The New Living Translation
How are the NLT Study Bible and Illustrated Study Bible Different?

One of the most common questions we hear is, “How are the NLT Study Bible and the Illustrated Study Bible different?” Kevin O’Brien, who helped develop the Illustrated Study Bible and oversees Tyndale’s study Bible and reference books, helps us understand the difference between the two Bibles.
ISB and NLT Study Bible side by side

The NLT Study Bible serves as the base for the Illustrated Study Bible. From a textual standpoint they are probably about 85% the same. The differences come in to play in several areas:

  • Book and Section introductions – in some places these have been editorially “tightened” to fit the new format. We also greatly increased the Intertestamental Period section adding a profile of Antiochus IV and a 2 page explanatory article on the Maccabees.
  • Study Notes –both the Illustrated Study Bible and the new edition of the NLT Study Bible incorporate the latest (2015) edition of the NLT text. These textual changes did affect a small number of study notes. Further, the textual notes that are part of the NLT text itself (these include things such as textual variants or alternate translations of words and phrases) are handled differently in these two products. The Illustrated Study Bible treats them as footnotes below the Bible text but above the study notes. The NLT Study Bible incorporates them into the study notes. This leads to some minor differences in wording.

NLT and ISB interior side by side

  • Charts, Maps and Illustrations – All of the charts were reconfigured for the Illustrated Study Bible, most as infographics and many incorporated into the Theme Notes or Profiles that they were supplementing. Maps were all colorized reconfigured for greater precision. We also commissioned new illustrations for the tabernacle, temple, Jerusalem at different points in time as well as a first century synagogue and house. Timelines have been colorized to for easier reading (and the one at the beginning has been completely redone to make it easy to see how the books of the Bible map onto history). In addition you will find photos of ancient artifacts that could not be included in the NLT Study Bible.

ISB Pauls Journey

  • Profiles and Theme Notes – perhaps the biggest overall content difference between the two products. We updated many of these short articles when we created the Illustrated Study Bible. A few articles of each kind were dropped and several more were added.
    • Profiles – for major figures such as Moses or Abraham multiple pieces were often consolidated and reconfigured. For example, in the NLT Study Bible the profile of Moses at Exodus 2 takes up a single page. There is a small chart on the following page breaking down Moses’ life. In the Illustrated Study Bible, this has become a 2 page feature with a larger timeline and a family tree. The text of the article changed slightly to fit the space and to reflect the images. Additionally, we created a new set of profiles for the nations that play major roles in the Biblical narrative (Egypt, Babylon, Rome, etc.). Most of these are illustrated and often take up two pages. This content is entirely new.
    • Theme Notes – here the process of illustrating the content of the Bible had perhaps its most significant impact. The process of illustrating the text led us to remove a few Theme Notes that overlapped and to add a significant number where we realized illustration would greatly enhance understanding. Several examples include adding a note on Citizenship in the Kingdom at the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7, articles about the major cities in the letters addressed to the Churches there (e.g., Ephesus), and the article on Jewish society at Matthew 22. We also added articles which help readers to get a sense of the realities of everyday life in the world of the Bible – fishing in first century Galilee, kinds of plants and animals in ancient Israel or what a 1st Century Jewish home would have been like and more. Many of these kinds of articles and illustrations simply aren’t possible in the non-illustrated version.

ISB I AM Sayings of Jesus

An additional note on the illustrations in the Illustrated Study Bible: We made a very conscious effort to only include color if that color actually made a significant contribution, not simply as “eye candy”. We wanted to make sure that the color actually communicated meaning; if you look at the bottom of the page, for example, you will find a colorized section indicator bar that tells you what section of the Bible you are in. Each photograph or painting was chosen to help you understand the story better, to help you visualize what was going on by seeing a place or evoking an emotion. We tried to keep images of modern people to a minimum (except in places like Proverbs where a principle or idea was primary) because we wanted to help readers enter into the world of the Bible. Even when we included classic paintings of Biblical characters or stories we tried to present them in interesting ways so that the emphasis was always on seeing something about what the Bible communicates, not on the piece of art itself. There is a very practical reason for this – most western Christian art is European, therefore biblical characters and places show up looking very European and that wasn’t the case at all so we worked hard to avoid unintentionally making it seem like they were.

