NLT Study Bible Review

NLT Study Bible Review

NLT Study Bible Review


Why review the NLT Study Bible? This is a phenomenal resource, as you will see below, which is full of valuable tools to aid you in your study. I don’t about it as often as other study Bibles so I am reviewing to call your attention to this outstanding resource.

First, some information from Tyndale House Publishers (Note: the NLT Study Bible was acquired at my own expense and Tyndale House was not involved in the decision to review.)

“Explore the Scriptures with almost 50 of today’s top evangelical scholars, including Daniel Block, Barry Beitzel, Tremper Longman, John N. Oswalt, Grant R. Osborne, Norman Ericson, and many more. Every feature in the NLT Study Bible has been created to do more than just impart information. Ask questions, and the NLT Study Bible gives you both the words and the world of the Bible. Seek deeper understanding, and find the meaning and significance of Scripture, not just facts. Knock on the door of God’s Word, and see what doors are opened to you.”

Now the review…


Translation: As its name suggests, the translation is the New Living Translation, one of the two best selling English translations; it is in a statistical dead heat with the NIV. NLT is a thought-for-thought or meaning based translation. Meaning based translations try, as best as possible, to capture the thought behind the original words and to convey that thought into the English language.


Translated into the English a 6th grade student would use, the NLT is far and away the easiest to understand of the major English translations. Faithfully accurate: Because the NLT uses a thought for thought style of translation, the original intent is easily captured. passages make more sense in the NLT, an “I get it now” experience is common.


Helps (Tyndale’s information will come first followed by my comments):


50,000 cross-referencesconnect related verses, not just words, so they are always applicable. Additionally, parallel lines (//) show passages describing the same events or saying something similar. An asterisk (*) indicates Old Testament quotes in the New Testament.

This is one of the most heavily cross-referenced Bibles you can find. The huge number of cross references is very important because Scripture interprets Scripture. The ideal scenario for using the cross references is in preparing a systematic verse by verse exposition of the Bible.

25,000 study and textual notesprovide background and deeper explanations of words, phrases, verses, and sections. Historical and literary notes open the world of the Bible and the context in which it was originally read and heard. All notes in the NLT Study Bible were developed with the “So what?” test in mind—the goal is study notes that focus on the meaning and message of Scripture, not just facts. The study notes also include the NLT textual footnote apparatus, which identifies variations in the Hebrew and Greek text as well as providing alternate translation possibilities.

This is my favorite feature of the NLT Study Bible. In terms of total annotations, it has only two rivals: the ESV Study Bible with around 27,000 notes and the Reformation Study Bible with nearly 30,000 study notes. Among the notes that are offered, the Textual Footnote Apparatus is, in my estimation, the most important feature. Despite the ease of understanding the translation, the apparatus makes this, at the least, a college grade text. The identification of textual variants and alternate readings will enable the pastor to provide a more well-rounded view of the Scripture to the congregation.

300 Theme Articlesidentify the major topics and ideas of the Bible. Placed alongside particularly relevant passages, they also point to other passages and theme notes. These articles provide the first steps in developing a biblical theology without attempting to formulate a specific doctrinal system.

Tyndale really does a good job of staying within the mainstream of evangelical christianity. It does not lean toward either Calvinism or Arminianism. It does tend to lean away from Dispensationalism but I do not fault it for that. The idea is to present a conservative text from which to study.

220 Charts, Illustrations, Maps, and Timelinesorganize and illuminate important information in the text that can otherwise be difficult to understand or interpret the significance of. Examples include a chart of Israel’s Annual Calendar, regional and event related maps, the Temple at various stages, an overview of the entire Bible, and more detailed, specific timelines such as the time of the kings of Israel.

There is not much that needs said here. The visual aids are primarily geared as a memory aid/tool and they excel at that.

90 Profilespaint portraits of major figures in the Bible—good and bad. The story of Scripture unfolds through the lives of the people in it. Their lives instruct us with examples and counter-examples, helping us to better understand the Bible, its world, and its message. Their relationship with God, or lack of it, helps us to understand how we can have a relationship with God and what it should look like.

