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Bible versions are often tricky as most people do not understand the differences. Let’s break down two of the more popular versions for a fair comparison and to find which option works best for you. Both the NLT and NKJV are unique and deserve a review. 

Origin of the NLT and NKJV


The New Living Translation (NLT) aimed to translate the Bible into a comprehensible, readable version of contemporary English back in 1996. The project began as a revision of The Living Bible, a paraphrased version of the Bible, but it eventually turned into a fresh English translation.

NKJV – The King James Version of 1769 was updated with the 1982 debut of the New King James Version. While upgrading the vocabulary and grammar, the 130 translators worked for seven years to maintain the poetic beauty and flow of the KJV while modernizing the version to current English.

Readability of the NLT and the NKJV


Among modern translations, the New Living Translation is usually considered the most easily readable at a 6th-grade reading level. The NLT is a great dynamic equivalent translation with more of an emphasis on accurately communicating the words of the original scriptures in English.


Although much easier to read than the King James Bible (KJV) on which it was based, the NKJV is a little difficult to read due to its somewhat awkward and choppy sentence structure, as is common with more literal translations. However, many readers find the poetic style and cadence make it a pleasure to read. It is written at an 8th-grade reading level.

Bible translation differences between the NLT and NKJV

It is a tremendous responsibility and challenge to translate the Bible into the reader’s local tongue so we can comprehend what God has said. Here are some of the key differences in the way these versions were translated.


The most recent research in translation theory is the foundation of The New Living Translation. The translators’ task was to produce a text that would have the same effect on contemporary readers that the original literature had on its original audience. The NLT employs a hybrid translation strategy that combines formal equivalence (word-for-word) and dynamic equivalence (thought-for-thought).


The New King James Version revisionists refer to the translation principles utilized in the original KJV, a “thought-for-thought,” translation. The translators’ goal was to maintain the King James Version’s traditional aesthetic and literary excellence while updating its terminology and grammar. The original Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew texts, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, were held in the strictest regard by the 130 translators.

Bible verse comparison

Take a look at the differences between verses in the Old and New Testaments to gain a better understanding of the two Bible versions. 


Genesis 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.”

Proverbs 10:17 “People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore correction will go astray.” (Inspirational life Bible verses)

Isaiah 28:11 “For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people,”

Romans 10:10 “For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.”

Mark 16:17 These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages.”

Hebrews 8:5 “They serve in a system of worship that is only a copy, a shadow of the real one in heaven. For when Moses was getting ready to build the Tabernacle, God gave him this warning: “Be sure that you make everything according to the pattern I have shown you here on the mountain.” (Worship in the Bible)

Hebrews 11:6 “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” (Is God real or not?)

John 15:9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.

Psalm 71:23 “I will shout for joy and sing your praises, for you have ransomed me.” (Joy in the Bible)


Genesis 2:1 “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished.”

Proverbs 10:17 “He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he who refuses correction goes astray.”

Isaiah 28:11 “For with stammering lips and another tongueHe will speak to this people,”

Romans 10:10 “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Mark 16:17 “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues.”

Hebrews 8:5 “Who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”

Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

John 15:9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.”

Psalm 71:23 “My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing to You, And my soul, which You have redeemed.”



In 1996, Tyndale House finalized and released The New Living Translation. Next, in 2004, the NLT’s Second Edition (also known as the NLTse) was published. Finally, another minor revision with textual and footnote adjustments was finished in 2007.


Although various minor adjustments have been made since the publishing of the whole Bible in 1982, the NKJV’s copyright has not changed since 1990. The NKJV was released in three stages: the New Testament first, followed by the Psalms and the New Testament in 1980, and the entire Bible in 1982.

Target Audience


The target audience of the NLT translation is Christians of all ages, but especially useful for children, young teens, and first-time Bible readers. The NLT is also useful for someone who knows nothing of the Bible or theology.


As a more literal translation, the NKJV is suitable for in-depth study by teens and adults, especially those who appreciate the poetic beauty of the KJV. In addition, it is readable enough to be used in daily devotions and reading longer passages. 

Popularity between NKJV Vs NLT


The New Living Translation ranks #3 on the April 2021 Bible Translations Bestsellers list, according to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).


The NKJV ranked 5th in sales. However, according to the Christian Booksellers Association, the NLT consistently sits at the top of the Bible versions list. 

Pros and cons of both Bible translations


The primary benefit of the New Living Translation is that it promotes Bible reading. Its accessibility is excellent for reading through the Bible, and it even makes verses more understandable and fresh in Bible study. On the downside, many verses were simply copied from the Living Bible with only minimal changes, even though the NLT is meant to be a “completely new translation” rather than just a revision of the Living Bible. 

