I’m a fan of the New Living Translation (NLTse). It’s actually my second favorite translation after the TNIV. A few days ago, an elderly lady in my bible study told me she was reading from the Living Bible. I was suspicious so I clarified it with her later and learned that she was actually using the NLT Life Application Bible. I was surprised when she said “Living Bible” because I don’t know many, or anyone, in fact, who reads the Living Bible. I never got into reading the old Living Bible because, maybe, I was just too young. I consider it before my time and so I plead generational ignorance. Since I don’t own a Living Bible, I went to pick one up from the church bookshelf yesterday–one with the old green cover on it. I wanted to compare it with the New Living Translation (NLT1) to see if there were any similarities between the two. I found many passages that were very similar. The translators of the NLT have done some editing so there are many passages that are different too, but notice the uncanny similarities; many are the same–word for word.
Living Bible (1971)
1 Five days later Ananias the High Priest arrived with some of the Jewish leaders and the lawyer Tertullus, to make their accusations against Paul. 2 When Tertullus was called forward, he laid charges against Paul in the following address to the governor:”Your Excellency, you have given quietness and peace to us Jews and have greatly reduced the discrimination against us. 3 And for all of this we are very, very grateful to you. 4 But lest I bore you, kindly give me your attention for only a moment as I briefly outline our case against this man. 5 For we have found him to be a troublemaker, a man who is constantly inciting the Jews throughout the entire world to riots and rebellions against the Roman government. He is a ringleader of the sect known as the Nazarenes. 6 Moreover he was trying to defile the Temple when we arrested him.
New Living Translation (1996)
1 Five days later Ananias, the high priest, arrived with some of the Jewish leaders and the lawyer Tertullus, to press charges against Paul. 2 When Paul was called in, Tertullus laid charges against Paul in the following address to the governor:”Your Excellency, you have given peace to us Jews and have enacted reforms for us. 3 And for all of this we are very grateful to you. 4 But lest I bore you, kindly give me your attention for only a moment as I briefly outline our case against this man. 5 For we have found him to be a troublemaker, a man who is constantly inciting the Jews throughout the world to riots and rebellions against the Roman government. He is a ringleader of the sect known as the Nazarenes. 6 Moreover he was trying to defile the Temple when we arrested him.
The work on the paraphrase was done by Kenneth Taylor, a Baptist layperson at Moody Press. His intention was to create a simple bible for children to read. He also founded Tyndale House Publishers in order to publish his Living Bible paraphrase. Taylor passed away in 2005 and built a publishing house that now later produced one of the most widely used easy-to-read translations in the New Living Translation. Tyndale reports it has sold more than 40 million copies sold. He received some theological training at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary but was not an expert in Hebrew or Greek. (Would this qualify some of us to write paraphrases too?)He kept the American Standard Version (1901) in front of him while he worked on the paraphrase. Later, he claimed that he had a team of Greek and Hebrew experts scrutinize the paraphrase but did not name any of the team members in the 1971 Revision Committee. The New Testament was first published in 1967, then later, the Old Testament in 1971.
It was evangelist Billy Graham who helped to popularize the Living Bible. Thousands of copies were distributed at Billy Graham’s crusades. Now it was marketed as a bible for adults, and not just kids. When the Living Bible was being distributed at Graham’s crusades, the New International Version (1973) was just beginning to get published. I remember seeing the Living Bible marketed with a modern contemporary cover with “The Way” in big letters and faces shown peering through it (as on picture). That was cooler than the old green cover. Somehow, it never attracted me towards opening its cover even though it does look interesting.
Due to complaints and recommendations to Tyndale House, they commissioned a revision by 90 evangelical scholars to revise and publish the New Living Translation (1996). Some of the accusations against the Living Bible were that it was created with a bias against the Reformed teachings of predestination of the elect, and the irresistible grace of God. Another criticism against the Living Bible is that it was a dumbing-down of the bible in the English language. If the LB was considered a dumbing-down, then what about others like Eugene Peterson’s Message bible? Personally, I like easier-to-read translations but not paraphrases. I think bibles like the NLT does a great service to the bible reading public. If daily newspapers can be written at a grade 6 level, then why not God’s written word?