In 1988, a group of young editors and youth pastors created a first-of-its-kind study Bible that included notes, explanations, and other resources in one volume to help readers understand spiritual truths and how to apply them to everyday experiences — the Life Application Study Bible (LASB). To date, it has sold more than 20 million copies in the US alone, making it the #1–selling study Bible in history. More than three decades later, the original team returned to the project, collaborating with a new group of editors to produce the Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition.
I recently interviewed the LASB Third Edition‘s General Editor, Ron Beers to find out more about this latest edition.
How was the editorial team different for this Third Edition? I saw documentation saying you included younger folks. How young?
We reassembled the original team to do the initial revision. Then the [new] Bible editors that worked on the team were millennials, they were all from their late 20s to their mid-30s, and most were women who really challenged us to make sure that we covered areas that the Church maybe wasn’t talking about 30 years ago and have bubbled to the surface of the cultural conversation and conversation in the Church. So, that was a great combination with the team that had been reassembled after 35 years and then the younger, millennial editors. It was really a great iron sharpening iron.
How has the response been so far?
It’s been fantastic. We’ve actually exceeded what we felt would happen, and I just think because the Life Application Bible has continued to be embraced both here and overseas that a major revision makes people curious. “What all did you do?” And actually, I would say that maybe 90 percent of the notes were edited or altered in some way. Makes it sound like we felt the old edition was bad, but that’s not the case at all, just so much has changed that we felt the need to update it in so many different ways.
What makes it a notable difference from the previous version?
There are hundreds of new notes and personality profiles which have proven to be one of the most popular features of the Life Application Bible, new charts, new maps. We feel that the new notes have stronger applications and new insights. A lot has changed from a scholarship standpoint and editorial standpoints, but also it’s the first time that the Life Application Bible is now in color. There was a new typesetting. A special typeface was chosen to make it as readable as possible, so it’s got a great new look. So not just in terms of the content of the features and notes, but also in terms of the whole design it’s completely different.
I think it’s also very important to distinguish immediately between the Bible text and the notes. You never want people to be confused as to what is God’s Holy Word and what are the note writers and commentators saying about God’s Word. I think that this new design has done an excellent job of making it so clear that God’s Word is always primary. In fact, the Bible text is actually in a bigger typeface than the study notes.
How many years do you suspect this edition will be relevant?
It’s all up to the Lord, and we feel like the Lord originally called us to put this project together. It’s clear that His hand was in it all. We started actually writing the notes 37 years ago, so we felt like it was time for a major revision, because language changes and scholarship changes. We’ve been spending a lifetime in writing applications and we feel we could have stronger insights and better notes and all of that. We hope that just as the Life Application Bible served this last generation and sold about 15 million copies, another 20 or 30 million overseas, we’re hoping that this will go on for another 35 years. By then, I think we’ll definitely need a new team for the next revision.
What do you feel is going on with our culture and the Bible? The future of this Bible as well as all other Bibles?
I think there’s cause for concern and cause for hope. I do feel like one of the big questions that’s going on more and more these days is the questioning of the accuracy of the Bible — is the Bible just an ancient relic of history? And more and more people are challenging the authority and inerrancy of the scripture. That’s really one of the main reasons we developed the Life Application Bible. God’s Word is supposed to be a blueprint for living, for how we can live transformed lives. Of course, it tells us primarily how to find salvation through faith alone. But then the Bible also goes out, Jesus goes out, and says now that you are my disciples, I want you to bear much fruit. And what does that mean to bear fruit? It’s so that you can live out a productive life so that you can grow as a disciple, and so that you can bless and help others become disciples and grow as disciples and that you can help others. And that’s really what the Life Application Bible was designed to do, and so we hope and pray that it will help a lot of people. We just get so many stories of people who have read, started working through the Life Application Bible and saying, “I just can’t get enough because God’s Word is … so relevant, every passage, every verse is there for a reason and to help me live a stronger life in Christ but also get to know our Lord and Creator in a much more intimate way.”
Ron, is there anything else you’d like to add about this third edition that I haven’t asked you?
A lot of people ask what makes the Life Application Bible different than other study Bibles. It really is the emphasis on Bible application. For example, if you look at many of the other study Bibles, and this is not a criticism of those, they just have a different philosophy. Theirs are more into helping you understand terms and some of the meaning, but what a Life Application Bible does is it takes the next step and helps you apply that to daily life. So, for example, you’ll find a lot of notes on phylacteries, and ephods and purification jars in a traditional study Bible, but you won’t find notes on doubt or worry or priorities or goals or any of those felt needs. So that’s why we actually created the Life Application Bible. We said, “Boy, if the Bible is a blueprint for living, it should say a lot about the daily challenges we face in our everyday lives.” So it really does and it’s just fascinating how the scripture addresses the challenges we face every day.