Friday, October 9, 2009

For the Record, Translation vs Paraphrase

The NLT IS a paraphrased bible. Upon more research, I read the “Introduction to the New Living Translation”, straight from the horse’s mouth, it states this:

“A dynamic-equivalence translation can also be called a thought-for-thought translation, as contrasted with a formal-equivalence or word-for-word translation. Of course, to translate the thought of the original language requires that the text be interpreted accurately and then rendered in understandable idiom. So the goal of any thought-for-thought translation is to be both reliable and eminently readable. Thus, as a thought-for-thought translation, the New Living Translation seeks to be both exegetically accurate and idiomatically powerful.”

You can find this exact wording in the Introduction chapter of your NLT. Why it is categorized a bona fide translation could be explained by the goals and desires of Kenneth Taylor, the author of the Living Letters, the Living Bible (paraphrased) and the NLT. This excerpt was taken from a Brief History of the New Living Translation:

In the summer of 1986, Mark Taylor, president of Tyndale House, and Ron Beers, the senior editor of the Life Application Bible (and later Editor-in-Chief at Tyndale House), were discussing ways in which The Living Bible might be made more acceptable to pastors. They concluded that pastors' perspectives on various translations are established during their seminary years, so Mark and Ron asked themselves how The Living Bible could be made more acceptable to seminary professors. This line of reasoning led to the conclusion that a group of seminary professors should be invited to assist in revising The Living Bible. If The Living Bible were revised by an independent group of scholars, it would be easier to convince other seminary professors to see it as a bone fide translation.

I find it fascinating that the original PDF with this information is no where to be found online. Bible Researcher has the History on its site, but the link to the original PDF is broken.

Further more, I found in the Introduction of the NLT a “disclaimer” of sorts from the Bible Translation Committee (July 1996)…

As we submit this translation of the Bible for publication, we recognize that any translation of the Scriptures is subject to limitations and imperfections. Anyone who has attempted to communicate the richness of God’s Word into another language will realize it is impossible to make a perfect translation. Recognizing these limitations, we sought God’s guidance and wisdom throughout this project. Now we pray that he will accept our efforts and use this translation for the benefit of the Church and of all people.

Now this question I’m about to ask, the answer truly renders the debate useless…


“Anyone who has attempted to communication the richness of God’s Word into another language will realize it is impossible to make a perfect translation.”

Impossible? Really??

But God hath revealed [them] unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2;10-14

It is one thing to pray to God and merely hope things turn out right. It is quite another to be led of God, because you know things WILL turn out right. God had prepared and willed those who sacrificed their own personal will (goals and desires), Noah, Jacob, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David to do His Devine, foretold purposes. Just because someone’s will may appear to be “good” and “right” does not mean that it is the WILL of God. ANY will outside the will of God is an appeasement of the flesh.

1 Corinthians chapter two is clear. NO ONE can understand the the things of God without His Spirit. My suggestion to Bible translators is this… focus on translating the language and NOT the discernment of the Word. Only God gives that empowerment as He sees fit.

It YOUR personal individual responsibility to “search” out a matter before the Lord. For the beginning of knowledge is the fear of the Lord.

If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as [for] hid treasures;
Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:4-5

Related Posts:

Translation vs Paraphrase

A Personal Responsibility


  1. Actually it is nearly impossible to fully translate from one language to another, especially given the fact that it is a language 2000 years old, from a culture 2000 years old to a language not nearly as rich.

    The NLT is a fine translation.

  2. J.L. Watts,

    I'm sure it is(impossible)... from a human standpoint.

    Apparently this is your viewpoint.

    My statement is coming from a spiritual perspective, 1 Corinthians 2:10

    "But God hath revealed [them] unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."

    As stated in the post.

    Which brings me to my second point. The NLT is not a translation, but a thought-for-thought, (paraphrased) Bible as stated in its Introduction. Therefore, we are not getting a translation from a language, but second-hand knowledge of someone else's thoughts on an original "thought" (which is to say the principles and teachings of the Word).

    This is where I have a problem with "inevitable" errors in "translation".

    Romans 8:1 (KJV)
    "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

    Romans 8:1 (NLT)
    "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ." (That's all was "translated" from Romans 8:1)

    This is where our standards differ. What you call "fine", I call a travesty done to the Word of God.

  3. Hannah,

    Regarding Romans 8.1, that is a textual critical problem. The KJV uses a very old, and unsupported, Greek text. The NLT uses the UBS/NA Greek text.

    The deep things of God does not pertain to translation. Perhaps, if you think it does, you can show us where God promised us a perfect translation.

    You what call a travesty is ignorance of the issue, Hannah. You use the KJV - which itself is a faulty translation - as your base. Why?

    Further, for the first few centuries, not every Christian had a bible, Greek, or otherwise, but dependent upon the preacher. This is what Paul is talking about - the Spirit which reveals.

    Taking a translation, and declaring that it has to be perfect, is alienating yourself from the very ideal of Scripture.

  4. J.L,

    All of your points are invalid, because of the basic fact that the NLT is not a translation (from its original language, i.e. Hebrew/Greek)

    It is a PARAPHRASED Bible.

    Which is someone else’s thoughts on the profound and deep, life-altering issues. These “thoughts” of the translator can be easily influenced by their own personal motives and beliefs.

    In THIS essence, you better be darn well sure, the “translation” you are getting is correct.

    My basis for KJV is simple… it’s not paraphrased. With the Spirit of the Lord before me, my KJV, and Hebrew/Greek Lexicon, I’m good to go.

