The New Living Translation
The NLT Through the Years: Introduction

As many of our readers are already aware, the NLT has undergone some changes over the years. The NLT was released in 1996 as a new translation, but it underwent a significant revision in 2004, often referred to as the NLT Second Edition (NLTse). In 2007, some further revisions were introduced, but this update was not nearly as comprehensive as the 2004 edition.

We are going to release a complete list of the 2007 changes in the near future, but in the meantime I would like to offer a few cross-sections of the NLT’s “textual history” to give a taste of the sort of changes that were made through the years.

Because the Living Bible is an integral part of the NLT’s textual history, I will also include the Living Bible reading in my comparisons. In each post, I will choose one verse that has had changes at each stage of the NLT’s history and discuss the changes in light of the original text.

Many of the questions people have about how the translation was done, the nature of the changes in the 2004 second edition, etc., have already been answered in the Preface to the NLT (found in every printed edition of the NLT) or the FAQ page on, so I will try not to repeat that information here. Instead, I will be looking at specific instances of change and discussing them in light of the original languages and the translation philosophy of the NLT.

A few notes about this series:

(1) I was not directly involved in the decision making for any edition of the NLT. While I have had conversations with many of the members of the Bible Translation Committee (BTC), I don’t have any special insight into what goes on in the committee meetings, and so I won’t be able to give definitive answers for what they were thinking in making a particular change. I will show the differences and analyze them on my own.

(2) I will give my unvarnished opinion about the changes I see. It isn’t really my nature to be overly critical of Bible translators, but I certainly don’t agree completely with every rendering in the NLT. I have the utmost confidence in the BTC and so I will defend their renderings as legitimate even where I might have done something differently. It might also interest you to know that even members of the BTC don’t all agree on what the best rendering should be in a given passage; in many cases, the vote was split and consensus was the best that could be hoped for. This further illustrates the value of using multiple translations, and reminds us that translation is at least as much art as it is science.

(3) Not every verse had changes in all four stages. In this series, I am going to specifically choose verses that had changes in every stage of the NLT’s history, but this shouldn’t give the impression that every verse was changed each time. In fact, many verses are the same in every edition of the NLT (1996 through 2007).

(4) I’m not going to be interacting with other translations. This series is about how the NLT has handled translation issues throughout its history, not about other translations. I will only be interacting with the NLT.

(5) Warning: Technical posts ahead. I will be using Hebrew and Greek in these posts, but I will try to make sure that I use language that won’t alienate our friends who haven’t had the luxury of learning the languages. Where technical terminology is necessary, I will do my best to explain it in a clear and accurate way.

I hope you will enjoy this textual archaeology. Later this weekSometime next week, I will have my first post in this series, covering Galatians 3:26-28. If there are particular passages you would like to see me cover, let me know in the comments.
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