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

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.[ref]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.[/ref]

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?

By Christopher L. Scott

Christopher L. Scott serves as senior pastor at Lakeview Missionary Church in Moses Lake, Washington. Through his writing ministry more than 250,000 copies of his articles, devotions, and tracts are distributed each month through Christian publishers. Learn more at