NLT Study Bible Blog.
How is the NLT Study Bible Different?
Many people ask a variation of the following question: “How is the NLT Study Bible different from / better than [other study Bible X]?”

I don’t want to parody any other study Bible, because (as the editor of one) I know just how much effort they require, and I want to honor the truly excellent contributions of all who have been involved in making study Bibles. So I’m not going mention other products—not because they aren’t worth it, but because I cannot do them justice. I’d better leave that job to more impartial observers.

Okay, that’s my disclaimer. Now, here’s my perspective on the matter: Basically, the NLT Study Bible focuses on the meaning and message of the text as understood in and through the original historical context. I don’t see other study Bibles focusing so fully on that. Some study Bibles focus on helping people to accept a particular doctrinal system, while others focus on “personal application.” Others simply provide interesting details about the context, language, grammar, etc., without asking how that information will impact people’s understanding of the text. Still others focus on a particular type of study methodology—topical study, word study, etc. Our goal, by contrast, was to provide everything we could that would help the readers understand the Scripture text more fully as the original human authors and readers themselves would have understood it.

One way in which this goal works out is this: In many passages, we don’t discuss the theological implications “for us” in our culture, where it is different from the biblical world. We simply discuss what the text meant in the original context and let people extrapolate from there. This means, for instance, that we don’t have a discussion of "Creation vs. Evolution" in Genesis 1—because that question was really not at play for the original human author and readers of Genesis (I’ll probably post more about Gen 1 in the future).

Another way to put this distinctive is this: We don’t try to take the place of the Christian tradition/community in providing a systematic doctrinal understanding of Scripture. Within the scope of “evangelical Protestant Christianity,” there are a lot of different systematic ways to understand the Bible. What we are trying to do is supplement that understanding, deepen it, and (on occasion) challenge it in light of a contextual reading of Scripture. We are not trying to mold the readers to a particular systematic theology, but to deepen and enrich their own reading of Scripture. So people from a variety of traditions/communities should be able to benefit from studying the Bible with the NLT Study Bible.
posted by Sean Harrison at 7:00 AM
33 Comments
Blogger Stan McCullars said...

I can't wait to my hands on one. This morning I was telling my wife about some of my favorite features in the NLT Study Bible. Now she is excited which is good since it looks like she will not object to my buying yet another Bible. She ,being the historian of the family, particularly liked the maps, diagrams, and timelines.

July 22, 2008 12:53 PM  
Blogger CD-Host said...

Sean --

Excellent explanation. Sean gave a slightly more marketing version here and I responded (saying good stuff about the NLTSB).

I discuss a comparison with a treatment from another publisher so I'm linking rather than cross posting. But the main message was I think the NLT's treatment was faithful to the text in exactly the way Sean describes their goals. And when comparing to another (highly respected) product with similar goals their treatment addressed the same issues.

Since Sean directly mentions the NIVSB, let me just say the NLTSB map looks way better but the two bibles (at least visually) seem to be disagreeing about the proportions in geography. The NLTSB notes (as mentioned above) were thematic and frankly more relevant for a bible study than the NIVSB's.

While I need to see a copy this is really looking like the best evangelical study bible on the market.

July 22, 2008 2:41 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Sounds good! I like the focus on the historical context to help better understand the meaning of the text. That is just so important. I think you all did the right thing on Genesis.

July 22, 2008 5:35 PM  
Blogger K-Funk said...

Sean, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the decision to use a 2-column format for the NLT Study Bible.

I personally favor 2 columns, but I know that the recent trend in Study Bibles has been towards the single-column format.

July 22, 2008 11:49 PM  
Blogger Brad Boydston said...

I've used and preached from the NLT for years -- looked over the Genesis preview -- and think that this approach to developing a study Bible is outstanding. Unfortunately, the NLTSB apparently utilizes red ink in the gospels -- and like many people I have trouble focusing on blocks of red. I'll take a look at it once it is released but I suspect that it won't work for me. Sigh.

July 23, 2008 6:06 AM  
Blogger Sean Harrison said...

Thanks, Brian, and welcome to the NLTSB blog!

Welcome Brad! I'm sorry that the the red text will make it hard for you to use the NLT Study Bible. I'll give the folks over here this feedback as we think about future editions.

July 23, 2008 9:04 AM  
Blogger Sean Harrison said...

Hi, K-Funk. As you know the optimally line width is no more than about 75 characters. It's much easier to do that in a two-column format. It also uses less paper, because you fit more text on each page -- especially in the poetry sections. So the total page count is less for the same content -- better for the publisher (cost), for the consumer (weight), and for the trees.