    As for 1 Corinthians 2:10 is in reference to ALL who have His spirit…does that not include those who would translate??… For the sake of all that is holy, I would certainly hope so!

    But according to you… it is not:

    “The deep things of God does not pertain to translation”

    You ask me to “show you where God promised a perfect translation” that question is not only foolish, but moot.

    The gist of my post is this… the fallacy of men, and the cautioning of falling for such. For it is clear, by the Word of God, that we ultimately are to be taught by His Spirit.

    ”But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” 1 John 2:27

    You say:

    “Taking a translation, and declaring that it has to be perfect, is alienating yourself from the very ideal of Scripture”.

    Again, moot point, NLT is paraphrased. Besides, quite honestly, I have NO idea what you mean by “ideal”. I don’t know if you speak from a cultural or spiritual perspective… the two are not the same.

    If you speak from a spiritual perspective we can agree:

    “All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” 2 Timothy 3:16

    If all scripture is given by inspiration of God, why is it a tall order to expect a paraphrased Bible to be phrased correctly??

    We can go back and forth on this issue throughout the day, the bottom line does not change, NLT is paraphrased, and paraphrased Bibles are dangerous in the light that they can be influenced by motives, and beliefs by the author.

    The moral of the story: “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:5

  5. I wanted to tie up the discussion of this thread, by reiterating my experience with the NLT.

    You can find my testimony on this topic at "Translation vs. Paraphrase", but for those visiting this thread let me repeat:

    For a little over 10 YEARS I have read and studied out of the NLT and LOVED it. It wasn't until I married and studied with my husband that the lack of depth the NLT has became obvious. My husband preferred the KJV because he felt the NLT was lacking. I, however, kept studying out of the NLT. When discussing deep spiritual concepts the two Bibles were vastly different. I was able to get more details and depth out of concepts than I did the NLT. Our studies ended up being completely out of the KJV, and I never looked back since.

    It was only TWO years ago (after studying out the KJV for a few years) I discovered that it was paraphrased. has been said that the NLT is classified as a bona fide translation, however, it reads very similar to it's predecessor "The Living Bible" which IS a paraphrased Bible. It is also known that Kenneth Taylor, the author of both Bibles, was motivated to have the NLT classified as translation, as to get the respect of pastors and churches worldwide.

    Having studied and read the NLT for as long as I have, I hit a wall in my comprehension and could no further. What the NLT could not do, the KJV did superbly. It is by my very REAL experience I know the KJV is superior. All this information came to me after the fact and made complete sense that I was unable to search any further for "hid treasures" Proverbs 2

    Modern, should never automatically translate into "better". There are many modern components that are inferior to time-proven, old-school concepts.

    My original advice stands, research the authors, publishing companies of modern translations.

    This is not to say that such authors and companies are motivated to deceive and mislead, but to ensure OUR personal responsibility to unpolluted other words, "your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:5

  6. I'll leave you with this - you base your argument on the 1996 version of the NLT. Since then, in 2007, they have moved to a more literal approach. Often times, we find comfort in something that we know, and see the lack of depth in something we don't.

  7. Mr. Watts,

    You seem to be under the impression that I'm making an argument. As far as I'm concerned, we have taken our discussion as far as it can go considering we come from opposite places. I thought that was clear when I didn't publish your last comment.

    If you have read my original post "Translation vs. Paraphrase", which I wrote in 2007, you will understand that I am reiterating that post for those who may be following this thread. And the bottom line in that post was my exhortation for seeking Believers was to research, discover and know for themselves, by FAITH that they can and should be led by the Holy Spirit, when considering the glut of translations of this Christian culture.

    This seems to be objectionable to you.

    You say that the NLT has been revised to a more literal approach. If that fact is true, it supports my exhortation that those seeking should know of what they read, if a revision was necessary!

    It supports the fact that Kenneth Taylor was motivated to have the NLT classified as a translation as to obtain the interest and respect of church leaders, if it was recognized as insufficient, but to those earnestly seeking and studying the NLT prior to its “revision” have the misfortune to be in my previous position...what of them?

    Mr. Watts, make no mistake, by the evidence of the variety of denominations that exist in the Christian culture of this generation, we are alive and well during the age of apostasy. The NLT is only, but an example of the glut of translations that have emerged as a result. The confusion of who Christ is, is self-evident during this age and it is only by the power of the Spirit that we can protect ourselves from this confusion.

    The New Testament is rife with warnings of misinformation and distortion of "sound doctrine" by "false prophets". And it is by scripture itself I sound the warning to the Believers to believe not every spirit, but to try them (John 4). AND Mr. Watts, that not only includes the NLT, but other modern translations as well.

    While I can appreciate the pointed sarcasm in your philosophical musing, allow me to reply with this:

    it makes absolutely no sense to turn my back on the KJV which is undoubtedly more detailed, has more depth and has brought me further in my studying simply because the NLT, by your admission, has been "upgraded". Do I ignore the process that has brought me to my discovery? The prompting of the Spirit that led me to KJV? I have to tell you I don't have that prompting to return to the NLT.
    You're absolutely right; I DO have comfort in what I know, my COMFORTER.

    My advice to you, Mr. Watts, you should be less of an advocate of the works of man and more of a solider for the works of God and the truth that comes with Christ's sacrifice... that ALL who believe on Him, not only have everlasting life, but an intimate relationship with Him, by which we, at His feet, are led. It is our responsibility to protect such a precious phenomenon, by protecting our faith.

    Your defense of the NLT is duly noted, but my exhortation of an undefiled faith is the mantra of this blog...this is where we part ways.


  8. I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.



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