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Monday, March 19, 2012

My New Study Bible: Life Application NLT

This past week I got a new Study Bible... the Life Application Study Bible in the New Living Translation. This is a hardcover copy that I won in an online contest; I actually already had a paperback personal size copy of the same thing on my shelf for a while, waiting until I had time to spend with it (I gave it away when I got this hardback copy), and my wife has had the NIV version for some time (she got it for Easter several years back). This is the first time I've really opened one up and spent quality time with it. I'm actually more impressed than I thought I would be!

For the past several years I've been a huge fan of my ESV Study Bible. I've read through most of it in my quest to read through the whole Bible in a year (which is now several months into its third year... go Ezekiel!) and learned an awful lot. The ESV Study Bible has tons of notes that give historical background, cross-references, and other supporting material to help you understand the text. I've also been using the NIV Study Bible, which contains materials along the same line (I've been reading them together, which has been very interesting... usually they have completely different supporting material, sometimes they are complimentary, and occasionally they come close to contradicting each other! But both are outstanding). The Life Application Study Bible is not like that. Certainly it has a copious amount of notes, but the study notes in this Bible are not primarily of a historical or even of a Theological nature, at least not in the academic sense. These study notes are firmly focused on one thing: showing you ways that the Bible text applies to your day-to-day life. They're not concerned so much with telling you how someone lived in the first century; they're concerned with how the Bible is telling us to live in the twenty-first century. They're very good at helping you start thinking about what the text means to your life, right now, today. I'm duly impressed!

Is this the only Study Bible I would want to have? Definitely not. Not for me personally, anyway. I'm very interested in all of that historical background and learning how different passages of Scripture interact with one another (by the way, the Life Application Study Bibles do have book introductions which provide some historical background, so it's not like they leave you high and dry). I enjoy a more academic take on the Word sometimes. I also find that I don't particularly trust the New Living Translation for serious study; it's still way too close to paraphrase for me, although it is less relaxed about fidelity to the text than the classic Living Bible, and of course almost anything is more literal than something like The Message. The NLT is more like having a good friend explaining to you what the Bible says, though, and I do kind of dig that for casual meaning. The Life Application Study Bible matches the NLT incredibly well because reading the study notes feels kind of like having that same good friend tell you what they learned from reading the Scripture passage they just told you about. For me, the overall effect is like listening to a message by a pastor who has a very relaxed style and who is very good at bringing the topics he finds in the Bible into a daily life context. I'm going to make it part of my devotional life, and I think I'll get a lot out of it!

I'm also pretty sure that it's the only Bible that I've ever seen that includes the little-known apocryphal Gospel According To Spider-Man:

(Just kidding... that's 2 Thessalonians there.)

1 comment:

Justine said...

Very interesting. I've been thinking about getting an NLT. Right now I use mostly the ESV and NASB.