Acts 17:11 Bible Studies

The J. B. Phillips Translation

A Guided Tour

The Phillips version of the New Testament is a hidden treasure in Christian literature. Enthusiastic fans include Chuck Swindol, Os Guinness, and the late Ray Stedman. It was Corrie Ten Boom's favorite in English. Michael Card's songs are often based on Phillips phraseology. Walter Martin gave away many dozens of copies, as have we.

While not heavily promoted, most Christian bookstores--or even Mall bookstores--will have one or two copies.

If you have never CRAVED reading God's word, run out and buy a J. B. Phillips right away; or see the link below to order a copy on-line. I credit the Phillips translation for starting my own interest in scripture.

This is an excerpt from a letter we often give to new believers when we provide them a copy.

Following is a "guided tour" of sorts to initiate you to the (Phi), or Phillips New Testament in Modern English.

Besides being crisp, snappy, and non "religious" in its verbiage, the main contribution of the Phillips translation is that it conveys the emotional impact of scripture. So it is especially good in "The Letters", (traditionally called the epistles) which are full of passionate zeal that often gets lost in other translations.

Most translations aim at passing the scrutiny of a committee of scholars, so they often end up being "designed by committee", and as a result perhaps a little bland at times--using a deliberate process of compromise. As well, a word-for-word approach--if you think about it--is a poor technique if what you want is truly a translation from the original. What about the meaning of the sentences? What of the sweep of the paragraphs? What about the emotional tone?

It was for this reason that C. S. Lewis and other scholars encouraged J. B. Phillips to complete the version you now have in your hands: a New Testament translation of words, sentences, content, meaning and tone from the original Greek.

Since the Phillips was written, several new translations like the New International Version (NIV), the New King James (NKJ), and the New American Standard (NAS) have been completed which are much more readable and accurate than what was available back when Phillips made his translation. But, in our opinion, none can beat the Phillips for being fun to read, using words and concepts consistently, and for conveying the sheer thrill of God's Word! See if you don't agree.

Be aware that most Phillips New Testaments do not have verse numbers, as these were not in the original Greek. If you need them, get the "Student Version" which has notations in the margin. I will here be referring to page numbers, as I have yet to come across a printing not from the same plates.

But enough introduction, let's get our feet wet.

To get a feel for the style of the Phillips translation and a good explanation of what the purpose of scripture is, try starting with the little 7-page "book" of 1 John (page 500).

We do not recommend reading the New Testament straight through the first time, unless you think you have the discipline to, since the first four books (the gospels) are basically the same story retold four times. Pick one of the gospels, and then skip to some of the "Instruction Letters", and then come back later and read another gospel so that the story of Messiah's life strikes you in a fresh way.

Here is our recommendation on which gospel to read first. If you like mystery and a cosmic perspective, start with John, which soars with imagery and meaning. "The Gospel of John" is one of the deepest books ever written, and yet in this translation it is easily digested in its primary meaning. Especially clear is Phillips' rendering of the prologue on page 180. Don't expect to understand all this in the first reading. St. John is a "mine" that needs to be dug into over and again... to get out all of its gems.

If you are in a more down to earth mood, start with "The Gospel of Luke" (page 108) which reads like it might be a news report in a modern magazine, with a very human touch. The book of Acts should be read after Luke, but more on that later.

Since the gospels are written as reports, without a lot of emotion interjected by the writers, the Phillips is perhaps not that much better than other good modern translations--except for Luke and John. The letters are where the Phillips really crackles and gears up!

If you ever had the idea that the Bible is full of agreeable platitudes and niceties, try reading Galatians (page 389). You will quickly figure out that Paul is "miffed". If you want to know more about what Paul is upset about go to Romans (page 308), a "heavy" book that is perhaps the most insightful analysis of the human condition ever penned. I did not understand this book till I read it in the Phillips.

Now, for the history of the early church, try "The Acts of the Apostles" starting on page 230. You should read the gospel of Luke first, since it is really the prologue for Acts. Both are authored by the historian and physician Luke, and should be read together.

You might also venture to read the Phillips introductory notes. They are fascinating and succinct, and add significant flavor to the text.

Next, try "The Letter to the Christians at Colossae" starting on page 417. Then, back up to "The Letter to the Christians at Ephesus" on page 400.

If you've made it this far, you now have a clue why we get so excited about the Bible. Wild! Drama, mystery, political intrigue, romance, philosophy, high emotion. In it is revelation, or as I like to say, "a message from outer space"!

We've come to the conclusion that it is the truth about man and the truth about God, leading to salvation, inner peace, joy and camaraderie across the years and miles with our fathers in the faith. Neat stuff, eh!

2 Pet 1:2-3 (Phi) May you know more and more of grace and peace as your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord grows deeper. He has by his own action given us everything that is necessary for living the truly good life, in allowing us to know the one who has called us to him, through his glorious goodness.

For a full online version of the Phillips, see

Good reading,

Dean & Laura VanDruff


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