By J. Noel Merideth
Kenneth Taylor, president of his own Wheaton-based publishing Company, Tyndall House, published The Living Bible Paraphrased in 1971. Taylor says he began his project so his children (now numbering ten) could better understand the Bible. He began the task fourteen years earlier while commuting on the Chicago and North Western Railway – and so far has sold two million copies of his paraphrased Bible. Parts of the Bible were issued first as separate books as they were completed. The work is now finished completely and issued as one volume. The news releases say it was not until the Graham association started pushing the book that sales really began to grow. The Living Bible Paraphrased is really just another “running commentary” that “paraphrases” and “rephrases” the Bible. Such books are sometimes helpful but must be watched closely for error. Frequent liberties with the text make it especially dangerous for the young and uninformed. Taylor admits in his introduction: “There are dangers in paraphrases, as well as values. For whenever the author’s exact words are not translated from the original languages, there is a possibility that the translator, however honest, may be giving the English reader something that the original writer did not mean to say . . . for when the Greek or Hebrew is not clear, then the theology of the translator is his guide . . .” There are some good things about the paraphrase. However, we need to be aware of the objectionable readings as some are pushing this paraphrase in the church today. While some hail how easy the paraphrase is to read; we need to know if it presents the word of God accurately faithfully.
There are serious objections to The Living Bible Paraphrased because of doctrinal error. The erroneous doctrine of original sin is taught in the paraphrase. The paraphrase renders Psalm 51:5, “But I was born a sinner, yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.” Ephesians 2:3 reads in the paraphrase, “We started out bad, being born with evil natures, and were under God’s anger just like everyone else. – These renderings are error. The “theology of the translator” certainly got the better of him here. There also appears the dispensational premillennial doctrine in Revelation 7:14 when we have “the Great Tribulation” with both the definite article and capitals. In connection with this 2 Timothy 4:1 reads in the paraphrase, “who will judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his kingdom. Likewise in Isaiah 2:24, “In the last days Jerusalem and the Temple of the Lord will become the world’s greatest attraction . . . The Lord will settle international disputes, all the nations will convert their weapons of war into implements of peace.” There are also problems in the paraphrase about the time of regeneration or the time we are saved. Romans 4:12 is rendered by Taylor, “Abraham found favor with God by faith alone.” Earlier he indicated we are acceptable to God if we “only trust in Christ.” (Rom. 4:9). Romans 6:4-5 has the time of regeneration and death of “your old sin-loving nature” when Christ died. First Peter 3:21 in the paraphrase does have baptism as a turning to God but states first, “In baptism we show that we have been saved from death and doom by the resurrection of Christ.” He does not have regeneration at baptism as the Bible teaches. John 3:5 which has the new birth of water and the Spirit has the footnote on water: “Or, ‘Physical birth is not enough. You must also be born spiritually . . .’ This alternate paraphrase interprets ‘born of water’ as meaning the normal process observed during every human birth.” This is, of course, denominational error in the footnote and has been answered many times in debate. Direct communication of the Holy Spirit is taught in the paraphrase. No wonder those mixed tip on this subject like this particular paraphrase so well! ! ! Romans 8:16, in the paraphrase read, “For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts, and tells us that we really are God’s children.” Galatians 5:16 reads, “I advise you to obey only he, Holy Spirit’s instructions. He will tell him where to go and what to do, and then you won’t always be doing the wrong things your evil nature wants you to.”
Genesis 6:4 has the fanciful reading in the paraphrase “In those days, and even afterwards, when the evil beings from the spirit world were sexually involved with human women, their children became giants, of whom so many legends are told.” Matthew 16: 18 has “You are Peter, a stone, and upon this rock . . . ” the gloss “a stone” does not belong in the text and though stone is different from rock, what uninformed reader will get the difference? Though members of the church generally know that the word “Christian” is found only three times in the Bible, it is frequently used in the paraphrase in other scriptures. (E.g., Gal. 6: 1; I John 2:5).
The book of Psalms is not printed in poetry form though other poetry is so printed. This is definitely inferior to the American Standard Version. The Song of Solomon is divided with speakers inserted, which are not in the original text. This is a questionable thing. Second John I has “That dear woman Cyria” which is a contestable point. Romans open with “Dear Friends” and closes with “Sincerely, Paul.” Other letters end with “Sincerely, Paul” but Second Corinthians and Philemon just have plain “Paul,” they did not get the “sincerely.” The book of Philippians has the last three verses following a “P.S.”
Some passages range from flippant to vulgar renderings. The word of God should be handled with reverence and we object to the loose and gutter type renderings beneath the dignity it deserves. John 9:34 reads in the paraphrase, “You illegitimate bastard, you!” Acts 4:36, “Joseph (the one the apostles nicknamed ‘Barney the Preacher’)!” Hosea 4: 11 read, “Wine, women, and song have robbed my people of their brains.” Second Corinthians 12:16, “He is a sneaky fellow.” Acts 23:3, “Paul said to him, ‘God shall slap you, you white-washed pigpen.’ ” First Samuel 25:17, “He’s such a stubborn out that no one can even talk to him!” Psalm 8:4, “Mere puny man.” Second Corinthians 8: 11, “Having started the hall rolling so enthusiastically.” Galatians 1:10, “You can see that I am not trying to please you by sweet talk.”
“Let not him that girdeth on his armor boast himself as he that putteth it off” (1 Kings 20: 11 ASV), becomes “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch!” in Taylor’s paraphrase. The problem here is that the person who reads the paraphrase and is not familiar with the Bible text might think that the expression “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch!” is in the Bible, when in reality it is not.
The paraphrase by Taylor is a nightmare when it comes to tracing a word through ‘the
Bible with a concordance. Casting lots is “drawing straws” in Jonah 1: 7; Acts 1: 26; “casting lots” in Leviticus 16:7; 1 Samuel 14:42; “throwing dice” in Esther 3:74; and “toss a coin” in Proverbs 16:33; 18:18. There is no consistency in its rendering of a single word. The kiss of the sinful woman and of Judas stand; but the “holy kiss” becomes “shake hands warmly (Rom 16:16) or “loving hand shake” (1 Cor. 16:20). The washing of feet is found in John 13; but the washing the saints’ feet is completely omitted in the qualifications of the widow in I Timothy 5: 10. While one is used to “all the churches of Christ salute you” in Romans 16:16, the paraphrase drops Christ altogether and has “all the churches here send you their greeting.” Christ prayed to him that was “able to save him from death” in Hebrews 5: 7 becomes premature death in the paraphrase (with premature inserted in brackets).
We hope that people, who have The Living Bible Paraphrased, will be aware that it is a Paraphrase. In too many instances it does not make the Bible say to the twentieth century what it said to the first century. This paraphrase is not reliable enough. It has the possibility of leading people into error. It lacks the dignity, accuracy, and exactness that should characterize such a work.
We add this unusual footnote from “Time” July 24, 1972, “Mysteriously, halfway through the paraphrase, Taylor lost his voice, and still speaks only in a hoarse whisper. A psychiatrist who examined him suggested that the voice failure was Taylor’s psychological self punishment for tampering with what he believed to be the word of God.” Gospel Advocate, Sept. 14, 1972
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 25, pp. 8-9
April 26, 1973