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What Now Shall I Read: A Case for the NLT

A very special thank you to Joel Watts from Unsettled Christianity (one of the two highest ranking Biblioblogs on the web) for joining us in this project, “What now Shall I Read?” You You can read the first post on my search for a new Bible translation here. The case for the NIV can be found here. The case for the NRSV can be found here. The case for the NAB can be found here. And now, let’s give Joel a very warm political Jesus welcome as he tells me why he uses the NLT version.

I want to thank Chad, clearly the better half of this blog, for inviting me to write this blog post on the New Living Translation (NLT) and my reasons for reading it. Of course, anyone, anywhere, who gives me a chance to write about the NLT deserves my gratitude.

Unfortunately, and this goes against my standard arguments for the NLT, but I want to start with the Living Bible. Remember that puffy green bound bible published in 1971? I’ve seen several around, in homes or churches. But, my earliest memory was the one used by my mother. I grew up in a divorced home, and the Christianity that influenced me at that time was the King James Only version, but I can still remember a night of turmoil as she read from it to try to instruct her ex-husband, the father of her only children, on the the duty of a husband in caring for his family. Later, this bible would follow her and she would use it from time to time, although, unfortunately, not as much as she might should have. But, what was it about this bible which attracted her to it? She was college educated, had a wonderful mind, and didn’t need ‘help’ in reading the text?

Growing up King James Only allowed me to hide behind the tough, archaic, language of the text in inflicting harm upon others. I mean, it just sounds more godlier when -eths are included and neither you nor the other person can understand exactly what you are saying, right? The KJV-Onlyism allowed me keep the word of God closed up for only those with the ‘revelation’ to understand it. Unfortunately, a little light hurts the eyes. After briefly studying a translation or two, reading a book or two, and a prayer or two, the light on the darkness of the KJVO movement came on, and I slowly left it.

Many assume that I went directly from the KJV to the NLT, but I didn’t. I used the NKJV for a long time. Along with this came the NIV and the N/RSV. For several years, I would hide this bibles at home while taking my KJV to church. They were fine, because they still have the ‘godly’ feel of not always being in the common-speak of the people to whom I was ministering. It was not until I picked up my a pink metal bible for my daughter, which she begged me for, that I looked at the ‘immature’ bible, the NLT, for the first time. I vetted it, so to speak, and examined it. I compared it to several versions and found that it spoke to her, barely (she was still pretty young) but more – more than that – the NLT spoke to me! My love affair didn’t take off immediately either.

I continued vetting until I found that I just liked reading the NLT. I didn’t fall in love with the NLT; I came to realize that I was reading the NLT for more than vetting procedures. For me, suddenly, reading the NLT restored my ‘just read the bible’ mentality. It became my devotional bible, and my study bible. I no longer measure the NLT to other translations, but now measure other translations to the NLT. Yes, I used another one for my pointed posts and articles, but the NLT is my primary translation by far. Why? Because it is clear. In this, I think of Christ who took on the form of a slave to allow everyone to share in the nature of God. Yet, we try to bind up the word of God in archaic sounding language, or academic sounding language, or the myth of a literal, word for word, translation. The NLT helps to remove these walls, and does so not just for children, but so too for those who crave to hear and understand the word of God.

I return to thoughts about my mother and the bible of her generation. So many people feel in love with it, not because the ‘newness’ of the translation, but because it showed that the word of God was still speaking, and they could hear it. We have moved, it seems, beyond having the Scriptures understood, back to trying to bind up the word of God in denominational needs or ideological needs. The NLT includes inclusive language (brothers and sisters), but not to the extent that others do. Further, where they err’d once (Acts 2.38 in 2004 vs 2007) they corrected it. There is not a distinctive ideological nature to it (ESV) although they are generally conservative in their translation. But, they have shown that they are not above changing their mistakes (see example above). They also have an Apocrypha edition, which needs to be updated, but even in this, they show that they are concerned for the broader Body of Christ. They are not producing a bible for a consumer base, except for Christians who just want to read the bible as they might themselves write it. The NLT is my voice, not because it is ‘new’ or because of denominational endorsements, but because it speaks to me in how I speak to others about God in Christ.

Do I use other translations? Yes, of course. But, I read the New Living Translation.

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