NLT (New Living Translation)

NLT website

about the NLT:
“The goal of any Bible translation is to convey the meaning of the ancient Hebrew and Greek texts as accurately as possible to the modern reader. The New Living Translation is based on the most recent scholarship in the theory of translation. The challenge for the translators was to create a text that would make the same impact in the life of modern readers that the original text had for the original readers. In the New Living Translation, this is accomplished by translating entire thoughts (rather than just words) into natural, everyday English. The end result is a translation that is easy to read and understand and that accurately communicates the meaning of the original text.”

NLT podcast

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34 thoughts on “NLT (New Living Translation)

  1. Wayne Leman says:

    Matt. 23:15 “then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are”

    I personally do not get from the wording here, “the child of hell,” that this kind of person is fit for hell or deserves to go there. Field testing would let us know for sure if sufficient numbers of NLT users get the intended figurative meaning here.

  2. Sue P says:

    John 18:4
    I normally like to read the NLT as it often flows well and explains things more clearly than the NIV (which I also use). However, the style of this verse surprised me. Who would ever say:
    “Whom are you looking for?”
    If one were to be pedantic, one might say ‘for whom are you looking?’ but in my experience everyone would normally say ‘who are you looking for?’.
    NIV here says: “Who is it you want?” – much more natural!
    NLT seems to have a thing about whom, which appears in several verses: Just in John there’s
    5:45, 6:68, 13:22, 13:26, to name a few. The NIV in these places seems to have it right. NLT seems to want to be ‘over-correct’ on this and sends me back to the NIV at these points.

  3. Wayne Leman says:

    John 1:17 “God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ”

    The argument could be made that “unfailing love” might be a responsible translation of the Greek word xaris of this verse (xaris is translated as ‘grace’ in traditional versions).

    But I do not think it can be argued that “faithfulness” would be an accurate translation of Greek aletheia which is translated as “truth” in all other versions which I checked.

    (The second observation was first made and passed along to me by an email friend, Bob Bruce.)

  4. Anonymous says:

    I was actually quite impressed with the NLT’s rendering of John 1:17. I think the translators probably see here (as do I and notable commentators) a Septuagintalism. LXX regularly renders Hebrew ‘met as alethia (or a related form). See for instance, Exod 34:6, in which ‘met is rendered alethinos in LXX. ESV, for example, opts for ‘faithfulness’ in Exod 34:6.

    Josh 2:14 is an instance in which ‘met is rendered alethia (identical form) in LXX. Again, ESV rightly renders the term ‘faithfulness.’

    If you grant that it is at least possible that the language and concepts of the OT heavily informed John’s writing of ch. 1 (note the allusion to Moses in this very verse), then I think their translation decision is quite arguable.

  5. Wayne Leman says:

    Luke 2:10-11 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David!”

    Inaccurate: omission of the benefactive “for you” for the verb “born”

  6. A Student of the Bible says:

    As I understand the aim of the NLT, it is to accurately communicate the meaning of the original texts in the most natural language of today’s (American) English speaker. With respect to Luke 2:10-11, I suppose they might have thought that saying “born to you” or “born for you” might be clumsy and unnecessary given the fact that the benefactive nature of the birth is entirely clear from their very literal rendering of the angel’s announcement in v. 10 (I have no idea whether that is what they were thinking, but it seems possible). As I’ve read the NLT closely, it is evident that they are translating with the phrase, the sentence, even the paragraph in view at any given moment. So is their rendering of Luke 2:11 “inaccurate” for not formally representing “for you”? If it were trying to be a formal equivalence translation, then definitely yes. But they’re not claiming to be a formal equivalence translation. I doubt anyone would miss the point that the birth is a benefactive one when reading this passage in the NLT. Whether that is enough to merit the descriptor “accurate translation” is another matter, though, I admit. Wayne, I’d be curious to know whether you think what they’ve done here violates any of the “maxims” from your recent post on translation maxims.

  7. Wayne Leman says:

    Dear Student of the Bible,

    You ask a very good question. Here is what my thinking is at the moment: If field testing with a number of subjects shows that almost everyone gets the benefactive idea from the current NLT wording, then I’d suggest that it is sufficient as it is. I’m sorry I wasn’t clearer on this point, but I don’t think the benefactive idea has to be expressed only with the two English word “for you.” There are other possible ways of getting that meaning included here, without making the sentence too cumbersome. One possibility would be to say “Your Savior” instead of “The Savior”.

    As for any connection between the NLT not claiming to be a formal equivalence translation and accuracy, I personally don’t find a connection. As long as all meaning components of the source text are accurately communicated to users of a translation, I think, by definition, that translation is accurate, regardless of which translation philosophy was followed. You might want to read my essay “When literal is not accurate,” which addresses this point. In my opinion, the standards for accuracy should be no less stringent for a translation that is not formally equivalent as for one that is. We don’t just want the meaning of the biblical source texts to be “approximately the same” in a translation. The source text and translation text should have the same meaning, as far as that is possible in translation. But, yes, to part of your question, some of that translated meaning can be implicit, as long as we are able to determine by careful field testing that the users of the translation do get the implied meaning from the translation itself. If they do not, then I think that meaning should be made explicit somehow. Again, great question(s)! Come back again and interact some more. And tell your friends so they can come here and think carefully about the wordings of English Bible versions.

