The Question Column

The Question Column

QUESTION: As the editor of Focus magazine, what are your views on The Living Bible translation? What part has the Holy Spirit in this translation?

ANSWER: First of all, it should be clearly understood that the so-called Living Bible is a paraphrase, not a translation. Professor F. F. Bruce looks upon it as “a paraphrase, serving mainly as a simplified Bible for little children.”

Second, I would not recommend The Living Bible for earnest study of the Scriptures, except as one might refer to it alongside various translations. Any paraphrase, based largely on a translation, is not a reliable tool for the serious Bible student. Nevertheless, The Living Bible is to be recommended for its readability and, basically, this is the key reason for its wide popularity. It can be both enjoyed and effectively used as devotional reading.

Third, as a paraphrase, The Living Bible is thoroughly evangelical, and for this we can be grateful.

Fourth, as various critics have pointed out, The Living Bible tends to force the New Testament epistles into the mold of 20th century letters. For instance, the Apostle John is said to write to the seven churches of Turkey (Rev. 1:4); the “kiss” of 1 Corinthians 16:20 and 1 Peter 5:14 becomes a handshake; and Barnabas is dubbed “Barny the Preacher” in Acts 4:36. Some of the footnotes, however, help correct liberties taken with the text.

Finally, numerous texts are paraphrased in such a way as to at times raise eyebrows, as well as debatable issues (e.g., 1 Sam. 15:7; Matt. 24:34; John 13:23, 26; 2 Cor. 5:21; 2 Tim. 3:16).

The increasing public use of The Living Bible in various assemblies is cause for some concern. It remains for all mature and responsible brethren to kindly caution young believers about the deficiences of The Living Bible and at the same time to encourage them to read a good translation along with it. In all fairness, however, its good points should also be expressed.

Now let’s consider briefly the second part of the question: What part has the Holy Spirit in this translation?

As already stressed, The Living Bible is a paraphrase, not a translation. Keep in mind that none of the original Hebrew (O.T.) and Greek (N.T.) manuscripts are extant. These alone were the inspired Word of God. Today’s translations are based on the earliest and best manuscripts available. Since in ancient times all copying was done by hand, some variations and discrepancies were bound to creep in. However, most of these are of minor importance and I am not aware of any major doctrine of Scripture which rests on a disputed text. With confidence we can take a good translation of the Holy Bible in our hands and know that we possess the fully inspired Word of God.

Now, since The Living Bible is a paraphrase, the claim cannot be made that it is the inspired Word of God per se. However, I am confident that its paraphraser, Mr. Kenneth N. Taylor, most certainly relied on the Holy Spirit, seeking His guidance in this prodigious task. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Taylor, but all I have ever heard about him through others causes me to esteem him as a godly, humble, dedicated servant of Christ. He is a man whom our Lord has used in a rather unique way to interest millions of people throughout the world to read a paraphrased Bible, who otherwise might never have been motivated to read a translation. Selah.

I should also add that I have met numerous young people who were saved through reading The Living Bible, and for this I render hearty thanksgiving and praise to God.

—The Editor

(Please send all questions to Dr. James T. Naismith, 1121 Hilltop St., Peterborough, Ont., K9J 5S6.)