Tuesday, January 12, 2016

NLT Illustrated Study Bible - A Review

NLT Illustrated
Study Bible

NLT Illustrated Study Bible Cover.jpg

A Review

Over the last four years I have been privileged to receive  number of study Bibles for review. Many are good - and serve the audience for which they were designed, but do not stand out from the crowd. But occasionally an editor or publisher will bring together material that will serve a wide audience for many years. Such is the case with the NLT Illustrated Study Bible.

From the opening flyleaf which quotes Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is alive and powerful” to the closing flyleaf which quotes Psalm 119:18 “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.” it is clear that the (un-credited) editors have a high regard for both the Scriptures and for those who will be using their book as a guide to those Scriptures. A single page list contributors to the Bible from a wide variety of backgrounds - but even there the list is of names and their contributions without any mention of their academic credentials or affiliations. But the names are known and respected by those familiar with Biblical scholarship - both popular and scholarly.  This list is separate from the individuals (also listed) who contributed to the NLT translation - though there is a great deal of overlap. This means that the very scholars who translated the NLT have contributed to the Study Bible coming with the translation’s name.

The Study Bible begins with a 10-page timeline bringing together both Biblical history and world history as it is generally understood. To give a sense of its conservative bent, it should be noted that Abraham’s birth is dated at 2166 BC, Moses’ birth is dated to 1526, the Exodus is dated at 1446, and David is anointed king, becomes king of Judah, and becomes King of Israel in 1025, 1010, and 1003 BC, respectively.

The Biblical notes are extensive - occupying ⅓ to ⅔ of each page, cross references (not heavy, but present) are included in the inside margin of each page. Brief notes describing key historical events, people, themes, and theological discussion are placed between the Bible text and the study notes at the bottom of the page. These brief notes occur on about ½ of the pages.

The text is of medium size - easily read in bright light, but more difficult to read in a more subdued setting. It would be nice to have the book available as an e-book to use along with the paper version. I expect one or more of the major software publishers (WordSearch, LOGOS, etc.) will license the material for use - at least I am hoping so. The Biblical text and the accompanying notes take up nearly 2400 pages.  (This does not include the aforementioned timeline or the material which follows the Biblical text).

The timeline is continued (on a smaller scale) on four additional pages introducing the reader to the first half-century of church history following the closing of the canon. The book concludes with a number of helps - “Hebrew and Greek Word Studies”, An index of the brief essays (“Features Index”) included in the text. A comprehensive “Notes Index“ gives access to the study notes which form the main content of this study Bible. The book concludes with a nice “Dictionary and Concordance” and the expected set of Biblical maps.   There is a brief index (I wish it was more comprehensive) to the maps - it does not allow the reader to find all locations shown on the maps, but to find maps focused on the major events or people found in the Scriptures.

The Bible certainly belongs on the desk of most lay people wanting to more deeply study the Bible. Pastors will find it helpful as they seek background material and comments as they prepare themselves and their messages each week. Students will also find this book as an easily accessible study aid as they complete Biblical coursework.  

Though I was lucky enough to receive a free review copy, the NLT Illustrated Study Bible will be kept close at hand as I seek to meet the needs of the people God has allows me to serve.
This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

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