I really do plan to get back to telling about my conversion here pretty soon, but 'm just coming up on the meat of the story and want to make sure I get things straight.
In looking back at my previous posts in the series, I became a little concerned that maybe I had made more out of the Teen Bible episode than was really there, that maybe I had conflated that time with some later memories or had unwittingly exaggerated the awfulness of that version of the bible and been unfair to it's memory (making myself sound more clever than I really was, to boot). Out of curiosity and concern for accuracy, I did some poking around on the internets and made myself pretty certain that the teen bible I had found was in fact a version of the Living Bible paraphrase packaged for teens and promoted by Billy Graham ministries (pictured). After further investigation, I can say with certainty that it was not as bad as I remembered... it was even worse.
I went to Wikipedia to look at the entry there, but it is very brief and reads like an apologetic for the Living Bible, simultaneously trying to halfheartedly acknowledge the obvious flaws of the paraphrase while glossing them over. In other words, the entry sounds like it was written by one of the relatives of the man responsible for the paraphrase, Kenneth N. Taylor.
I haven't found a full review of the Living Bible from a Catholic writer, but there is a pretty dead-on (in my view) accurate description of it here, by a fellow named Michael Marlowe. Marlowe is by his own description, "conservative and Reformed", holding to the Westminster Confession, which holds the Pope to be the Anti-Christ (!), so I can't recommend any of his other writings, but his take on the Living Bible jibes very well with my own. Oh, Billy Graham, what were you thinking when you promoted this?
Some useful excerpts from the article;
"Taylor was a Baptist layman employed by Moody Press, the publishing house of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Although he had some theological training (at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary) he was not proficient in Hebrew and Greek..."
"Taylor created this paraphrase as a help for those who wanted to read the Bible to children without having to stop and explain many things"
"Tyndale House Publishers was founded by Taylor for the purpose of publishing his paraphrase..."
"The growing popularity of the Living Bible was one of many signs of the dumbing-down of American culture which took place during the 1960's and 70's"
You really should read the whole review to get a sense for how bad this paraphrase was. An online version of the text cannot even be found, and I have also not found anyone (absolutely no one) who recommends using it.
What made it so bad? Well, many things; The author was not familiar with biblical languages, he did not translate from the original source material, and he was not even that concerned with accuracy to the inspired text. In his view (and I don't doubt his sincerity) he was just trying to put the bible message into plain speech so that anyone could understand it, which is very dangerous business.
The main problem, though, arises from the fact that Taylor was only one man, with foibles and idiosyncrasies like anyone else, and these can't help but come through in his bible paraphrase . This, by the way, was precisely the problem that the Catholic Church had with Tyndale's bible (from whom Taylor clearly drew inspiration), lo these many years ago. The banning of Tyndale's translation had nothing to do with the fact that it was in English (the bible had already been translated into English a few times by then), and everything to do with the fact that Tyndale's translation of the bible was innacurate and corrupt. The Church was in no sense banning the bible, She was banning Tyndale's bible, and for good reason. In modern times, there is no better use for the Living Bible than as handy fire-starter, and that was the Church's view of Tyndale's bible at the time.
And this, it seems to me, begins to bring into sharp relief the problem with Sola Scriptura, for what Taylor did and committed to paper with his Living Bible is what each individual Christian is encouraged to do in their individual bible study under Reformation theology - the final arbiter of the meaning of scripture is the individual (in all sincerity) and though they may be open to correction from others, no correction can have any real authority at all. Again, it is up to the individual to accept or reject it, based on their own idiomatic take on, well... the bible message in plain speech. Just me and and the Good Book and the Holy Spirit.
I can only reiterate what I said in an earlier post;
"This is, in my experience, a subject often overlooked (at least in the Evangelical circles in which I ran); that is, the personal baggage and bias we bring to our religious experiences, especially in relation to reading and interpreting the Bible. The problem with "scripture alone" (sola scriptura), is that the scripture is never simply "alone". It's always a matter of scripture + the reader's personal history, natural sympathies, habitual thought patterns, prejudices, imagination, etc... even including, perhaps, their momentary mental state - fatigue, exhilaration, depression... not one of us approaches the pursuit of Truth in a vacuum, which is why this Truth is better pursued together, and the more of us cooperatively engaged in that project, the better."
We're all to interpret the bible together, and in that project (the Church teaches) we are - together - protected from error. We are not protected from error individually. Individually, we can go far wrong and never realize it, and worse - confidently attribute our error to the action of the Holy Spirit!
There's a word for "all us Christians together"... it's "the Church", of which (I don't think any Christian will argue) there can ever be only one. Christ did not found two Churches or three. He is the Head of only one Church, and so this church must be universal and not of only one nation or people, and can't be divided without rejecting the explicit command of Christ.
There's a word for "Universal", too... in the Greek it's "catholic", meaning "universal or general". That's all the word "Catholic" means or has meant.