By Donald P Ames
Many times a Bible gains a great deal of publicity because of certain features. Some of this is good-and some bad. Sometimes a Bible may be a “big seller” and those buying it be totally unaware of some dangers which are inherent in it (i.e., many do not realize that the Scofield Bible, though a King James Version, is actually set up in the footnotes and cross-references to teach the false doctrine of Premillennialism by following them). This same problem is to be found in some modern translations. Whenever such be purchased, they need to be considered carefully. Some are good! Of these, I would highly commend the New International Bible (N.T.) and also the New American Standard Bible. On the other hand, despite the publicity, I cannot recommend others because of dangers associated with them. In this latter class I place the Today’s English Version (more popularly known as Good News For Modern Man) and The Living Bible-Paraphrased.
Because it is laid out exactly like a copy of the Bible, many do not realize that The Living Bible-Paraphrased is NOT a translation, nor are they aware where the author has inserted his own ideas in preference to those used in an actual translation. “To paraphrase is to say something in different words than the author used. It is a restatement of an author’s thoughts, using different words than he did” (Preface). Thus, Mr. Taylor, who authored The Living Bible-Paraphrased, acknowledges that “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” (Preface). This is one reason a translation made by a group of scholars with a mixed background is much safer than one by a single person. It is my contention that The Living Bible-Paraphrased contains many such translation errors-even when the original IS clear. This, we intend to reveal.
It might also be noted that Time Magazine, July 24, 1972, made the following comment: “Mysteriously, half way 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.” That such “tampering” existed is evident. We urge you to get your own Bibles and compare them with the following taught in The Living Bible-Paraphrased.
“But I was born a sinner, yes, from the moment my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5).
“These men are born sinners, lying from their earliest words” (Ps. 58:3).
Contrast this with the plain statements found in Ezek. 18:20 and 2 Cor. 5:10, which notes each individual answers only for his own actions, and not for something he “inherited.”
“We started out bad, being born with evil natures, and were under God’s anger just like everyone else” (Eph. 2:3).
“Your old sin-loving nature was buried with him by baptism when he died. . . .” (Rom. 6:4).
“Then you won’t always be doing the wrong things your evil nature wants you to” (Gal. 5:16).
Again, compare these comments to what is revealed in Eccl. 12:7, Heb. 12:9 and Matt. 18:3. Are we ready to blame God as being the “Father” of sin?
“For Abraham found favor with God by faith alone, before he was circumcised” (Rom. 4:12). That statement is also supported by that found in v. 9, that we need “only trust in Christ.”
“In baptism we show that we have been saved from death and doom” (1 Pet. 3:21-emphasis mine, DPA).
The footnote in John 3:5 on the word “water says: “Or, `Physical birth is not enough. You must also be born spiritually. . . . ” This alternative paraphrase interprets “born of water” as meaning the normal process observed during every human birth. . . .” Thus he seeks to eliminate water baptism as being involved, despite the plain parallels found in Eph. 5:26 and Titus 3:5.
“For now we are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, and we who have been baptized into union with Christ are enveloped by him” (Gal. 3:26-27-again, emphasis mine, DPA). Here Mr. Taylor uses the word “and” for the Greek word gar, which clearly means “because” and shows we have been made sons of God by baptism.
“For God loves the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16-emphasis mine, DPA). The original in this passage is “should not”, and thus implies he will go ahead and complete obedience.
“But to all who receive him, he gave the right to become children of God. All they needed to do was to trust him to save them” (John 1:12). The KJV and NASB read completely different in actual translation, noting nothing whatsoever about “all they needed to do was to trust him to save them.” Again, Mr. Taylor has allowed his theology to cloud his scholarship on this passage.
“For it is by believing in his heart that a man becomes right with God; and with his mouth he tells others of his faith, confirming his salvation” (Rom. 10:10-emphasis mine, DPA). The fact “confession is made unto salvation” shows it has not yet been achieved, hence cannot be “confirmed” yet.
No one denies the fact that we are saved “by faith” (Rom. 5:1), but no where does the Bible affirm it is by faith only, as Mr. Taylor believes and has altered the text to imply. James 2:24 is the only place this term appears and affirms just the opposite. Note also such passages as Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, 22:16, Heb. 5:9, etc.
“For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts, and tells us that we really are God’s children” (Rom. 8:16). Here it is good to note that the correct meaning is not “to,” but “with” and thus is not affirming the direct operation of the Holy Spirit.
“I advise you to obey only the Holy Spirit’s instructions. He will tell you where to go and what to do” (Gal. 5:16).
Although he assigns the correct purpose to baptism in Acts 2:38 “for the forgiveness of your sins”-which contradicts his paraphrases under the previous headings), he then goes on to say, “Then you also shall receive this gift, the Holy Spirit.” Whether the Holy Spirit itself was the gift, or the gift of salvation made known by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, has long been debated by the Bible scholars (I personally believe the latter is correct), and must be determined contextually, which has been eliminated from consideration here by Mr. Taylor.
