MOST members of God's Church have rightly understood that The Living Bible captures the story flow of the Bible, but is not a literal word-by-word translation. It is certainly permissible to read The Living Bible, but always keep in mind that it is a very free paraphrase and errs greatly at times. One of the "Twelve Rules for Bible Study" is: "Don't establish doctrine with Bible helps." In the final analysis, The Living Bible is essentially a "Bible help," not a translation. It is a paraphrase of the Bible, often leaning to what one sincere, but nevertheless deceived, man thinks the Bible is trying to say. Sometimes he does an excellent job - but at other times he goes way out on a limb. Another of the twelve rules for Bible study is "Don't put vague scriptures first." By making vague scriptures "come clear," but clearly wrong, The Living Bible could possibly deceive and mislead those who are not extremely careful. Many people do not realize the Bible is, in the original languages, literally cryptic in some passages. Such unclear passages are not always "King James euphemisms;" they are often Hebrew literary or poetic expressions. And in the New Testament as well as the Old, many parables and prophecies were written to cloud the meaning to the masses (as we already know). When a deceived man tries to " uncloud" such passages, he is very liable to make errors. After all, Peter DID say Paul was "hard to be understood." So don't trust all of The Living Bible's "easy-to-be-understood" versions of Paul's complex sentences. For example, The Living Bible repeatedly refers to Christians "going to heaven." This is, a continual source of confusion to those who write to us, our Personal Correspondence Department tells us. This particular error shows the paraphraser's faulty understanding. But other mistaken concepts are more subtly written and could possibly lead some in God's Church astray if they rely solely on this paraphrase. The paraphraser's lack of understanding is graphically demonstrated by the following quotations taken from the preface to the final two volumes - Living Laws of Moses and Living History of Israel. (The Living Bible originally appeared in seven consecutive books beginning with The Living Letters in 1962.) His anti-law approach colors his whole "translation" process. He wrote:
... Many of the laws recorded here are obsolete, now that Christ has come. So why read them? One reason is that we can rejoice in being free from them! For Christ has set us free. Well does the old hymn remind us: "Free from the law, oh, happy condition!... "Do not only think "Oh boy, I'm glad I'm free from having to follow all those weird rules!" But also think, "What was the purpose of those rules?" (Preface, Living Laws of Moses.) I too am horrified at the GodĽ ordained slaughter you will read about in the early pages of this book. As a pacifist, I am devastated that God is a God of war and judgment and vengeance.... From reading these books I came very close, I fear, to a spiritual collapse (Preface, Living History of Israel).
However, the worst result from reading only this version may not be false doctrines or twiggy arguments, but rather a lazy approach to Bible study, and a lack of awe for the pure Word. Of course, you have seen The Living Bible quoted on occasion in our articles, but that has been only to add color and life to already clearly understood verses. The Living Bible is meant to be read and scanned for story flow, but not to be "studied." David was inspired to write, "The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times" (Ps. 12:6). We can't afford to let one man's paraphrased version lead us astray in the slightest!