on October 17, 2009
After the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod selected the English Standard Version as the best overall translation for its churches to use, the idea of a from-the-ground-up study Bible took root. And so in 2003, the study-Bible effort began. This Bible to be was not going to be someone else's study Bible with added notes to give it a Lutheran patina, like the Concordia Self-Study Bible. This effort wanted to produce the best study Bible ever!
And so biblical experts from many Lutheran Church bodies around the world were asked to contribute their efforts. And to make sure that the notes were helpful to real readers--and answered real questions they had as they read the Bible--400 laypersons were included as volunteer readers. As they read through their assigned parts of the Bible, they wrote down questions they had from those portions of the Bible. This helped ensure that the notes answered real questions real people were asking, not simply producing an academic wunderkind.
Over seven years later, The Lutheran Study Bible (TLSB) is now in print.
Book Introductions: The introductions are splendid. They don't hesitate to deal with topics that have afflicted Christendom in the last century, such as historical-higher criticism. The introductions don't succumb to viewing scripture as any other literature, but they do discuss form, genre, and literary devices when it's helpful. The introductions also include excerpts from Luther's introductions--an added bonus!
Book Outlines: The outlines, which grace the beginning of each book, are the best I've ever seen. I've seen outlines in some study Bibles that are nearly useless because they are too generic and broad to be of much help. Among the study Bibles now in print, the Reformation Study Bible is known to have excellent outlines. But TLSB's are even better! The outlines have enough depth to be truly helpful (at least three levels deep) and aid the reader in getting a good feel of the overall structure and flow of the books.
Key Terms and Phrases: TLSB has included this helpful section before the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy), the Psalms, and the Pauline Letters. Given the challenging language of Scripture, especially as it deals with concepts that we don't deal with in our everyday lives, the "Key Terms and Phrases" is a good idea. It offers much help to make better sense of what various words and phrases in the Bible mean.
Drawings: Included in TLSB are several of Hugh Claycombe's line drawings of the Tabernacle, the temples, Jesus' route during Passion Week, and so on. If you've used the NIV Study Bible (or the Lutheran variant, the CSSB), you'll recognize these drawings. They are still some of the most helpful illustrations of their type to appear in study Bibles to date.
Articles: The articles are a strong point of this Bible! Unlike the ESV Study Bible (which I think has too many articles!), TLSB has the right balance. The articles cover many topics, from the mainly doctrinal, to being focused on living out what the doctrines mean, and especially those vexing the Church today. Women in the Church? It's in there. Homosexuality? Yep. The wrath of God? It's in there too. What happens at death? Not forgotten. These well-done articles are near the Scripture passages that bring out these questions for us. But the articles are written in such a way that they let God's Word shine on these questions to guide our steps, like Deacon Philip guided the Ethiopian in Acts chapter 8.
NOTES . . .
* Christological Focus: On every page, TLSB lets the Word of God do what our Lord says it is to do: "testify of Me" (John 5:39). A study Bible that helps the reader see Christ in the pages of Scripture does what Scripture is meant to do. Bravo, this alone is worth the cost of TLSB!
* Law-Gospel Distinction: Such notes weave their way through each chapter of Scripture and help one reflect deeper on the Word just read. How helpful in a study Bible, an aid that not only helps one understand the text better, but aids in one's devotional life as well. A home run here!
* Wordplay: TLSB often points out wordplay, and carefully explains when it happens. In almost all such cases, the wordplay is lost in our current translations. And so when TLSB highlights these instances in the notes, often including a transliteration so an English reader can hear the similarity in sound, the reader is greatly benefited.
* Patristics: Reflecting Lutheranism's continuity from the ancient Church as well as Lutheranism's catholicity, TLSB quotes the early Latin and Greek fathers more than most other study Bibles, except perhaps the Orthodox Study Bible. Since the Holy Spirit "calls, gathers, and enlightens the whole Christian Church on earth," we would be a shallow Christian church, indeed, not to consider the wisdom of our Church fathers as they meditated on the Scriptures. TLSB could have quoted the Church Fathers more, but something else would then have had to be reduced. TLSB strikes the right balance.
* Lutheran Sources: TLSB brings in our Reformation fathers, our Confessions (the Book of Concord), and even hymns from Lutheran Service Book in its study notes! While most of the study notes do not contain these (or the patristic citations), it is helpful and noteworthy when they do.
