Romans 6:3-4 NASB
3Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?
4Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:3-4 NLTse
3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
I have been reading Acts in the NLTse over the last several days, and I am really enjoying it. It does such a wonderful job with a narration like that. Yesterday I got to wondering a little bit about if the NLT does so well with stories, how does it do with theology?
So I went to a passage that holds some pretty deep theological thought: Romans 6. I have to say what I found was a little disturbing to me.
Romans 6, in the first few verses, particularly vv.3-4, speaks very clearly of a waterless baptism, and the Greek itself bears this out. To baptize, in the Greek, means to immerse. In itself it doesn’t say anything about water. It tells us that we have been baptized (immersed) into Christ, and so we are baptized (immersed) into his death. It goes on in later verses to tell us that if we are immersed into Christ, into his death, that we are also immersed into his resurrection. And not a drop of water is involved.
Most translations render this very well. I checked all the translations on Bible Gateway, and only a few didn’t get it right. Unfortunately, it seemed to be only the more paraphrastic versions, including the NLTse, that get this wrong.
The NLTse says this:
“…we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism…”
It quite clearly implies water baptism. I would expect that from a Catholic Bible. I would expect that from a Baptist Bible. Interestingly, the HCSB says it correctly:
“…all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death,…”
It appears that when translators try to paraphrase this passage, they either get their own theology injected into it, or their own ignorance of the theology involved comes through. And the NLTse is not the worst one!
The Contemporary English Version (CEV) puts it this way:
“3Don’t you know that all who share in Christ Jesus by being baptized also share in his death? 4When we were baptized, we died and were buried with Christ. We were baptized, so that we would live a new life, as Christ was raised to life by the glory of God the Father.”
The New Life Version says this:
“3 All of us were baptized to show we belong to Christ. We were baptized first of all to show His death. 4 We were buried in baptism as Christ was buried in death. As Christ was raised from the dead by the great power of God, so we will have new life also.”
Eugene Peterson’s The Message is almost embarrassing:
“…When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land! That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus….”
It’s a good explanation of someone’s theology of baptism, but it’s not what Paul was saying at all.
Well, Tyndale’s NLTse obviously isn’t perfect, but it is very good. No translation is perfect. It’s interesting that God could control the translation of His scriptures and make them perfect, if He so desired. I believe that He could do that. But for some reason He prefers to have His perfect message to us translated into imperfect human language. But then again, He lowered Himself to come to us in the form of an imperfect human being…without sin to be sure, but not exactly a perfect physical specimen. He seems to enjoy using the less-than-perfect to accomplish His perfect will.
So does this disqualify the NLTse from my consideration? I don’t think so. It’s strong in certain areas, weak in others. Show me a translation that isn’t. I will still probably add it to my collection. I think I can even recommend it to some people as their only version. As for me though, I’ll probably use it as more of a supplemental translation, and probably use the TNIV more as my main version.