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New Living Translation (NLT) 2007- A Pleasant Surprise

I never thought that I would say this: I really like the latest release of the New Living Translation. A few weeks ago I decided to purchase a NLT because of its growing popularity. I had tried the NLT that was first published in 1996 and was less than thrilled. I believe it is appropriate to say that the 1996 NLT was much closer to being a paraphrase than a translation. When the 2004 edition came out, I checked Acts 2:38 and saw that this verse was rendered as a paraphrase rather than as a translation of the text. While I knew that the 2004 NLT had made major improvements, it was not a translation that I could recommend because there were still some “loose” translations found throughout it. But with the release of the 2007 edition, for the first time the NLT has become a translation that can be recommended for use.

To understand where I am coming from, I am a minister and I want a literal translation of the scriptures. I still want readability, but I want to know that the scriptures I am reading from are accurate to the original manuscripts. I do not want a Bible interpreted for me. I can purchase commentaries for that task. I want a Bible that is a translation of the original languages. Therefore, last night as I reading more from the NLT, I was surprised when I turned to my wife and said, “I can’t believe this. This NLT is really good.”

Typically, when a translation attempts to be clear and readable, the text becomes “dumbed down.” There are many other translations that I thought were good for my kids and good for the childrens’ classes at church, but not useful for adults. The NLT avoids this problem. Amazingly, the NLT is able to be clear and simple, yet not “dumb down” the text for the sake of clarity. The translators of the NLT have done an amazing job in maintaining accuracy while continuing to be easy to read. I really appreciate the work done in the footnotes. When there is a difficult translation, the NLT typically has an asterisk next to the sentence, footnoting the actually Greek or Hebrew words. I believe this is very important and aids the reader when another translation reads differently.

There are some translation spots that I simply do not like. But this is a true statement for all translations. There are many points I like about ESV, HCSB, NKJV, NASB, NIV, etc. But these also have spots where I think, “Oh, I wish they had not translated those words like that.” In future posts I plan to write about some of the spots where I really like the NLT and where I thought the translation missed.

The NLT will have a lot to overcome considering its roots. Most people that I know will react negatively to the NLT because it has been pretty well cast as a paraphrase. But every release has improved in accuracy while maintaining readability and clarity. I certainly recommend the 2007 NLT to any person who is new to the scriptures. Such a person will have a much easier time in understanding the scriptures if they have not read much of the Bible.

One example of this ease of use can be seen with the beginning of Paul’s letters. Most translations read something like this, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…” (Romans 1:1; ESV). For me, this is simple, straightforward, and easy to understand. But notice what the NLT does with Romans 1:1-

This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News.”

This made me think about the fact that the average person who does not know much about the Bible does not know that first century people wrote their letters by putting their own name first. Today, we put our name at the end of a letter. So the NLT clarifies what was naturally understood by the audience, that this letter is from Paul. The NLT is very helpful, yet still accurate, for those who would not understand this sentence. I will write more about the NLT renderings in future posts.