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NLT Shortcomings

I have previously written how the 2007 NLT has won me over. I am enjoying reading from the NLT and have found the NLT Study Bible to be a terrific addition to my library that I consult daily. But every translation has places where it comes up short. This is not a post to bash the NLT. Rather, it is my hope that an awareness of these shortcomings may allow for future revisions to make better what is a good translation.

Extensive use of “sinful nature”

I have already posted about translations like the NLT and NIV using “sinful nature” rather than “flesh.” I understand what the translators are trying to do, but I do not believe that “sinful nature” offers any clarity to the average reader. I think “fleshly desires” or “bodily lusts” would be a more helpful translation.

Acts 1:6

So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” (NLT)

This translation assumes that the apostles were asking about the liberation of the physical nation of Israel. I used to think that this was what the apostles were asking. But I think it is possible that they were asking about the spiritual kingdom of God because Jesus breathed upon them and gave them the Holy Spirit (John 20:22) and Jesus had been teaching the apostles about the kingdom for 40 days (Acts 1:3). Further, Jesus did not rebuke the apostles for asking about a physical kingdom, suggesting the apostles’ question may have been appropriately asking about the spiritual kingdom of God. I think we should leave the text as traditional translated, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (NRSV).

James 1:6

But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. (NLT)

I believe that this rendering offers less clarity not more. The HCSB simply says, “But let him ask in faith without doubting.” Asking in faith is easier to grasp than the complicated sentence, “But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone.” The NLT seems to move our faith away from what we are asking God to simply having faith in God. This may not be the NLT’s intention, but that is the way the NLT sounds. I think it is better to “ask in faith without doubting.”

Matthew 5:43

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. (NLT)

The words “the law” are added and are not found in the Greek. When examining the Sermon on the Mount, I think Jesus is stating the teaching of the rabbis, not stating the law of Moses. The rabbis were teaching to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But the law of Moses never said this. I think it would be better to leave the text, “You have heard it said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”

“Mysterious Plan”

I am noticing as I read through Paul’s letters the use of the phrase “mysterious plan,” especially in Ephesians and Colossians. This may just be me but “mysterious plan” seems different than “the mystery of his will.” Mysterious just sounds…mysterious. I believe the apostle Paul is simply arguing that God’s plan was concealed in the past, but now has been revealed. There is nothing wrong with the word “mysterious.” But to my ears, “mysterious” just seems communicate something more than God’s plan being hidden or concealed.

These have been the points that caught my eye so far. Again, I could do this for every translation (and maybe I will in the future). There are many excellent translations in the NLT, as I have noted in previous posts. I hope the NLT will continue to refine this translation and make more useful revisions.

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