Differences Between the NIV Bible & the NLT Bible

When selecting a Bible, be sure to understand what differentiates translations.
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Comparing different Biblical translations can prove quite daunting because there are countless variations available to the consumer. While there are obvious similarities among translations, there are important differences that you should be aware of. Many consumers like both the New International Version (NIV) and the New Living Translation (NLT) of the Bible. And while these two versions are quite popular, there are differences that you should be aware of before choosing your Bible translation.

1 Common Ground

Both the NIV and NLT were written in modern English and seek to avoid ambiguous translations.
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The NIV and NLT versions of the Bible have a lot in common. Both translations employ word-for-word translation, as well as phrase-by-phrase or thought-by-thought translation. The translators of both versions hoped to create a readable translation that presented the scriptures in modern English. Both versions have been endorsed for studying the scriptures, and the publishers of both versions frequently update the translations to correspond with modern English.

2 History

The NIV translation was inspired when readers felt that the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible didn’t connect with the language of modern readers. In 1955, supporters began campaigning for a new version of the Bible, and finally in 1966, more than 100 scholars began the task.

The NLT translation was sparked in 1989 when a commission formed to revise the Living Bible translation, originally published in 1971. However, the commissioned scholars felt that more drastic revisions were needed to make the revision accurate while remaining true to the rhythm and tone of modern English. To do this, they moved away from a simple revision of the Living Bible and created a new translation called the New Living Translation.

3 Translation Method

One way to see the difference between the NLT and NIV is to read the same passage in each of the translations.
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The NIV is an original translation, meaning that more than 100 biblical scholars started from scratch and returned to the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts to create an entirely new translation, instead of referencing an existing translation. The NLT, on the other hand, is a revision of the Living Bible. To create the translation, an estimated 90 Biblical scholars worked independently, either correcting the Living Bible or returning to the original texts to create new translations. Their work was combined to create an edition that joined the new translations with the revised Living Bible.

4 Revisions and Current Editions

Both the NIV and the NLT have been revised and updated several times to keep the translations updated with modern English. Currently, a second edition is available for both translations. The NIV translation was originally published in 1973 and has been frequently updated, but it’s most notable revision is its second edition, which was published in 2011 and was meant to correspond with the latest discoveries about Biblical languages.

The NLT was first published in 1996 and a second edition was released in 2007, after the publisher encouraged outside scholars to review and refine the translation of the NLT’s first edition. The goal was to add clarity to the text.

Amanda Graber has been a writer and editor since 2009. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous publications. As an editor, she has worked for both a commercial magazine and a children's literary agency. Graber holds a master's degree in writing and publishing from DePaul University.