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Saturday, June 11, 2005

Living Bible legacy

Today I have been thinking about the legacy of Kenneth Taylor who passed away yesterday. I recall first reading his paraphrased Bible. My parents had gotten copies of the early paperback editions. They had names such as Living Epistles and Living Gospels. It was probably the early 1960's. I would open the books up up and start reading, but then I would stop because they didn't sound like I thought the Bible should sound. What I read sounded too clear, too much like the English I spoke, to be a Bible, so I thought then. I thought the Bible wasn't supposed to sound clear. I was very devout spiritually and I wanted to be sure I was reading the right kind of Bible. My church only used the King James Bible. Later, as I learned more about Bible translation, I learned that the Bible did not have an oldfashioned, obscure sound when it was first written. It's possible that the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts may not have been as easy to read as the Living Bible, but I'm sure that they were clearer than many of the Bibles which have been produced in the English language, including versions still being produced today.

Millions of people read the Living Bible. Many for the first time could understand large stretches of the Bible. I received an email today from a pastor, responding to the news of Dr. Taylor's passing, telling me that the Living Bible was the first English Bible that he had read all the way through. Dr. Taylor blessed his own family with that paraphrase which he made for them. I have met two of his children and they have told me that they well remember their father reading his early drafts of the Living Bible to them during their family devotional time.

Of course, the Living Bible was not perfect. Bible scholars found a number of verses where the translation needed to be closer to the biblical language source texts. But you know, it is a sign of the humility of Dr. Taylor that he supported revision of the Living Bible by Bible scholars to create the New Living Translation. He did not stand in the way of revision. He did not stand in the way of making his Bible translation (technically, a paraphrase) better.

Better Bibles. The work continues today. And with email, Bible version websites, and blogs we have come to the point where it is even easier for Bible translation teams to gather input from the Bible reading public as well as scholars, so that their translations become even better.

When I was a child, I thought as a child. I did not immediately recognize the value of the Living Bible. Today I look back and thank God for the ministry the Living Bible had to millions of people. And I thank God even more for giving the world that humble man, Kenneth Taylor, make the Bible more understandable for his own children, and then shared what he wrote with the rest of the English speaking world. His legacy lives on today through his Bible translation work, through Tyndale House Publishers which he founded, through a ministry of training and financial support to national Bible translators around the world, through the ministries of his children and their spouses, and, yes, now even through myself, who thought as a child when I first read the Living Bible, but my thinking changed over time, and when I became a man, I hope I have learned to think more as a man. If nothing else, I hope I can be as humble as Dr. Taylor and be willing to have my own efforts for Christ's Kingdom be made better by others, as he did.

Better Bibles. Why? So that more people will come to understand God's written word and allow its teachings to change their lives.

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