I’m continuing looking at the NLT Study Bible (NLTSB) in comparison with the New Interpreter’s Study Bible (NISB), which I have also acquired recently. Today I’m going to add a comparison to the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB). Note that I am still working from the second edition.
I think many Methodist ministers or ministerial candidates may be looking into the NISB as an alternative to the NOAB, and thus far my impression is that this is a good direction to go in terms of having a Bible that lays out useful sermon material for you efficiently.
This time I’m covering Exodus 15:1-21, also a lectionary passage this week. I will try to complete this comparison on this week’s lectionary passages by looking at Matthew 18:21-35. The actual lectionary passage is only Exodus 15:1b-12, 20-21, but I am making my comparison for the entire block of text.
Quantity of discussion. The NLTSB continues to surprise me by having the most words, over 800 this time in notes on this passage. (I am using an average line length for each edition and multiplying lines to get these approximations.) That compares to the NISB at just over 400 and the NOAB at just over 320. I don’t think any of them are wasting words, so there is more discussion in the NLTSB.
In addition, the NLTSB has an excursus titled The Exodus as History which presents an essentially conservative view of the historicity of the passage. This discussion is not part of the 800 words, and it is not matched in either of the other works. Each of those does discuss historicy in general in various essays, they simply don’t do it as part of this passage.
Themes. The NLTSB focuses on the power of God, his care for the Israelites, and the faith and trust that would result from these action. This theme goes well with the excursus on historicity. Both the NISB and the NOAB emphasize the literary relationship between this song and ancient near eastern literature about the battle of various gods against the sea, and to the idea of gods dwelling on mountains.
The NOAB is more specific, but provides less explanation than does the NISB. The NLTSB avoids this mythological connection altogether and emphasizes the uniqueness of Israel’s religion in the ancient near east. The excursus (The Exodus as History) includes this: “The most reasonable explanation for the distinctiveness of Israel’s understanding is that, as the Bible describes, God broke into their experience and showed himself to them in events that have been recorded as history.”
General Impression. The NOAB is extremely abbreviated and data oriented, a kind of “just the facts” approach, though along with much of secular Bible scholarship it focuses on the similarities between Israel’s religion and literature rather than the distinctive points. The NISB lessens this focus and looks a bit more at the implications. The NLTSB provides a moderately evangelical explanation of the data.
Obviously none of these will replace a good commentary, but they do each present some unique value for someone preparing a sermon or Sunday School lesson.