Last january Chicago celebrated my twenty-fifth transatlantic trip with the worst winter in the city’s recorded history.

To counter what my host described fearfully as “cabin fever,” I spent much of my nonworking time during those two months exploring his magnificent library. There I found a bunch of news clippings about the Living Bible from the five years following its 1971 publication; these reactions confirmed the high incidence of lunacy in the evangelical world. As Barbara Stoops put it, “It’s hard to convince some church folk that God didn’t actually present Moses with a richly bound copy of the King James Version up there on Mount Sinai.”

The defense of orthodoxy brings out the worst in some writers; the spirit of 1 Corinthians 16:13 is not necessarily violated by rendering “Quit you like gentlemen.” Infallibility attaches only to Scripture, not to the words of its self-appointed champions. There are times when we have to speak out stoutly for that which we most surely believe, but not in graceless, intemperate language that attacks personalities, impugns motives, and blights fellowship. Ministers of rebuking should recall John Newton’s counsel: “Do it in secret, in season, and in love.”

But back to the LB. To Carl McIntire it was “the worst of all the different new Bibles that have been produced.” A.D. complained that it used the first person in Psalm 132, “whereby David is unjustifiably made the author,” and introduced substitutionary atonement (“a particular and possibly incorrect theory”) into Romans 3:25 and 1 John 2:2. A Texas columnist had another angle. “Can you imagine,” he scoffed, “any English professor urging a modernized version of Shakespeare to meet the modern hippie vocabulary?” The writer went on to ...

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