ISB Outside NLT SB 1

At the end of all of this you may well be wondering why anyone would choose the NLT Study Bible over the Illustrated Study Bible? I have two reasons. First, the NLT Study Bible is smaller, and significantly lighter. Chances are you won’t be carrying the Illustrated Study Bible to church, but the NLT Study Bible is quite portable. Second, many people find the visuals distracting and simply want the study text without it. I totally understand this. While I really love the visuals (I helped figure out what we should illustrate and was involved in working with the design team to find a good direction to go in so I better love them!), sometimes when I study I need to cut the distractions back and just read. The NLT Study Bible allows me to do this. Either way, both Bibles have great study resources that will help you to understand both the words and the world of the Bible, allowing you to more clearly understand in be changed by God’ message.

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An Insider’s Look at the Swindoll Study Bible

We sat down with Sarah Johnson, editing coordinator for the Swindoll Study Bible, and asked her to share her thoughts on the Bible. She worked closely with Chuck and his team on every aspect of the Bible. Check out her insights and thoughts on how she hopes God uses this Bible.

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Engaged in God’s Word as a Community

Personal Bible study and reflection is extremely important, but the Bible was meant to be read and engaged with as a community as well. For many people their can be barriers to reading the Bible. The Immerse Bible Reading Experience helps to break down those barriers and create an environment for churches to come together as a community to engage in God’s Word and grow as a body of believers.

Learn more about engaging in God’s Word as a community.

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New Bible Reading Plans

Starting December 1, 2017, you can take a journey through the Bible with us as each month as we delve into God’s Word using a Tyndale Bible.

Here is how it works. Each week you will receive an email that has links that direct you to each day’s reading. You just click on the link, and it will take you to a website that has the text, notes, images, etc., for that specific day. The new format allows you to access all the readings for the entire month so you can go back and reexamine an earlier day’s passage or read ahead.


In December we will use our Wayfinding Bible to take a look at glimpses of the Messiah throughout the Old Testament and then see the fulfillment of many of those promises as we read through the Christmas story with perspectives from Matthew, Luke, and John.


We are excited to explore the Bible with you through the new “Read with Us” reading plans.

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From “No Bible” to “Know Bible” Part 1: Form Matters


Find out what our partners at the Institute for Bible Reading are talking about and visit to learn more about the Immerse Bible Reading Experience.

From “No Bible” to “Know Bible” Part 1: Form Matters

by Glenn Paauw

The Bible is a library of books that do things. These books instruct, inspire, reveal, convict, judge, comfort, heal, and save. This means that the Bible is not merely a collection of static words. The Bible is rather a divine speech act.

The Scriptures promise that they contain the power to change things, to actually move the creation in the direction of God’s ultimate purposes for the flourishing of life. For this promise to be fulfilled, however, the Scriptures must be received, understood, and lived on their own terms.

But what does this mean—“to receive the Bible on its own terms”? What does that look like?

Reading and living the Bible well—what we could call dynamic, stellar Bible engagement—happens when a community:

  • has good access to a well-translated text presented in its natural literary forms,
  • regularly feasts together on whole literary units understood in context,
  • understands the overall story of the Bible as centered in Jesus, and
  • accepts the invitation to take up its own role in God’s ongoing drama of restoration through the power of the Spirit.

Over the next six editions of this series we’ll be unpacking some of the major elements of this view of Bible engagement in order. Welcome to a whole new Bible, making a whole new kind of difference in our lives.

Read More

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Joni Shares Her Heart on Ann Voskamp Blog

God has truly gifted Joni with the ability to bring perspective. Recently, she was a guest blogger on Ann Voskamp’s blog where she shared how God’s Word helps her during some of the most difficult days. Be inspired!

Read the blog post

Joni Eareckson Tada (00000002)

Learn more about the Beyond Suffering Bible



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Warming Body and Soul

This Christmas season as we think about making donations consider gifting a Bible to a Christian organization. Chris Morrison, pastor at Macedonia Temple of God in Aurora, IL, shares how his church’s love for others spurred them on to start giving gifts to warm the body and soul.

Coat Give Away

“Several years ago my wife proposed that we begin giving away winter coats to those in our church and community who couldn’t afford them. We started by asking people to donate coats.  By our third year, the number of people coming to get coats had risen to a level where donations alone couldn’t meet the need, so we decided, as a church, to just buy new coats to give away.


