Vetting the New Living Translation (NLT)

As many of my readers know, I come from a King James Only background (KJVO). It took me several years to build up the courage to actually read another version, much less actually buy one. Now, I have many different translations – print and electronic – and enjoy nearly everyone of them and from time to time will read one just to read it.

A friend of mine once asked if salvation can be found in other bible other than the King James. My answer then was no, but now, it would be different. Now I would remind him that salvation is found only in Christ and that the Apostles themselves did not have the New Testament of any variety when the 3000 was saved on the 50th Day.

Back to the story: I came across the Message, and although I understand that it was meant to be a true paraphrase that one reads along with the Bible, I still don’t like it. Simply put, it seems a bit too sacrilegious to have the Word of God in the basest English language. I won’t condemn you if you read it, or even if you like it, just pray for you really, really hard.

As my wife posted yesterday, we were in my favorite book store when my daughter found a pink metal bible of the NLT. We started her reading the NLT (The Book) a few weeks ago and although it wasn’t a struggle, it was still considered school work. Well, she bought this bible and has since been known to read the bible outside of school. It is her bible, she reminds us, one that she bought and will pay for later (update – I somehow forgave her debt). She doesn’t want anything on top of it, and is looking forward to taking it to Church this weekend. She loves her bible and what’s more, likes to interrupt Daddy’s blog time to read it to him.

My wife asked me what I thought about the NLT, which has prompted me to vet it a bit. As I told her, it isn’t the Greek Manuscript tradition that I prefer, but then again, I have yet to find doctrinal differences between the the three (or 2.5 if you think the TR is Byzantine.) The language is a bit looser than I would prefer, but in the end, the NLT was not meant to be a literal translation, word for word, like the KJV is, supposedly. Instead, it was meant to be readable by a vast number of people. It servesthat purpose well, I believe, because I have seen the proof through my daughter. She is not just reading the Bible, but reading the Bible.

As any KJVO will tell you, the first thing you do when you see another translation is to go to a verse or two to see if it matches up. So, let’s do the same. Of course, I will apply a bit more reason and logic to it, looking for the message, as opposed to the -eths.

Our first verse is Acts 2.38,

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38 KJVA)

Peter replied, “Each of you must turn from your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  (Acts 2:38 NLT1)

Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins, turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to show that you have received forgiveness for your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Act 2:38 NLTse)

This seems to be the creed of our organization, although I prefer Joel 2.28-32, which will get to later. Let’s see, what we have. Peter is in the right place as speaker. The essential element of the gospel is presented not by a religious word, but by the bare bones meaning – turn from your sins and turn to God. I have heard many preachers explain repentance by saying that it is a 180 degree turnaround, and essentially, that is what we have here.

Baptism is still a requirement in this verse, as is the baptismal formula of “in the name of Jesus Christ”. The result is the same as well, for the forgiveness of sins. Okay, it all lines up. In the gift of the holy Spirit is there. So, the essential elements are there. The meaning is made more plain to those that need it be so, or who want a non-sectarian approach to readability.

The next verse is Hebrews 1.3

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; (Hebrews 1:3 KJVA)

The Son reflects God’s own glory, and everything about him represents God exactly. He sustains the universe by the mighty power of his command. After he died to cleanse us from the stain of sin, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God of heaven. (Hebrews 1:3 NLT)

The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. (Heb 1:3 NLTse)

I choose to tackle this one because it is a major point of doctrine, but allow me to say that a 6 year old does not need major points of doctrine or Church history. As a matter of fact, until you need meat, it will only make you choke.

The NLT identifies the ‘who’ of the KJV as well as the ‘his’. The NLT is a bit less technical in the phrase ‘everything about him represents God exactly’, but I believe that the seminal idea is present. I would prefer something very technical, along the lines of,

Who, being the emanation from the glory of God, and the precise mirror of his substance and maintaining all things by his all-powerful utterance—through himself he has achieved purification of our sins, assumed his seat on the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:3 CTV)

But, the idea that the Son is the exact representation of God is seen in the NLT. The NLT does do a good job of explaining the ‘purge’ of the KJV when it says that ‘he died’, referring to the Son. It does fail a bit, I believe in explaining the ‘Majesty on High’ as the ‘majestic God in heaven,’ but that is not a deal breaker. It would have been nice if they had explained the ‘right hand’ a bit better, but again, meat with it is time for such things.

Philippians 2.6-8 is our next search and it produces,

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  (Philippians 2:6-8 KJVA)

Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing;he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross.  (Philippians 2:6-8 NLT1)

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,  he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.(Phi 2:6-8 NLTse)

The mystery in this verse is made clear. The highlights of the NLT is that it refers to Christ as God, brings out the ‘robbery’ of the KJV to something that is actually intelligible, creates the image that God thought less of HImself than some of us do to make Himself nothing, becoming a slave and appearing in human form. The image of the cross and the passion of our Lord is made much clearer, much more beautiful, more more grabbing that the literal language of the KJV did. I can almost picture Paul here, writing these words, trying to find some attempt through feeble abilities to tell about the Cross.

In Romans 9.5, we find again that the NLT does a much better job with Paul than the KJV did,

Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. (Romans 9:5 KJVA)

Their ancestors were great people of God, and Christ himself was a Jew as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.  (Romans 9:5 NLT1)

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. (Rom 9:5 NLT)

The KJV corrupts the thought by not placing the grammar correctly. The NLT divides the verse into two sentences, bringing about the clear Deity of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

1st John 5.20 is a favorite verse of one of the ministers in our congregation,

And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.  (1 John 5:20 KJVA)

And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we are in God because we are in his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.  (1 John 5:20 NLTse)

Again, a much clearer picture of the Deity of Jesus Christ is found in the NLT, leaving no room for conjecture as the KJV does. The NLT’s ‘and he is eternal life’ drives home to the reader Jesus Christ is the life of hope that the Apostles struggled for and we today fight to maintain.

Now, this is by far and away an incomplete comparison of the NLT and the KJV, and I am sure that I can find fault with it if I want to, but the man purpose of a bible translation is for bible to be able to read it, not to be confused  by it. I believe that the NLT does that and succeeds in making the Word of God readable without sacrificing too much of the literalism.

Just to be sure, I don’t like 1st Peter 3.22 where the NLT has it that Christ sits next to the Father instead of translating the idiom as a symbol of power.

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14 Replies to “Vetting the New Living Translation (NLT)”

  1. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. 25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

    Daniel 3:22-25 King James ,,,,
    The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, O king.” 25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
    Lots of Difference here,,,, and then the Niv,I just got, says that Goliath was killed by Davids brother..not David,,,

  2. 25 “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god*!”

    I think You have to be very careful what you read and let your children read..Lots of difference,,, but then Man did that…

  3. It is in the Quest study Bible.. I have read several passages from this Bible and have noticed a lot of difference,,, just be careful what you read…

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