on Romans 14:8 NLT


Russell from Maine writes:

“I too have been doing daily devotions from Romans the past couple weeks.

Yesterday morning I was doing my devotional from Romans 14, which I believe you will be getting to in a few days.  I read the chapter from the New Living Translation and then from the New King James translation. I was struck by the way the NLT dealt with verse 8. It says in the NLT

“While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord.”

The above translation of the NLT is quite different from the NKJV which says:

” …if we die, we die to the Lord.”

And the NIV

“. and if we die, we die for the Lord.”

And the ESV:

“. and if we die, we die to the Lord.”

My question for you, would you say this phrase “we go to be with the Lord”  a biased translation of what the Greek actually says? It sure looks that way.

Have a great day my friend.




Thanks for the excellent observation. It is most certainly an example of sectarian bias in translation. The Greek text does not imply what the NLT implies. In fact, in their first revision of the NLT text (2004) the translators corrected the verse. It now reads:

“If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”

This revision is consistent with how the text has been interpreted throughout the centuries, as is evidenced by this quote from John Calvin:

“(The apostles) were delivered (from prison in Jerusalem – Acts 5:19) so they could continue their strenuous efforts in preaching the Gospel and courageously challenging their enemies, even if they had to bravely face death. … because they knew they had to live and die to the Lord, they did not abandon his commandment.”[1]

Actually there is no preposition in the text. The dative definite articles are all one has to go on, so most modern translations follow those versions you quoted and simply render the phrase “live to the Lord… die to the Lord” or “live for the Lord… die for the Lord.”

The point that Paul was making gave no reassurance about the intermediate state except that he affirmed that at death the believer’s status does not change. The dative definite article can also be rendered “in” resulting in the translation: “live in the Lord… die in the Lord.”  Either way, Paul’s overall point is that we believers have a responsibility to withhold from judging other believers because we are not their Lord. He will judge us all when he returns.

[1] John Calvin,  Acts  (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1995), 77-78.

Author: Jefferson Vann

Jefferson Vann is pastor of Piney Grove Advent Christian Church in Delco, North Carolina. You can contact him at marmsky@gmail.com -- !

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