About Mary Phil

Mary Phil was born in Sheffield, England, in 1935, the ninth in a family of twelve children. This piece of information usually elicited the comment: “You’ve had your corners knocked off then!” Maybe, maybe not! Whatever, she always considered her brothers and sisters as one of life’s greatest gifts. Her father was a steel industrialist. Her mother came from a coal-mining family where the boys went to the mines and the girls into domestic service at the ripe age of thirteen.

Thanks to her mother’s innate curiosity about words (how often the dictionary was brought out at meal times to clarify the meaning of a word or determine its pronunciation), a home in the Derbyshire moors where books were the main source of entertainment, and an English teacher at Notre Dame High School for Young Ladies (makes you smile?), who communicated her enthusiasm for Shakespeare to pupils of eleven upwards, Mary Phil developed a special love of English literature, especially poetry.

Studies at Paris and Oxford Universities later led to a teaching career in France, England and Belgium. Her main post was at the Brussels Institut Supérieur de Traducteurs et d'Interprètes but after sixteen years she switched to biblical studies and was fortunate in studying with exceptional Christian and Jewish teachers.

Much of the last thirty years have been devoted to Bible translation and commentary. Mary Phil has addressed the International Meetings of The Society of Biblical Literature (Copenhagen, Rome, Munster, Budapest, Cambridge, Edinburgh, London), The Translators Association (Sheffield, Norwich) and The International Federation of Translators (Mons).Other invitations came from The London Festival of Literature (Globe Theatre), an International Bible Colloquium at Amsterdam University (she was the only woman among the seven main speakers), the programme The Spirit of Things on Australian Radio, and also basic Christian communities, parish groups…. She especially remembers two enriching experiences: one, a month’s stay at the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, with twenty-five American and Canadian scholars from different disciplines, races and creeds; the other a two-year stint preparing The Fifth Biennial Meeting of The European Society of Women in Theological Research, which she also presided. She was promoted to that position by colleagues on the organising committee (a confrontational group of feminists who claimed that her reputation was less damaged than theirs!) while in hospital for a mastectomy and the work involved certainly helped to take her mind off that particular problem.

Today Mary Phil says: "My roots are in Roman Catholicism but, since the early nineteen fifties when I was member of a 'Christian Unity Group' at Oxford (a novelty at the time), my horizons have broadened to include other Christian groups and subsequently other religions. When presiding the ESWTR Meeting I made sure that Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Atheism were each represented by prominent speakers. As I grow older, barriers tend to fall away. In this regard I find Dürckheim enlightening when he says that religion, art, nature and the erotic are all spiritual paths to the transcendent".

Mary Phil likes gardens and gardening, swimming, dancing, cooking and clowning.

She is an active member of The Society of Authors
The Translators Association
The Society of Biblical Literature
The European Society of Women in Theological Research



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