By the next event, it was clear that we hadn’t purchased anywhere near enough coats.  The event was to last from 11-1; we were out of coats by 11:45, and we had purchased over 200 coats.  It was heartbreaking to have people show up hoping to get a winter coat for their children, and we had nothing for them. So, we upped our purchase to 450 coats for this year.  We still ran out of the larger adult sizes!


We had also started using Immerse in our church this year, and the results were amazing.  A contributing factor to that success was the format of Immerse.  It didn’t read like a “normal” bible, and the packaging of it most closely resembles a book.  So, we thought that it would be a good idea to offer Immerse Messiah (the New Testament) at our coat give-away.  The population we’ve served most during these coat give-aways is predominantly Spanish, so having Immerse available in Spanish was a big plus.  We had purchased some New Believer’s Bibles previously, and we put out the copies of that also.


We never wanted to make anyone feel obligated to do anything in order to get a coat for themselves or their children.  That being said, we are a church, and we wanted to offer something they could take with them that would last long after their new coat had served its purpose.  So, we simply laid out the Bibles, and as they were leaving with their bag of coats, we told them they could also have the Bible of their choice.


We ended up giving away 110 Bibles—with Immerse Spanish being the most chosen option.  That number is a little over 25% of all the people who received coats.  I’m sure we’ll continue to have a Bible option for this event in the future, and our hope is that we need more and more Bibles, just as we’ve needed more and more coats!”

Learn more about the Immerse Bible Reading Experience

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Inspire PRAISE – Giveaway!

The #1-Selling Bible for Coloring & Creative Journaling is Welcoming a New Member Into the Family!

The all-new Inspire PRAISE Bibles are here! You will start seeing them on shelves soon at your favorite bookstores! To celebrate, we would like to give some Bibles away in a contest! Whether you’ve been creative Bible journaling in your original Inspire for a long time or are just now hearing about it, you’re invited to participate in this contest! We’ll be giving away 10 Inspire PRAISE Bibles. Each winner will get to pick their favorite binding: the Hardcover LeatherLike Purple or the Silky LeatherLike Purple Garden.

inspire praise

The new Inspire PRAISE Bible has lots of new features! Check them out at

You can purchase your own copy at – click here.

There are several ways to enter (US residents only):

Use the Gleam form below to complete one of these tasks:

  1. Tell us how you have been INSPIRED by Inspire.
  2. Let us know what you are most excited about in the new Inspire PRAISE Bible.
  3. Color a page and post it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest using #theinspirebible. Submit the link to your post in the Gleam form. Print out a page HERE.


Inspire PRAISE

Swindoll Study Bible Is Here!

We are so excited that the Swindoll Study Bible is here! I think the only person more excited than us is Chuck Swindoll. Hear what he has to say about why he created this legacy Bible.

Find out more at

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The Refiner’s Fire by Joni Eareckson Tada

Little words can make a difference. Consider Malachi 3:3, where the prophet calls to attention the image of the refiner who stokes the flames and watches the dross burn away until he can see his reflection in a cauldron of pure gold. This old illustration describes how the Lord refines us in the fire. He turns up the heat on our trials until all the impurities, sins, and selfishness comes bubbling to the surface of our soul. And then, like a refiner of gold, God skims off the dross until he can see the reflection of his face in our lives.



One day as I read this verse, one little word caught my attention. It says, “He will sit like a refiner.” What an encouragement the “sit” was to me! It means that God is not going to get up and walk away from whatever trial I’m going through. He’s not going to get distracted or wander off into something else while my trial is heating up. God is going to sit there, carefully tending to the circumstances around me.

This comforting thought encouraged me so much in this wheelchair of mine, because some days it’s so hard. I’m not a plaster-of-paris saint with this disability—sometimes the discomfort takes my breath away. But no pain can match the overwhelming comfort in knowing that God sits over my trial. He will let that discomfort go on for only so long; and my goal is to lean my lesson, confess whatever sin, refocus my faith, or quit wandering off the path—whatever God’s purpose might be. I want to agree with my Refiner, the Perfecter and Purifier of my faith. I want to do everything I can from my end so that God really can see the reflection of his Son in my life.


If you’re facing a trial today, remember that the Lord doesn’t wander away while you’re in pain. He won’t take a vacation; he will sit there, watching over you until your faith is refined like gold. That’s a promise from the Lord, our Refiner.

Taken from the Beyond Suffering Bible, A Word from Joni, p. 1081

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