I posted in May that I changed Bibles from my long-standing favorite, the New American Standard (NASB), to the New English Translation (NET Bible), and I have study Bibles in each of those versions. The NET is what I use for study and teaching, including during our weekend services at OTCC.
Bible translators have always had to navigate the rough waters of 1) accuracy to the God-breathed words of Scripture and 2) making those ancient thoughts accessible and understandable to the modern readers. One way they have attempted to walk that fine line is to add notes to the margins of the Bible text, elaborating on the text itself. (Even the King James translators were doing this in the early 1600s).
Over time, marginal notes evolved from just a couple of words to entire paragraphs, complete with cross references, first in the center column of the page, and finally in a larger section at the bottom of each page in the Bible. The Bibles with larger sections of notes are called “Study Bibles”, because they help us move beyond just reading the Bible text to actually studying it. Many study Bibles also include outlines and notes at the beginning of each book of the Bible.
This morning I came across these YouTube videos for two new study Bibles that are now available. The first is the New Living Translation (NLT). From an “ease of reading” and understandability standpoint, the NLT is one of the best out there today. (The NLT leans heavily toward number 2 of the rough waters of translation.) It’s what we use exclusively in our classes at Hope Ministries. Check out this 10-minute intro to the new NLT Study Bible.
The second one is based on the recent English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible. Whereas the NLT comes from a tradition focused on making the Bible text understandable by everyone (even if the exact words are not translated into English), the ESV continues the line of “essentially literal” translations (attempting to translate every original word into English), tracing itself back to its well-known ancestor, the King James Version (KJV). It is an excellent translation for study and is recommended by many well-known Bible scholars. Here is a short 5-minute video about the ESV Study Bible.
Conclusion: Honestly, I recommend them both. Not because I have seen or used the notes, but because I trust the translations, and I trust many of the contributors that helped produced each. This is not about agreeing with every note or comment. It’s about taking your next step in better understanding God’s very own heart and mind, His Word, the Bible.
Especially if you are a beginner Bible student, having both of these at your disposal will be worth far more than whatever they cost. You can never go wrong studying God’s Word. And you will appreciate the perspectives the two versions bring to the table.
If you have been studying the Bible for a long time, I would recommend the NLT first. You have probably been reading a translation similar to the ESV for a long time, and the translation change will open your eyes to God’s Word in a fresh way.