Gary Zimmerli wrote about why he won’t be changing to the NLT.
I would like to write a little bit of an extended comment as a post of my own here. I agree with Gary and am just going to add some quotes from a commentary.
Please read his post but if you’re pressed for time I’d like to reproduce part of it here:
Well, I guess I like the NLT well enough. It’s certainly easy to read. But I want to let you all know that there’s one thing about it that gives me pause. Take a look at Romans 6:1-4 in the NLT:
1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? 3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. (emphasis mine)
Notice those bolded words. They may not bother a Baptist or Church of Christ member, but they bother me as a Methodist, and they should bother us all who are interested that the Bible be translated accurately. And I think this is one place where the NLT translators missed the mark.
Let’s take a look at the same passage in a more literal translation. I’m using the NASB for comparison, but this is true of all the more literal translations including the TNIV:
1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (emphasis mine)
Do you see the difference? The point of this passage isn’t water baptism at all.
At first I didn’t see the problem because I just assumed that the NLT translators were using different wording to say the same thing.
When I looked at the note in the NLT Study Bible note I saw that I was wrong:
Baptism is the rite of initiation into the Christian faith (see “Baptism” at Acts 2:38, 41). It sometimes symbolizes the entire conversion experience, so Paul refers to baptism as the means through which believers are joined to Christ in his death and resurrection (see also 6:4). However, baptism has no value apart from faith.
The link to “Baptism” goes to a page talking about the ritual of baptism.
In his post on The NLT and the Language of Atonement, Rick Mansfield mentions that the translators of Romans for the NLT are Gerald Borchert, Douglas Moo and Thomas Schreiner.
I have a commentary on Romans by Thomas Schreiner. I think part of the reason I assumed the NLT’s rendering of baptism couldn’t be water baptism is because I read the whole commentary less than two years ago and must have had it in the back of my mind that he believes this isn’t referring to sacramental baptism but baptism at conversion. (I realize that some believe they are one in the same.)
In looking up his commentary on this, he even quotes Douglas Moo, his fellow translator.
The reference to baptism has been understood sacramentally, meaning that baptism itself communicates the power to overcome sin. Verse 3 links dying with Christ and baptism, while burial with Christ is said to occur ‘through baptism’ in verse 4. A sacramental understanding is flawed because it emphasizes baptism rather than the historic and definitive death and resurrection of Christ (cf. Moo 1991: 380-81). Paul’s main concern in this text is not baptism; it is never mentioned again after verse 4. What animates the discussion is the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection for believers. But does not Paul say that Christ’s death becomes effective for believers διὰ τοῦ βαπτίσματος? The issue here is how strictly one should interpret the prepositional phrase. I would suggest that later theological formulations have led many to read the phrase in a sacramental fashion. Paul’s intention in introducing baptism is not to emphasize ‘how we were buried with Christ, but to demonstrate that we were buried with Christ’ (Moo 1991: 381).
I don’t want to go on too long.
So according to Schreiner we may be putting too much emphasis on baptism, but it still begs the question as to why the NLT is worded in that way including what the study note says unless I’m understanding this all wrong.
That’s about all I have to contribute. Discuss amongst yourselves if you’d like.
I’d love to hear what Rick Mansfield’s take on this is and even more, the NLT people but I don’t want to impose on them. It may shed some light on understanding how various people understand this passage.
Here is what a couple of dead people have to say.
That the mode of baptism,immersion, is intimated by ‘buried,’ has been thought by most, by [Chrysostom], [Augustine], [Hammond], [Pareus], [Mede], [Grotius], [Doddridge], [Chalmers], and others; while some, such as [Scott], [Stuart], and [Hodge], do not consider this as necessarily intended, the word ‘buried’ having been adopted to express more fully what is meant by being ‘dead,’ and there being another word, ‘planted,’ used to convey the same idea, which cannot be applied to the rite of baptism.
‘Buried with him,’ means buried like him, or in like manner; and so ‘crucified with him,’ in Rom 6:6, is the same: συν prefixed to verbs, has clearly this meaning. See Rom 8:17; Col 3:1; 2 Tim 2:11. ‘Into death’ is not to be connected with ‘planted,’ but with ‘baptism,’ it was ‘a baptism into death,’ that is, which represented death, even death unto sin.
I say it is probable that the apostle alludes to this mode of immersion; but it is not absolutely certain that he does so, as some do imagine; for, in the next verse, our being incorporated into Christ by baptism is also denoted by our being planted, or rather, grafted together in the likeness of his death; and Noah’s ark floating upon the water, and sprinkled by the rain from heaven, is a figure corresponding to baptism, 1 Peter 3:20, 1 Peter 3:21; but neither of these gives us the same idea of the outward form as burying. We must be careful, therefore, not to lay too much stress on such circumstances.