19 September 2009

Lutheran Study Bible Reflections

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.


christl242 said...

I was happily surprised at Divine Service last Sunday to hear my Pastor promoting The Lutheran Study Bible AND having several copies on hand for purchase!

He also said another order will go in on October 2 for those interested in purchasing a copy.

I do believe I now have a full complement of "The Essential Lutheran Library", a very good thing indeed!


William Weedon said...

Sweet, Christine! So good to hear.

Sue said...

Thanks for the comments. I'm still (impatiently!) waiting for my hardback, thumbprint edition to arrive. Everything I read about it is exciting, BUT I STILL DON'T HAVE ONE!! *Sigh*

Maria said...

I'm waiting for my copy with much expectation. Couldn't buy it here in Sweden so I ordered from CPH. Unfortunately the shipping cost was more than the book! But judging what I've read about it, it seems to be it's weight worth in gold :-)

Paul McCain said...

Pr. W: Thanks for your remarks and comments. There are gems to be found throughout TLSB. I keep finding them myself, much to my delight.

Sue: We should have all the editions of TLSB (there are 13!) in by the end of the month. The thumb indexed versions are the last to come in, but we fully expect that we will be shipping them all out by end of September.

One more thought, Will. It truly baffles me why any Lutheran pastor would possible deprive his people the opportunity to hear about The Lutheran Study Bible.

Paul McCain said...

Minor correction: What Pastor McCain told Pastor Weedon is that TLSB is designed for laypeople and has features specifically intended for people with next to zero Biblical literacy, hence the bit of literary flourish in the introductions to the various books.

Here is what the General Editor, Rev. Ed Engelbrecht, posted elsewhere on the intros:

Thanks Rik and Will for your feedback on the introductions in The Lutheran Study Bible. Decisions about what to include in the introductions were based on research with Study Bible users. I’m not able to share specifics about CPH R & D but I think I can give you some perspective by telling you a few stories.

First Story
In 2005 when we published “Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions,” I was berated by a seminary colleague for compromising the purity of the Confessions and “dumbing down” the Confessions. After the book sold about 50,000 copies, I saw the same colleague again, who told me, “Well, of course, a popular edition of the Book of Concord makes sense. Perfectly obvious.”

Second Story
This week a friend stopped me to say how excited she was to get into the new Study Bible. She told me that she was gathering with some other folks to use it in morning devotions. They would be reading---get this---the introductions to the biblical books as devotions.

I invite you to ponder these two stories. They will help you understand. : )

Pastor Weedon says TLSB is my pet. This is most certainly true.

Elephantschild said...

Thanks for the review. It's on our Christmas list - finances preclude immediate purchase, unfortunately.

Pr. Lehmann said...

Remember how excited I was when I got my 1611 KJV? It had readings and psalms for morning and evening, etc. It was clearly a book of the church, a book of prayer.

Well, I got TLSB about an hour ago. My excitement about the 1611 KJV is a drop in the ocean by comparison.

Jeremy Loesch said...

Hey Will, I'm a pastor 'out East' and my folks have purchased 27 copies of TLSB. We are eagerly waiting the FedEx guy to bring these goodies to us. Our current Bible studies are on Islam, Psalms, and Revelation, so I think this Bible will be used heavily by the congregation.

One thing that I am planning on doing when the Bibles arrive is to have a prayer of dedication for the Bibles and their owners during the service and following the service to spend 20-30 minutes highlighting some of the great features in the Bible.

Everyday I use it I find more joy and delight!


Past Elder said...

Well I just ordered mine, along with To Live With Christ. Am expecting it to join the Hertz Chumash and the original Jerusalem Bible as my "study" Bibles.

Hertz is just utterly fabulous -- blew the whole historical-critical thing clean away before the current crop was even born!

BTW, why an Orthodox Jewish staple and an RC liberal staple for a confessional Lutheran who about pukes at the faintest hint of Vatican II?

Because the former in showing me the Law on its own terms showed me the Gospel as the fulfillment of it more than anything of Christian origin I ever read from anybody, and the latter in trying to present traditional and modernist belief on an equal footing provides a nice summary of the modernist stuff I was taught in college plus epitomises the total folly of trying to place it and traditional faith side by side whether in Bibles or, as is sadly almost universal now, in liturgical books.

So I'm looking forward to TLSB joining the Hertz Chumash and JB (the original, not the double dag dog dipped revisionist-revisionist later one!) within arm's reach.

J.G.F. said...

I'm enjoying my copy immensely. I used it in Bible Class this past Sunday, both in my preparation and in my delivery. It provided a good "Show-and-Tell" lesson, too. We have our poster in the narthex and folk are purchasing them.

I've found all of the things mentioned to be very helpful, and I'm making new discoveries every day.

The only difficulty I have had is a practical one-- I'm finding it very hard to keep the extremely thin pages from folding in on themselves. Already several pages in the front and back have creases in them.

It has happened a couple of times, even when being very careful. Do the leather-bound editions have the same paper? With the amount of use this Bible is going to see, I'm going to need something more durable.


Paul McCain said...

John, unfortunately it is a Catch 22. If you don't want a huge Bible like to be ginormously thick and even more impossibly heavy, the only choice is the very thin Bible paper, but....then you get the crinkling/folding problem. It has the same thickness paper as the Concordia Self Study Bible.

The larger print edition has slightly thicker paper though, but...well, it's a very big book.

J.G.F. said...

Thanks, Paul. I kind of figured that. I'll just try to be a bit more careful with it.

What a wonderful contribution to the Church! I can't believe the "stuff" that has been coming out of CPH recently. Simply awesome!

I'm sure we'll have a big order for you in mid-October, LOL!

Rev. Allen Yount said...

Was thrilled to have my copy arrive today. I am currently on temporary disability leave from my congregation, and prayer and meditation on God's holy Word with the aid of this fantastic resource is certain to bring me healing and renewed strength to (hopefully) return to the ministry.

William Weedon said...

Pr. Yount,

So sorry to hear about the temporary disability leave! I hope you have a speedy recovery.