Dates at the Top of the Page: This simple chronology is a superb aid for study! For people who may have trouble keeping track of what happened when because the Scriptures are often not chronological, this feature really helps makes sense of the biblical timeline.
Confession: The Word of God is meant to be spoken! Within the Christian Church, we are to speak it back to God, speak it to each other, and we are all called to speak it to the world. TLSB consistently reminds the reader of this high calling to invite others to share in the joy that we have in the forgiveness of sins and adoption into God's family.
What Could Be Better
Typeset: The font size of the main text is like that used in other study Bibles. TLSB print is more crisp, clear, and readable, but it has some bleed-through on the paper. The font of the notes is bit smaller, but still clear. For some, the red lettering for the words of Jesus may be too light to read easily.
More Color Maps: Not enough of them. TLSB has only four color maps, unlike the ESV Study Bible, which has scads of them. What's the deal with that? TLSB doesn't even have one color map with the tribal allotments of Israel, or in the New Testament, of the Apostle Paul's journeys. The other maps are black and white drawings, which does not meet the expectations of the reader today.
Too Big: TLSB has so much good in it that it has become behemoth in size. If someone gets the larger-print Bible, probably a good idea, the Bible becomes too big to be a bring-it-to-church Bible. Don't drop this Bible on your toe (or you may find yourself misusing the Lord's Name!).
Because of its size, it makes sense to have these Bibles in place where we need to use them, such as for Sunday School. Can someone say to produce a version for the Kindle reader?
Include the Anaginoskomena (Apocrypha): Today, few churches have all of God's written Word as the Church has always recognized it to be. We know the Church can only recognize what is God's written revelation, not choose or decide it. Included in the Church's list of books was a category of Old-Testament like books considered "worthy to be read," even during worship, called the Anaginoskomena. Doctrine would not be derived from these books; they would only supplement the doctrines made known in the other biblical texts.
Among all the churches, only the Eastern Orthodox and Lutheran churches have preserved this distinction, with Eastern Orthodoxy much better than Lutheranism. The Protestant churches have jettisoned the Anaginoskomena all together. The Roman Catholic Church--on its own!--chose to declare much of the Anaginoskomena as fully canonical (what we call the Apocrypha), which the Anglican churches continue in their tradition.
In theory, the Lutheran Church still preserves this distinction of the Anaginoskomena. Our Confessions referenced books in the Anaginoskomena; our Lutheran fathers quoted them. But when we transitioned to English, we made our bed with the Protestants, and lost in practice the use of these Anaginoskomena books.
TLSB is a slight corrective. It lists Luther's introduction to these books (well, at least it's a good start to help bring these books back into the mind of current-day Lutherans). But sadly the books themselves and the notes that should go with them are missing. And so TLSB is incomplete and doesn't have the "books worthy to be read" that Luther's Die Bibel had, or even what our German Lutheran Bibles had, which were printed in North America 100-plus years ago.
TLSB is the best study Bible I've yet to see. It's many times better than the older Concordia Self-Study Bible. So if you have the CSSB, don't settle for second-best. Despite my few reservations, buy TLSB. It's the best study Bible in print. But even more importantly, read it and use it!
on October 10, 2009
Amazing. I invested in the ESV Study Bible but was disappointed by its misrepresentation of Lutheran beliefs and teachings, so I invested in this one as a supplement. After spending a couple of weeks of reading The Lutheran Study Bible (TLSB) and comparing it with the ESV Study Bible (I ordered my copy of TLSB directly from CPH), I must admit that it is not what I had expected. In fact, it exceeded my expectations and has since become my primary / preferred Study Bible. In some aspects, it is unlike any of the other Study Bibles that I have in my collection. In addition to the usual stuff you would more or less expect to find in a Study Bible, there are quotes from the Church Fathers and prayers, as well as more than a few notes and articles that address modern questions, challenges, and struggles that are actually relative to our lives, our families, our society, and our churches. Most notes and articles address historical contexts, theology, and some neat tidbits from archaeology, etc. Common to Lutheran theology, God's theme of love, forgiveness, justification and the Gospel flow throughout, as well as the proper distinction between Law and Gospel. While being written and published entirely by (primarily conservative) Lutherans from around the world, TLSB also has quotes and references to non-Lutheran writings and authorities. And did I mention that TLSB actually has SOURCE references to their quotes?! No more asking: "Where is that great quote taken from?" They add it so readers can find and read it for themselves!
