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My Grandma’s Bible

By Dr. Douglas Groothuis

After my paternal grandmother, Grandma Annie, passed away in 1989 at the age ninety, I inherited her well-worn Bible. It was called, The Way: The Living Bible (Illustrated). I have often looked through it and did so recently. It carries much meaning. The front and back covers of this well-worn paperback edition show her mailing label:

Annice K. Groothuis

440-77 Moffett Blvd.

Mountain View, CA 94043

Grandma lived in a modest trailer court in the location that is now Silicon Valley. (The trailer court is still there. I cannot imagine what the space rental prices must be now.) She and my Grandpa Fred retired there in the mid-1960s after living in the Bronx for many years, where they ran a small grocery store. My parents and I visited the Bay Area as much as we could from Anchorage, Alaska.

Grandma was a gregarious and talkative soul, with a ready laugh and an interest in everything. She smoked for over fifty years but quit later in life. In 1973, Grandma started attending a Bible study in her trailer court on (of all things) the minor prophets. She also visited Israel with a group from her church. While she had a church background, Grandpa was not religious (he never spoke about God, prayer, heaven, or hell), so they did not attend a church together. But the Bible study leaders attended Peninsula Bible Church (PBC), pastored then by Ray Stedman. PBC was a nondenominational church that focused on Bible exposition and “body life” services, which involved free sharing and less structure. Pastor Stedman wrote a book on this called Body Life, as well as many others.

The Way was the approachable, biblically faithful paraphrase called The Living Bible, by Kenneth Taylor. This version helped many souls understand the Bible without having to master the old language of the King James Version. Unlike the New Living Translation, it was done by one person instead of a team. While a few decisions are questionable, this version brought the living and active word of God (Hebrews 4:12) to many who needed God’s truth for their lives, including my grandmother. It included some short essays to help the reader understand the text, but was not a study Bible. The NIV Study Bible would not appear until 1978. The Revised Standard Version (RSV) was more readable than the King James, but translated “virgin” of Isaiah 7:14 as “young woman.” Thus, many evangelicals would not use it. Some called it “The Revised Standard Perversion.” (I did use it from 1976 until about 1981 when the New International Version appeared, which I have primarily used ever since).

Grandma made notes throughout the biblical text. On the first blank page she taped the lyrics to “How Great Thou Art,” her favorite hymn. This is the first stanza and refrain:

Oh Lord, my God

When I, in awesome wonder

Consider all the worlds

Thy hands have made

I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder

Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee

How great Thou art, how great Thou art

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee

How great Thou art, how great Thou art. . . 

She also recorded important dates in the lives of her family as well as other comments about her engagement with the Bible, such as writing, “The Old Testament conceals, the New Testament reveals.” She wrote, “June 10, 1979—Doug R. Groothuis graduated from University of Oregon at Eugene, Oregon—BS in Philosophy.” And “August 8, 1981—Doug speaks at the dedication of the building in honor of his father, and Jane, Lilly, his mother attended.” This was the dedication of the Union Hall in Anchorage, Alaska, which was named after Harold Groothuis (1948-1968). As an ardent student of philosopher and theologian Francis Schaeffer (1912-84), I am happy to read another one of her notes: “1977—How Should We Then Live? Ten episodes from Francis Schaeffer’s book.” She watched this video series at her church, PBC.

Some other notes by Grandma: “Truth—Ephesians 4:14&25. Marriage Ephesians 5:31. Matthew 20:16—So the last will be first and the first will last—for many are called but few are chosen. Why was Christ crucified—Hebrews 1:10.”

Grandma made markings throughout the Bible, so it appears she read all of it and read some parts many times. She regularly attended a Bible-teaching church. She and I had many times of sweet fellowship from the time of my conversion in the summer of 1976 until her death in 1989. When I called to tell her I had become a Christian she said, “This is the happiest day of my life.”

I am happy to remember Annice Kaiser Groothuis and her legacy of Bible study and commitment to Jesus Christ. Her husband, Fred, confessed Christ to a nurse who had shared the gospel with him shortly before his death in 1977, so our prayers were answered.

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