The fine biblioblogger and tweeter(er?) Dr. Chris Heard asked a question regarding the use of the NLT for academic studies. He got a few mixed responses.
Another fine biblioblogger, T.C., concludes that the NLT is not suitable because it is too ‘loose’ although it makes ‘excellent gender decisions.’ He goes on to say that the NLT removes any ambiguity (in the comments) and pokes some of us NLT readers for our ‘cherished presuppositions.’ That is hardly the case, and if it were, we could easily say the same thing about ESV readers, NRSV readers, or even the TNIV readers. For me, the NLT is readable and a fine translation, and has challenged my ‘presuppositions’ (code word, I imagine, for doctrinal stances). I don’t always agree with the NLT’s translation choices, but in the end, I choose it because of the readability factor. Finally, in response to T.C., I am not sure how he sees ‘loose’ since that is a relative term. I mean, every translation is ‘loose’ relative to the KJV, and frankly, the TNIV is ‘loose’ according to me. I reckon if I was looking for a ‘tight’ translation, I would either use the NASB or muddle through to make my own.
Henry, publisher, minister, believer, theo-biblio-blogger, has a reflection as well, noting that the NLT is useful for different types of reading and is often used to break the monotony of other translations.
Dr. Heard goes on to expand his Twitter question in Henry’s comments:
Thanks for your reflections, Henry. My question reflects a desire for my students to use a translation less formal (by which I mean, more natural-sounding English) than the NRSV, but with less theological bias than I perceive in the TNIV. I do want all my students to use the same translation, so that we’re not constantly having to deal with translation issues. I don’t want to hide important translation issues from my students, but I don’t want to get bogged down over unimportant ones.
Dr. Heard is teaching a general education religious class. In my opinion, most translations have a theological bias, although I do find less of that in the NASB. In my humble, non-academic opinion, for a general education class, while the NLT might obscure poetic content (is that covered in 101?), it provides a common language translation which is suitable to those not previously engaged in reading the bible (if that is possible at Pepperdine), or those for whom English is difficult enough to grasp without having to learn deep theological words as well, or for those who want to read a bible not shrouded in theological concepts and words. You know, someone who wants to read and explore the bible.
I use Bibleworks 8 (and here) for my bible studies. I generally have three versions which I check (a fourth if I am discussing the Deuterocanon because neither the NLT nor the NASB has it) in reading the bible. The NLT, the NASB, and the NA-27. Why? Because the NLT is the easiest way to say things many times, the NASB makes people feel a bit better about themselves when/if they figure out what is being said, and the NA-27 allows me to use my naivety in Greek to make a firm foundation.