What is the the NLT (or NIV) Life Application Study Bible?
Way back in 1988, Tyndale Publishers released the first edition of the Life Application Study Bible. At the time, the Study Bible market was fairly slim. By releasing a quality Study Bible with commentary, charts, notes, and profiles of over 100 different people throughout the Scriptures, Tyndale did an admirable job of helping the Bible make sense to the modern reader.
Over 30 years later (October 2019), Tyndale has now released the Third Edition of the NLT or NIV Life Application Study Bible. And even though the Study Bible market today is flooded, the Life Application Study Bible continues to set a very high standard, and it remains the best-selling Study Bible on the market.
What’s new in the Life Application Study Bible?
According to the publisher, somewhere between 30-40% of the Third Edition is new compared to the First and/or Second Edition. This is primarily because there are major topics of conversation today (such as shame, equality, gender, etc.) that were not well represented in the commentary notes 30 years ago. As such, Tyndale reassembled the original Life Application Study Bible team, hired additional young women to help with the editing, and revamped the look, feel, and commentary notes throughout the Study Bible to make it even more applicable to today.
Who is the NLT (or NIV) Life Application Study Bible for?
Personally, I would wholeheartedly recommend the The NLT (or NIV) Life Application Study Bible as somebody’s first Study Bible. Even if it’s not your first Study Bible, it’s worth having one of these on your shelf.
From a marketing perspective, the publisher notes that the LASB is the most complete Bible ever compiled. Even though this is nothing more than marketing hype, there’s a lot to love about the NLT (or NIV) LASB.
All in all, the LASB is an excellent all around Study Bible that does a great job of explaining how to apply each passage by answering the question, “So what? What does this really mean? Why is this important for my life? How can I actually apply this in my life?” Below are a number of examples that show how the LASB answers these questions by encouraging the reader to live out the Biblical text well.
Example #1: Deuteronomy 5:7
Both Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 list the Ten Commandments. Deuteronomy 5:7 is the first commandment, “You must not have any other god but me.”
The LASB Commentary note reads, “A god is whatever people use as the driving force in their lives. Some people literally worship other gods by joining cults or false religions. In a more subtle way, many worship other gods by building their lives around something other than the one true God. If your greatest desire is for popularity, power, money, relationships, or even a healthy lifestyle, you are devoting yourself to something other than God. To put God first, (1) recognize what is taking his place in your life, (2) renounce this substitute god as unworthy of your devotion, (3) ask God for forgiveness, (4) restructure your priorities so that love for God is the motive for everything you do, and (5) examine yourself daily to be sure you are giving God first place.”
Admittedly, this is quite a detailed commentary note! Whether somebody is a young Christian, or has matured deeply in the faith, there is plenty here for any reader to reflect on when thinking about whether or not she is worshiping another ‘god’ or not.
Example #2: Exodus 20
The other passage on the Ten Commandments includes this commentary note:
“Why were the Ten Commandments necessary for God’s new nation? At the foot of Mount Sinai, God showed his people the true function and beauty of His laws. The commandments were designed to lead Israel to a life of practical holiness. In them, people could see the nature of God and his plan for how they should live. The commands and guidelines were intended to direct the community to meet the needs of each individual in a loving and responsible manner. By Jesus’ time, however, most people had come to look at the law the wrong way. They saw it as a means to prosperity in both this world and the next. And they thought that obeying every law was the way to earn God’s protection from foreign invasion and natural disaster. They failed to see that keeping the law should be the means to fulfill God’s ultimate law of love.”
Example #3: Psalm 1:1-2
Psalm 1 is one of my favorite Psalms, as it has a lot of helpful reminders about life transformation. The first two verses read, “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.”
The LASB Commentary note reads, “We can learn how to follow God by meditating on his Word. This has become difficult in an age of sound bites and banner headlines. Meditating means spending time reading, thinking, marking, and reviewing what we have read. It means asking how we must change and grow so we will live as God wants. Meditating on and understanding God’s Word are the first steps toward applying it to your everyday life. If you want to follow God more closely, you must take time to know what he says.”
