10 Reasons to Use the New Living Translation (NLT) Study Bible

May 23, 2013

Carpenters have tool belts, surgeons have scalpels, dentists have picks, and Christians have their Bibles. For three years I have used the New Living Translation (NLT) Study Bible and believe it is one of the best resources for students who want to study the Bible and learn from it.

10 Reasons to Use the New Living Translation (NLT) Study Bible

I began using the NLT Study Bible in February of 2010 when it was given to me as a gift. Before this, I had used the Student’s Life Application Bible which seemed a little irrelevant since I was no longer a student at that time. (If you’ve never heard about the NLT Study Bible you can learn more on Tyndale’s website and blog.)

I began to use the NLT Study Bible and understand the tools and resources contained within it and have never stopped since. I use it for my daily prayer time reading, when I attend church, and when I do in-depth Bible studies for this blog.

The one item I consult the most in writing for this blog is the NLT Study Bible. It is my daily companion and is almost always within reach on my desk. Here 10 reasons I use the New Living Translation Study Bible.

Study Guide Scripture Notes1. Study Guide Scripture Notes

Almost every verse within the New Living Translation Study Bible has “study notes” for use by the reader. These notes help the reader by:

  • providing “literal” meanings to the words translated dynamically
  • cultural and historical background for assistance to understand the meaning of the text
  • geographical helps to understand what happened where and how they are related

2. Easy to Understand

The New Living Translation is a “dynamic” Bible translation (the NLT version is one of the best-selling dynamic translations).  In the Bible translation world, there are two types of translations: literal and dynamic. Literal translations are exactly what you might guess: literal. They are a word-for-word translation within reason of the English language. The dynamic translation is more of a though-for-thought translation of the Bible into contemporary English. (More detail about “thought-for-thought” translations can be read here.) Because it is impossible to translate languages used more than 2,000 years ago in a word-for-word way, it is important to focus on the thoughts and ideas of what is being communicated in the Bible rather than simply the words. With this method in mind, the folks at Tyndale Publishers have created the New Living Translation as a thought-for-thought translation that helps to convey to readers in contemporary English what the original text meant.

Are you curious about how the NLT version stacks up against other popular versions you know and love? Internet Monk did a great review of the NLT Study Bible and compared it to other Bible translations. Read their review here.

The Cornerstone Biblical Commentaries3. A Series of Amazing Commentaries

Shortly after the New Living Translation was published in 1996, another team of scholars began creating a series of commentaries titled, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. These commentaries give special emphasis to the NLT text, how it was translated, and how specific words were used in the translation. I currently own Volume 3 (Joshua by Joseph Coileson, Judges by Lawson G. Stone, and Ruth by Jason Driesbach) and Volume 4a (1-2 Samuel by J. Robert Vannoy), both of which are edited by Philip W. Comfort. These commentaries are an excellent resource to go deeper into why the NLT was translated the way that it was and how to understand it better.

Increased 'Literal Text' Notes4. Increased “Literal Text” Notes 

Because the New Living Translation is a dynamic (thought-for-thought) translation, there are some words or phrases which are “loosely translated.” This means certain words are replaced by others for the effort of helping the reader understand what is meant, but these words which are replaced might not reflect the “literal” translation of the Hebrew or Greek word. Most Bibles contain some type of “literal” translation footnotes, but the NLT Study Bible seems to have an increased amount of literal translation footnotes when compared to the normal Living Translation Bibles.

5. A Solid Research Team 

Almost 100 people from various denominations, evangelical schools, and theological backgrounds participated in the translation of the New Living Translation. At minimum, each book within the NLT had three scholars assigned to it in order to ensure no theological or personal preference found its way into the text. This is important to prevent personal meanings or theological implications from being conveyed in the translation. Compiling and coordinating a team of this magnitude must have been very difficult, but it was well worth the effort because of the end result of a solid text.

Hebrew and Greek Word Definitions

6. Hebrew and Greek Word Definitions 

The NLT Study Bible contains over 200 Hebrew and Greek word definitions and helps readers to locate those words in the text while reading. These word studies help Bible students understand the deeper meaning of specific words which offer particular reference to our Christian theology and application.

7. Excellent Concordance (within and also supplementary)

The NLT Study Bible has a 120 page selective concordance at the back which can help readers locate specific words throughout the Bible. Tyndale also provides a supplementary 1,200 page concordance which I have purchased and use occasionally.

Excellent Condorance Within and Also SupplementaryThe additional NLT Comprehensive Concordance is helpful when you want to find every occurrence of a word in the New Living Translation text. For example, when I wrote my Salvation in the Book of Luke blog post I used the NLT Comprehensive Concordance to quickly find the five times the word “salvation” is used in the book of Luke.

