It has been over two months since my initial post on my struggles with justification by faith as presented by the New Living Translation, Second Edition (NLTse) in the book of Galatians. In that time, I have broadened my reading to include most of the other NT references to justification traditionally rendered ‘by faith,’ as opposed to the NLTse rendering ‘because of faith.’ Specifically, I narrowed my list down to following 17 main occurrences (37 if you could numerous repetition in Heb 11):
- Rom 1.17
- Rom 3.28
- Rom 4.16
- Rom 5.1
- Rom 9.30
- Rom 9.32
- Rom 11.20
- Gal 2.16
- Gal 3.7
- Gal 3.8
- Gal 3.11
- Gal 3.22
- Gal 3.25
- Gal 5.5
- Heb 10.38
- Heb 11.3 ff (20 total occurrences in chapter 11)
- Jas 2.24
Of these 17 verses, the NLTse translates 12 of them ‘by faith,’ in agreement with the traditional Protestant understanding that by the instrument of faith we grasp hold of the justifying work of Jesus Christ, the cause of our justification. The other five, however, are translated ‘because of faith,’ making our faith–not Christ’s work–the effective cause of justification. For the statisticians and fellow engineers among us, that comes out 71% overall. Looking book by book, which I think is fair way to approach it given the way books were assigned and translated by the translation team, this comes out to 75% for Romans, 57% for Galatians, 100% for Hebrews, and 100% for James.
Interestingly (to me anyway), none of these passages were changed from the original release of the NLT to the NLTse…unless I misread something in my quick study. It surprises me that a doctrine as central as justification by faith would not receive more scrutiny by the translation and review team, especially where the NLT has departed so dramatically from every other major translation, historic or contemporary. Let me restate my original three concerns:
- Again and again, the NLT translates the Greek preposition ἐκ as “because” where it is traditionally rendered “by” in almost every other English translation through the last 400 years
- Intentionally or not, the NLT reading makes faith causative in justification, i.e. we are justified because of our faith, instead of understanding faith as the instrument by which we receive Christ’s merits, i.e. justified by means of our faith.
- The NLT reading opens the door to the synergistic idea that our faith is itself meritorious, a “good work” that is at least partly responsible for our salvation.
I still love the NLT and use it as my primary preaching and teaching bible. It speaks the language of the folks with whom I live and work–at NASA, in the Guard, and in my neighborhood. I am concerned, however, about how justification is sometimes presented. Does anyone else share my concerns? Is anyone cautious about the NLT for these reasons? Has it ever been discussed to edit these passages in future releases?
I’d love to know! I’d love to discuss it!