Since this is a "Lutheran" Study Bible, I did not expect it to promote any beliefs or teachings that are contrary to (conservative) Lutheranism. For some this may be an issue, but most Study Bibles are almost exclusively rooted in Reformed or Evangelical theology. For me, it is refreshing to have a resource that takes the same stand as the Father of the Reformation, Martin Luther. My only lament is that TLSB lacks the quantity and quality of maps and diagrams found in the ESV Study Bible. (I admit it, I've been spoiled by them!) Aside from that minor detail, this is a top-notch Study Bible, resource, and tool for anyone and everyone, young or old, "Lutheran" or not!
on April 13, 2010
I bought the Lutheran Study Bible from Concordia Publishing (make sure it is Concordia; the ELCA has a bible with the same name, but gender neutralized, etc). The Bible is fabulous and includes not only the ESV version of the Bible text, but the narrative notes for all the passages just below the verses.
All the narrative comments are based upon the expertise of the Concordia seminary professors and expert translators, who have looked at the original Greek and Hebrew. As you read the comments, you can be assured that those comments are written from a Lutheran perspective, so you will expect to see some of the conservative Lutheran views, such as pro-infant baptism, amillenialism, Law & Gospel, and so on.
Although I have owned the book since it came out last October 31, 2009, the digital version just came out today (March 13, 2010). So I eagerly ordered my Kindle copy. I do not have to mess up my Bible with highlighting (nothing wrong with that, per se), but can highlight and put notes into the Kindle version. By the way, buy a Kindle; they are great!
In addition, you can read this Bible on your iPhone, by getting the iPhone version of Kindle. All notes and highlights you put into the Bible on either device, will be located on your other device. I read my iPhone when away from home, then synch up when I get home and continue from where I left off on my Kindle.
Imagine, having not only your Bible with you virtually all the time; you also have a massive store of commentary to go along with it.
Good/Bad. The weight of the BOOK can be prohibitive, when a person buys the LARGE PRINT. With the Kindle version, just change your font. No more weight to carry. I have heard of ministers, who use theirs, to preach from. I bet an iPad will afford one the same flexibility.
The Kindle version:
The book version:
on September 29, 2009
This is a great Study Bible, even for a non-Lutheran like me. I have, in the past, recommended several other study Bibles, including the ESV Study Bible and the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible. I have also given cautious recommendation for the New Interpreter's Study Bible and the Harper-Collins Study Bible. The Lutheran Study Bible offers more than the others in some areas and not as much in other. The notes are extensive, comparable with the ESV study bible and the New Interpreter's Study bible. The notes are from an evangelical, Lutheran standpoint. It is good to see a study bible take a stand on interpretation. For example, many study bibles including the NIV study bible give credence to a theology that sees a rapture of the church in Rev. 4:1. The text clearly does not support it and I do not see how any real study bible could give credence to that. The Lutheran Study Bible rightly does not read that into the text and points out the error of that interpretation.
The LSB also has what it calls Law and Gospel Application notes. I find these very useful for devotions. After all, what good is the Word if you are not motivated to praise or petition the Creator? One does not have be a Lutheran to appreciate the value of that. I know that the Life Application Bible provides some of that, but that does not have the extensive study notes that this one has.
Comparing this to the ESV Study Bible, the LSB comes short on notes, but not by much. The ESV Study bible also has inline color maps, color illustrations, and useful articles. Like the LSB, the ESV Study Bible is also evangelical, but it tries to satisfy all traditions of Christianity.
I recommend that all non-Lutherans consider getting this Lutheran Study Bible as a second Study Bible. The first may be a faith-based one, such as the Reformation Study Bible,. The Wesley Bible or the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible. Choosing between this and the ESV study bible may be tough for some, but you should seriously look at both before deciding.
Law and Gospel Application Notes
Church Father Quotations
Extensive articles (though not as much as the ESV Study Bible)
Useful for devotions -- prayers for each chapter are excellent!
Strong evangelical Lutheran position.
Points out errors of other positions.
Available only in two column, red letter version
Will have to be a second Bible if you are not Lutheran.