The more gender-inclusive vocabulary of the NLT is unsettling to some Christians since it adds to Scripture. Furthermore, the NLT is despised by some Christians because they do not translate from the Textus Receptus, which is the basic Greek text used by the KJV and NKJV. Moreover, the version loses some key scripture ideas as it relies on paraphrasing.


Many people adore the NKJV because it is simpler to read while retaining much of the literary beauty of the King James Version. As a literal translation, the translators were less inclined to impose their personal viewpoints or religious perspective on translating the Scriptures.

The NKJV retains several archaic vocabulary and sentence structures as it was made by the Textus Receptus. This can make some sentences strange and a little challenging to understand. In addition, because it takes the language very literally, the New King James Version delivers a very accurate “word-for-word” translation but is often too literal.


Pastors who use NLT

Well-known pastors who utilize the New Living Translation Version include:

• Chuck Swindoll: Evangelical Free Church preacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas.

  • Tom Lundeen, Pastor of Riverside Church, a Christian & Missionary Alliance megachurch in Minnesota.
  • Bill Hybels, prolific author and former pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicago area. 
  • Carl Hinderager, Ph.D. and Briercrest College in Canada

Pastors Who Use NKJV 

Well-known pastors who endorse the New King James Version include:

  • John MacArthur, Pastor-Teacher of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles.
  • Dr. Jack W. Hayford, founding pastor of The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California.
  • David Jeremiah, author, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.
  • Philip De Courcy, senior pastor of Kindred Community Church in Anaheim Hills, California.

Study Bibles to choose

Serious Bible study revolves around a study Bible. For many Christians, this book serves as a crucial tool for prayer, meditation, teaching, and spiritual development, in addition to serving as the beginning and finish of every Bible study session. Choosing a study Bible can be challenging, with many options. Here are our recommendations:

Best NLT Study Bibles

The NLT’s Illustrated Study Bible 

The Illustrated Study Bible offers readers a completely new visual study experience that brings the message of Scripture to life. With beautiful images, drawings, infographics, and full-color maps, this version bring the Bible to life. 

NLT Tyndale Study Bible by Swindoll 

The Swindoll Study Bible brings you the best of Chuck Swindoll’s humor, charm, pastoral insight, and sage biblical study. The NLT Study Bible is written in a way that makes reading each chapter like hearing Chuck proclaim God’s Word directly to your heart. It will strengthen readers’ faith and compel them to spend more time studying God’s Word.

Best NKJV Study Bibles 

MacArthur Study Bible, NKJV 

The New King James Version MacArthur Study Bible (NKJV) strikes a compromise between the King James’ literary beauty and comfort. In addition, this version does an amazing job of preserving the syntax and structure of the underlying biblical languages. The translator’s notes provide insightful information for a Bible translation that is ideal for devotional use, serious study, and reading aloud.

Study Bible for Cultural Backgrounds NKJV 

The NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible offers just that. This NKJV Bible is filled with in-depth knowledge about biblical times’ traditions, literature, and culture on every page. These intriguing explanations can help you better understand the Scriptures as you study them, boosting your confidence and bringing challenging sections into sharp focus. 

Other Bible translations

ESV (English Standard Version) 

The English Standard Version (ESV) is a good version for new readers, teenagers, and kids with a reading level between 8th and 10th grade. The version, however, adheres to a strict word-for-word translation because it is more effective for learning.

King James Version (KJV) 

The KJV has been used so frequently over the years that it has emerged as the single most significant book in the development of the present English language. Therefore, reading and studying the KJV with a more current translation is often beneficial. The KJV is still the most popular English translation in the country in terms of ownership and usage.

New America Standard Bible (NASB) 

The NASB, which debuted in the 1960s, is a superb illustration of a formal English translation of the Bible. It is arguably the most popular “word-for-word” translation available with a solid structure based on the Hebrew and Greek originals.

New International Version (NIV) 

Although the NIV was a brand-new translation, the King James Version’s legacy had a big impact on translation. As a result, the NIV is one of the most widely used English Bibles in circulation today and combines form-based and meaning-based translation styles.

Which Bible translation should I choose between the NRSV or the NIV?

The Bible translation that works best for you is the one you can comfortably learn from and read. Before making a purchase, compare several translations and take a close look at the study guides, maps, and other formats. The NLT reads comfortably and offers a hybrid of word-for-word and thought-for-thought translation, perfect for multiple uses. However, the NKJV takes one of the most popular translations and makes it readable for this century. Choose a version that is appropriate for your reading level and start digging into the word of God. 

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