Ken Taylor, Translator of The Living Bible, Dies at 88
Kenneth Nathaniel Taylor, who founded Tyndale House Publishers after he had been unable to find a company willing to publish his Bible paraphrases, died at age 88 on Friday. Tyndale House is now a leading publisher of Christian books and resources. Taylor's biblical paraphrase, which became The Living Bible, sold more than 40 million copies in North America alone. In 1950, Taylor also founded the Christian Booksellers Association, a trade association of Christian stores, publishers, and other retail companies now known simply as CBA. He also created the missions organizations Evangelical Literature Overseas and Short Terms Abroad (which merged with Seattle-based Intercristo in 1976).
While we at Christianity Today gather comments and remembrances from those who knew Taylor well, here is a brief biographical sketch from the Kenneth Taylor collection at Wheaton College, from which Taylor received his B.S. in zoology from in 1938 and an honorary doctorate in literature in 1965:
* * *
Kenneth Nathaniel Taylor was born May 8th, 1917, in Portland, Oregon, to George and Charlotte Taylor. The senior Taylor, an aggressive soulwinner, pastored the Queen Anne Hill United Presbyterian Church where the family resided in the parsonage next door. Later they moved to Seattle, then Beaverton, Oregon.
Kenneth, eagerly attending Sunday school, was early impressed with the inestimable value of Scripture. He once saw his father accidentally drop a Bible; and with almost ceremonial gentility, the Reverend Taylor picked it up from the floor. Kenneth respected the Word, but he wrestled with archaisms in the King James Biblea certain portent of future editorial tasks. As publisher and writer, he would similarly honor the Bible and its effective communication.
After high school in 1934, Taylor enrolled at Wheaton College in Illinois, where he enthusiastically embraced a bounty of opportunity, performing well academically and participating in athletics. Most importantly, his spiritual life deepened significantly as he heard challenging chapel messages proclaimed by pulpit luminaries such as Dr. H.A. Ironside, renowned pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.
Taylor's college years were not entirely free of discord. Reading Borden of Yale, he discovered that God allowed William Borden, a vibrant and wholly dedicated Christian, to die miserably of fever. Taylor, shattered at this apparent waste, deliberately turned his back on God. Then, he reflects, God "reached out and grabbed me and pulled me back." Deeply contrite, he surrendered his life to any and all spheres of Christian service.
Another crisis was deciding whether to marry Margaret West, a high-school friend who had transferred to Wheaton College. In time their relationship, however rocky, progressed to deeper commitment; after several tumultuous seasons of dating, they married in 1940.
From 1940 to 43, he pursued his Th.D at Dallas Theological Seminary, then in its infancy, sitting under the school's esteemed founder, Lewis Sperry Chafer. There the Taylors had Rebecca, the first of 10 children. Toward the end of his studies, Taylor received invitation to edit HIS magazine, offices located in Chicago. He moved his family to suburban Wheaton, Illinois, and finished his coursework at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Satisfied at HIS, he nevertheless accepted an invitation to join Clyde Dennis, founder of Good News Publishers, in tract translation and foreign distribution, a missionary endeavor dear to Taylor. When printing operations gradually shifted to Switzerland, he resigned and joined the editorial staff at Moody Bible Institute, remaining for 16 years. One day he was excitedly approached by a student keenly interested in distributing Moody gospel literature in Mexico. Years later, the young man, George Verwer, founder of Operation Mobilization, would again distribute books and Bibles for Taylor.