For 2011 I chose to read through the New Living Translation Study Bible. The NLT is now in its 2nd edition, and it seems a significant improvement over some of the translation deficiencies of the 1st edition of 1996. While I don’t think the NLT is a good translation for doing detailed textual study, this is also not its purpose. The NLT was designed to be a highly readable translation that smooths the “rough edges” off the more literal translations to achieve clarity and elicit more “eureka” moments in those non-scholars (most regular folks) seeking understanding of God’s holy Word. The NLT hits what it aims for.
This Study Bible is an excellent resource for students of the Bible. While it contains some theological reflections, some resources that connect the Bible to the history of Christianity, and some archaeological notes, its focus in on explaining the text in its narrative and canonical context. Its study bible approach is to consciously emulate “being led through Scripture by a caring Bible teacher.”
The NLTSB is literally packed with useful information for study, devotion, lesson/sermon preparation. Introductory articles for sections and individual books are extremely helpful, and each biblical book includes a brief paragraph summary describing what the book is all about. One of the most useful features is the presence of in-text articles ranging in subject from character profiles, theological doctrines, and FAQs that arise from the surrounding text. Each article contains a full list of cross references to facilitate topical studies–an invaluable resource for the busy Bible Study leader or pastor.
For those who consider themselves “evangelical” or “reformed” I would describe the NLTSB as a “Christmas Bible” (No-“L”)–meaning it is broadly reformational in its theological leanings but does not subscribe to the Reformed doctrine of “Limited Atonement“. While I believe the Bible teaches the doctrines of grace summarized in the acrostic TULIP, many Christians do not. For those interested, here is a list I’ve compiled of other doctrinally questionable study notes contained in the NLTSB. No Study Bible is perfect, but the NLTSB does a great job of hitting the nail on the head the vast majority of times.
The NLT often gets a bad rap in Reformed and fundamentalist-leaning circles, especially those who are convinced that the ESV is the “extra special version” (disclaimer: I love the ESV and it is my translation of choice, but it is not the only useful translation). But I think this Study Bible has enough strengths to more than overcome the most hardened skeptic.