I am not one for study Bibles. I like having a clean, uncluttered text without the study notes interfering with my Bible study. However, I have been surprised at how much I am enjoying the NLT Study Bible. I do not find most notes found in study Bibles to be helpful. I have an NIV Study Bible, but I have never found anything in it to be very great (even though its study notes are very popular, for whatever reason). But in the short time I have had the NLT Study Bible I have already come to appreciate the kind of information presented on each page. The purpose of the NLT Study Bible is admirable:
“The study notes and other features in the NLT Study Bible are designed to help today’s readers understand the meaning and significance of the Bible in light of the world in which the text was first written.”
I wish more commentaries would take this approach. Please don’t tell me what to believe or what to think. Tell me the background and necessary information about the situation that will help me draw the appropriate conclusions for myself. I still cannot get over the fact that the NLT is attached to this kind of study Bible. I hope this reflects the desire to continue moving the NLT to a greater accuracy in translation, and further away from being a paraphrase.
The first feature of the NLT Study Bible is a master timeline. I often find timelines to be lacking useful information. Give me a timeline that shows who was the Assyrian king when Jeroboam was ruling Israel. Show me who was ruling in the world nations while the various Old Testament events were occurring. The NLT Study Bible master timeline does this. The six page running timeline from 4500 BC to 330 AD shows who was ruling Israel, Judah, Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, along with noting which book was written during that time. This is a useful timeline.
After the master timeline, the NLT study Bible has a couple maps, an article introducing the Old Testament, archaeology and sources for Old Testament background, and an introduction to the Pentateuch. These reference helps lead us into the scriptures. A lengthy introduction is given to each book discussing the setting, summary, authorship, composition, literary character, meaning and message. There is also an outline and timeline for each book. The timeline in the sidebar is very useful, helping the student place other biblical and world events with the writing of the book.
The space given to the study notes is quite large. Most of the time the study notes take up approximately 50 percent of the page. In some places less space is devoted to the study notes. This shows that the NLT Study Bible intends to discuss nearly every verse of scripture. I have already found the study notes on Zechariah 14 to be more helpful and more clear than the commentaries I currently own.
The final 286 pages of the NLT Study Bible are devoted to miscellaneous study helps. There is an article on an Introduction to the Time After the Apostles, a reading plan, a dictionary and index for Hebrew and Greek word studies, a subject index, and dictionary/concordance. The last 16 pages are color maps.
The size of the book in terms of length and width are similar to most study and reference Bible. From what I can tell, the length and width of the NLT Study Bible matches the ESV Single Column Reference Bible. But the NLT Study Bible seems thick to my eyes. However, it measures less than 2 inches thick. My NASB New Inductive Study Bible is slightly thicker than the NLT Study Bible. I am used to carrying thinline reference Bibles, so I am sure it is just me not being used to having such a bulky Bible. The pages of the NLT Study Bible are thin. With the size of this Bible, thin pages were necessary to keep from needing a forklift to bring it to worship. There is bleed through because the pages are so thin, but I do not find the bleed through significant enough to be distracting. The NLT Study Bible is a red letter edition (-groan-). I wish we could rid the world of unreadable red letter editions. I guess red letter Bibles still sell. I will say that at least the publisher used a “good” red. The red is darker, so it is easier to read than most red letter Bibles I own. The red letter edition of the ESV Thinline I find to be nearly impossible to read. I think the ESV Thinline should be called a pink letter edition because the color is so faint.
I hope this gives you a good idea on what you will be receiving if you decide to purchase a NLT Study Bible. I am glad that I have one and am referencing it daily. If you are looking for a study Bible that has some useful notes inside, this is a good candidate for your consideration. I look forward to the ESV Study Bible to come out so that a comparison can be made concerning the study notes and references.