"Daddy, if that’s what it means, why doesn’t it say so?”
The story of Tyndale begins in the 1950s. Ken Taylor was committed to instilling in his ten children a love for God’s Word. He read to them nightly from the Bible, but he was frustrated that his kids seemed to have such a hard time understanding the text. He constantly found himself saying, “Children, this is what this means.” One evening, one young daughter cried in exasperation, “Daddy, if that’s what it means, why doesn’t it say so?”
Ken worked in downtown Chicago and had an hour-long train commute from home. He began using the time on the train each day to write out the evening’s Bible passage in language his kids could understand. Finally, the Taylor children were able to understand the Bible! Over time, Ken completed paraphrasing all the New Testament Epistles in this way and decided other families might also benefit from such a reader-friendly version of the Scriptures. He compiled his work into a book called Living Letters and began shopping it around to publishers.
Unfortunately, all the publishers he approached, declined to publish it. They didn’t think there would be a market for an “unauthorized” version of the Bible. So in 1962, Ken founded his own publishing company. He called the new company Tyndale House Publishers, named for William Tyndale, the fifteenth-century pioneer who defied the king of England by translating the Bible into English.
Sales were slow at first, but eventually someone gave a copy of Living Letters to evangelist Billy Graham. Billy read the entire book in one sitting and loved being able to read so much of the New Testament in everyday, easy-to-understand English. As he put it, “You can read the book of Romans just like a newspaper.”
Billy decided to give away copies of Living Letters to people who called in to his television broadcasts. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) insisted on paying a royalty of five cents for each copy given away, and they purchased 50,000 copies for $2,500.
A few weeks later, the BGEA called back to say that they had gone back to press several times and had given away 600,000 copies! A royalty check for $30,000 was in the mail.
In 1963, $30,000 was a lot of money. That amount could have easily bought a new house for the Taylors or paid for college for all ten children. But Ken and his wife, Margaret, felt that money earned from sales of God’s Word should be given to support God’s work. They took that $30,000 and started Tyndale House Foundation to give every penny of it away.
In time, Living Letters became a runaway bestseller. Meanwhile, Ken kept up his translation work, putting more and more of the Bible into modern, everyday language. In 1971, the complete Living Bible was published and became the bestselling book in America for the next several years. Royalty money kept coming in, and Ken and Margaret kept giving it all away to mission organizations around the world through the Foundation.
As the years passed, Tyndale House Publishers continued to grow, eventually becoming one of the world’s largest Christian publishing houses. In 2001, Ken and Margaret transferred ownership of Tyndale House Publishers to the Foundation, adding millions of dollars in annual dividend payments to the Foundation's ability to create and strengthen partnerships through grantmaking. In 2019, Tyndale House Publishers and Tyndale House Foundation merged into a single organization and operate today as sister divisions of Tyndale House Ministries.
Though Ken Taylor went to be with the Lord in 2005, his legacy of radical generosity continues. Today, the Foundation continues to give away royalties earned by sales of the New Living Translation and other Bible versions published by Tyndale. We also distribute a share of the company’s operating income—millions of dollars every year.
The Foundation is governed by a Board of mission professionals who ensure that the Foundation's resources are stewarded and allocated wisely. God has richly blessed Tyndale, and as a result, we have had the privilege of blessing many other organizations all over the world through grants and partnerships, all to the glory of God.