October 29, 2020

Review: NLT Mosaic Bible

978-1-4143-2205-6Tyndale’s NLT Mosaic Bible is off to a fast-start today. Those of us who like the NLT second edition should be happy for any opportunity to recommend this readable and helpful translation. An 80+ page sample of the Mosaic is available from Tyndale.

I received my copy earlier this week. I’ll share a variety of observations.

1. The Mosaic Bible is actually two books under one cover. It is a 52 week devotional resource keyed to the Christian year using art, quotations and extended selections from a broad sampling of Christian traditions on every continent, tradition and period of history. The second book is a two column NLT Bible, with center references, an excellent concordance, a Greek/Hebrew dictionary, maps and other helpful materials in most standard Bibles. These two books use different kinds of paper and are easily distinguished for one another. I was particularly glad that these materials are separated, because I do not want a Bible to look like a workbook or anything other than a text of Holy Scripture.

2. Mosaic is heavily graphical, with a generous sampling of Christian symbolism and an excellent selection of Christian art. All the artistic and literary resources are listed in an index. There is an intentional effort to capture an ecumenical, pan-traditional look that some might call “post evangelical” or “emerging.” Some may find this trendy. It is well-done and a pleasure to work through.

3. The diversity of resource selections is truly wide ranging, from Athanasius to Brian Maclaren, classic to contemporary, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Anabaptist, etc.

4. The Christian year is the key to the weekly devotions and studies, but the Christian year is only briefly and inadequately explained in the users guide toMosaic. (Similar basic material on the Christian year is at the Mosaic website.) This is a serious omission, in my opinion. The Lutheran resource The Treasury of Daily Prayer contains an example of what can be done in less than 5 pages to orient those who are not familiar with the Christian year with all that’s necessary to appreciate it.

5. In fact, a section that oriented the reader to the various traditions and their historical roots and theological distinctives/commonalities would have been useful in seeing just how Athanasius and Brian Maclaren “fit” into a common Christianity. If a user of Mosaic is committed to a “generous orthodoxy,” the approach of Mosaic is positive, but if someone buys the Bible and is in a church where Maclaren or Catholics are denounced or ruled out of orthodoxy, there will be confusion.

6. For those who seriously are at variance with high levels of denominationalism, the Mosaic Bible will be particularly appreciated. For those operating in a particular tradition, there is a need for more resources. Perhaps this can be addressed in future editions. (Tyndale- call me 🙂

7. I appreciate the Bible portion of Mosaic because it is not a study Bible (no notes, charts, essays, etc.) and it does not attempt to fill the Bible with “relevant” thematic material. It is a useful two column text with good concordance and Greek/Hebrew dictionary. This makes NLT Bible useful and not busy or gimmicky.

8. The NLT needs to include a brief, but prominent, explanation of two things: 1) It is not The Living Bible and 2) Dynamic equivalence is not heretical or dangerous. The translators of the NLT are well-known conservative scholars. Some worked on the ESV as well as NLT. The scuttle that NLT is somehow less than orthodox should be addressed directly with endorsements and information that can be read and understood.

9. The NLT’s cross references are less ambitious than other Bibles. I have not spent a lot of time with them- I don’t use them often- but with cross-references, less is more as far as I am concerned.

10. Mosaic will make an excellent specialty edition of the NLT for those who appreciate it’s unusual approach. It is unlikely to be anyone’s preaching Bible. It is a good, self-contained devotional resource that reminds the user of the broader, deeper more ancient church and the great tradition that all Christians share.

Join me October 14th for a Q/A with Mosaic editor Keith Williams.


  1. Thanks for the link to the 80 sample pages, Michael. That was very helpful. I will spend more time reading there later. It was kind of neat seeing quotations there from both the Pope John Paul II and Brian McLaren! And Augustine of Hippo and Doug Pagitt. And Thomas Aquinas and Robert Lewis Stevenson. You get the point.

  2. Thanks for the review! A few initial reactions:

    #4 will be addressed on the website over the next several weeks with posts on the Mosaic blog that will supplement the explanation on the site and be linked there.

    #5 sounds like a book to me. Do you want to write a proposal for me to present to our pub committee?

    #6 I certainly hope there will be future editions, depending on how well this one is received. I think you would be a welcome addition to our contributor team!

    • My agent has told me to not think the word book for 3 months.

      What you need is an article by the late Robert Webber on The Great Tradition or something like that. Then some graphical representation of various Christian traditions.


  3. This sounds pretty good, but some of us like a more traditional Bible. I am still waiting for a single volume edition of an ESV with a version of the Daily Office suitable for conservative protestants.

