NLT Study Bible: Introduction Features (1)

NLTSB.jpgHarrison, Sean A., ed.

NLT Study Bible

Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2008. Pp. xl + 2486. Hardcover. $39.99.

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The NLTSB has many features that make it worthy to be used as a main study Bible.  In this review I want to give the NLTSB descriptions of some of the features that figure into the Book Introductions and then my assessment of these features.  I will be covering 6 features here and another 6 in a subsequent review.

The NLTSB describes the Book Introductions saying:

BOOK INTRODUCTIONS
Each book introduction helps readers understand that book as its original readers first understood it in their world. The book introduction discusses the book’s setting, gives a summary of its literary structure, discusses historical issues such as authorship and date of writing, and explains the meaning and message of the book for its readers.

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We now turn our attention to each feature.

  1. OVERVIEW
    The overview helps readers to find out quickly what this book of the Bible is about and why it is important. It gives a thumbnail sketch of the book and its contents and purpose.
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    Assessment: Of the 20 random overviews I surveyed I have to say that they are accurately described in the NLTSB summary.  They’re short paragraphs that give a succinct statement of what you’re about to get into.  I’d compare them to the book overviews that appear in many editions of the KJV, but they’re unlike what the NIV Archeological Study Bible (NIVASB) and HCSB Apologetics Study Bible (HCSBASB) provide in their chapter introductions.  These study bibles don’t have the terse descriptions of books that the NLTSB does, although they are comparable with some other features.
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  2. SETTING
    What is the story behind each book of the Bible? What was the need for each book in its setting? Every book of the Bible was written by flesh-and-blood people living in a particular time and place in history. They faced real challenges and difficulties. They wrote to other real flesh-and-blood people living at their own time in history. They wrote to address specific problems in their world, to help their readers understand God’s mind regarding the issues and problems that they faced. The world of the Bible is very different from our world today, but people are the same everywhere. If we understand the setting in which each book of the Bible was written, we will be in a much better position to understand what problems it addressed, what actions it was prompting, and what message it communicates.
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    Assessment: The information given under the setting headings is great.  This is exactly the type of background information that the reader should come to the text knowing.  For example, the NLTSB prepares the reader to study the book of Ezra by supplying them with a short summary of the Babylonian destruction of the temple, their captivity of the Jews, the Persian takeover of Babylon, God’s promises of restoration, Israel’s disobedience in intermarriage with foreigners, etc.  This is all extremely helpful in understanding what is going on in Ezra and why it’s going on.
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  3. MAP
    The book introductions include maps of the setting to show where the events in each book of the Bible took place and how the places mentioned in that book fit into the world. Each map includes a caption that describes the map and how it relates to the book’s setting. Along with a caption, most of these maps include a short index of places mentioned in the book.
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    Assessment: The maps are nice although not my favorite feature.  They vary in size depending on the geographical locale that is most prominant in the book in question.  They all contain legends and scales, and are somewhat detailed.  All of the maps in the chapter introductions are black and white which I don’t really mind since it fits the overall look of the Bible.  There are however some full color maps in the back of the Bible.
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  4. SUMMARY
    What is the structure and flow of ideas in each book of the Bible? The summary provides just that—a brief summary of the contents of the book. If the book is narrative, the summary tells its story. If the book is a letter, the summary explains its contents and the flow of its reasoning. If the book is an anthology, the summary describes the structure and contents of the collection. If we have in mind the flow of the book, we can better understand each individual passage.
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    Assessment: The above description is on point.  That’s exactly what the summaries do.  Think of a more detailed version of the overview that includes scripture references and dates.  If geography features big in a certain book (e.g., Mark or Acts) then the summary takes note of it and offers an outline of the places along with the important events that took place there.  The summary in the book of Acts is extremely short because it’s theme is extremely simple.  They say: “The apostles and other people of God were filled with the Spirit and empowered to carry out the Great Commission to all people. Acts highlights the ministries of Peter (chs 1-12) and Paul (chs 13-28).” [p. 1821]
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  5. TIMELINE
    A timeline can be found in the margin of nearly all book introductions. The timelines show when the events in each book of the Bible took place and what was going on at the time. We can refer to the timeline while reading the setting and summary for the book, and again while reading the book, to help clarify and reinforce how the events fit into the flow of history.
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    Assessment: One of my favorite features, hands down!  This was something that I really appreciated about the NIVASB and I’m glad to see it in the NLTSB.  Because the canonical order of the books is not the chronological order of the books, it’s easy at times to get mixed up with times and dates.  These timelines take care of that.  Thank God for timelines!
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  6. OUTLINE
    Each book includes an outline with up to three levels of headings. In the introduction, we provide the first level of the outline to give the reader an overview. The full outline is embedded in the NLT text as running headings. These book outlines follow the literary structure of the book—how the authors themselves thought about the organization and flow of ideas.
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    Assessment: This is one of the most pratical features of the NLTSB.  The oulines in the introduction are little more than section reference (e.g., [Jeremiah] 1:4-19) and a section title (e.g., “Jeremiah’s Call and First Visions”).  As they said in their description, the full outline appears in the body of the text in the form of running headings, and this is a feature that I appreciate very much, but just from the introductory outline we can see the immediate benefits.  It allows the reader to break their study into small sections.  It also enables them to set up lesson plans for Bible study classes (even if they aren’t teaching from the NLTSB).

Other than the maps I have been very impressed with these first six features.  In the next review I’ll give the NLTSB descriptions of another six features and assess them as well.  In the mean time be sure to visit the NLT Blog as well as the NLTSB Blog.

B”H

7 thoughts on “NLT Study Bible: Introduction Features (1)

  1. @Jay: it’s a little thinner than the Discover God Study Bible. There are a few more pages in the NLTSB, but there were those thick pages in the front of the front matter of DGSB that increased the bulk.

  2. Laura: Thanks. Perhaps I should have told Jay that he could go to the NLT Blog and ask questions in order to enter the running to win a free copy.

    Jay: You can ask questions in the comments to this post on the NLT Blog and might possibly win a free copy of the NLTSB.

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