Review: The Way – New Living Translation

I like Bibles. I have an entire shelf of them. And I use every single one of them. Maybe not every day, and but each Bible serves a purpose. For academic study, I turn to my trusty, wide-margin NASB. When I’m feeling poetic I turn to my NKJV. I still have my Student NIV from when I first became a Christian at the age of 16, and it’s full of highlights, underlines and scribbles by the angsty teenaged me. For family devotions we use an NLT because it reads well. And of course I also have NRSV, KJV and the Message.

I have been given an advance copy of the NLT’s new “The Way” Bible. And I thought I would share a few of my first impressions.

Inspired by “The Way” from the 70’s, the NLT’s newest Bible is a relevant, hip, and “non-dreary” Bible aimed at 16-30 year olds.

Besides the Bible text, this Bible has brief introductions to each book, and then three types of reflections scattered throughout the pages. These reflections fall into three categories: “Laments”, “What I Wish I’d Known” and “This is My Story”. Contributions to these articles include Soong-Chan Rah, Andrew Marin, Frederica Mathewes-Green, Phillis Tickle, John Franke, Mike Hogan (from the Dave Crowder Band) and Scot McKnight. The reflections come from a variety of Christian traditions including, evangelical, mainline, and Orthodox.

Now some of the reflections are fantastic; others not so much.

I really liked the introductions to the books, in particular the introduction to Genesis, in which the author compares skipping over Genesis 1-2 to missing the first ten minutes of a movie. Each of the introductions help set the context of said individual book into the larger narrative of Scripture. And particularly in the Old Testament introductions, the introductions explain why it is important to read these books and not skip past them because we think that they no longer apply or are relevant in light of the Gospel of the New Testament. Because let’s be honest, we’ve all at one point or another thought that reading Leviticus or Numbers is pretty boring and useless.

What I Wish I’d Known:
An example of a fantastic “What I Wish I’d Known” is Charlie Peacock’s reflection and wish that he had been taught that the Gospel was more than just his salvation from individual sins. It is powerful and reflects the shift in evangelicalism to a larger Gospel message, a King Jesus Gospel, instead of a Soterian Gospel (to use the terms of Scot McKnight).

When done well, the laments demonstrate how it is not only okay, but also important to wrestle with difficult passages of Scripture. That being said, the lament at Acts 8:1-3 is an example of a poorly placed lament. The Scripture passage describes the persecution that the early Church experienced under Saul (Paul before his conversion), and yet here is a lament by Emily Geyer that talks about how it is wrong to judge people. How does this fit with Acts 8:1-3? Acts 8 is not about a Christian judging wrongly or meanly: it’s about a non-Christian persecuting the Church.

This is My Story:
Testimony is important. Hearing other people’s stories of how they came to faith, of what God has done in their lives not only encourages us, but reminds us that God is working amazing miracles all around the world. The testimonies included in this Bible come from a breadth of experiences and cultures. There are testimonies from people who grew up in the Church, from people who came from unchurched backgrounds, people who came from other faiths and from people who have struggled with sin and addiction.

And perhaps that’s the best thing about the contemporary stories and testimonies in The Way: They are not candy-coated. They do not try to gloss over the difficult passages of Scripture, or try to gloss over the dark parts of life. Instead, these stories say that God works against the darkness, He brings healing and peace and victory. Which is ultimately the grand story of the Gospel, isn’t it? Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God is the reconciler and has reconciled the world to himself. Jesus brings healing and peace and victory over sin and death.

As for the physical book itself: It is a soft-cover book, with a predominantly white cover. So if you have a tendency to throw your Bible into the bottom of your backpack, chances are it will end up with scuff marks on it. But, according to the Tyndale website, they also have it available in hardcover or leather-like cover, which might be more practical options. At nearly 1600 pages, you would think that this would be a big book, but it’s not. The pages are thin, so be careful what pens or highlighters you use on the text as it could bleed through to the reverse side of the page.

I may not be in the age-bracket that this Bible is being marketed for, but I like it. I could see myself using it for small group bible studies, and I would have no problem giving this Bible to a young person as a gift, particularly a young Christian who is new to the faith or who is struggling with what it means to be a Christian.

Just a quick note on one aspect that I could not review: In each of the introductions to the individual books of the Bible (and on several of the laments and other reflections) there is a QR code that is supposed to link to related online content. At the moment, each of the QR codes that I tried goes only to the “about” page of The Way’s webpage. As such, I am not able to provide a review of the corresponding online content. (Update: If I type in the email address above the QR code I am able to get to the corresponding online content, but the scanning the QR code itself just links to the generic “About The Way” page.)

Advanced Reader’s Copy of the Bible has been provided courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.