Maker of 'Living Bible' Dies at 88 Publisher Aimed for Easy

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Byline: Susan Dibble Daily Herald Staff Writer

Kenneth Taylor, whose creation of "The Living Bible" in conversational language made the holy text accessible to millions around the world and was the cornerstone of a Christian publishing empire, died Friday in his Wheaton home.

Taylor, 88, had been in declining health for some time but remained actively involved with Tyndale House Publishers, the Christian publishing firm he started from his home more than 40 years ago and which grew to one of the most prominent in the world.

As recently as May 9, Taylor came into the firm's Carol Stream office to celebrate his 88th birthday with staff, said Tyndale corporate publicist Mavis Sanders.

More recently, Tyndale has been known for putting out the wildly popular "Left Behind" series.

But Taylor, who was Tyndale's president from 1962 to 1984 and then chairman of board until his death, was best known for his work in making the Bible more understandable.

Born in 1917, in Portland, Ore., Taylor and his wife, Margaret, started Tyndale after he was unable to find a publisher for his Biblical paraphrasing.

The father of 10, Taylor began putting the Bible into conversational English in the 1950s after he found that his children had difficulty understanding the traditional King James version.

After finishing his paraphrasing of the New Testament epistles, which he called "Living Letters," he self-published 2,000 copies and kept working on other portions of Scripture.

Acceptance was slow at first, until evangelist Billy Graham recommended the use of "Living Letters" in one of his TV campaigns, Sanders said.

Graham and Taylor maintained contact over the years.

"Ken Taylor helped revolutionize the reading of the Bible by his paraphrase editions. Millions of people have benefited from his vision and work," Graham said in a prepared statement. "Ken was a wonderful friend, and I loved him in Christ with all my heart."

By the time Taylor released the complete "Living Bible" in 1971, he received widespread publicity from the secular as well as the Christian press.

Virginia Muir of Carol Stream, a family friend who helped Taylor launch Tyndale House, said "The Living Bible" broke new ground.

"It expressed thought-by-thought rather than word-for-word translation," she said.

The new approach had its critics, but Taylor didn't let that stop him, said John Gross, co-founder of John's Christian Stores in Carol Stream, Naperville and Lake Zurich.

"Some people thought as a paraphrase, it was a little bit too imprecise," Gross said. "(But) there was such a huge positive response on the other hand. That's what he looked at."

"The Living Bible" was the nation's best-selling book in the United States for 1972 and 1973, and has now sold more than 40 million copies.

In 1996, Tyndale House published a new version of "The Living Bible" that was a translation from ancient Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, rather than a paraphrase. …