A Study Bible Within a Study Bible: A Review of the Chronological Life Application Study Bible
The Chronological Life Application Study Bible does not disappoint. I was excited when it arrived and I continue to be excited about this resource. My family gave me a copy of the Life Application Bible when I became ordained. This Bible, however, has the Life Application notes inside of it. For those who don’t know, the Life Application Bible is heavy, literally, with character profiles a-plenty. Its notes also focus on the application of the biblical text to believers’ lives. The Life Application portion of this Bible is study Bible enough to add to one’s library. The fact that the buyer gets so much more than that makes this study Bible very unique and very valuable.
This Bible has a chronology that runs across the top of the page called "The Chronological Header System." Whichever period the reader happens to be reading about is highlighted in another color than the rest of the graph. The top of the Bible has the same color differentiation, enabling the reader to skip from one period to another just by opening the Bible at one of the color points indicated. 10 periods are indicated from the beginnings to the Church in the present.
There are a number of helps for the reader. A “canonical table of contents” is included in the front with page numbers to find specific passages in the chronological Bible. There are maps that are large (some of them span a whole page size) and small throughout the Bible. One of my favorite features is the occasional verse, complete with reference and the verse being quoted, that is found throughout the Bible with a beautiful picture accompanying it. One can find illustrations of the Tabernacle, the Temple and Jerusalem with beautiful detail, among so many others.
The Chronological Life Application Study Bible states that God created the cosmos. It does not take a position on the meaning behind the six days of Creation, leaving room for theistic evolution, one would assume. However, it does advocate for a literal Adam and Eve in a literal garden which, in my opinion, bests fits the second Adam of Christ who reverses the curse brought by the first Adam’s transgression bringing sin into the world. I don’t favor the NLT’s translation, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from ANY [emphasis mine] of the trees in the garden” (Gen. 3:1), though it is more common usage than the NKJV or KJV rendering. It also uses the terms domestic and wild animals in the text, such as in 3:14, that I have trouble feeling is justified. The reader must understand however that the NLT is a dynamic equivalence translation, so there is some wiggle room from the literal word-for-word translating process to one that emphasizes the reader’s comprehension.
As for Noah, it comes as close to a universal flood conviction as it can without doing so. This is done by advocating for the elimination of all human beings save those who are in the ark yet leaving open the possibility that not all of the Earth was covered with water. Noah’s great number of years is taken literally without explanation, as far as I can see. To be fair, that may have been explained in notes from periods earlier in biblical history covered in this Bible.
The judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah is also taken literally. The men of the city are taken to be homosexual offenders, especially to their intended targets of the “men” who arrived in the city. Note that the wickedness includes but is not exclusive to this sin. The cities of the plain are literally destroyed by fire from heaven. The NLT makes a translation decision to call the sons-in-law, who were warned to escape with Lot and the family, the girls’ fiancés (Gen. 19:14). I believe the NKJV and KJV text is to be preferred, leaving open either possibility that the sons-in-law are related to the girls with Lot (i.e. betrothed) or to other daughters (perhaps married), who through them, would also be warned to leave the city. Also, the idea that they didn't come because they thought he was joking, a translation decision often made by others, wouldn't be reason enough for Lot to stop warning them to escape. I think that they found the possibility laughable that God would judge the cities after allowing them to be so wicked for so long.
With the same consistency, the study Bible takes literally the plagues on Egypt and the Red Sea crossing. Jonah’s story of his time in the belly of a great fish and his deliverance from it is also taken as a literal miracle of God. The miracles of Christ really happened, demons are real fallen angels, heaven and hell likewise are real. It would be fair to say that this Bible is a conservative evangelical Bible that is trustworthy.
I wanted to speak to an obvious question. What does the Bible do with the places where the Gospel writers record the same event? Desiring this answer for myself, I took a look and this Bible handles it well. Each set of parallel accounts in the Gospels is separated by a parallel icon with a number of dots that represent the number of Gospel writers who wrote of that event. The parallel readings from each of the Gospels recording the event are designated with a colored-in icon above that reading. The colored dot indicates the reader’s location in the parallel passages. Subsequent movement of the colored-in dot, sort of like a traffic light put on its side, indicates how far you are in the number of parallel readings. If that is as clear as mud, the reader will understand and appreciate this tool once the Bible is used personally. While in the Gospels, I did want to note that the NLT adds Elizabeth’s pregnancy for clarification to Luke 1:26 as does the new NIV.
The Bible is loaded with archaeological notes, theological charts, color maps both large and small, character profiles and illustrations throughout. One can study the parallels between Joseph and Jesus, Satan’s plans against the believer, sources of suffering and why we suffer, and on and on. Adam, Eve, Lot, Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Ezra, John the Baptist, Thomas, Lydia are just several of a multitude of character profiles. Illustrations abound like those depicting the high priest’s garments, the Tabernacle and its furnishings, an almond tree, and a grapevine. There is a harmony of the Gospels and plenty of charts that would aid Bible students and teachers to do series just from them.
I would like to leave you with a final note on the New Living Translation, from my personal opinion. I think the version is a good one. It enables the reader to grasp God’s Word in an easy-to-read format. However, I much prefer the NKJV, ESV, NASB and the NIV84 to be honest.
If I were to make the choice again between the KJV version of this Bible or the NLT, I would still choose the NLT. Hopefully, this resource will expand into some of the other translations I just mentioned. That would be a great improvement on an already awesome study Bible.
I could go on but I have already taken so much of your time. I hope that this review answers your questions regarding this Bible and enables you to choose which version you may wish to get. God bless you and all who benefit from your study of the Bible, the Word of God.
Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes