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NLT and John 1

I have been reading the New Testament with the NLT 2007 revised edition in an effort to draw conclusions about this translation whose sales continue to grow. I was reading John’s gospel and found the first chapter to be absolutely shocking. Shocking, not in a bad way, but just caught off guard by the different renderings. I know John 1 from growing up on the NKJV, so the differences were glaring. I want to share with you some of the good translations in John 1 from the NLT. These are some of the advantages of translating with functional equivalence, rather than formal equivalence.

John 1:5

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (TNIV)

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (NLT)

I think the NLT really captures the thrust of John’s argument concerning the light the Word brought into the world.

John 1:14

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (NASB)

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. (NLT)

Again, the NLT is accurate, capturing the vivid imagery and also putting the words into the common English language.

John 1:16

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (NRSV)

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. (NLT)

Simply makes good sense of “grace upon grace.” From Christ we have received his graciousness again and again.

John 1:18

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (NASB)

No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. (NLT)

I especially like the closing sentence: Jesus revealed God to us. No one has seen God. But Jesus, who is God, has shown us what God looks like.

While there are many places that I like to have a more literal translation, I did want to point out that I was impressed with many of the translation choices the NLT made in John 1.

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