For about 30 years at least one person in every Bible study group I’ve participated in has brought a Life Application Study Bible (LASB.) Sometimes we met in church fellowship or parish halls, but often we met in homes where members of most denominations came together regularly to study the word of God.
What first impressed me was how people almost always found something helpful or interesting to add to our discussions, thanks to the extensive footnotes in the LASB. What did not impress me was how the notes sometimes went a bit far in telling readers what to think or how to act with each “must” or “should.”
So while I kept looking for a study Bible that might better suit my needs or preferences, I couldn’t help but notice that Christian friends were buying new editions of the LASB when theirs fell apart from heavy use. Or they began buying editions of the Life Application Study Bible in additional translations -- and there are many!
A quick search on Amazon, for example, shows that the LASB comes in the New Living Translation (NLT), New American Standard Bible (NASB), King James Version (KJV), New King James Version (NKJV), New International Version (1984 NIV), and the newer NIV that, yes, I finally bought. Other versions may exist, but you get the picture. The LASB comes in many translations for one reason. People like it! And it helps.
Although I really do not want anyone to tell me how to think, I do want to know what other people think, and the LASB helps me to hear those voices and hopefully respond to those needs in my writing. For example, those of us who heard “Jesus Love Me” in early childhood have probably responded to that song from our earliest memories. So when we study Matthew and read the LASB footnotes, we’re reminded that everyone has not had our blessed experience. Some children grow up hearing nothing about God or only hear of Jesus as a baby born at Christmas, and so they may need to hear the footnote for Matthew 21:44, which explains what Jesus meant when He applied to Himself the metaphor about “the stone the builders rejected,” then ends by saying, “He offers mercy and forgiveness now and promises judgment later. We should choose him now!” True, and perhaps a reminder to us lifelong Christians to choose Christ again in the now of every day.
As I became familiar with what the LASB actually says instead of staying locked into first impressions, I discovered a spiritual depth rarely found in study editions of the Bible. Since childhood, for example, I’d loved the Bible story about Solomon and even thought it’d be cool to be wise, which led to a lifelong love for the Bible that I’ve continued, now hoping to get into the mind of Christ. I don’t recall ever having this discussion with anyone before, so I’m doing some soul-baring here, but I cannot tell you what comfort and blessing I found in the LASB note on Ecclesiastes 1:16-18: “The more you understand, the more pain and difficulty you experience. For example, the more you know, the more imperfection you see around you; and the more you observe, the more evil becomes evident. As you set out with Solomon to find the meaning of life, you must be ready to feel more, think more, question more, hurt more, and do more. Are you ready to pay the price for wisdom?” Wow!
No matter what level you’ve reached in your life in Christ, the LASB helps each reader get closer to God. Sometimes, then, the footnotes won’t be for you but for the person next to you or, perhaps, a means of better understanding Christians still new to the faith. Most of the time, though, the footnotes make me feel as if a dear, wise, spiritually mature, well-informed, older friend is responding, explaining, and encouraging me as we read the Bible together.
Special Features: In addition to the extensive footnotes in this hefty edition, each book has an overview or Introduction with a timeline across the top of the page to get you into the era or historical setting. The sidebar, “Vital Statistics,” lists the purpose for each book, the most likely author and date, and the audience first intended. An outline of each book and list of “Megathemes” aid study, too, as do clear black and white maps that show the places mentioned as they're mentioned throughout the text.
Other special features include “A Christian Worker’s Resource,” which provides a teacher’s guide or a way to instruct and edify new Christians. For topical research or Bible studies, an extensive Dictionary/ Concordance helps you find biblical references to a particular subject.
Covers: The quality or type of cover depends on your choice of translations. Most LASB editions come in paperback, hardback, and colorful covers that feel like real leather but may be apt to curl and wear out sooner. However, with the newer NIV available in LASB, you may still be able to find a huge discount on high quality leather covers in the original NIV (1984.)
With copies of the other translations already on my bookshelves, I ordered my LASB in a large print edition of the newer NIV, which I’ll refer to here and feature in the ad below. Instead of the typical leather Bible with one color or piece, this one has a two-tone cover with saddle stitching all around the outer edges and down inner margins, attractively reinforcing areas where hands hit and wear typically occurs.
Format, Font: With its ample size and ink, the large font feels easy on the eyes, but footnotes have a readable font, too, in about the size normally used for the main body of a text. I especially liked the bold type for the chapter and verses to which each footnote refers, making a note quick to find during a discussion. Added subheadings also provide a quick way to scan for information and keep track of where we are as we get closer to God and each other in our search for an ever-deepening life in Christ.
©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler
Life Application Study Bible in the new NIV