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An Outstanding Paraphrase
on 19 September 2012
When 'The Living Bible' was released, this was the day when the King James Version ruled over all other translations. With it's ancient language and difficult, long sentences, it was no wonder fewer and fewer people were understanding the story of the Bible. People were struggling to get through the Bible. They didn't want to read it anymore. It seemed Scripture was becoming an old, irrelevant book. But suddenly, a version came out which was so easy to understand and so addictive to read that people could hardly put it down. Here was finally a Bible which brought God's Word to life! God's Word had been resurrected out of the ancient tomb it had been kept in for so long! So it was aptly entitled 'The Living Bible' and to say it was a success is probably an understatement.
It was done by the late Kenneth Taylor, who wanted his own children to understand the meaning of Scripture. The American Standard Version 1901 (ASV) was too difficult for them since it is very much like the King James Version. Taylor would draw up paraphrases of passages found in the ASV, to help his children understand. Over a long period, and after Hebrew and Greek scholars and English-style editors got involved, 'The Living Bible' was the result.
I bought it simply because David Pawson keeps mentioning how useful it has been to him and churches he has pastored. He has read through the entire Bible with at least one congregation when he was a pastor and they used 'The Living Bible'. It wasn't a thoughtless decision on his part. He knew the people would get far more out of reading through this version than any other, because this one puts the meaning across more clearly than any other. Pawson also (probably rightly) claims that this Bible is the nearest Bible to the heart of what God is trying to say to us. Another biblical language scholar agrees with this. So I figured, well, I'd best get a copy and have a look. I'm a preacher, so I figured it would help me to put the meaning of Scripture across more plainly.
Since it's come, I imagined it would live mostly on the shelf, but to my surprise I've been reading it often! I know it's not 100% accurate (what translation is?). But it sure is the most readable version I've ever read! In fact, when my copy came through the letter box, it had across it a piece of cardboard which said 'The Bible you won't want to stop reading!' I have found this to be my own experience. You definitely find it a challenge to stop once you've started reading! It's like 'Pringles'! But it's very obvious why it was so popular. And it should still be popular. I doubt you could pick a better choice if you are someone who has tried to read the whole Bible through in other versions, but have gotten stuck or bored. This would be very easy to read the entire Word of God through.
In comparison to 'The Message', I think this is far better. I gave 'The Message' 4 stars. That's because though it is a good paraphrase, it certainly is more modernised than this. 'The Message' takes one too many liberties. It feels a bit too much like the story of the Bible is happening in London or New York at times. 'The Living Bible' still feels like you're back in Bible times as you are reading it. And it's more accurate than 'The Message'. It also comes with helpful footnotes which explain confusing things or which show literally what the text is saying, unlike 'The Message'. 'The Message' isn't as readable and, surprisingly, sometimes has words which few people would understand. There's nothing like this in 'The Living Bible'. Peterson said of his 'The Message' paraphrase: 'I haven't tried to make things easy to understand.' What he's really attempted is to put the Bible into a 20th-21st century context, so the person on the street can understand it. But Taylor wanted something else: He wanted God's people to understand the Word better and to live stronger Christian lives through it. He wanted everyone from the small child to the elderly gentleman to be able to benefit from it equally. So he really has sought to make God's Word as easy and exciting as possible to read and listen to. That's quite a noble purpose and he's certainly achieved it. And we thank God for it.
It has to be said that I cannot give this Bible 10/10 for one reason. As readable and as exciting and gripping as it is (hence the high rating I've given) it does fail to be an accurate version of the Bible. There are some obvious errors in it, which have since been improved and corrected by the New Living Translation and rightly so. (I just don't think the New Living Translation is as readable as this one.) But this is to be expected in a paraphrase. The Living Bible promises to be nothing other than a paraphrase. It is absolutely not a translation of the Scriptures and Kenneth Taylor was quite clear on this. Nobody should let 'The Living Bible' have the last word on a point of doctrine or teaching.
But as far as paraphrases go, you still cannot get a better paraphrase than this. If you think I'm exaggerating, buy a copy on here and try it - it's not expensive. And the benefits could be enormous in your life. And I think, if you are planning to merely read Scripture through, from start to finish, without much study in between, this would be the best version to go for. The meaning will come across quickly and you will always want to read on! Outstanding version!