New Living Translation (2nd edition): perhaps the best-reading translation available

Bible readers might not yet know that the New Living Translation now has a second edition, the NLT(2004). Tyndale’s first edition in 1997 was very good, but the 2004 edition, which I’ll call NLT2, is even better. The new improved quality caught my attention recently. Thanks to Tyndale House marketing for offering to send me their preview booklet (now that’s proactive marketing). The NLT2 is very nice to read, so much so that I have found the Scriptures exciting to read again. It’s almost like reading a new book. Personally, I feel that it is so good that, recently, I have been reading the NLT2 more than any other translation. It is quite apparent that its linguistic styling makes the reading of the text flow smoothly, even more so than the first edition. I compared the NLT(1997) with the NLT(2004) and found a vast amount of revisions. Try doing a side-by-side comparison, and you’ll notice the improvement in the crispness, clarity, and understandability… and if you’re into biblical scholarship, accuracy as well. Tyndale’s bible translation team continues to use top evangelical scholars so I think we can trust it for accuracy and the newest updates in the world of biblical scholarship. It a much higher readability than older dynamic-paraphrase versions, e.g., Good News Translation (GNT), Contemporary English Version (CEV), Living Bible (LB), New English Bible (NEB). And it definitely flows more smoothly than the more formal translations, e.g., T/NIV, ESV, NASB, N/KJV, and N/RSV. As a kid, I read the Good News bible for personal devotions but I predict that the NLT2 will be the next great bible for kids (if it’s not one already). The NLT2 is also a bible for the Gen-Xers and Millennials because it speaks their language.

In comparing gender-neutral/inclusive translations, the NLT2 will be a good stiff competitor to the TNIV. I wouldn’t be surprised if the NLT2 continues to gain a bigger readership than it already has; moreover, it may even keep potential TNIV purchasers at bay. The TNIV is a really great translation and I use it for study amongst other translations. But if readers compare the NLT2 with the TNIV for ease of readability, I predict many will be quite impressed with the NLT2. The new generation of bible readers who prefer the TNIV would do so because they may already be familiar with the language of the NIV and/or want a translation less dynamic but not as formal as the NASB, ESV, NKJV, or NRSV. Let’s keep in mind that the NLT2 is meant to be a dynamic translation. It will win over some, but not all, NIV readers. To date, the NIV has gained such a large readership in the evangelical world that its fortress-like stronghold on the bible market may have seemed impenetrable, but given the NLT2’s new improved quality, the NLT2 has real potential to breakout of its current status of “alternate translation to the NIV.” Who knows? It may even have the potential to compete head-to-head with the NIV as the first bible of choice?

11 thoughts on “New Living Translation (2nd edition): perhaps the best-reading translation available

  1. Hi Paul, thanks for coming around to the New Epistles blog. “Pss” is usually used to indicate that they are referring to more than one Psalm (plural form), ex. Pss. 32:7; 119:3; 150:1; but some people use this and some do not.


  2. Paul Smith has a question. I am reading the original NLT and I can not find what (PSS) means when refering to scripture in the left colum. Psalm 32:7 refers to (Pss31:20) in the left colum. I would appreciate your assistance in clearing this up for me. Thank You


  3. Kevin, I said that about reading level because in my experience, it is above reading level for where I minister.


  4. Chuck @ Mission Lawrence, I don’t know if I would say that the T/NIV is above most people’s reading level. I hope I didn’t give you, or anyone else, the impression that I thought the T/NIV was too formal for the average church-going reader. It’s still a great translation for many people. I think the NLTse is a great translation for anyone, whether someone has a lower reading level, or someone who reads Greek. I like to use it for pre-reading even before I consult other formal translationsl. I find that its simplicity and clarity helps me pick up on some alternate points or details that I otherwise might miss if I only read, e.g., the NASB, ESV or T/NIV. It sort of helps me “prime the pump” for the formal versions. I find it very useful to consult a variety of translations. Yes, the NLTse has done a great job throughout the OT & NT.


  5. I am glad to have found your blog. I am beginning to wonder if the T/NIV is above the average church member’s reading level. It seems to be so where I live. Though I would never have believed it a year ago, I am rapidly changing to the NLTse for personal reading and on pastoral visits. I always consult it when preparing worship as well. Though the NLT1 seems a bit too paraphrastic for me, I have been suprised at my enjoyment of the NLTse. They seem to have done an excellently consistent job throughout the OT/NT.

    PS… I look forward to reading more from a self-described Pentecostal-Evangelical-Lutheran!


  6. ElShaddai Edwards, well yes, Tyndale does have the Slimline Reference Bible-NLT (2nd Edition).


  7. Gary, you are absolutely right about the TNIV sounding old fashion compared to the NLT2 (or NLTse as Rick M. calls it). I’m glad you see it that way too. I just read Isaiah 53 and it almost sounded poetic to me if I was reading it right. I’m feeling that it may be the simplicity and smooth flowing way the words are expressed that allow it to sound almost poetic. I just love it. Or perhaps it was the linguistic stylists who worked with the text that gave it a more standardized manner of expression throughout the entire bible. I have to say that the NLT2 has a way of expressing the bible beautifully.

    In relation to you (54), I guess the NLT2 could be a kid’s bible to a 39 year-old. 😉


  8. Kevin,

    I’m coming to a similar conclusion as you have about the NLT2. I love the TNIV, but even it sounds almost old fashioned compared to the new NLT. The NLT is the Bible the way we speak, as much as any version that I’ve ever read.

    Like elshaddai, I was never really comfortable with the original NLT either. But the NLTse is suddenly shining the light on a lot of passages for me, and it’s a good fit for me. And I’m not a kid. I’m 54, so let’s not get too carried away calling the NLT a children’s Bible now! 😉

    I also just blogged about the NLT, looking at one of my favorite chapters, Isaiah 53. A major part of my conclusion was that the new NLTse was the first new translation to bring tears to my eyes again over that chapter since I first came to understand it. To me, that’s very powerful!



  9. Yes, I was never really comfortable with the NLT1, but NLT2 really seems to have found its stride. I just blogged on a verse comparison in 1 Kings 18 and the NLT2 “won” again (in my opinion). Hopefully Tyndale will reissue a good reference edition in the near future.


  10. ElShaddai Edwards, I’ve tried the REB but have fallen back to the NLT because I have found it to be an easy-reading bible and yet I trust it for accuracy. The REB’s language is definitely unique because of its style of British English so sometimes I read it just to get a kick out of the English. It does sound really neat. However, for an Americanized English, I now prefer to stick with the NLT2 for easy-reading because it now flows more like everyday English, therefore, it sounds more natural to me. I’ve really gained a new found respect for the NLT because its 2nd edition has even more clarity, conciseness, and accuracy. I don’t think it’s as paraphrasical as the NLT1 so that’s another bonus. Plus, the scholarship is more up-to-date too.

    14 The law is good, then. The trouble is not with the law but with me, because I am sold into slavery, with sin as my master. 15 I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. 16 I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience shows that I agree that the law is good.

    14 So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good.

    Notice the NLT2 has removed much of the paraphrasical language so it’s more concise but still crystal clear.


  11. Our church has standardized on the NLT2 and it’s been quite refreshing to look at familiar passages in this translation after years of personal use of the NASB. I’d long considered my REB to be my “best reading” Bible, but am turning more and more to the NLT2. My wife uses the original version and loves it.


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