I read through the introduction, which included a brief overview about differing translations. I didn't worry too much about this because I have an older NLT that I use and haven't had any major concerns about. We own and use many other translations including an older NIV, CEV, KJV, ESV, NKJV, NASB,... well, we have a lot of Bibles. And we read them!
Then, I flipped through and really examined some of the photographs, illustrations, maps, notes & book introductions. I didn't have time to read them all, but the ones I viewed were helpful and made good use of the space available to be informative as well as aesthetically pleasing. In some ways it may seem nice to "break up" the monotony of black text on white pages, but there were a couple times I was reading several chapters in a row intently, and turning the page mid-sentence to see a spread of graphics I had to flip past to resume reading did interrupt the flow of my reading. It's a catch-22, I guess.
In the KJV, Luke 9:55-56 says, "55 But he turned, and rebuked them, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56 For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save [them]. And they went to another village."
In the NLT Illustrated Bible, Luke 9:55-56 states, "55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them.* 56 So they went on to another village." The asterisk will lead you to discover a footnote which includes an expanded version of these verses. I think it is relevant that Jesus was stating He came to save lives rather than destroy them, and I believe this important verse may be overlooked by some because it is only included as a footnote.
Also, Luke 11:17 (NLT) says, "...Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. Any family splintered by feuding will fall apart." The KJV reads: "....Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth," for the same verse. I think there are many ways a kingdom can be divided without being in civil war, or a family can be divided without necessarily feuding... don't you?
John 7:7 (NLT) says, "The world can't hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of doing evil." This just sounded inaccurate to me. Jesus is not our accuser, Satan is an accuser. I dislike the wording because it creates room for confusion about the character and role of Christ. KJV says, "“The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.” My concern is that the NLT's use of the word "accuse" seems to leave question as to whether or not the accusation is true. Let's not imply (or leave room for imagining) that Jesus would falsely accuse anyone. The word "testify" evokes a stronger implication of Jesus' authority and the truth of the matter- that the people of the world were indeed partaking in evil works.
These differences in translation were enough to make me wonder whether this would be a wise choice to use with my children. After reading the way John 11:33-38 is translated in this Bible, I am really confused and disappointed. This chapter of the Bible contains the shortest verse (35) which is often only two words, "Jesus wept. (KJV)" It is the tender account of how Jesus interacted with his friends, Mary and Martha, as he went to them after their brother, Lazarus, had died. Jesus, being God, knows everything, and had known that Lazarus would die as well as the fact that He was planning to raise Lazarus from the dead to bring glory to His Father in Heaven. Even with this Omniscience, seeing his beloved friends grieving moved Him to tears. For some reason unknown to me, and not disclosed in the commentary or footnotes, this NLT states not once, but twice, that Jesus was angry while these events were unfolding. They don't give us a hint as to who or what prompted His anger or was the object of His anger, but they say it twice. In verse 33, "When Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him,* and he was deeply troubled." The footnote only states, "Or he was angry in his spirit." Verse 38, after Jesus wept, states, " Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance." According to a quick parallel Bible search, the Holman Christian Standard Bible uses the word "angry" in translating this verse and the Jubilee Bible 2000 actually uses the word "enraged." All the others I've seen use words such as: "deeply moved," "troubled," or "groaned in his spirit." Even the NLT I have which is copyrighted in 1998 states He was "moved with indignation" which could indicate a whole host of feelings not limited to anger alone.
When I decided to use and review this Bible, I really, really didn't want the focus of my review to be on translation differences. However, I could not shy away from this main point. Would I review any other book and emphasize the illustrations, introduction, and the appendix over the actual text and content? No. Then why did I think I should do that with God's Word? Because it is SO controversial right now. I just didn't want to step up in that arena. I feel unqualified as a person who hasn't graduated from a 'Bible School.' I do know the Lord, though, and I have read and read His Word.
Here's the thing. I'm not trying to tell you what translation to use or criticize anyone who might choose to use a translation I wouldn't use personally. I am just trying to spread information. Here's the reality- different translations really will give you subtly (or not-so-subtly!) different impressions of God, different foundations for theology. We read the Bible to know God and His Son, Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior of the world. This is a decision that needs to be made with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Pray for His help and ask that He'd guide you to the resource you need right now. There are plenty of books written comparing Bible translations if you want to do some research. Here's a researching tip of mine that most people aren't likely to do: Read books with polar opposite viewpoints, but are from reputable, respectable authors who cite their resources. Then make an informed decision. Don't get caught up in researching what Bible to buy and neglect to actually purchase one and read it, though. This Bible is better than no Bible, for sure, but after what I've read, it's not an item I would study from or present to someone who didn't have a solid Scriptural foundation as a gift. That's just my humble opinion.
I expected to love it, and truly appreciate the beautiful and useful illustrations, but it's just not for us. I would recommend the Holman KJV Study Bible, Full Color (they also offer a large-print version), or if you're not looking for an illustrated variety specifically, the Nelson KJV Study Bible.
*In the interest of full disclosure: Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing. All of the Bible verses quoted which are labeled NLT in this review are from this product, copyright 2015, unless otherwise noted.