    Ah well.

  4. While this sounds like an interesting Bible, I am not sure how useful I’ll find it. IVP is working on a 3 year cycle of devotional material (keyed, granted, to the Early Church Fathers) as a companion to their Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. Called the Ancient Christian Devotional, it has weekly readings for the Church year based on, I believe, the RCL. Years A and B are avaliable, and a recent inquiry said Year C would probably come in a few years.

    Perhaps, if the Church Year is to be keyed into, it should follow the RCL and be produced in 3 year increments.

    Also, given that between my wife and I we own at least 7 copies of the NLT Second Edition (though, apparently an earlier revision), it’s going to be a challenge to get me to buy an eighth without a) knowing for sure that I have the revised, revised, revised version and b) knowing that I can buy it without having to invest again in a few years on another version. I realize, as an editor for liturgical books, that better translations can always be made, but there has to come a point where we say enough is enough – if for no other reason than not confusing folks.


    • I’d love to do a three-year cycle based strictly upong the RCL, and in fact that is how I initially proposed this project. If Mosaic does well in its present form, perhaps I will be able to convince some others around here of the viability of the threefold publication.

      As for the NLT text, I understand the frustration. After the NLTse was released in 2004, a number of changes were made by the Bible Translation Committee (BTC) in 2005 that were introduced to new editions of the NLT without any notation on the copyright page. When the BTC met in 2006, they made decisions that introduced even greater changes to the text, but we held almost all of those from publication because we knew 2007 would have still further changes that they would want to introduce. After the BTC meeting in 2007, the committee had gone back through the entire Bible with minor revisions, and we released all of the changes along with a new 2007 copyright date.

      While the BTC continues to meet annually to discuss the text of the NLT, we have not released any further changes to published editions of the NLT since the 2007 update. We do not plan to introduce any such changes for a long, long time. Except for a few typos that should be isolated in specific editions (including the exceedingly annoying–to me–omission of the letter “a” from the word “and” in Gal. 6:1 in the first print run of Mosaic), every edition of the NLT that has the 1996, 2004, 2007 copyright statement has a consistent, unaltered text.

      The short answer, then, is that any NLT that has 2007 on the copyright line will match up with its brothers and sisters.

  5. Just got mine from Amazon today (ordered it yesterday with free super saver shipping, so, that’s pretty awesome),

    All I’ve done is flip through the art work, and I’m impressed with the selections. Absolutely love it so far.

  6. Thanks for the review, Michael. This sounds like a Bible I would enjoy reading and certainly wouldn’t mind owning.
    I just recently purcased a fairly new version of the Bible called simply “The Books of the Bible.” Basically, it’s a NIV translation with all the verse and chapter breaks removed. Instead it is broken up into natural literary or subject breaks, and each literary form — be it prose, poetry, wisdom literature, etc — is represented in a distinct way that is easily recognizable. The books are also ordered differently than the traditional order we’re all familiar with. While that takes some getting used to, I do see the logic in the new order, and I really like the fact that Paul’s letters are given in the order that they where written, rather than from longest to shortest. That really helps when lining up Pauls letters with his missionary journeys in Acts, giving an added dimension of context and circumstance to the letters. While the absence of verses and chapters doesn’t lend itself to cross referencing or topic studies, I must say I’ve never read a Bible version that lends itself more to just sitting down, reading, and getting lost in the amazing stories and literature that scripture has to offer.

  7. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=isaiah%20%2058&version=NLT
    I have continued checking out some passages of the Bible in the NTL. I like how it does the above. While you are there, check out how Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” translates (paraphrases) that passage. I enjoy seeing what he writes!

  8. I’ve often wondered what the NT authors would say if they were able to return and tell us how our Bibles differ from what they were really trying to say when they authored their letters. I wonder how many denominational and modern theological interpretations would be wiped out?

  9. Thank you. I very much appreciate the review.

    The Mosaic’s only flaw from my perspective is that it incorporates the NLT. Would that it could be published with the KJV or ESV.

    And, yes, I’m a reformed Baptist…

  10. Michael, did you buy the book or receive it? You usually indicate this and I don’t see it on this review.



  11. I received my copy of the Mosaic Bible as a gift. I would not have bought it myself (at least until it came out in large print!)

    I agree that the NLT is not the “Living Bible”. I think it’s made fantastic progress and I have enjoyed reading it in my daily office. At this rate of improvement (1996…2004…2007…) I predict my full endorsement and reading it in the worship service by 2011 ! 🙂