Sunday, September 7, 2008

NLT Study Bible: First Impressions

Many thanks are due to Laura Bartlett , marketing manager for Bibles and Bible reference at Tyndale Publishers for sending me a review copy of the NLT Study Bible.

Over the years I have collected a plethora of study bibles. I own the NIV Study Bible, the New American Study Bible, the HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version , and the The New Interpreter's Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version With the Apocrypha . I have used all of these in church, for personal study, and for some teaching preparation with varying degrees of success.

When I first heard about the NLT Study Bible some months back, I was curious to see what this study bible would bring to the table; now I know. I must admit I'm impressed. The first thing I did was peruse various book introductions before dipping into Colossians and then Philemon.

First off, the NLT Study Bible has a fine list of contributors. Among many notables: Tremper Longman III, Allen P. Ross, Victor P. Hamilton, etc. on the OT side, and Doug Moo, Ralph Martin, and Mark Strauss on the NT side. Secondly, each book is introduced and armed with several helpful features. For instance, when I opened to Colossians, I was greeted with a book introduction stating: "The letter to the Colossians is a beautiful blend of theology and practice. It combines some of the deepest and most sublime teaching about Christ with very basic instruction. As strongly as any other book in the NT, Colossians reminds us that Christ must always be preeminent in a Christians affection and worship" (2,020). The next feature discusses the setting of the letter with a map added for contextual help, followed by a helpful summary of the letter's contents. Next, matters of dating and occasion of writing are flanked by an outline of the letter's contents, followed by a helpful excurcus titled "False Teaching". Also a timeline and a comment from Peter T. O'Brien's WBC commentary Colossians, Philemon is located on the right margins of the page (2,021). Finally, a section titled "Meaning and Message" and suggestions for further reading round out the introductory contents before one dives into the letter's contents.

One further comment will suffice for this brief overview. What most impressed me with the NLT Study Bible is a feature that discusses Greek and Hebrew words, including their Strong's Concordance numbering system with a built-in lexicon included in the back. For instance, using Colossians as an example once more we see Colossians 1.13-14 which states:

13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son,14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

Located next to the word 'purchased' is a subscript 'c'. When one looks to the cross-references in the left hand margin under 1:14 you see the transliterated Greek word apolutrōsis followed by the Strong's # 0629. When one turns to the lexicon (2,221), the entry looks like this:

apolutrōsis (0629): redemption. This noun refers to buying the freedom of a slave or captive by paying a ransom. In the NT, it is used figuratively of the results of Christ's work, releasing people from the power of sin and death.

SEE Luke 21:28; Rom 3:24;8:23; 1 Cor 1:30; Eph 1:7,14;4:30; Col 1:14; Heb 9:15; 11:35

I find this feature most helpful for pastors and educated lay folk who may lack acumen in the languages. This is not to say that the lexicon is comprehensive, 100 words are listed for both the Hebrew and Greek lexicons, but many key words are honed in on and elucidated, making this a very valuable feature.

Postscript: I had the opportunity to share the NLT Study Bible with my Romans class and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. I believe this is just what folks have been looking for in a study bible and more.

I will have futher comments when the ESV Study Bible makes its debut, and will compare and contrast their respective features.

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