Finding the right Bible to suit your needs is vital to reaching your goals for reading and studying the Bible. 

As you are deciding which is the right Bible for you, there are a couple ways to compare each type once you have narrowed it down. 

Recently, I did a comparison of the NIV Life Application Study Bible with my favorite study Bible, the ESV Study Bible and thought I would share my process in hopes it will help you when you are comparing versions.

The first thing I do when comparing Bibles is to open them side-by-side to a familiar passage. I typically will read John 3:16 and Psalm 23. These are some of the most popular verses and many of us know them by heart. More importantly, because I am familiar with not only what they say, but also what they mean, I can use it to help me as I read the passage and the accompanying commentary. 

I noticed as I flipped through the pages of the NIV Life Application Study Bible for a general overview it contains content that is standard for most study bibles including: 

  • Maps
  • Introductions to each book that include information on the author, audience, history, and theme(s)
  • Cross referencing
  • Profiles of key Bible people
  • Articles on key places or topics throughout Scripture

One feature I personally like when selecting a Bible is the words of Jesus in red. This isn’t a necessary requirement (my ESV Study Bible does not have this element) but I like this feature when I’m reading as it helps His teachings really stand out from the other text surrounding it. 

Next, I open both Bibles to the passages mentioned above and do a little comparison based on their commentary, how the passage read, and the additional study material. 

One key difference I noted between my study Bible and the NIV Life Application Study Bible is my study Bible material is focused on explaining the meaning of Scripture or helping with the history behind the author, audience, theme, or Scripture content.  The NIV Life Application Study Bible commentary helps the reader apply the Scripture to their everyday life, as well as providing history and meaning behind the Scripture. 

This distinction can help you when you define your goals for your Bible time. Are you looking to learn more about the Scripture and it’s meaning or are you looking for help in applying Scripture? 

Personally, I have several Bibles in a variety of versions and some are study Bibles and some are Life Application Bibles. Although it can be pricey to purchase several different types of Bibles, you can always use an online resource like Bible Gateway to access other versions and supplemental materials like commentary and historical information. 


  • If you have been looking for a new Bible, did you find this information helpful? 
  • What type of features do you find most useful in a Bible? 
  • If you have used this information to help you decide which Bible to purchase, which did you choose and why? 


I was given a free copy of the NIV Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition to review as part of being a #BibleGatewayPartner through their Blogger Grid. 

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Written by Stephanie K. Adams

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