's work. Be sure that nothing you do for Him is ever lost or wasted." In the first version, the theology being taught is that we should work hard for the Lord (command), knowing that nothing we ever do in the Lord is wasted (promise)- but in the Phillips it implies that we need to make sure that our work is not wasted (command only). So, it's not about a promise - it's more about works.

However, reading this version can be jarring in a good way. In certain places it made me think about things in a new way. Even in spots where I disagreed with the liberties the translator took; it made me think about "what is truly true?" Here is a section from James that I liked:

"Don't ever attempt to combine snobbery with faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ! Suppose one man comes into your meeting well dressed and with a gold ring on his finger, and another man, obviously poor, arrives in shabby clothes. If you pay special attention to the well dressed man by saying, "Please sit here-it's an excellent seat," and say to the poor man, "You stand over there, please, or if you must sit, sit on the floor," doesn't that prove that you are making class distinctions in your mind, and setting yourselves up to assess a man's quality? - a very bad thing. For do notice that God chose poor men, whose only wealth was their faith, and made them heirs to the kingdom promised to those who love Him. And if you behave as I have suggested, it is the poor man you are insulting...Anyway, you should speak and act as men who will be judged by the law of freedom. The man who makes no allowances for others will have none made for him. It is still true that, "mercy smiles in the face of judgment"." (James 2:1-13, one section skipped)

So, I don't think that the Phillips translation is a favorite (in my opinion); in fact, I would probably recommend against it. But, I do think it's interesting to read different translations from time to time - especially for those who have made it through the whole Bible in one specific version. It can cause new light to fall on something.

No comments:

Post a Comment