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St John's Gospel - a lawyer's translation 

A translation into contemporary British English by Malcolm Bishop QC, a Baptist who also has a degree in theology, comes with a commendation from Paul Fiddes


St Johns gospelSt John's Gospel. A Lawyer's Translation from the Original Greek
By Malcolm Bishop QC
Matador, £9.99
ISBN 978 1788035 019
Reviewed by Pieter Lalleman

Another translation of a New Testament book has been added to the many we already have. It comes with a commendation of Professor Paul Fiddes printed on the back – but then Fiddes also provided advice to the translator. The idea is that the legal background of the translator, a QC, gives it added sharpness. Bishop also has a degree in theology.

I note the following characteristics of this fresh rendering:

  • It is in contemporary British English
  • It is a rather free translation. For example, John 18:37 reads, ‘These are your words’ and 19:5, ‘The man himself!’ Nicodemus addresses Jesus with ‘we of course know’, talks about Jesus’ ‘incredible signs’ and responds in 3:9, ‘You can’t be serious!’
  • John often uses the present tense where in English we use a past tense, and Bishop has translated this literally; for example, ‘When Jesus saw his mother and the beloved disciple, he says to his mother … and to the disciple he says…’ (19:26-27)
  • New chapters begin on new pages, as if John had subdivided his Gospel in this rigorous way. On the other hand, the verses are not numbered.
  • Quotations from the First Testament are printed in bold italics, but no references are given.
  • Direct speech has no speech marks, so it is sometimes hard to distinguish.

This little book is beautifully produced. On one of the first pages it is dedicated ‘to the Christian Martyrs of the Middle East and Africa’, and it says that all profits will be shared between two (little known) charities which provide relief for the suffering church in these areas.

If you have the guts, make this book a present for someone who calls themselves a Christian but never attends church.

The Revd Dr Pieter J. Lalleman teaches Bible at Spurgeon's College 

Baptist Times, 23/02/2018
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