Lack of inline color maps or color illustrations, (A minor point, but the ESV study bible has set the standard there!)
on October 15, 2009
I recently purchased this Study Bible, after waiting for it with great anticipation... and it was well worth the wait. The contents are phenomenal, the study helps robust and accessible, the translation strong, the commentary solidly from a confessional Lutheran perspective (with high regard for the text, innerency, tradition, etc.,) and the front/back matter are very helpful. I am unaware of a study Bible of this calibre anywhere on the market in English, though the Orthodox Study Bible comes close.
However, I have a couple critiques. The pages are exceptionally thin-- so much so, that it is distracting to sit and read because of the bleed-through from the print on the other side. The text is very small in the standard edition, and I can only suggest that the larger print may be easier on the eyes. It is odd shaped, and will not fit in most Bible covers (nearly square, rather than rectangular.) They included the one year and three year lectionaries, but omitted the Psalm readings. They printed prayers on the paper glued to the cover... which I'm sure will degrade quickly with use, and which I might rather have kept to myself for comments or notes I took on the text.
Lastly, it does not contain the Apocrypha... though it does contain a brief series of vinettes from Luther as commentary to the books the editors chose not to include. I find this the most egregious ommission, since Luther himself did not remove these books from his translation of the Bible, and the editors' choice to add Luther's commentary regarding them only highlights the fact that they are not present.
Even with all these gripes, it is still a monumental work, and worthy of any parish pastor's desk. With some thoughtful tweaking, it could be the best study Bible of the modern era... until then, it will remain another good addition to the library.
on December 31, 2010
I am a member of the LCMS church and love this bible. The ESV translation is the perfect translation for the bible today - very simple, easy to understand and based on Greek/Hebrew texts. It is easy to navigate (unlike the other reviewer states). You simply have to learn how to navigate within the menu system on your Kindle - just go to table of contents and choose which section you need. This version (like the physical version) includes many extras - Luther's explanations before each chapter, Luther's small catechism, maps, etc. I also find it very helpful to highlight sections and have the ability to get to them within a few clicks - very convenient. The only major disappointment I have in the book and why I can't give it 5 stars is the maps, illustrations and pictures. They are way too small and cannot be ready very well. Whoever put these into this bible didn't take proofread it prior - it's almost like a copy and paste and not specifically customized for the Kindle/ebook experience. This has to change.
Overall an excellent buy for the price and something I will use for years to come.
on February 27, 2011
I give this Bible 5* on its strong Lutheran commentary. There are many Bibles with commentaries that are far easier to use and navigate but you will not get the support of Solid Lutheran theology as you get with this study Bible. I use it in all my Bible studies and the insights into each verse and summations of the pericopes are priceless. If you are interested in understanding the Lutheran view of the Bible then this is a highly recommended text.
The navigation is cumbersome. You do not have only the search by location option but you have to go to table of contents and then seek out the chapters from there. The table of contents could have been designed in a more user friendly format. I give the formatting only a 3* rating for this reason. I have purchased other books for my kindle that are far more difficult to navigate.
However, I don't purchase Bibles for their formatting and ease of navigation. I purchase Bibles with commentaries to get an insight into that denominations interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. For this reason, The Lutheran Study Bible gets an overall 5* rating because it delivers the best Lutheran commentary for a study Bible.
on October 31, 2009
I have used many of the study Bibles available (Reformation, ESV, Ryrie, Scofield, Thompson Chain). This one fulfills all of my expectation and more. I won't go into all of the pros and cons because I have read some wonderful reviews of this significant work. What I appreciate most is that it offers help whether you're a person opening a Bible for the first time or someone finishing their PhD in Theology. I appreciate the explanation and defense of Confessional Lutheran positions, and the Law/Gospel prayers are very useful; we have been using all of these in our Bible studies and I use the TLSB extensively in my private worship. This Bible will truly have something for everyone who will honestly examine the Scriptures.
I have the large print edition and it is big. What I appreciate about it is that it has thicker pages. I did compare it to my wife's normal size and the pages are thinner in hers. The larger size is worth the extra bit of money as it is not that much bigger than the normal one and you get the extra work back in the ease of reading and thicker pages. Pastor McCain has assured us of a digital edition coming in the not too distant future.