  8. Mark Taylor says:

    In response to Sue P and her concern about “whom”: The stylists for the NLT wrestled with the issue of “correctness” vs. “naturalness” in John 18:4. In the NLT Second Edition we opted for naturalness, and the question now reads “Who are you looking for?”

    Mark Taylor
    Chief Stylist, NLT

  9. Trevor Jenkins says:

    Gen 6:4 (in NLT1) reads as follows:

    In those days, and even afterward, giants lived on the earth, for whenever the sons of God had intercourse with human women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes mentioned in legends of old.

    The referent for they is not clear in this rendering. In my ideolect the clause for whenever the sons of God had intercourse with human women is a parenthetical comment and therefore they would mean the giants but it seems the intent was to have women as the referent. When discussing this with others they have commented that without the clause the verse is not a sentence. Others have commented that the closest referent rules should apply but I disagree the giants are the subject of the sentence not the women.

    Whichever of us is right about this verse it is a very ugly and confusing rendering. Read on the page one has time to consider the possibilities but when read aloud it is simply confusing.

  10. M.E.A. says:

    Matthew 7:6 in the NLT is very inaccurate. “… Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.”

    This rendering simply shows wrong understanding of the metaphor. There is an animal known as a razorback hog. I have heard the story from an Indian, a Hindu, who was probably not even aware of this bible verse. He told me that when you chase these kind of wild pigs, they have a special defense. When you get close up on them, they stop very suddendly. They turn back to you, tilting down their head to make a little ramp, and they stiffen the spines on their back so they are sharp as a razor! If you slide over these they slice you neatly open! Hence they do exactly what the King Jame’s bible says, “they will turn and rend you.” Furthermore, this action is a defense the pig makes against an attacker! The pig is not the attacker, but the defender. Finally I take issue with the faulty construction “… throw your pearls to pigs…” This sounds like they are reaching out to catch them! But if you cast your pearls BEFORE swine, then its logical they might trample them ! The NLT is inapt here at best.

    I am reading through the NLT, and I am enjoying it, but I pity someone who has never read a better translation.

  11. Wayne Leman says:

    Ezek. 7:11: Their violence will fall back on them as punishment for their wickedness.

    Question for checking: Is “fall back on them” an idiom naturally used in English?

  12. Wayne Leman says:

    Ps. 69:9b “and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”

    As with the preceding post on Ezek. 7:11, I am not sure if “fall back on” is a natural idiom in English for something abstract such as insults. Field testing is needed to try to determine if this is natural English.

  13. Jungle Pop says:

    Hey, I’m assuming you guys are still monitoring all new comments, even though it’s been months since the last comment here.

    I have a question about the NLT and its apparently different versions. The NLT that I have (thanks to you, Wayne!) and the one my wife has differs from the version on biblegateway.com. The version date (1996) seems to be the same on both, so why the difference in wording?

  14. Wayne Leman says:

    Hey, I’m assuming you guys are still monitoring all new comments, even though it’s been months since the last comment here.

    Yes, I do get notice of them. As far as I know, there have been only two versions of the NLT. The first edition published in 1996. The second edition, which has quite a few changes from the first edition, was published in 2004.

  15. David Gregg says:

    I think the NLT did a bang up job on presenting the meaning of the last part of Romans 14:23: “If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.”

    Most translations render it something like “whatever is not from faith is sin”–which makes no sense in the context. “Pistis” doesn’t have to be translated “faith” every time we find it. It can also mean “personal conviction,” among other things.

    Kudos to the NLT committee for actually makes this a logical part of Romans 14!

    http://www.thegoodquestion.com/2008/04/what-kind-of-dictionary-is-that-part-2.htm

  16. Juan Martinez says:

    NLT Mark 1:15
    The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”

    Does the word metanoeite really mean “Repent of your sins” or can it mean something else like Turn to God? Is this translation correct. Most translations just say Repent and don’t mention “of your sins”

  17. Wayne Leman says:

    Etymologically, this Greek word meant “to change your mind,” in Greek, but it seems to have taken on a more focused meaning in its usage in the New Testament. The New Testament meaning is closer to “Turn from your wicked ways! Change your life!”

    “Repent of your sins” is an accurate translation of the Greek word. Whenever a translation just says “repent” (except for when God “repents” of doing something, which means he changes his mind) the idea of sins is there implicitly. It is sins that we are repenting of, turning from. So inclusion of “sins” is accurate translation.

  18. Lisa Fedele says:

    I have been reading the comments from you experts and am amazed. What I was hoping to find was a list of bibles with an objective summary of how one bible differs from another. This site can be overwealming to the busy mom trying to select a bible she will be comfortable with. I feel it might take me a couple weeks 🙂 to make it through the abundance of information here.

