30th July 2019

The New and Old

“‘You can see, then,’ returned Jesus, ‘how everyone who knows the Law and becomes a disciple of the kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who can produce from his store both the new and the old.’”
Matthew 13:52 (Phillips 1972 version)

I’ve had on my bookcase a translation of the New Testament which I bought over half a century ago. It was among the first of the many translations I have today, and this book has followed me faithfully through all the many adventures in life I have experienced. Frequently it has been consulted, read, quoted from, and especially when a passage or two from another translation didn’t convey any meaning to me, this was always the one which did.

And then recently I was asked to check some writing which included a passage from this particular translation—or at least it claimed that it did. Only it didn’t match what my copy told me. So I set about investigating, and discovered that 40 years on from my copy, the translator had revisited his work and produced a new translation, completely different from the previous one. In his new translation there is an introduction where he says that he was only using bits from the old where he couldn’t think of any way of improving the English. And yes, this new translation matched the quote used in the writing I had been asked to check.

So now I have two translations. With the same name. By the same author. Forty years apart in translation and publication. But with the same name. Which is the ‘correct’ version? The answer is probably both, although the scholarship and understanding of the second claims to be superior. The New Testament in question is J. B. Phillips’.

Many a Christian has been around for 40 years or more. It has been said to me by a few that they studied the Bible when they were first moved to come to Christ and that they see no need to revisit and renew that study now. Well, J. B. Phillips didn’t feel that way. He found that when he set out to revise his translation, he ended up with a new translation. In many places he had a completely new understanding; the passage in question now said something new to him.

In our walk with our God, whether 40 years or more, we need to be prepared to study God’s Word all over again. Really, it’s a new book to us, and it is worthy to be studied, especially revisiting areas we think we know so well. It confirms what we knew, and it refines where we can now see something new. In fact, the Bible is always going to be new for us, both surprising and wonderful!

Holy Father, help us to be humble enough always to be teachable, always ready to listen anew and to consider refining what we have been taught before. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by John Stettaford

About the Author:
John Stettaford is an Elder in the Reading Congregation of the Worldwide Church of God UK.

Local Congregation:
Worldwide Church of God Reading
Prospect School, Room A1 (Main Building)
Honey End Lane
RG30 4EL

Meeting Time:
Saturday 11am

Local Congregational Contact:
John Stettaford
Phone: 01923-241426
Email: pastor@wcg-reading.org.uk

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