The folks at Concordia really did their homework on this Bible. You won't be disappointed!
on October 12, 2009
I am a member of the ELCA, and I examined the "Lutheran Study Bible" recently published by Augsburg Fortress. I was disappointed to find that this "study Bible" did not have that many study notes and many of those that it did have seemed overly liberal.
So I was pleased to be able to purchase this volume, newly published by Concordia Publishing House. I have had it for a little over a week and am very impressed with it.
Most of all, I like the study notes in this Bible. They are plentiful and insightful. The notes in this Bible include regular study notes, Law and Gospel application notes (with 1 sentence prayers), and Church Fathers' quotes. In addition, some notes contain theological icons indicating that the passage pertains to key concepts of Trinity, Word and Sacrament, or Mission/Evangelism. Of course, throughout the notes are helpful thoughts from Luther and other reformers.
There are also helpful introductions to each book of the Bible and many interesting general articles concerning a variety of biblical topics.
The volume even includes Martin Luther's Small Catechism, a concordance, and a two-year Bible reading plan.
This Bible uses a relatively new translation called the "English Standard Version" or ESV. Like the NRSV (1989), the ESV (2001) is literal translation that has gotten good reviews. The NRSV (used in the Augsburg Fortress Lutheran Study Bible), in my opinion, goes too far in the use of inclusive language and elimination of male pronouns. The ESV, though it uses inclusive language where warranted, does not go overboard in this regard. Consequently, in this volume there are fewer awkward phrases caused by the overuse of plurals and elimination of "he", "him", and "his" in the text.
In this study Bible, the words of Jesus are in red, which many readers find helpful. The Bible is available in many different configurations, including large print, thumb cut-outs for each three books (for those who don't have the books of the Bible memorized in order), and hardcover and leather cover options.
Overall, I highly recommend this Bible to all, especially to those looking for a study Bible containing study notes and background material with a Lutheran perspective on scripture.
on October 16, 2009
A few months ago, I wrote a 4 star review of the Concordia Self Study Bible (CSSB) from Concordia Pubishing House, docking it a star for the paper quality, it's NIV base translation, and the "patchwork" nature of the content due to it being a re-edited modification of the NIV Study Bible. I wrote to possibly wait for a study bible based on the ESV translation coming out in late October 2009. Well, the time is now, and this is what I was talking about. Except for the paper quality issue, this book delivers what I was waiting for.
The main improvement over the CSSB: A consistent theme of "Let Modern Conservative Lutheranism fully join the historical biblical conversation". Study bibles, the "Swiss Army Knives" of theological books, provide basic information on many bible topics/questions. However, many bible's notes try to be "all things to all faiths". This study bible says "Here I Stand" by first discussing the main criticisms of the bible, but then taking a stand in a mainly conservative Lutheran way. It goes into no more comparitive depth of these defenses than the screw driver on a Swiss army knife is to a full set of screwdrivers, but that is not what a study bible is for.
You can debate the translation used (I like the ESV used here), the lack of colorization in most of the the diagrams and maps (I prefer the black and white supporting diagrams as a compliment to the excellent engravings of Julius Schnorr von Carlsfield-it gives the bible a classy "old world" feel), and maybe 20 years of parsing the notes will reveal theological issues (I am no theologian and have to take my time with that). The paper used is STILL very thin (technically preventing the full color diagrams and causing a very light "words of Christ in red" feature). However, compared to a rating of 85 out of 100 for the CSSB, I have to give this bible a score of 95-98 out of 100, docking for the paper quality issue.
Two final trivial notes: (1) A blog by Rev. Paul McCain (An Executive at CPH) gives the legal reason for this bible's name (besides the theology): Crossway Publishers, who own the ESV copyright, allowed CPH to use the translation for this book only if it was made clear that this was a LUTHERAN study bible (Don't confuse this with Crossway's own ESV Study Bible). CPH had already decided on the name anyway as part of the theme I described above, so that Crossway demand only sealed the decision in stone. (2) Rev. McCain also has noted that CPH is exploring the publication of the Apocrypha as a seperate volume to "compliment" this book. Modern Lutheranism hasn't really used those books (labeled by Luther himself as not biblical canon but "nice to read") in years, so a companion publication of them was decided as the "best" way to reintroduce them to the Lutheran world.