You all know I like the NLT Study Bible. I think its introductions, articles, study notes, and other study helps are all excellent!
You also probably are aware that I have started to like the NLT translation itself. I find it really good through the OT and the Gospels, anywhere there is a narrative. It’s pleasant and very easy to read and understand. Some of it, I have noticed, seems to convey the idea being expressed better than just about any translation I have ever read! (Isaiah 53)
But then I come to a big bump in the road – a bump which is becoming a real pothole for me: the epistles.
Take a look at the start of Romans:
1 This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News. 2 God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. 3 The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, 4 and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.
AUGH! I am suddenly being pulled back to first grade! It’s like the Bible written in “Dick, Jane, and Sally” style! “See Dick. See Dick run. Run, Dick, run.” That’s what we were reading in first grade back in 1959-60. Short, choppy sentences.
Paul wrote in long, complex sentences which conveyed complex theological ideas. It appears the good folks at Tyndale have tried to make it simple, which is OK, I guess, but has our educational system sunk this low? Can’t adults understand Paul?
Now let’s take a look at the same passage in the NIV:
1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.
It’s not the KJV. No, it’s beautiful, and while it’s quite easy to understand, you don’t feel like you’re being talked down to; you don’t feel like you’re reading a children’s Bible.
Maybe adults today can’t understand even the NIV. Maybe they need it simplified that much. I don’t know, but I don’t think I have noticed many bloggers around here who can’t understand the NIV or TNIV. A lot of you folks talk about reading the NASB and the NRSV, some the NKJV and ESV, and some even read the KJV! But maybe bibliobloggers aren’t the NLT’s target market. Maybe they really are going after the less-educated new believer who can’t seem to wade through the epistles without a lot of help. Maybe Tyndale knows their target market. Maybe I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on that.
I’ve got to admit that I’m starting to lean back towards the NIV/TNIV. I still like the NLTSB and I still feel I can recommend it. I will still probably continue to use it myself, especially in the narrative parts of the Bible. But my recommendations must come with a caveat now. And I may not buy myself a leather-covered NLT; I doubt that I’ll be using it that much any more.
Tyndale may know exactly what they’re doing with the NLT; if they do, more power to ’em! But (at the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man) if they want me to buy it and recommend it unconditionally, they’re going to have to do something about that choppiness.