Again, there is not much that needs to be said. These notes help to make the major players of the Bible more real and relatable.

200 Greek and Hebrew word studiestrace the use of important words throughout the Bible. Because the NLT is a dynamic translation, a particular word in Greek or Hebrew is not always translated the same way but is translated in a manner that is appropriate for the context. This makes word studies richer and more productive, because the range of meaning for a particular Greek or Hebrew word becomes very clear, and it is easier to avoid common misunderstandings about what the word means. There are word studies for 100 Hebrew words and 100 Greek words. Several instances of each word are included in a chain to illustrate the range of meaning. Each occurrence is indicated with a superscript letter (a, b, c, etc.) and a corresponding superscript in the cross-reference column. Each entry includes the Hebrew or Greek word, a reference number for the glossary at the back, and study tools such as Strong’s Concordance and a chain-reference link to the next highlighted occurrence of the word.

When your motto is, “the truth made clear,” word studies are absolutely essential. I have heard pastors preach an entire sermon on a particular word (John MacArthur) and walked away feeling like blinders had been lifted from my eyes or that I had just come out of a fog. I would be hard pressed to say which feature I find more important, the word studies or the cross references; both are quite essential.

85 introductory articlesset the stage for each Bible section, book and time period. The articles give background information in three layers. First, Old and New Testament articles give a broad overview of each testament. Second, section and chronology articles help orient you to the kind of literature and timeframe of the writings included, giving information on setting, genre, and more. Third, book introductions give more detailed setting and message information as well as an outline, timelines, maps, author information, and a focus on the overall meaning and message of that book. Additional articles include a harmony of the Gospels, the inter-testamental period, and the time after the apostles.

The information about the articles, provided by Tyndale, is sufficiently self explanatory.


General Thoughts

This is a true study Bible in that there is something that you can benefit from irrespective of your experience with the Bible. As an example, I am a seasoned teacher and currently a senior pastor and both the apparatus and the word studies inform my sermons and provide a platform for launching more in-depth studies. In discipling others, I find the profiles to be quite helpful in helping my students to relate to the Scriptures.


The NLT Study Bible pairs perfectly with the Cornerstone Commentary Series from Tyndale (review coming soon). In fact, I would say that it is a gateway to using the Cornerstone Series for in depth study.


Tyndale has had some challenges with the opacity of its paper in some editions of the NLT but you will not find that here. The paper’s opacity lends itself to using by a desk lamp despite still being thin enough that you need not worry about the book being overly heavy.


The New Testament is a “Red-letter” edition. I have mixed feelings about this type of Bible. On the one hand it is very nice to have the words spoken by our Lord to be set apart for easy reading and I love that. On the other hand, when I write notes in a Bible, I usually do so in red. Even though the two shades of red are never the same, it can get a little distracting. I recommend using blue for your markings in the NT.


Who should use/buy the NLT Study Bible? While everyone can benefit from the NLT Study Bible, I recommend it for an intermediate level student. You will find it to be simple enough that you will not get bogged down and filled with enough resources that you will have years of solid study.


Is anything missing? At the risk of nitpicking, a good study Bible should have more than just a couple blank pages for notes and it would great to see a couple pages for each book, either at the end of the introductory materials or at the end of the text for each book of the Bible. I definitely recommend pairing the NLT with a good notebook; I do not think it would be possible to use this Bible to its full potential without taking notes.


Final Thoughts:

I have a couple colleagues that do not like study Bibles, they think it promotes intellectual laziness. I do not find that to be the case with the NLT Study Bible; in fact, it is quite the opposite for me. I find myself launching into deeper study with additional resources because the NLT Study Bible leaves me wanting more. I hope, beloved reader, that you will get one and enjoy it.


I do want to add; I disagree with the historicist/idealist interpretation of Revelation that you find in the notes. My area of expertise is Old Testament and I do not find that either a historicist or idealist view in Revelation fits the Old Testament’s eschatology. That being said, it is not a sufficient reason to detract from recommending this study Bible so I do. I think you should get one and use it daily for your study.


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