One of the things I’ll be doing as we read through the New Testament 12 times over the next 12 months is to post some reviews of the different translations we read from (click here to learn about this Bible reading project). We started our first month reading in the New Living Translation (NLT). Today we finished the book of Matthew, so I wanted to post some initial thoughts about this translation.
The NLT is firmly in the thought-for-thought philosophy of Biblical translation. This simply means that rather than try to translate the actual words from the original language into English, their goal is to translate the idea or meaning of the original language into English. In other words, rather than pass on the difficulty of the original text to the reader, and thus allow the reader to make a decision about the meaning of the text, the translators of the NLT have made interpretive decisions for the reader. One example…
In Matthew 8:22 Jesus says to someone who wanted to follow him but was also wanting to return home and bury his father, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.”
The original Greek text actually says, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” The word “spiritually” is not in the original Greek text. The translation committee made a decision to interpret the (difficult) verse for the reader rather than simply pass the translation and difficulty on to the reader.
The big question is, “Did the NLT correctly identify the meaning of the text?” If not, then instead of clarifying the meaning of the text, they have in fact, made the text harder to understand.
I’ll do another review after completing the New Tesatment at the end of the month.