Monday, November 7, 2022

Dr. Kenneth Taylor: Founder of Tyndale House Publishers

By Michelle Shocklee

Long before I had the privilege of writing historical fiction for Tyndale House Publishers, the story of this company and its founder would become part of my story. I was 10 years old when I received The Children's Living Bible from my Sunday school teacher. Seven years later, as a senior in high school, my parents gave me The Living Bible for Christmas. They knew I was headed out into the world in a few months and would need the foundation of God's Word to direct my path. These two precious books are still on my bookshelf in my office, reminding me of God's never-ending faithfulness to his children and how cool it is to be part of his family!

My precious Bibles

So, what is The Living Bible and how did it come into existence? 

I'm glad you asked! Let me tell you a story. 

Kenneth Nathaniel Taylor was born in Portland, Oregon on May 8, 1917 to a Presbyterian minister and his wife. After high school, Ken attended Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, graduating in 1938. Desiring to further his education, Ken went to the Dallas Theological Seminary. While there, he was offered the position of editor of HIS Magazine based in Chicago and returned to Illinois. He finished his Th.D at Northern Baptist Seminary, married his sweetheart, Margaret, and started a family. He also became an author of Bible storybooks for children, worked with Good News Publishers on translating and distributing Gospel tracts to countries around the world, and served as the Director of Moody Press.

Dr. Taylor and some of his children

As the Taylor family grew, so did Ken's concerns that his ten children were having a difficult time understanding the King James Version of the Bible. As a young man, he had also been frustrated by the complicated 17th century language of the King James, and he didn’t want his children to have to struggle in the same way. So to help his family make better sense of the Bible, Taylor began to reword specific passages in simple, conversational language, easy enough for even his youngest child to understand. Soon the children were responding to what they were hearing, and Taylor knew he was on to something. He began to paraphrase more passages from the New Testament, often during his daily train commute from Wheaton to Moody Press in downtown Chicago.

Ken finished his paraphrase in 1962, but much to his disappointment, he could not find a publisher. No one was interested in publishing a paraphrase of the Bible. Convinced The Living Letters, as they were called, would benefit others as it had his own children, Ken and Margaret decided to publish the letters themselves, despite having little money and two children in college already. Ken named his fledgling company Tyndale House Publishers, after William Tyndale, the 16th century reformer who was burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English.

Ken and Margaret Taylor

In its early days, Tyndale House was literally a kitchen-table operation. The older daughters typed Ken’s manuscripts, Margaret typed invoices and mailing labels, and the younger children stuffed envelopes and packed books ordered by bookstores. Things would change, however, when Reverend Billy Graham received a copy of The Living Letters. Mr. Graham was so impressed with them, he began ordering copies to be distributed at his crusades. Word quickly spread and Ken quit his job at Moody Press to work full-time as Publisher of Tyndale House. 

Rev. Billy Graham and Dr. Kenneth Taylor
Tyndale House/

In 1967 the Living New Testament was published, and in 1971 the complete Living Bible was released to an eager public. It became the best-selling book in the United States for the next three years, after which Publisher’s Weekly decided not to allow Bibles to compete with “regular books” for a spot on the best-seller list. Ken and Margaret committed right from the start to deposit all profits from The Living Bible into a charitable trust. Rather than reaping a financial reward from his years of labor, Taylor insisted that the Bible’s royalties be donated to Tyndale House Foundation, whose purpose is to support mission projects around the world. In 1984, Dr. Taylor turned over the reins of the company to his son, Mark, but continued to be involved until his death in 2005.

Today, Tyndale House Publishers is one of the largest independently owned Christian publishers in the world. They continue to publish Bibles, as well as a broad spectrum of Christ-centered material... including fiction. 

And that's where my story re-connects with Tyndale's. In 2020, my novel Under the Tulip Tree was published by Tyndale House. My latest novel, Count the Nights with Stars, is my second with them. Next year, I'll have another novel release. It still amazes me how God worked out the details for me to write for the publishing company whose faithful Kingdom work has had such a big impact and influence in my life. 

Your turn: Have you read The Living Bible?

Michelle Shocklee
is the author of several historical novels, including Under the Tulip Tree, a Christy Awards and Selah Awards finalist. Her work has been included in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books, magazines, and blogs. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of two grown sons, she makes her home in Tennessee, not far from the historical sites she writes about. Visit her online at


*A 2023 Christianity Today Book of the Year Finalist*

1961. After a longtime resident at Nashville’s historic Maxwell House Hotel suffers a debilitating stroke, Audrey Whitfield is tasked with cleaning out the reclusive woman’s room. There, she discovers an elaborate scrapbook filled with memorabilia from the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Love notes on the backs of unmailed postcards inside capture Audrey’s imagination with hints of a forbidden romance . . . and troubling revelations about the disappearance of young women at the exposition. Audrey enlists the help of a handsome hotel guest as she tracks down clues and information about the mysterious “Peaches” and her regrets over one fateful day, nearly sixty-five years earlier.


  1. Thank you for posting today. I have read the Living Bible and have appreciated how it unfolds some of the more difficult parts of the Bible. I did not know about Dr. Taylor, and I am so glad he wanted to help his children understand the words of Scripture!!!

    1. Thank you, Connie. I too am grateful he wanted to help his children understand God's word better, because it helped me and millions of others!