8. Free Online Access to the NLT Text and Study Bible Resources

Purchase of the NLT Study Bible also provides readers with free online access to the entire text, study resources, illustrations, and maps. This has been a great resource for me to use in outlines I provide to students, when needing to copy large chunks of scripture digitally, etc. It also provides me access to my Bible when traveling so I do not have to bring my physical Bible.

NLT Study Bible Map of Old Testament Jerusalem9. Maps

No Bible student can be without the assistance of maps of the ancient near east. Because the events of the Bible occurred in an area of the world most of us have never been to, it is very helpful that the NLT Study Bible provides colored maps of:

  • Topography of Palestine
  • World of the Patriarchs
  • Exodus from Egypt
  • Twelve Tribes of Israel
  • Conquest of Canaan
  • United Kingdom
  • Divided Kingdom
  • Assyrian, Babylonian, and Greek Empires
  • Old and New Testament Jerusalem
  • Roman Division of Palestine
  • Ministry of Jesus
  • Paul’s Missionary Journeys
  • Israel and Middle East Today

These maps are a tremendous resource to help understand the geography and context which biblical events occurred in. And, as I shared earlier, all these events are available in digital form for free when you purchase the Bible.

10. An Amazing Supplementary Dictionary 

TAn Amazing Supplementary Dictionaryyndale produces a fantastic Bible Dictionary. I’ve purchased my copy
of the dictionary for about $25 and it has been one of the best resources for helping me study my Bible. The dictionary is not exclusive only to the NLT Study Bible and the NLT text, but it is a valuable help.

For the past three years I have greatly benefited from my New Living Translation Study Bible. Because of the resources contained within it I have been able to develop Bible studies, talks, and blog posts here on this blog that help people understand leadership from a biblical perspective. Still have doubts about the NLT Study Bible? Here’s a great round-up of posts about the NLT Study Bible. 1

Question: What experience have you had with the New Living Translation (NLT) Study Bible? If you don’t have the NLT Study Bible, but you are familiar with the NLT text, what do you think about it?


  1. In this post I’ve done my best to give pictures of the NLT Study Bible. If you’d like to see more pictures, this is a great pictorial review here.

Christopher L. Scott

Posts Twitter Facebook Google+

Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I also may have received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

16 responses to 10 Reasons to Use the New Living Translation (NLT) Study Bible

  1. dave wainscott May 23, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    great job. thanks for posting. should be helpful for many

  2. Great Job indeed Christopher. Would you suggest someone picking up this Bible to start reading or start ready with another first. Not to say I don’t read the Bible but I have had some difficulty with the language. Keep up the great work! We miss you but are so proud of you!

    • Thanks Linda T. I agree with you that the language of the Bible can be difficult to understand at times. However, this Bible has great “study notes” at the bottom of each page that help explain some of the verses. It has helped me tremendously.

      I hope things are going okay at work. Thanks for commenting.

  3. That reads a little like an advertisement… but anyway:

    Got the NLT pocket thinline for my wife, who needed something small (since we’ve got two babies to lug around already) and easy to read (as English is not her first language). We have been using it for our daily family devotion time alongside the ESV, which provides a good basis for comparison.

    On the one side, the apparently more accessible (albeit also highly “interpretive” at points) translation style sometimes opens up the text in ways that you hadn’t seen it before – and SOMETIMES it probably gets it more “right” – in terms of conveying the original “feel” and meaning – than more strictly accurate translations might.

    But I’m convinced that quite often, it can also miss that more accurate meaning. When we’ve come across what seem to be vast differences in emphasis / meaning between it and the ESV (which happens quite regularly), I’ve made a habit of checking out some of the time-proven Bible commentaries (via e-Sword) or else OM’s New Bible Commentary; And ultimately, I’ve come to lose confidence in the NLT.

    Just one small example from this morning’s reading, where Ps 116:13(b) is rendered, “I will…praise the Lord’s name for saving me” in the NLT, and “I will…call upon the name of the Lord” in the ESV. Those (to me?) are not equivalent ideas. So in answer to the question (v12) “What can I offer the Lord?”, one answer seems to affirm that I will praise/worship Him, the other that I will acknowledge my neediness and ask for more of what He’s already given. The latter places the stress on grace (i.e., the only thing we can “give” him is a grateful acknowledgment of our need to receive more of what he’s already given), the former maybe more on the response of my own acts of worship/devotion. The commentaries I checked out favor the idea of grateful dependency, which is much better reflected in the ESV. Obviously praise can be an expression of thanks – but I don’t see it quite equating to the needy cry. Related? Yes. Quite equal? Definitely not. I could cite pages of examples here.

