NLT Study Bible – Initial Reaction

NLT Study Bible – Initial Reaction

I intended to get started on my response to the NLT Study Bible (Bible Nlt) written a bit earlier, but several things have kept me from getting started.

I’m going to write two posts today and tomorrow. This first one is simply a quick, preliminary reaction to this new study edition based on the NLT 2nd edition. The second will compare the introductory information to the gospel of Luke with that of several other study Bibles I use regularly.

I need to note first that this is an evangelical study Bible and I am not an evangelical. That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to like it, of course. The basic combination of scholarship involved and the quality text of the NLT makes this a useful Bible whether you are evangelical or not. Thus far, I have found it to be the best I have seen to get a quick view of the evangelical understanding of a book or passage. Names like Tremper Longman III, Philip W. Comfort, and George H. Guthrie are just three names that caught my eye. Contributors such as those suggest that this will be a useful resource.

I am, as almost always, disappointed with some of the marketing style claims. Lines like “revolutionary breakthrough in study Bibles” or the slogal “The Truth Made CLEAR” don’t resonate well with me. But these are elements of the cover, and they are common to the marketing material. The NLT is good and this study Bible is good, but I wouldn’t go as far as “revolutionary.”

And indeed some of the major concerns I have with any study Bible, as well as the marketing language (indirectly) are addressed starting on page A17 (How the Study the Bible with the NLT Study Bible), where we find:

No feature of the NLT STudy Bible is more important than Scripture, the text of the Bible itself.

I wish all users of study Bibles would recognize that fact. Too often Sunday School class or study group members read the notes in their study Bibles as the one interpretation of the text, and don’t bother to think about how that note might have been derived. Now if I could just get them to read this “How To”!

In addition, this same section suggests reading the Biblical text first, and “. . . leav[ing] the notes and other features for later.” This entire section is outstanding, and one hopes that all Bible students who use this Bible edition will read it and follow its advice, including this note:

Please do not treat the NLT Study Bible study notes and other features as the full and final word on any topic of passage. (p. A19)

I’m going to get into more specific features in my next post, in which I will compare and contrast the NLT Study Bible five other editions, but overall my impression is a very useful edition. My teaching work is mostly in United Methodist churches, though not exclusively, and focuses on the educated lay person. I have lacked a single edition that I can unreservedly recommend for evangelical Bible students, one that gives them an overview of scholarly information available, but doesn’t fall into either excessively technical language or oversimplify. At the same time such an edition should refrain from providing the one true interpretation of a text without adequate support. Tall order, no?

Thus far, I think this one will do. My wife is using it as well and giving me her input. She is an educated person and has done a good deal of Bible study, but has not pursued this study academically or professionally. She finds it more useful than The Learning Bible, one that is quite helpful to beginning Bible students in my experience. Thus far, she thinks its language is clear and it addresses topics that are of interest to her. I’m going to urge her to blog some about it herself.

I’m embedding the video provided by Tyndale House on the features, rather than reciting them myself. I will then go into specifics one post at a time.

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