Once again, this applies well to both the young and the mature Christian.
Example #4: Matthew 4:3-4
Matthew 4:3-4 reads, “During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
The LASB Commentary note reads, “The devil tried to get Jesus to doubt his Father’s love, protection, and provision. Jesus was able to resist all of the devil’s temptations because he not only knew Scripture but obeyed it. Ephesians 6:17 says that God’s Word is a sword to use in spiritual combat. Knowing Bible verses is an important step in helping us resist the devil’s attacks, but we must also obey what the Bible teaches. Satan knew Scripture, too, but he purposely misquoted it, disregarded its real meaning, and had no intention of obeying it. Continuing to study and know what the Bible says and what it really means helps us follow God’s desires rather than the devil’s.”
Remembering that the Scriptures can be used for both good and evil is an important reminder. God has an enemy, and that enemy will use anything – even twisting God’s own words – in order to accomplish evil objectives. Commentary notes such as this one and the one for Psalm 1 are excellent because they encourage the reader to not only read the text, but to memorize it, meditate on it, and review it regularly.
What about the other features of the Life Application Study Bible?
There are nearly 150 profiles of different people throughout the text, as well as hundreds of charts and maps. Having just completed a 10-week series on some of the kings of Israel and Judah, the Life Application Study Bible had a profile for at least 8 of them.
This picture of Jeroboam’s profile provides a good example of this.
Are there any negatives to the Life Application Study Bible?
This is a really hard question to answer, as preferences are very subjective. As I’ve been reading primarily from the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible over the past year, I can offer the following observations.
- The paper weight of the Life Application Study Bible is quite thin, which does allow bleed through from other pages. Though this is generally common among major study bibles today.
- The NLT or NIV Life Application Study Bible is 2-color. The NLT has more Green for charts, maps, and profiles, and the NIV has more Red for charts, maps, and profiles. Compared with the 4-color (full color) printings of other major Study Bibles available today, it would’ve been nice to have more color. But given the significant amount of content, this is a very minor quibble. Full color likely would’ve required a slightly heavier weighted paper, which would make it too heavy to comfortably hold.
- Perhaps my biggest gripe is that some of the charts use hard to read fonts. Below is an example of a chart provided in 1 Kings 6 on Solomon’s Temple. The light green font on a light green background is really hard to read. I’m honestly not sure how this passed through the printing editors without being noticed.
Is there anything else I should know?
Hmmm…let me think.
- If you want to have a closer look, here is a sampler that offers additional insights into the NLT LASB. You can also click here to see some videos and additional graphics about the Third Edition of the LASB.
- My copy of the NLT LASB weighs in at around 4 pounds. I think my NIV Cultural Background Study Bible in fairly similar in both dimensions and weight. As such, reading at a desk or table is easier than holding it in hand.
- The font is fairly small, but as a 42 year old I’m able to read it without much difficulty. The Biblical text is a fairly dark-weighted font which stands out well against the white paper. Biblical text: 8.5 point font. Commentary Notes: 7 point font.
- The LASB contains one ribbon marker. So having an additional bookmark on hand would be helpful for most readers.
- There are both Red Letter Editions and Black Letter Editions available. The primary difference is that Red Letter = Jesus’ words being printed in red font. I find the red font more difficult to read, so I purchased a black letter edition.
- As of November 2019, there is not a digital edition of the LASB Third Edition available. The Second Edition is still widely available with software or Bible apps such as Olive Tree. Personally, I prefer reading a paper Bible as I’m less likely to get distracted. (I imagine a digital edition will be made available at some point in the future.)
- My opinion is that the NLT (or NIV) Life Application Study Bible is an excellent resource, and one I’ll be utilizing on a regular basis.