The Roast Of The NLT


    I have encountered  problems with the New Living Translation (NLT) and its use in churches.  Here I will attempt to outline my complete review of the NLT, New Testament only.  I will also discuss my opinion on Bible translation in general.  I'm basically taking the "NLT dare" every day with Bible study to see what I find.
    I am not here to sell myself as a Bible translation expert.  I am not.  I have been around Bible scholars and studied the Bible all my life, but if you're looking for a (false) appeal to authority based on credentials here, you won't find it.  I am just a well-read individual, if even that.  I'm human.  But I have studied a lot, and what is contained here is my opinion.  I find in real life that someone's credentials do not make them right, or wrong.  It's in the facts.  So here I will make my best logical argument for why the NLT, though good, is not the best translation, and why dynamic equivalence is not a perfect concept in practice.
    This will take place with the New Testament of the NLT as I am going about my daily Bible reading, reading through the Bible in a year.  So this page will be a work in progress in my life in this year, 2015.  So check this page for updates as I go along.  It may be that at the end of this research project, I may like the NLT.  Really, I don't hate it, either, but I prefer a different version to this one.  But keep in mind that human beings change but the Bible does not, so who knows where I may end up at the end of this research project?

Attitude of This Document

    This document is not written out of pride or a feeling of superiority.  It is also not written in the mode of a Pharisee.  I am not perfect, so if you find a problem with my document, please contact me.  I am not above correction, nor above learning.  I have not arrived, or will I ever consider myself to have arrived.
    This document isn't here to cause controversy or upset people.  However, I have written what I feel is right.  May God reveal to me any place I have made a mistake.
    This document isn't here to advocate arguing with people in church over which translation is better.  Sorry to say this, but no translation is perfect.  As such, I recommend that churches decide on a version of the Bible to use from the pulpit and in teaching and use that.  Arguments over "well what does your translation say?" or "well MY Bible says..." only waste time and detract from the message.  It is far more important to live and know what the Bible says than to be in possession of the "right" translation.  Or to be in possession of several (such as parallel translation Bibles containing more than one translation of the Bible).  You can study the Bible forever and still not know it all.  The lost aren't looking to see what translation of the Bible we use, but they're looking at our lives for proof of the love of God.

Purpose of This Document

    This document is not meant to turn people away from using the NLT, but rather to point out that it is not a perfect translation.  However, no translation is perfect.  The autographs (the originals hand-written by Paul, Matthew, Peter, etc) are inspired.  I believe the copies were protected from scribal error by God, for the most part, and where they aree is where I beleive we find the originals.  Translations, however, are not inspired, though I believe God guides translation teams.  But they are not perfect, nor can they be.

What is the NLT?

    The New Living Translation, per the translation website, claims to be a blend of the two concepts of formal equivalence (word for word literal) and dynamic equivalence (thought for thought).  I can respect that.  Without going into either concept in depth, I believe both are very valid and very good modes.  However, to me, the proof of how accurate the NLT is lies not in its scholarship or its philosophies (on these fronts the NLT is very good) but in how it actually renders the text.  However, you may read more about the two concepts at the wiki page on these concepts.

My Beliefs On Translation

    I believe that God cares about every word and even every marking in His word.  Jesus is the word made flesh (John 1), so the Bible I believe takes on a divine element, having been breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16).  God through Paul made a complete theological argument out of one word being singular or plural (Galatians 3:16).  That is not to say that formal equivalence is somehow holy and dynamic equivalence is somehow sin.  There are plenty of web pages and print articles written on this subject, and I am going to side-step the argument beween the two concepts by saying that what matters is where the rubber meets the road.
    I do not believe that either dynamic equivalence or formal equivalence is bad in and of itself.  I measure results on pages, not thought and intent.
    I do not believe that dynamic equivalence is bad because it is new any more than I believe formal equivalence is bad because it's not new enough.  Often I feel that translation teams seem to be pressured by the need to be new, hip, relevant, etc.  Honestly, the problem with that is human beings: God has said the same thing in the Bible on many subjects repeatedly.  The need for newness isn't one of it being a holy concept, but because we're human beings.  We're stubborn.  We need to attack our humanity on various fronts and in various ways because we get stuck in ruts.  I do not believe a "new" way of phrasing anything in the Bible is absolutely necessary (because it does this on its own), but I don't think a "new" way of phrasing anything is wrong by default.
    I believe that in translation, one should not add one's own opinion or any outside document into the text.  I believe the place for these is in translator notes.
    I believe that, where dynamic equivalence doesn't work or can't be used, or results in a mis-translation, formal equivalence should be used.
    I believe that people should not pick a translation of the Bible based on how well they like the way it reads.  The English language has synonyms and antonyms, and many don't take away or stray from the truth of the text when used in translation.  However, picking a Bible should be about accuracy and how easy it is to comprehend and read, for the individual, not about only a shallow "well I like how it reads."  This is why I personally believe there are so many translations: people are moved to get a Bible they like, not one they can learn and obey.  It's nice when the Bible is easy to read and you like how it sounds, but the most important part of Bible reading is accuracy, so that you can align yourself to God's word, not align God's word to yourself.  The market is flooded with translations of the BIble, and with Christians who dream of making their own because they have an axe to grind.  It's not about grinding your own axe, but receiving the sword God gave you to use.
    I believe that it is vanity, waste of time, and shallowness to try to make the Bible's text more dramatic than it already is, if it leads a translation team to twist, modify, or add to the text.  It's not the Bible's fault that we don't fully grap the weight of what it's teaching us: it's our own fault.  In my own private study, I don't need the text to cause concepts and thoughts to "jump out" at me: the Holy Spirit does that for me.

On To The Roast

    Here I will simply list, verse by verse, the places I find where the NLT goes astray.  I don't expect it to be a lot of verses, but there are some.

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict