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This paraphrase of the New Testament first appeared in parts from 1947 to 1957. Phillips began with the epistles, published as Letters to Young Churches in 1947; the Gospels were published in The Gospels in Modern English in 1952; the Acts (published as The Young Church in Action) in 1955; and The Book of Revelation in 1957. A one-volume edition of the complete New Testament was published in 1958, and a revised edition came out in 1961.
The translator, John B. Phillips (1906-1982), was an English clergyman who had studied classical Greek at Cambridge University. During the Second World War he was a minister at the Church of the Good Shepherd in London, where he supervised a young people's club. It was his work with the young people that first prompted him to translate the New Testament into the style of modern speech.