July 23, 2008 11:29 AM  
Blogger Kevin Sam said...

Sean, this type of study bible is going to be exciting. There is a desire in people to learn about the historical context of biblical passages because it puts things into perspective for us today. I look forward to seeing it.

July 23, 2008 12:57 PM  
Blogger ElShaddai Edwards said...

Sean wrote: As you know the optimally line width is no more than about 75 characters. It's much easier to do that in a two-column format. It also uses less paper, because you fit more text on each page [...]

Sean, I'd be curious to get more of your thoughts on the decision making of the text layout, especially comparing what you've chosen for the NLTSB against the "Discover God" SB, which used a single column text block and, except for some of the typeface choices, was very attractive, in my opinion.

July 23, 2008 4:12 PM  
Blogger Sean Harrison said...

ElShaddai, I initially asked for a design that would allow us to pack as much content in as possible, given a page count target of 2,500 pages. Two-column text is generally more efficient with space. Even at that, the NLTSB design has an "openness" in its look that belies its density. Tim Botts, the interior designer, is a genius.

July 24, 2008 11:21 AM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Hey Sean,

I'm sitting here looking through a copy of the NLTSB now so I can write a review. Just wanted to quickly say that I think that if these are your reasons for the study Bible, you all have done a marvelous job with it. If it's ok, I want to incorporate a quote or two from this entry into the review, just to give readers who might not have seen this post a look into the method and purpose.

Bryan

July 26, 2008 10:07 PM  
Blogger Sean Harrison said...

Hey, Bryan. Go for it.

July 28, 2008 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Hey Sean,

Here is the review:

Review

July 28, 2008 10:01 PM  
Blogger tom n said...

If my comments are critical, may I still post here or must I go to a different blog for that? I did make one post, but it was removed - though it was not rude, just critical.

July 30, 2008 12:43 PM  
Blogger Sean Harrison said...

@bryan: Thanks for the review, very thorough and well done.

@tom n: Yes, you can be critical. I don't recall seeing your other comment, so if I missed it I'm sorry (I moderate, but with a light hand).

July 30, 2008 12:49 PM  
Anonymous Jeff Jones said...

I am interesting in knowing how this NLT Study Bible compares to the NLT Life Application Bible. I already own th NIV Study bible, the archaelogical study bibel but wanted to know this one compares to your on Life Application. it would have been nice if that was included in the comparison chart

August 25, 2008 11:15 AM  
Blogger Sean Harrison said...

Welcome Jeff Jones!

This is a question that comes up a lot. The LASB is focused on personal application ("What do I do with what the Bible is saying?"), whereas the NLT Study Bible is focused on meaning in context ("What is the message of this passage? What does the original context provide to help me understand that message?"). That difference in focus can explain a lot of specific differences between the two Bibles.

August 25, 2008 11:24 AM  
Anonymous Jeff Jones said...

Thanks Sean, I should have mentioned that I own the Life Application Bible in the KJV, NIV and NLT. I use by Life Application Bible and my NIV Study Bible side by side when I am working on a lesson or sermon. I use the NLT LASB and the NIV Study Bible together. My question really was around the actual features checklist. I just thought it was odd that the LASB wasn't listed in the features comparison. The way I am going to use this New NLT study bible is to continue to do side by side studies. When I get this new bible I will use the NLT Study Bible and NIV LASB together so I'll still have two translations going

August 25, 2008 12:53 PM  
Blogger Sean Harrison said...

Okay, I understand the question now. I'm not able to answer for the marketing team as to why they chose the competing products that they did for that comparison.

August 25, 2008 1:28 PM  
Blogger Sean Harrison said...

P.S. Good idea to use two different study Bibles in two different translations.

August 25, 2008 1:29 PM  
Anonymous Jonathan said...

I just wanted to quickly ask, is the NLT used by any pastors to preach to congregations? I never been to a church where the NLT was their pew bible of choice. I hope to plant a church one day, would it be recommended to use the NLT or another translation to preach? Thank you for your time and response.

September 13, 2008 3:35 PM  
Blogger Doc said...

I examined a copy of the NLT Study Bible today. I'm impressed with the quality of the book introductions and the detailed comments on the text. it seems to have more space devoted to study materials and less to Bible text than other study Bibles I've used. That makes it truly a study tool but may be harder to use for just reading the Bible text. I'd agree with other writers here that I'd like to see a non-red letter edition and would prefer the one-column Bible text (as in the ESV Study Bible).

My main wish, however, would be for use of a better quality paper. it's irritating trying to read a page and seeing the text from the other side of the page. Any hope there?