    Is there something I am missing? Is there an easier way to my goal? I pray there is. Specifically, I am looking for a great study bible so I can be a better teacher to my children throughout their life.

    Please help.

  19. Brant says:

    2 Kings 5:14
    14 So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child’s, and he was healed!

    As healthy as the skin of a young child’s what?

  20. Jim says:

    I have recently started working with the NLT (along with the NAB, NRSV, NJB) and find that the NLT does have an immediacy to its language that is quite engaging. I started reading Hebrews one evening — my wife had the TV on and my dogs were on and off my lap and I was engrossed. I felt like I was being spoken to. It was quite an experience.

  21. Jeff says:

    Wow! If the message of Christ is expressed in a way that people understand, that’s a good thing.

    In searching for a personal relationship with Christ the Holy Spirit guides us, not what or how a verb tense is written.

    The NLT does a fabulous job of spreading the Word of God in a way that people without Seminary degrees or a lifetime of Church need.

  22. Muawiyah Haider says:

    I personally do not get from the wording here, “the child of hell,” that this kind of person is fit for hell or deserves to go there. Field testing would let us know for sure if sufficient numbers of NLT users get the intended figurative meaning here.

  23. Wayne Leman says:

    Good point, Muawiyah: Field testing is needed for a phrase like “child of hell.” My intutions about this English phrase are the same as yours. I don’t get from it that the person it is said of is fit for hell. The phrase “child of hell” has no meaning for me.

  24. Mark says:

    I’ve been reading through the Bible for a second time, this time using the NLT (I used the NIV my first time). I love the translation–it’s clear and very well-written. However, as an English major, there have been just a few things that bugged me–perhaps these could be sent to the translation team for the next revision? I couldn’t find any way to contact them, so I thought I’d post the “awkward” verses here.

    Genesis 36:4a– “Adah gave birth to a son named Eliphaz for Esau.” None of the other sons have “for Esau” tacked on to the end; the odd construction made me wonder if the son’s name was “Eliphaz for Esau” or just “Eliphaz”.

    Exodus 4:6b– “So Moses put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out again, his hand was white as snow with a severe skin disease.”
    My first thought on reading this was “I didn’t know that snow could get skin diseases!” I understand what the sentence means, but it’s not stated well–perhaps changing “with” to “from,” or re-wording it slightly, would make it better.

  25. Wayne Leman says:

    Mark, here is a response to your comments from Mark D. Taylor (MDT comments in italics) of Tyndale and the NLT team:

    Genesis 36:4a– “Adah gave birth to a son named Eliphaz for Esau.” None of the other sons have “for Esau” tacked on to the end; the odd construction made me wonder if the son’s name was “Eliphaz for Esau” or just “Eliphaz”.
    MDT: “for Esau” (or “to Esau”) is indeed in the verse in other translations, but they might put Esau’s name earlier in the verse, reflecting the Hebrew word order. ESV, for example, reads, “And Adah bore to Esau, Eliphaz; Basemath bore Reuel;”

    Exodus 4:6b– “So Moses put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out again, his hand was white as snow with a severe skin disease.”
    My first thought on reading this was “I didn’t know that snow could get skin diseases!” I understand what the sentence means, but it’s not stated well–perhaps changing “with” to “from,” or re-wording it slightly, would make it better.
    MDT: I don’t know how many readers would stumble over this verse, though of course it can be misconstrued. I’ll ask our team if they want to change it to ” his hand was white as snow–from a severe skin disease.”

  26. alexander284 says:

    overall, i find myself frustrated when i read the NLT because it oversimplifies so many passages (and adds so many unnecessary words).

    however, i do see where it might be useful for those who struggle with the English language.

  27. alexander284 says:

    i have to admit: the more i consult the NLT, the more i like it (despite some initial misgivings).

    if someone wants to consult a “dyanmic” Bible translation, the NLT is the one i would recommend.

  28. Iver Larsen says:

    As I work with NLT96 and NLT04 on a daily basis as a translation consultant, I have noticed that some of the changes from NLT96 to NLT04 seem good and warranted. But it is clear that the NLT04 generally has moved towards the literal spectrum, closer to NIV, ESV etc. This trend is most pronounced in the Old Testament.

    Genesis 36:4a– “Adah gave birth to a son named Eliphaz for Esau” is a good example of a change from NLT96 to NLT04 which IMO is a change to the worse in terms of clarity and naturalness. In the NLT96, the verse was rendered: “Esau and Adah had a son named Eliphaz.”

  29. alexander284 says:

    as i’ve delved into it recently, i’ve enjoyed the NLT more than i thought i would.

    i had read the ’96 edition in the past, and was extremely dissatisfied with it. it seemed too much like its predecessor, The Living Bible.

    i am pleasantly surprised that the 2004 edition is more “literal,” and reads more like the NIV now.

    when i would study the Bible in a group setting, it was too hard to follow along with others, who were usually reading from the NIV.

    that is much less problematic with the NLT 2004 edition.

  30. David says:

    I’d like to see the referenced essay “When literal is not accurate”. Is it available anywhere now? (The linked site is dead!)

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