Flower Mound TX, December 7, 2011—Waving the Bible in one hand and emphatically gesturing with the other, Billy Graham authoritatively declares to his audiences of thousands, “The Bible says….”
Billy Graham has preached the Bible to live audiences estimated at nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries. In addition, he has reached hundreds of millions more through television, videos, films, and webcasts.
Graham has had personal audiences with many sitting US Presidents from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama, and has gained respect among leaders around the world. He has authored at least 29 books between 1947 and 2011. In his latest book Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well (2011) the 93 year old Graham encourages young people to live life and end well. Advice he evidently has taken to heart himself.
Surprisingly, this unique man of the 20th and 21st century is both loved and despised.
While recently in the hospital recovering from pneumonia Graham received hundreds of well-wishing messages on his web site expressing their love and admiration.
One well-wisher writes, “I am reading your book The Journey for the 3rd time and it means more each time I read it. You have been a part of my life for almost as long as I can remember. I attended one of your crusades in 1968 in Portland, Oregon and gave my life to Christ that night.”
Another writes, “God used to you to bring me to a point in my life where I realized I needed Jesus as my Savior. That was April 1983. I listened to you on TV and I realized then and there that I wanted what you had. I felt a gentle warm grip on my heart when I said I wanted what you had… Thank you so much and I know God will take care of you in this difficult time.”
A lady writes in admiration, “Billy Graham is a great hero of mine. His life was above reproach….and also his ministry. …I don’t have many heroes in my life, because I don’t lift up men or women. Thank God we’ve experienced in this country a great man like Billy Graham. The world also experienced this great man.”
It would seem that a man who is admired by so many for so long would not have detractors. Unfortunately his success in ministry has brought out critics.
While some liberal Christians have accused Graham of anti-Semitism and some conservatives reject his relationship with liberal Christians, he is criticized most viscerally for his endorsement of a Bible translation. One such detractor writes, “Billy Graham’s sad, downward spiral into the mire and slime of biblical apostasy continues unabated. The famed evangelist’s newest outrage is his endorsement of the grotesque New Living Translation of the Bible (formerly called The Living Bible).”
It is strange that a man who has preached the Bible to the masses and made it the center piece of his ministry for seven decades would be criticized for endorsing a Bible that sought to be read and understood by the masses.
The Living Bible is the work of Ken Taylor who translated the American Standard Bible into simple English in order to help his children understand the Scriptures. Commonly referred to as a paraphrase, The Living Bible introduced readers to a translation that retold the stories described in the Bible. The free-flowing paraphrase using American or colloquial or modern English was uncommon in the sixties and early seventies.
Graham’s endorsement of the Living Bible in1972 made the new translation the best-selling book in America from 1972- 1974. It was the beginning of the plethora of new translations that has flooded the Bible selling market for the past 40 years.
The more recent work endorsed by Graham is the New Living Translation. This is not a paraphrase but a translation called “dynamic-equivalence” or “thought-for-thought.” This method emphasizes the accuracy of the thoughts of the original language while conveying the same meaning to the modern reader that original texts conveyed to ancient readers. When possible the original sentence structure and word order are maintained.
No doubt Billy Graham used the King James Bible in his ministry. However, his passion for the Bible as God’s word led him to endorse Bible translations that used modern English. After all, reading the Bible is the cornerstone activity of the Christian.
While many famous evangelists go down in fiery flames of immorality, the love of materialism and glitter, Billy Graham at 93 has led a life admired by all. He will one day fulfill his work Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well when the Master he serves says, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
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