Monthly Archives: April 2011

As much as I appreciate the value of the New Living Translation (NLT) as a helpful backup text for Bible study, I’ve always found disturbing its title’s insinuation that it breathes life into a dead text. Clearly the idea is that what sets apart the NLT from other translations is that it is alive, whereas the others are not.

But is that true? Do free translations (i.e., paraphrases) of Scripture make God’s word come alive? If so, does that mean that literal (word-for-word) translations actually leave God’s word “dead”? Neither is possible because the word of God is already alive:

[T]he word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12, ESV)

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16–17, ESV)

A translation can’t breathe life into God’s word because God has already breathed it out. You can’t make something alive that is already alive.