Ken Taylor, who produced and published The Living Bible, died today at his home in Wheaton.
I never met Ken Taylor, but he was an editor at Moody Press a few years before I began my own career in the office next to the one he once occupied. He was also an author. One of his books, a collection of very simple Bible stories with old-fashioned artwork for very young childrentitled The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyeswas Moody Press's number-one bestselling title for many years. (It may still be Moody's all-time best-seller for all I know, but Moody updated it with new artwork, and I have never liked the update as well as the original.) That book was also a favorite in our house when my kids were growing up. I think we wore out two or three copies.
Taylor was known for his evangelistic and missionary passion. During his years at Moody Press, he started Evangelical Literature Overseas, a ministry to provide Christian books for third-world countries. Taylor encouraged George Verwer during the later's student years, and Verwer later would credit the founding of Operation Mobilisation to Taylor's influence.
Ken Taylor also founded Short Terms Abroad, an organization that introduced thousands of students to hands-on missions work.
Taylor began paraphrasing from the American Standard Version of Scripture (1901) during his daily commute by train from Wheaton to Moody Bible Institute. Thus The Living Bible was largely conceived and jotted down by hand on commuter trains.
Christian Publishers (including Moody Press) were wary of a paraphrase edition of Scripture, so Taylor founded Tyndale House Publishers to publish the work himself. Portions of the New Testament were first released as Living Letters in 1962. The remarkable success of that venture enabled Taylor to quit Moody Press and complete the paraphrase, which was first published as The Living Bible in 1971 (with a padded green cover that almost everyone who was a Christian in that era will remember). The Living Bible ultimately sold more than 40 million copies in North America alone.
Here's a link to CT's 1992 review of Taylor's autobiography.