“These are the ones coming out of the Great Tribulation” (Rev. 7:14). That the saints were, in this passage, undergoing a great tribulation is true; but Mr. Taylor’s use of caps clearly reveals his theological ideas.
“Who will some day judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:1-emphasis mine, DPA). Even the prophecy he quotes in Isa. 2:2-4 carries a materialistic ring to it. Yet, Dan. 2:44 claims the kingdom would be set up in the days of the Roman Empire (not another one like the original). Mark 9:1 says it was to be set up during the life time of the apostles, as we see fulfilled in Acts 1:8 and 2:1-4. Paul says we have it already (Col. 1:13, Heb. 12:28). When Christ returns, it will not be to “set up” his kingdom, but to “deliver up” (1 Cor. 15:24-25).
In Rev. 1:9, John is not “in” the kingdom, as correct translations affirm, but Mr. Taylor claims “we shall share his kingdom” (emphasis mine, DPA)—thus avoiding a conflict with his futuristic view.
In Rom. 11:26, where Paul says, “thus (in similar manner) shall all Israel be saved,” we find Mr. Taylor makes it a future, national salvation—“And then all Israel will be saved.”
Once Saved, Always Saved
In addition to the perversion of John 3:16, which we have already noted under the heading of “Faith Only,” which is changed to justify salvation by faith only as well as to fit the doctrine of the eternal security of the believer, note also the following from John 5:24-“I say emphatically that anyone who listens to my message and believes in God who sent me has eternal life, and will never be damned for his sins, but has already passed out of death into life.”
“Christ is useless to you if you are counting on clearing your debt to God by keeping those laws; you are lost from God’s grace” (Gal. 5:4). Mr. Taylor here follows the usual dodge of implying it is talking about one’s initial salvation-and not that they had already had God’s grace, from which they were “severed” and from which they had “fallen.” One cannot be “severed” from that which he has never had (cf. John 15:6).
Mr. Taylor’s efforts are further bolstered by his paraphrase of Gal. 5:2, “Listen to me, for this is serious: if you are counting on circumcision and keeping the Jewish laws to make you right with God, then Christ cannot save you.”
In 2 Cor. 3:17, he implies there is no need to do the will of God (see the consequences of this doctrine in Matt. 7:21-23) as he says, “The Lord is the Spirit who gives them life, and where he is there is freedom (from trying to be saved by keeping the laws of God).”
In Matt. 16:18 he inserts “a stone” into the text; which only creates confusion and is not in the original at all-“You are Peter, a stone; and upon this rock I will build my church.” A good chance to clear up some of the misuse of v. 19 (as was correctly done in the New American Standard Bible) was passed over—“whatever doors you lock on earth shall be locked in heaven; and whatever doors you open on earth shall be open in heaven” (compare this with John 12:48 and John 16:13 to see who was actually dictating to whom).
Although the word “Christian” appears only three times in the original, Mr. Taylor had made very free use of it throughout the epistles of Paul, even catching himself in another contradiction of his doctrine of “once saved, always saved” in Gal. 6:1 by saying, “Dear brothers, if a Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help him back onto the right path . . .” (See also 1 John 2:4-6).
In the Song of Solomon, he arbitrarily decided who is speaking in each case-a point many challenge for correctness.
The poetry of the Psalms has been completely removed in favor of a prose rendition. While this does not affect its validity, it certainly makes it much more awkward to those accustomed to the beauty and poetry of other versions.
In John 1:1, Mr. Taylor decides to completely ignore the original (which clearly reads “the Word”-see Acts 2:36), and paraphrases it, “Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God.”
In Acts 20:11 we find, “They all went back upstairs and ate the Lord’s Supper together.” However, the original here again differs, saying only that “he” ate, and refers to Paul pausing for a bit of nourishment while things settled back down, and not to the Lord’s Supper at all in this verse.
Although the word “bishop” is also correct when applied to a “pastor” or “elder,” as he did in 1 Tim. 3:1, he adds the following footnote; “presiding elder”-for which there is no justification. In Acts 14:23 and 1 Pet. 5:2 the scriptures plainly teach a plurality of elders over each local congregation, and all sharing equally. There was no such thing as a “presiding elder,” and these qualifications apply to all “elders,” and not to one “presiding elder.”
2 John 1 assigns the name of “Cyria” as the one being addressed-and again with no justification whatsoever, We do not know exactly who it was who was addressed in this passage.
