A Week With the New Living Translation (NLT)

This week, I will spend some time with the New Living Translation. The NLT is not perfect, and like all others bibles in secondary languages, a translation, but in many aspects, it is very trustworthy translation presenting not just the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but the Doctrines of the Church in clear and concise language.

At the NLT Blog (NLT Blog: My NLT Odyssey: A Bible translation story) is a story which I am becoming familiar with. The author writes:

The first time I actually used the NLT for more than checking a verse occasionally was in the spring of 2001, when my wife and I led an evangelistic Bible study through the Gospel of John. Everyone in our college ministry was able to invite their friends to come and read through John together, one chapter each week, to discover Jesus for themselves. We chose the NLT as our group text, and the church generously provided a complete copy of the NLT for everyone that attended the study. It was a fun, and fruitful, experience.

While we were leading this group through John, I was also flexing my new–and still somewhat awkward–Greek skills by translating through myself, along with the NLT, NASB, NIV, and D.A. Carson’s commentary. I certainly didn’t agree with the NLT everywhere, but often I found that I agreed with the NLT over against another translation in a particular reading. By the end of the 21-week session, I was quite pleased with the NLT. I still didn’t switch to it as my primary Bible translation, but I had very positive feelings about it. In fact, we used it again for a new group the next year.

Through my study of Greek, I spent a lot of time in class and on my own thinking and reading about translation and language. More and more, I became disillusioned with the way I used to read a “literal” translation, under the impression that I had virtually unfettered access to the Greek and Hebrew original. As a result, I was “converted,” and became a very strong advocate of dynamic equivalency. I returned “home” to the NIV, looking forward to the publication of the TNIV.

I have recently started studying the Pastorals (1st-2nd Timothy, Titus) with my daughter, using the NLT, and frankly, while she may not get ‘it’ all the time, she does not spend a great amount of time on archaic language or in the literalism which produces a high reading level. She is able to enjoy it better, I believe, and learn more from it. Plus, she is able to memorize it a great deal easier.

So, this week, I want to highlight some of the specific passages from the NLT which I happen to love, perhaps even trying to defend certain doctrines with that translation. One of the arguments from the KJVO group is that the modern versions, such as the NLT, is that it waters down the deity of Christ and the need for salvation. I want to give this a more thorough looking over and show those that might be reading along, that the NLT is quite useful for sound doctrine over and above that of the KJV. Unfortunately, we cannot simply appreciate good translations, we have to either defend them or fight them.

I would like any of those that purport brotherhood to simply examine what is presented before they make any rash decisions.

I started with the KJV, grew up with the KJV, defended the KJVO doctrine for a long time, but I was wrong. I then supported a very literal method of translation from the TR, until I found Nida. The Bible is not meant to be closed to anyone, but enjoyed by all – and that might mean a less than word for word translation (which even the KJV was unable to do). People change generation to generation, but the Scriptures do not. Translation is key to bringing the unchanging Scriptures to a race that changes daily.

I am not saying that the NLT is perfect – as it is still made with human hands – but it is a worthy translation. As always, I appreciate any support and or rebuttals.

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2 Replies to “A Week With the New Living Translation (NLT)”

  1. I’ve been on a gradual transition (much like you, Joel) over the past few years from using a literal translation publicly to one that is much freer. As recently as 2005 I was still teaching from the NASB. But lately I’ve been teaching from the NLT.

    I do this out of a number of convictions

    (1) The NT was written in common (koine) Greek. That was done on purpose so it would be accessible to the majority of readers and hearers. In my opinion, any translation that does not use contemporary speech is not in the spirit of the language that the NT was written in.
    (2) When we use a translation that uses difficult or archaic language in public, we do two things: (1) we create an unnecessary barrier to our audience in hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ, and (2) we make the Scriptures seem foreign, antiquated, or worse, irrelevant to contemporary life.
    (3) In my examination of the NLT, I find it to be a reliable translation that has become more focused and accurate with each revision, minor or major. There were at least two different versions of the NLT1 and now there have been two versions of the second edition. While that may frustrate some, it tells me that the translation committee has remained active and has been committed to creating an increasingly accurate translation. The translation is also accessible and seems open to suggestions.
    (4) Of all translations I’ve read, the NLT uses the most contemporary, natural sounding English of any major translation.

    Again, the NLT is not perfect. I was frustrated over the past few weeks teaching from Micah whenever Jacob and Israel were flattened to simply “Israel,” but I understand the reasoning behind this. On the other side, the Gospels are especially powerful and engaging and read as if they were written by an expert storyteller (which they were!).

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