Tyndale founder Kenneth Taylor dies; created The Living Bible

By staff reporter

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WHEATON, ILL. — Kenneth Taylor, founder of Tyndale House Publishers, one of the nation’s largest Christian publishing companies, and creator of The Living Bible translation, died June 10 in his Wheaton home. He was 88.

A service was held June 15 at Edman Memorial Chapel on the campus of Wheaton College, where he earned his undergraduate degree.

Taylor was president of Tyndale House Publishers until 1984, when he turned over the reins to his son, Mark. He continued to serve as chairman of the board from 1984 until his death. Tyndale is one of the nation’s largest publishing companies, producing the best-selling “Left Behind” series. In addition to establishing the company, Taylor also wrote numerous children’s books.

His signature product was The Living Bible, a paraphrase of Scripture that was embraced by Billy Graham, and became the nation’s best-selling book for three years. More than 40 million copies have been sold worldwide with portions or entire Bibles available in more than 100 languages.

“Making Scripture accessible for all people was my father’s passion,” Mark Taylor said in a news release. “Many, many people have told him, ‘I became a Christian when I read The Living Bible,’ or ‘My first Bible was the green padded Living Bible.’ Even at 88 years old, his enthusiasm and fervor for his work never waned.”

Each year Tyndale’s 260 employees produce 250 new products. Its beginnings, however, were modest.

Determined to have his 10 children understand the Bible, Taylor created the paraphrased edition saying that the King James Version of the Bible—the most commonly used translation at the time—was too difficult for his young children to understand.

The project emerged when Taylor began rewording specific King James passages into simple, conversational language that children could comprehend. He finished his paraphrase of the New Testament epistles, which he called “Living Letters” in 1962, but no one was interested in publishing his work.

Taylor and his wife, Margaret, decided to self-publish 2,000 copies of “Living Letters.”

Taylor named his fledgling company Tyndale House Publishers after William Tyndale, the 16th century reformer who was burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English. In its early days, Tyndale House was literally a kitchen-table operation. The older daughters typed Taylor’s manuscripts, Margaret typed invoices and mailing labels, and the younger children stuffed envelopes and packed books ordered by bookstores.

Graham sparks interest
As Taylor continued to paraphrase the rest of the Scriptures, orders for “Living Letters” trickled in. But when evangelist Billy Graham began to use Taylor’s work as a premium for his television broadcasts, demand for the books began in earnest.

In 1967, Tyndale published the Living New Testament, and in 1971 released the complete Living Bible. It became the best-selling book in the United States for the next three years, after which Publisher’s Weekly decided not to allow Bibles to compete with “regular books” for a spot on the best-seller list.

From the first published copy of The Living Bible, Taylor and his wife committed to deposit all profits from the Bible into a charitable trust, with all of its royalties donated to Tyndale House Foundation. The foundation, which continues to promote Taylor’s vision of making the Bible accessible and available to everyone, supports mission projects around the world.

Taylor was born on May 8, 1917, in Portland, Ore., to George and Charlotte Huff Taylor. Due in large part to his pastor father and godly mother, Taylor developed a solid faith in Christ and a deep respect for the Bible at a very young age. He graduated from Wheaton College in 1938, attended Dallas Theological Seminary for three years, and graduated from Northern Baptist Seminary in 1944.

Taylor, who spent 65 years in the publishing industry, began his career as editor of HIS magazine and later served as director of Moody Press in Chicago. He was the author of many children’s books, including “The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes” and “My First Bible in Pictures.”

In addition to his wife, Taylor is survived by 10 children, 28 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.

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