Heb. 5:7 takes the liberty of inserting that the death of Christ was “premature,” implying the Jews got ahead of God’s schedule, in spite of the fact it was in full accord with the will of God (Luke 22:42). Note: ‘Yet while Christ was here on earth he pleaded with God, praying with tears and agony of soul to the only one who would save him from (premature) death.”
In 1 Cot. 13:10, Mr. Taylor does away with the Bible teaching that when the completed divine revelation was revealed (Jas. 1:25), the partial (miraculous gifts) would cease, and becomes, “But when we have been made perfect and complete, then the need for these inadequate special gifts will come to an end, and they will disappear.” There is no justification whatsoever for changing “that which” here to “we”.
Rom. 16:16 changes both “the churches of Christ” and “holy kiss” and reads, “Shake hands warmly with each other. All the churches here send you their greetings.” But, no wonder, since Mr. Taylor does not believe one must wear the name of Christ (Acts 4:12) and identify whose church it is in Biblical terminology.
No effort at all has been made for consistency. “Casting lots” Js so translated in Lev. 16:7 and 1 Sam. 14:42, but becomes “draw straws” in Jonah 1:7 and Acts 1:26; and changes to “throw dice” in Esther 3:7; and to “toss a coin” in Prov. 16:33 and 18:18.
All of Paul’s epistles are headed in The Living Bible-Paraphrased by such headings as “Dear friends in Rome,” etc.-though not in the original-and all close with the closing, “Sincerely, Paul.” I should say all except 2 Cot., 2 Tim. and Philemon, where Paul for some reason was not so “sincere,” but rather just signed them, “Paul.” Phil. 4:21-23 has been assigned as a “P.S.” footnote as well.
The term “holy kiss” is retained when it was received by Jesus from Judas and the sinful woman, but becomes “shake hands warmly” in Rom. 16:16 and also a “loving handshake” in 1 Cot. 16:20.
In Poor Taste
Many other expression manifest a very poor sense of taste and a lack of proper forethought.
“It was at this time that beings from the spirit world looked upon the beautiful earth women and took any they desired to be their wives. . . . 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” (Gen. 6:2,4). This almost sounds like something from the Exorcist, rather than the word of God. Here the term “sons of God” is rendered as “being from the spirit world” and “evil beings from the spirit world.” However elsewhere it is used regularly and consistently of those human beings who were walking according to the laws of God, thus here to the descendants of Seth-and not to “evil spirits” at all! In light of the statement in Mark 12:25 and the context, there can be no justification whatsoever for such liberties.
Many other such expressions exist as evidence of very poor taste and judgment.
“You illegitimate bastard” appears in John 9:34; while the term, “You son of a bitch” is found in 1 Sam. 20:30. Would you parents like to recommend a volume containing the above to your kids and have them begin using such expressions? They will find them in The Living Bible-Paraphrased!
In Acts 4:36, “Joseph, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas (which is, being interpreted, the Son of consolation)” is rendered by Mr. Taylor as “Joseph (the one the apostles nicknamed `Barny the Preacher’. . . )”.
Acts 23:3 finds Paul’s statement of “Thou whited wall” becoming “you whitewashed pigpen.”
2 Cor. 12:16 refers to Paul as a “sneaky fellow” who “didn’t seem to cost us anything” (emphasis mine, DPA).
2 Cor. 8:11 introduces a term unrelated to the Bible in origin-“Having started the ball rolling.” Other terms unrelated to the Bible in origin found in The Living Bible–Paraphrased include: “Wine, women and song have robbed my people of their brains” (Hosea 4:11). “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch” (1 Kings 20:11); “a stubborn lout” (1 Sam. 25:17); “You keep putting your foot in your mouth” (Prov. 10:19); and “When the horse is stolen, it is too late to lock the barn” (Eccl. 10:11-totally different from the original).
Paul is not nearly so concerned with pleasing God as contrasted with pleasing men in Gal. 1:10, but rather, “You can see that I am not trying to please you by sweet talk and flattery.”
The familiar passage in Psa. 8:4 becomes, “I cannot understand how you can bother with mere puny man, to pay any attention to him.”
This paraphrase is dangerous, not only because of the many liberties taken by Mr. Taylor in making it, but because it is laid out like a Bible with nothing to call attention to where he took these liberties. Laid out thusly, many assume that it is a good and correct translation, and so use it, referring to it as a “Bible.” But, it is not a translation, and as we have demonstrated in this review, it is not even a good paraphrase! It has been dubbed by some as “A Handbook on Calvinism,” and certainly that would be a much more appropriate title for it. Because of the many liberties taken-often when the original was very plain-some glaring, and some more subtle; I cannot recommend, endorse or encourage usage of it.
I hope this review, if used properly with your own Bibles, will help you to become aware of the many errors of this paraphrase, and that being forewarned, you will also join in discouraging its deceptive teaching.
Truth Magazine, XX:11, p. 6-9
March 11, 1976