First, a sadness. My brother-in-law is visiting - he's attends an LCMS Church out east. I was very saddened to hear that he knew nothing of The Lutheran Study Bible. His pastor hadn't shared about it with the congregation apparently. That's a crying shame. Folks, let's get the word out on this! Don't assume that your relatives and friends in other congregations have heard about it yet.
Second, a goofiness. The only feature of TLSB I've found, well, odd, is the way that the introduction to every biblical book begins. I have no idea what these introductions were supposed to accomplish, but so far I've found the really good stuff to start with Luther's introductions and then the comments following. Pr. McCain assures me it is just me. Might well be. They just seem strange.
Third, unbelievably wonderful features:
* the placing of the date when the events described approximately occurred at the top of each column. Folks have trouble keeping what happened when in order because the Scriptures are anything but chronological in the way they are assembled; this goes a long, long way toward helping.
* The Law/Gospel application notes. These little notes run throughout each chapter of Scripture and invite to some deep reflection on the Word just read and invariably conclude with a prayer. Scripture as a prayer book! YES!!!
* Citations from the church fathers (early and reformation) and the Lutheran Symbols. Since the Holy Spirit "calls, gathers, and enlightens the whole Christian Church on earth" we'd be foolish not to consider the wisdom of our forefathers as they meditated upon the Sacred Scriptures. TLSB notes that these citations are offered not to suggest that the Fathers or the Symbols are on a par with the Sacred Scriptures, but to listen to them as we might listen to a wise old pastor who's had years of living experience with the Word. (p. xii)
* Schnorr's engravings. I am partial to icons, I confess, but I must say that these engravings are quite beautiful. Classic Western artistic convention and they grace many pages.
* Articles reflecting on difficult areas in the intersection between the Scriptures and life in this crazy world we're currently living in. Wrath of God? Covered. Women in the Church? Covered. Homosexuality? Covered. What happens at death? Covered. Claims of faith healers that put an impossible burden on faith? Covered. These exceedingly well done articles pop up near the key Scripture passages that illumine these questions for us, and they let the light that is God's Word shine upon these question and guide our steps.
* The Christological focus. It's never lost! On every page, TLSB lets the Word of God do what our Lord says that it does: "testify of Me." Help in hearing that testimony as Scripture interprets Scripture (or, as I like to think of it, Scripture's enharmonics calling to each other) is invaluable.
* Geared toward confessing. The Word of God is meant to be spoken! Within the Christian Church we are to speak it to each other, and we are all called to speak it to the world. TLSB consistently reminds of this high calling and privilege to invite others to share with us the joy we have in the forgiveness of sins and adoption into God's family.
* An extensive set of cross-references. Nothing so illumines the Word of God as the Word of God. By following the cross-references similar words or themes come to clarity. So many of the cross-reference systems in English Bibles were prepared by Christians of the Reformed community and tend to miss Sacramental allusions; TLSB uses not only the best of the typical English cross-references, but includes ones from the traditional Luther Bible. Very rich indeed!
* Reference to LSB hymns and liturgy. I've been delighted and surprised to find a rather tight integration with Lutheran Service Book in the notes. The people's prayed and sung confession is further illumined by the Scripture passages that evoked these songs in the first place. An example. The notes on Psalm 51 observe: "David confesses his sin with Bathsheba in this intensely personal lament that has become significant in the Church's liturgy (vv. 10-12 in the Offertory, v 15 in the opening sentences of Matin and Vespers and as the Introit for Ash Wednesday)." (p. 896) Totally sweet!
* Word play explained. Lots of times there's a pun between similar sounding words in Hebrew or Greek that is simply lost in English translation. TLSB very helpfully notes these instances in the notes and will often produce a transliteration so that an English reader can hear the similarity in sound.
* Prayers for illumination. We've learned to look at the inside cover of the books for goodies tucked away by CPH. TLSB is no exception. There's an order for Bible reading, prayers for understanding and growing in the Word, lots more.
* Lectionaries. The two lectionary systems of LSB are at the front of the book. Easy to look up the readings for the coming Sunday and meditate upon them prior to attending Divine Service!
* Small Catechism. Having this handy within the bound Bible is a stroke of genius - CPH already did it some years back with an earlier edition of the ESV. In this Bible it is moved up to the front - fitting as for Lutherans the Small Catechism is a summary of the entire Scriptures.
That's about it for now, but I wanted to put these thoughts out for any who are interested. If you haven't bought it yet, I can't encourage you strongly enough to get it and feast richly upon the Word of God with the remarkable help it provides.