Dave

September 14, 2008 5:09 PM  
Blogger ElShaddai Edwards said...

Jonathan asked: I just wanted to quickly ask, is the NLT used by any pastors to preach to congregations?

FYI: the NLT is used as the pew and pulpit Bible at Faith Covenant Church in Burnsville, Minnesota.

September 15, 2008 10:38 AM  
Blogger Sean Harrison said...

@doc: I feel your pain (quite fully) with regard to the bleed-through. I don't know if anything can be done - the paper is high quality, but it is necessarily thin. We are discussing producing a non-red-letter version (a lot of people give us this feedback), but have made no definite plans at this point. As to reading the Bible text, I hope you'll find that the other features don't get in the way -- at least, that's been my experience with it so far.

September 15, 2008 11:29 AM  
Blogger Kevin Sam said...

As I am reading it, the NLTSB excites me. It's great quality content inside the pages. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in getting a study bible and/or a great translation.

September 15, 2008 2:08 PM  
Blogger Sean Harrison said...

@jonathan: I just did some checking for real stats, and found that the Barna Group’s PastorPoll, completed in November 2007, indicates that 30% (three in ten) of pastors have used the NLT from the pulpit.

My own experience using the NLT to teach Bible studies also might have something to say. In our home Bible study group, as in many, people use a variety of translations -- everything from KJV and NASB to NIV and NLT. When speaking from the NLT, those who have other versions sometimes have difficulty following (and you see the puzzled looks when they try to find what you're reading in their version), because formal equivalent translations often use very different words and phrases. So I find that it's helpful to have a formal equivalent (a.k.a. "literal") version at hand while teaching from the NLT, so that I can make the connection for those who are using those versions. But it's worth the trouble: When people hear the NLT and understand what part of the verse it is speaking to, they typically nod and make appreciative / "oh I get it" noises. It makes it much easier to go from reading to understanding of meaning. At least, that's my experience with it most of the time.

September 15, 2008 2:21 PM  
Blogger Doc said...

More on bleed-through (thanks, Sean, for your response to my first posting). I received my paper copy today and find the bleed-through is not severe enough to make reading difficult. I've heard that the very thin, very opaque India papers of the past (as in Oxford or Cambridge Bibles) is no longer available, at least at affordable pricing. But the paper here is fine.

By the way, in Isaiah 25:11 the note seems to say the opposite of what the text says. Where should questions about such issues be sent?

September 17, 2008 3:05 PM  
Blogger Sean Harrison said...

Hi, Doc. I'm glad to hear that you're finding the paper to be acceptable.

Re/the question on Isa 25:11, you can post questions like that here, or you can email me directly (see my blogger profile for the address). I am collecting this kind of input for later editions.

But as to the issue in question, yes, I see what you're saying: The note is not making a very clear connection with the NLT text as it stands, and we could certainly improve it.

September 17, 2008 3:20 PM  
Blogger tom n said...

Another (and far more serious) part where the notes contradict the text/context is at Rom 5:18, where the text is indicating the 2nd Adam is greater than the 1st and that where sin did abound, grace did much more abound. The notes indicate a more commercial aspect to Christ's work of redemption by the phrase "New life is available..." It's more of a free-market concept, informed by the dominant american culture than by the text of scripture.

September 17, 2008 4:13 PM  
Blogger DocDEH said...

Thanks, I will let you know if I find other comments that seem out of place.

I have the NLTSB for the Laridian programs (PocketBible for Windows, for the Palm, and for the PocketPC). The advertisting piece on the Laridian site says the Hebrew and Greek word studies are part of the package, but I don't see that included in the electronic version. Nor are the He brew or Greek words with Strong's numbers tagged for lookup on the Laridian version. Is that yet to come?

David

September 21, 2008 5:37 PM  
Blogger jimv said...

@David re the Laridian version:

David, that was an oversight on our part. We have corrected that and will be releasing the corrected edition shortly. As a registered user of any Laridian products your download page will display the most recent release date of any material to which you own a license. Logging into your download page regularly will allow you to make sure you always have the latest edition of your titles.

Thanks for your interest, sorry for the confusion. My bad.

If you have any further questions you can either contact me directly jimv AT laridian DOT com or our technical support staff at support AT laridian DOT com.

Jim VanDuzer
Publisher
Laridian

September 23, 2008 9:20 AM  
Anonymous Chuck said...

I have looked at this. I agree with the premise of this study bible to unfold the text's original intent as given instead of pious (often irrelevant!) "applications" or doing systematic theology.

I wonder if it will ever be released in large print with simply black letter?

September 27, 2009 10:11 PM  
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