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Romans 8:2 NLT

For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death.

KJV Romans 8 : 2

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:2 ESV

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:2 YLT

for the law of the Spirit of the life in Christ Jesus did set me free from the law of the sin and of the death;

Most translators translate the word νόμος as law whilst the NLT chose to use the word power

How can we understand the NLT translation?

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  • 2
    The translation of the NLT is indefensible. Indeed, it is not a translation but a highly interpretive paraphrase
    – Dottard
    Mar 1, 2023 at 22:17
  • The law is sometimes translated as principle. Here power means the same.
    – Michael16
    Mar 2, 2023 at 8:52
  • 1
    If your 4th translation is Young's Literal Translation, perhaps you might label it
    – Henry
    Mar 2, 2023 at 9:23
  • use app.logos.com for bible comparison, it is free with some great features.
    – Michael16
    Mar 2, 2023 at 15:05
  • I changed the top Q because the original question is answered by the OP himself at the very start by providing the NLT quote. It's the meaning of the NLT that is sought, not how it's translated, so that's why I've changed it. Just roll it back if that is not what you want, Collen. I also added YLT after the 4th quote as Henry suggested.
    – Anne
    Mar 17, 2023 at 16:12

2 Answers 2

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The solid majority of translators use "law of the Spirit" here because that is the literal meaning of the word νόμος. Moreover Paul is clearly contrasting the law of the spirit with the law of sin here. And furthermore he has spoken of the two "laws" -- flesh and spirit -- in the previous chapter.

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. ... So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.(7:14-23)

In chapter 7 one can hardly reading νόμος as "law." NLT is an rare outlier when it renders 7:23 instead as "There is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me."

Translators like NLT may wish to avoid confusing readers by introducing the concept of the "law of the spirit," or "the law of my mind," since Paul often speaks negatively of the law. But this approach does readers a disservice and insults their intelligence to deal with any cognitive dissonance that may result from Paul's various uses of the word "law." NLT sees itself as a "thought for thought" translation rather than a literal one or a paraphrased one. This is a legitimate approach but here it has gone too far and has meddled with the meaning of the text.

I conclude that Paul's contrast between law of the spirit and the law of the flesh is intentional and basically consistent in these chapters. The better translation is "law."

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  • There is a similar case of "not wanting to confuse the readers" in ch3 v27, where even the RSV replaces "law" with "principle", Mar 1, 2023 at 22:03
  • Yes. It does this rather consistently except in 7:14... where it can hardly escape using "law." It still ruins Paul's elegant prose though IMO. "So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin.: Mar 2, 2023 at 15:12
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If you want to understand the translation philosophy of the NLT, then you need to go back to the Living Bible, written by Ken Taylor who later founded Tyndale House Publishers and oversaw the hierarchy of committees of scholars who translated the NLT.

I met with Dr. Ken Taylor twice in his office in Wheaton, before his passing.

The texts

Romans 8:2 (Living Bible)

For the power of the life-giving Spirit—and this power is mine through Christ Jesus—has freed me from the vicious circle of sin and death.

In the New Living Translation, there is a footnote that "νόμος, ου" could be translated "νόμος, ου", rendering this as the NLT's own footnoted version...

Romans 8:2 (NLT footnoted reading)

And because you belong to him, the law of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the law of sin that leads to death.

The word νόμος, ου (nomos, ou; Strong's 3551) is nominative in the first occurrence, genitive in the second.

From Vines:

nomos became the established name for "law" as decreed by a state and set up as the standard for the administration of justice.

It carries a concept of codified legal authority and written administrative "power".

This translation's philosophy

Dr. Taylor's philosophy of the Living Bible was to have an easy read for children to understand what the Bible said. His purpose for the NLT was to make that read more scholarly easy read for adults. It was not intended for word studies or exegesis, but for a public reading among the laity. He told me himself that he agreed that the NASB was preferable in study, as he said, "If we want to study the words, then we need the words."

Even the NLT's footnote that "power" could be translated "law" was there to empower a preacher or Bible teacher to explain the text more to the laity for their understanding. Adult beginning Bible students could read and understand the basic meaning, but also recognize that the meaning goes deeper than just one English word can carry. Knowing that the Bible keeps going deeper in its meaning is a key to understanding it, after all.

In this situation, for a general application of how it works out in our lives, Paul is explaining the "grip" or "power" that sin can hold over people and that Jesus helps release us from that grip. So, "power" isn't exactly misleading. When the preacher explains the role of the "law" in that "power", then Paul's larger point will make sense to an audience that does not know Greek and has little time to study the Bible during the week.

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  • The NLV/NLT philosophy is fine, but I think we have a case here where, without a footnote to clarify, it crosses the line into meddling with the text. Especially so because in ch. 7 Paul sets the whole thing up by saying "the law is spiritual but I am of the flesh. Even NLT says "law" here. By changing it in the following verses it damages Paul's wordplay on "law" rather badly IMO. Mar 2, 2023 at 15:09
  • @DanFefferman I don't know what you mean. It seems like you have a disagreement with the NLT, which I am only explaining, not defending or recommending. It isn't deceptive, but beyond that, whether it is good or bad has nothing to do with my answer. The matter you describe can be handled by homily, as the NLT was intented. So, I don't fully understand your point. If you disagree with the NLT's wording or would improve it, then feel free to post an answer with an explanation of the translation issue so visitors can understand more about Bible translation.
    – Jesse
    Mar 2, 2023 at 16:21
  • What I mean is that I have no problem with NLT philosophy. But in this particular case (the OP's question) I think they went too far. Reading from ch. 7 Paul starts with the law (clearly meaning Torah) being good... he goes on the play with the idea of "law" in various ways: a law of the mind, a law of the body, a law that leads toward goodness, a law that leads to sin. This get's lost when "law" (after its first use) gets turned in the "power" etc. Bottom line: let Paul be Paul ;-) Mar 3, 2023 at 0:38
  • @DanFefferman IMHO, that can be put in an answer, because the OP's question is about the intentions of the NLT.
    – Jesse
    Mar 3, 2023 at 3:58
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    No disagreement here. Mar 4, 2023 at 1:49

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