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Jesuit spends ten years translating Bible

17 January 2014

THOSE in a "torpor of overfamiliarity" with the Bible should take notice of a new translation, which "hits you between the eyes".

This endorsement by Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been given to a new translation by Fr Nicholas King, a Jesuit priest who teaches New Testament at Oxford University.

Launched on Thursday of last week at Heythrop College, the Bible is believed to be the first single-handed translation of both Testaments from the Greek version.

The publicity describes the translation as "exceptionally stimulating and sometimes startling". For example, Psalm 139 reads: "For you, O Lord, have possessed my kidneys; you helped me from my mother's womb."

The project began in 2002, when Fr King translated the Gospels of John and Mark before teaching at a summer school. In the class was the wife of the publisher Kevin Mayhew, who eventually persuaded Fr King to undertake the whole Bible.

He has translated the Old Testament from the Greek Septuagint. He explained on Tuesday that this was the text used by the authors of the New Testament; it "tells us a great deal about the way Jews were thinking about their own scriptures". Second, the manuscripts of the Septuagint were older than those of the Hebrew text, "and in some cases preserve a superior reading". Those who had produced these manuscripts had "kept the Hebrew idioms", which "force you to stop and think".

The translation includes the Deutero-Canonical books which are found in the Septuagint.

Fr King hoped that the translation would be "for everyone", from theology students to atheists, and advised people reading the Bible always have two versions open in front of them.

The Bible is published by Kevin Mayhew, at £49.99 (Church Times Bookshop, £45 - use code CT261 ).

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