Is the NLT a Good Bible Translation?

When exploring Bible translations, the New Living Translation (NLT) often stands out due to its contemporary language and accessibility.

Its goal is to bring the message of the Bible to life in a clear, relatable, and understandable manner for today’s readers.

So, why do people favor the NLT over other translations? Let’s delve into the distinctive features and strengths of the NLT, ranging from its readability and translation philosophy to its utility in devotional reading and teaching and its underlying scholarly rigor.

Also, see NLT vs. NASB: What’s the Difference? to learn more.

New Living Translation
Is the NLT easy to read? See below

The New Living Translation (NLT) Is Easy to Read

The NLT uses contemporary English, making the text highly readable. Its natural language flow makes it accessible and relatable, which can be particularly helpful for those new to the Bible or those who prefer a more modern language style.

The NLT’s methodology is termed “dynamic equivalence”

The NLT follows a dynamic equivalence or thought-for-thought translation philosophy. This approach prioritizes conveying the intended meaning of the original text in a way that makes sense in today’s language, sometimes sacrificing literal word-for-word translation for clarity and comprehension.

The translation is known for its clarity

The NLT is known for its clear and straightforward language, making complex concepts and narratives easier to understand. This can make studying the Bible less intimidating and more engaging.

Users often select the NLT for devotional reading

Due to its readability and clarity, the NLT is often chosen for devotional reading and teaching, especially in settings where comprehension and accessibility are important. It can help readers to grasp the overarching themes and messages of the Bible in a relatable way.

The translation is also backed by academic rigor

Despite its emphasis on readability, the NLT doesn’t compromise on scholarly rigor. The translation was carried out by a team of 90 Bible scholars from various theological backgrounds, ensuring a high degree of accuracy and faithfulness to the original texts.

Also, see NLT vs. NIV: What’s the Difference? to learn more.

Holy Bible
How does the NLT compare to other translations? See below

How Does the NLT Compare to Other Translations?

The NLT offers a unique perspective among Bible translations due to its emphasis on readability and conveying the thought-for-thought meaning of the original texts. Here’s a comparison with some other well-known translations:

King James Version (KJV)

The KJV, known for its poetic language and historical significance, uses archaic English, which can be hard to understand for modern readers. The NLT, with its contemporary English, provides a more accessible reading experience.

New International Version (NIV)

The NIV takes a balanced approach between word-for-word and thought-for-thought translation. While both aim to be easily understandable, the NLT leans more towards thought-for-thought, potentially offering a smoother reading experience.

English Standard Version (ESV)

The ESV favors word-for-word translation, resulting in a more literal translation than the NLT. While the ESV is highly respected for in-depth study, the NLT might be preferred for more casual reading or teaching contexts.

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The NASB is one of the most literal translations available, making it a preferred choice for serious Bible study. In contrast, the NLT’s emphasis on conveying the original text’s meaning in an understandable way can make it a more approachable choice for general reading and comprehension.

The Message (MSG)

The Message is a paraphrase, aiming to express the spirit of the original text in contemporary language. While it is highly readable, it is less literal than the NLT.

Also, see NLT vs. NKJV: What’s the Difference? to learn more.

New Living Translation
What is the history of the NLT? See below

What Is the History of the NLT?

The history of the NLT begins with another popular paraphrase of the Bible, the Living Bible (LB).

The Living Bible (LB): The precursor to the NLT is the Living Bible, a paraphrase of the Bible produced by Kenneth N. Taylor in 1971. Taylor aimed to make the Bible’s message accessible to all, particularly for his own children, by converting the complex text of the Bible into simple, modern English.

From Paraphrase to Translation: Over time, while the Living Bible gained popularity due to its readability, there were concerns about the level of interpretation in a paraphrase, as it could inadvertently introduce personal bias or inaccuracies.

In response to this, and to provide a text that was both readable and grounded in solid scholarship, Tyndale House Publishers decided to undertake a full-scale, scholarly translation of the Bible.

Creation of the New Living Translation (NLT): Launched in 1989, the NLT project involved a team of about 90 Bible scholars from various theological backgrounds and denominations.

The goal was to create a translation that maintained the readability of the Living Bible but with more rigorous adherence to the original texts.

Publication and Updates: The NLT was first published in 1996. The second edition, often referred to as the “NLTse,” was released in 2004 with revisions to improve the precision of the translation.

Further minor updates were made in 2007 and 2013 to ensure the translation stays current with modern language usage and advances in biblical scholarship.

Today, the NLT is known for its ability to combine readability with faithful translation. It offers readers a clear and easily understandable version of the Bible that remains true to the intent of the original texts.


The NLT’s appeal lies in its accessible language, emphasis on conveying thought-for-thought meanings, and scholarly rigor. Its natural and relatable language style makes the Bible less daunting and more engaging for readers.

Its commitment to making the Bible’s message comprehensible for the modern reader while maintaining the integrity of the original texts makes it a preferred choice for personal reading, devotionals, and teaching.

Overall, people appreciate the NLT’s unique balance of readability, comprehension, and faithfulness to the biblical message.

Also, see NLT vs. ESV: What’s the Difference? to learn more.

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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