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A few weeks ago, I received a copy of the NLT Study Bible and wrote my first impressions about it. Well, I've spent a little more time with it and still like it.

I decided to give 1 John a good read to get a feel about it. I chose 1 John for a couple of reasons: it's short and I'm already pretty familiar with it. In addition to that, I read several of the general articles throughout the Bible.

The first thing that strikes me is how readable the NLT text itself is. It's been a while since I've regularly used the NLT and it was refreshing to simply read the text. I'm not going really go into the translation philosophy. You either like it or you don't. Personally, I very much enjoy having a variety of translations to work and study from.

As I mentioned earlier, the text is double-columned. I prefer a single-column format, but I think the double-column will be fine. I haven't spent much time in the poetry sections, which is where a double-column format tends to fall apart, so my opinion may change once I spend some time with the Psalms, e.g. The triple-columned format for the study notes works great. It creates an easy visual difference between the text and the notes, and the notes are generally short enough that the column width doesn't seem annoyingly short. One of things I love about the the page layout is the presentation of the cross-references. There are ample cross-references, without being overwhelming. They are located in the gutter, so the text doesn't disappear into the spine. In addition to the cross-references, there is a word study system available. This is definitely a feature that I want to explore more.

I read several of the general articles and found them to be informative and readable. I especially liked that they feature "Future Reading" notes. I don't know that I'll use those notes to dig deeper, but it's nice to have some suggestions if I want to start digging in. The book introductions include the standard fare: a summary of the book, an outline, and general study notes. One of the things that is also included that I will find useful is a timeline. The timeline features key events that are covered in the book as well as including other events that are going on in the world. In Sunday School the past few weeks, timing questions have been popping up more than usual -- trying to determine how long after the Exodus the book of Isaiah was written, e.g. I already have study materials that I can use to find that information, but I think this is the first Bible I have that has that information readily available where I'm likely to need it.

As I read 1 John and the accompanying notes, I'm happy to say that the notes helped me understand the text. In 1 John, e.g., much of what John writes is to specifically counter heresies that the early church faced. The study notes do a great job of pointing out exactly which heresies are addressed by John's arguments. I was very impressed by the depth of the notes -- they were deeper than I anticipated, but they were not overly difficult to read and understand.

All in all, I'm pretty impressed with this Bible and plan to incorporate it into my Sunday School lesson preparation. However, I'm not sure that I'll use the print version as much as I'll use the web version.

This brings me to perhaps the most impressive aspect of the NLTSB: the online version of it. Owners of the NLTSB also have unlimited access to the web version. Anyone can sign up for a free 30-day trial, as well. The online version appears to have all of the features of the print version. Cross-references are hyperlinks. Articles, maps, timelines, etc. are available as other links. Study notes are on the right side of the page, next to the text. All in all, it's laid out very well. The graphics that are available online are large and high-quality. I'd much rather look at the JPG version of a map at full size on the computer than the small version that is printed in book. Although I can't find it now, I'm sure that I previously read that the maps, charts, graphs, etc. are fine for using in ministry situations (like teaching my Sunday School class, e.g.).

There are a few shortcomings to the web interface. The most obvious to me was that after I enter a search term and press "Enter", it doesn't search. I have to move my cursor to the "Search" button and click it. As someone who tends to use as many keyboard shortcuts as possible, this is a bit of an annoyance. I haven't checked it on my Windows laptop yet -- perhaps it's a limitation of Safari. The good news is that since it's a web interface, there's hope that they will continue to improve it.

All in all, I'm impressed with this Bible. None of the annoyances I've noticed so far are deal-breakers, and several of the features are unique to any other Bible I have. Previously, I speculated that it was big and heavy enough that I wouldn't be "snuggling up" with it very often. I'm not so sure that's the case now. It's a warm read, not dry, and I can see myself using it in a casual manner more often than I originally anticipated.

At this point, my biggest wish would be that the NLTSB were available as an Accordance module for my computer.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 8th, 2008 08:50 pm (UTC)
What does NLT stand for? The curiosity is killing me.

Context-focused, interesting. I just learned - from National Geographic, of all places - that the Persian Empire, including Cyrus, was Zoroastrian. (I knew Zoroastrianism came from Persia but somehow I imagined it came later.) Zoroastrian, as in monotheist. Cyrus who sent the Jews home under Ezra to rebuild the Temple. Puts the end of the exile in a new light, and even says something inspiring about interreligious relations.

Anyway. Yeah. Context. Why did I need National Geographic to tell me that? Why didn't decades of Bibles and Bible studies mention it?
Sep. 8th, 2008 09:08 pm (UTC)
NLT == New Living Translation, a translation based on a philosophy of dynamic (as opposed to formal) equivalence. See the Wikipedia article for an overview of the two translation philosophies.

That is some interesting information re: the Persian empire. I hadn't heard that before....
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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