A New Bible for Christ’s Church: The Lutheran Study Bible

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[From the October 2009 Messiah’s Messenger]

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I love books. Step into my office and you might as well be stepping into a library. But there is no doubt that some books are more important than others. The chief of these is God’s Word, the Bible. And we are blessed to have a new study bible available for us through Concordia Publishing House. The Lutheran Study Bible is hot off the presses and promises to be an incredible resource for Christian’s who desire to learn more about God and HIs mercy toward us in Christ Jesus.

But do we need another bible? Isn’t the one that I’ve used since I was confirmed good enough? At one level, of course it is good enough. It isn’t a competition, and God’s Word is powerful and effective, regardless of the context or print edition or whatever other format it may be found in. For many of us, we grew up with the King James Version of the bible. I still have my KJV bible I received at my confirmation. In the LCMS, the Concordia Self-Study Bible (NIV translation) has been a popular addition for twenty-five years. Many of you probably have a copy of this study bible, and it includes lots of wonderful resources. Here at Messiah we have largely used the New King James Version (NKJV) for the past ten years or so. This is also a good and faithful translation that has much to commend it.

But this bible is different in several important ways. Here are a few of them that come to mind:

1. The translation it uses is the English Standard Version (ESV). This is the translation that our church body has unofficially adopted as the norm. It is used in Lutheran Service Book, our hymnal. It is the translation we use in worship on Sunday mornings. It is the translation we now use at Christ Lutheran Academy. Martin Luther wrote this about consistency of texts in the Catechism, and it certainly holds true for God’s Word as well:

In the first place, let the preacher above all be careful to avoid many versions or various texts and forms of the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Sacraments, and such. He should choose one form to which he holds and teaches all the time, year after year. For young and simple people must be taught by uniform, settled texts and forms. Otherwise they become confused easily when the teacher today teaches them one way, and in a year some other way, as if he wished to make improvements. For then all effort and labor ‹that has been spent in teaching› is lost.

My hope and plan is that the ESV will be the last translation that I regularly use in my ministry. I expect it to be the norm in the LCMS for a generation or more.

2. The introductions and study notes are thoroughly Lutheran. Concordia Publishing House spent years preparing the introductions, notes, and review process for TLSB. The editors come from nearly every conservative Lutheran church body in the world, including the Wisconsin Synod, the Lutheran Church – Canada, Europe, Africa, and more. The majority of the editors are LCMS, and it went through a thorough doctrinal review process before coming to us. These study notes and introductions incorporate the Small Catechism, writings of Luther and other theologians, and a wealth of information historical and theology for the student of the Scriptures.

3. It includes many of the resources we often use in prayer and worship and catechesis. These include especially the Small Catechism, but also many prayers, an emphasis on Law & Gospel, and generally holding up the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins above all else.

4. It is available in lots of different formats. From the $35 standard hardback edition, larger print editions, various kinds of leather and bonded leather editions, there are more than enough options to go around.

5. It has artwork! These include scenes drawn by Julius Schnoff von Carlsfeld, and were originally available in the 1860 Luther bible published in Leipzig.

6. It includes the lectionaries (reading cycles) in use in our churches. This is very helpful for preparation to go to church. You can always lookup and find what the readings for the upcoming Sunday are and work through them in preparation.

7. Over a hundred charts and over thirty maps. It is tremendously helpful to to be able to put flesh and blood on the stories of the bible. Maps helpful to realize that these are actual events that took place here on earth. They give context to the world of the bible. In the same way, there are many aspects of God’s Word that are hard for us to grasp and understand without some teaching. While a study bible is not a replacement for the Ministry of the Word in the Christian congregation, it can serve as a helpful basis for the student of God’s Word.

These are just a few of the great things about The Lutheran Study Bible. I’m sure that as I use it for study and prayer over the weeks and months and years to come, that many more will become known. I look forward to learning more of God’s Word with you, as we study what He has given us in His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

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