    I’m no KJV guy, and I have a lot of respect for Tremper Longman (who sometimes has taught at our church and who had something to do with the NLT’s poetic books, like Psalms) and others among the translators; but ultimately I do wonder how consistently their revisional suggestions were heeded by the editorial staff, who apparently made the ultimate decisions about how to translate (or revise) the text.

    I also wonder whether any version of the Bible really needs to be “simplified” quite this much, to where it reads choppy and eliminates any vocabulary beyond what a fifth-grader can understand. Sometimes we grow in our faith and knowledge of God by learning the meanings of hard words; eliminating them in favor of those that actually mean something else ultimately ends in shallowness and confusion.

    Apart from the translation questions, the rear binding of this rather expensive little Bible broke after just a few months of not-very-rough use.

    Can’t quite say I’m deeply disappointed, since in some ways the NLT can function as a running commentary itself; But I’d never want to depend on this version alone if my desire is to grasp more fully what He’s speaking to us.

    I’m kind of surprised this has become a best-seller and suspect it has as much to do with marketing as anything else (as a gift purchase, I myself liked the two-tone leather cover and little (fake magnetic) buckle). In truth, there have been other easy-to-read versions that might get it just as good or better.

    -Eric D

  4. I have used the NLT off & on since it was introduced,and before that the Living bible, and folks, I hate to say it but the NLT is NOT a “new translation”. It is a re-worded paraphrase of the Living Bible, and pretty close to that version. It MIGHT be a step up over TLB, but not much of one. (there is plenty of comparisons on the net between the two).

    With that said, I use the NLT every day beside my KJV/JP Green Bibles, and this study Bible is on the list to get,especially over the Parallel Study Bible. The PSB cuts out a LOT of text from both the Life Application notes & this Study Bible notes.

    Why do I still the NLT? simple, because it is a great reading version, and since we are pretty well versed in the KJV from a life time of use the translation problems are not so big for us.

    If you ARE thinking of grabbing an NLT Bible, grab this one over the Life Application ones, it is much better suited to studying God’s word.

  5. Umm… but you can get most of those things with any version out there… versions that don’t change the text to fit modern culture but that put God’s Word first. I have nothing against modern, easy to read translations. What I have against the NLT is it’s gender-neutral language that sometimes affects the meaning of the text.

    • What exactly do you mean by “gender-neutral language that sometimes affects the meaning of the text”?

      The idea of using gender neutral language does not really exist when you look at the original Hebrew and Greek languages of the Bible. The languages are very specific at times and sometimes unclear. Additionally, Hebrew often has very specific verb and noun endings for the second and third person (singular and plural).

      I would like to see you convey some examples of when you believe the NLT affects the meaning of the original text by using what you call “gender-neutral language.”

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. The Audience to Which the Letter to Philemon is Written | Christopher L. Scott | Biblical Leadership - July 30, 2013

    […] Mohrlang, “Study Notes” in New Living Translation Study Bible, (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2008), 2076. […]

  2. Why Discipling Others is Important | Christopher L. Scott | Biblical Leadership - August 17, 2013

    […] command is Matt 28:19-20 (I always use the NLT version, read why here) which you read above. The most important element of those 33 years Jesus spent on earth were the […]

  3. What I Learned in 2011: You Can Read the Bible in a Year | Christopher L. Scott | Biblical Leadership - January 14, 2014

    […] I did it and it was more easy than I thought. (If you are looking for a Bible to read, this is the one I use and […]

  4. Insights on Leadership from the Book of Proverbs | Christopher L. Scott | Biblical Leadership - May 26, 2014

    […] the book of Proverbs the word leader or leadership occurs six times. This is based on the New Living Translation and the NLT Comprehensive […]

  5. Salvation in the Book of Luke | Christopher L. Scott | Biblical Leadership - June 3, 2014

    […] How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not accept your opportunity for salvation (Luke 19:42-44, emphasis added, New Living Translation). […]

  6. Wise and Knowledgeable Leadership Brings Stability | Christopher L. Scott | Biblical Leadership - June 16, 2014

    […] When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability. (NLT) […]

  7. The Apostle Paul’s Suffering and its Model for Leaders | Christopher L. Scott | Biblical LeadershipThe Apostle Paul's Suffering and its Model for Leaders - Christopher L. Scott | Biblical Leadership - June 20, 2016

    […] otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the New Living Translation […]