The New Living Translation


The New Living Translation is, without a doubt, my favorite dynamic equivalence translation. A dynamic equivalence translation aims to translate "thought for thought" rather than "word for word." Even here, dynamic can go off the Richter to where the translation blurs into the application of Scripture. What I mean is that the Bible was written to ancient audiences and most directly meant to address their situations. In that sense, a dynamic equivalence translation, in aiming at translating thought into contemporary thought, becomes a kind of commentary, much as the Aramaic Targums that not only translated the OT into Aramaic, but often paraphrased in a way that became commentary.

FD Scale (formal or dynamic): 4
I'll give it a four because I can imagine a translation that would be even more dynamic than the NLT. Nevertheless, it is very dynamic. Like the NRSV and TNIV, it uses "brothers and sisters" for "brothers."

As an example of its dynamism, take Romans 3:25, that I would translate formally as follows: "whom God put forward as an atoning sacrifice, through faithfulness, by his blood, to demonstrate His righteousness because of passing over the transgressions that had occurred previously."

Here is the NLT's rendition of this "thick" verse: "For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God's anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times."

This translation is a wonderful illustration of a dynamic equivalence translation. See how what is part of one, ongoing sentence in Greek has become three sentences for just this part of the Greek sentence alone! And rather than choose between two alternative translations for the word I translated as "atoning sacrifice," the NLT gives both and then some: 1) taking punishment and 2) satisfying wrath. These are highly debatable interpretations--but it is much clearer than "atoning sacrifice" or the KJV's "propitiation" or the RSV's "expiation."

As usual the danger of a dynamic equivalence translation is that if it is on target, the text will be clearer than ever. But if the translation is off interpretation, the text will be more misleading than ever.

OC Scale (original versus "catholic" text): 1
I'll go ahead and give it highest original text marks, although it doesn't put the material before 1 Samuel 11 in the main text. But it follows the Dead Sea Scrolls at Deuteronomy 32:8, which it dynamically translates well as "angelic beings" rather than "sons of God."

Drift: 3
As a dynamic equivalence translation, it is no surprise that theology plays a significant role in translation. My quote of Romans 3:25 gives off signals of penal substitution, for example, as an interpretation of Jesus' sacrifice, the idea that Christ took our punishment. While there is truth to this line of thinking, the current overemphasis on some punishment having to be exacted somewhere by God makes the verse come off differently than I think it did originally.

Philippians 2:6 simply says that "Though he was God..." and Colossians 1:15 creatively translates: "He existed before God made anything at all." These are not bad translations by any means, even if they are very interpretive.

Youth Scale (readability): 1
I think the NLT is very readable, almost as readable as you can get without becoming a paraphrase.

I think it's a winner.