As I wrote earlier, I am making a serious effort to read and use the NLT this year. I have read much of the New Testament, and this summer I have worked my way through the Pentateuch, and the history books where I have just begun reading Ezra.
I have come to really love the easy-reading style of the NLT, especially in the narrative parts of the Bible. It is so easy to follow and understand. I have come across many events in those books of history in the OT where I never really quite understood everything that was going on, and the NLT has made certain details just jump right out at me; things I had never seen before. I don’t know if it’s a dullness of heart and mind from being too familiar with the stories, but it seems that when you see a story written in fresh, new, contemporary English, it just comes alive! This is where the NLT really shines.
But I still have reservations about the NLT translation. Sure they simplify the language and make it clearer. They have done a great job of that. But I think such simplification tends to obscure some of the nuances. I often read a passage and think, “There should be more to that passage. Other translations give me a slightly different picture.” Some of this is just in the formality of the greetings, where other translations have a formal greeting, the NLT seems to make it more informal.
Just as a quick example of this, from my reading this morning in Ezra 4:8-11, in the Holman CSB the passage is a good example of the formal greeting:
8 Rehum the chief deputy and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter to King Artaxerxes concerning Jerusalem as follows:
9 [From] Rehum the chief deputy, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their colleagues—the judges and magistrates from Tripolis, Persia, Erech, Babylon, Susa (that is, the people of Elam), 10 and the rest of the peoples whom the great and illustrious Ashurbanipal deported and settled in the cities of Samaria and the region west of the Euphrates River.
11 This is the text of the letter they sent to him:
To King Artaxerxes from your servants, the men from the region west of the Euphrates River:
The NLT makes this seem much more informal, like these people are buddy-buddy with the King:
8 Rehum the governor and Shimshai the court secretary wrote the letter, telling King Artaxerxes about the situation in Jerusalem. 9 They greeted the king for all their colleagues—the judges and local leaders, the people of Tarpel, the Persians, the Babylonians, and the people of Erech and Susa (that is, Elam). 10 They also sent greetings from the rest of the people whom the great and noble Ashurbanipal had deported and relocated in Samaria and throughout the neighboring lands of the province west of the Euphrates River. 11 This is a copy of their letter:
“To King Artaxerxes, from your loyal subjects in the province west of the Euphrates River.
Admittedly it’s not a really strong move to informality, but it’s enough to make me notice. I find it especially annoying in the epistles in the NT. For example, here are the first few verses of Philippians from the NLT:
Greetings from Paul
1 This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus.
I am writing to all of God’s holy people in Philippi who belong to Christ Jesus, including the elders and deacons.
2 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
Paul’s Thanksgiving and Prayer
3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. 4 Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, 5 for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. 6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
To my mind, it just oversimplifies. I find it annoying, personally. But maybe it’s just what the doctor ordered for young people today who don’t understand the formality and more complex sentence structure that used to be common.
At any rate, that’s where I am right now. I doubt that I will ever be using the NLT as my main Bible, especially for study. I prefer something more formal and possibly more true to the originals, which I just don’t find in the NLT.
However, I am close to recommending the NLT as the next everyday Bible for enthusiastic evangelicals, just as the NIV has been, and the Good News Bible before that.