Monday, April 13, 2009

Book Review: Lutheran Study Bible

As you may or may not know, Augsburg Fortress has published a new Lutheran Study Bible (not to be confused with The Lutheran Study Bible, coming out in October from the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod). This publication is part of the ELCA's "Opening the Book of Faith" initiative. Living at a Lutheran seminary, it was quite easy to get my hands on a copy, and I thought I'd post my impressions here.

To begin, both my husband and I were rather nervous about this Bible when we first heard about it. Do we really need a Lutheran study Bible?—after all, no denomination has a corner on the Bible. Is it just going to spout Lutheran catch phrases like "law and gospel" (expect another post on that topic soon)? Aren't there plenty of good study Bibles out there already? I was pleasantly surprised, however.

This Bible uses the New Revised Standard Version translation which is already used in Lutheran churches throughout the country, so you don't have to worry about the translation (unless you already were worried about the NRSV, I suppose). It's a unique shade of blue—Carolina blue, my professor from North Carolina explains gleefully. The notes are written by seminary and college faculty (and some others) from around the country, including a few of our professors here at Gettysburg—Dr. Hoffman wrote the notes for Mark, Dr. Stevens for Hosea, Dr. Largen for Jonah, Dr. Carlson for Colossians. Dr. Strobert, also on the faculty here, was on the board of consultants. I found the margin notes insightful, not just a sort of Lutheran soap box. They are divided into four categories: World of the Bible (historical details), Bible Concepts (theological ideas), Lutheran Perspective (here's the Lutheran-specific stuff), and Faith Reflection (application of the text). Each category has a different icon associated with it, making it very easy to tell at a glance what kind of note you're looking at. The notes are geared to an 8th grade reading level, which leads to an important point.

This is not an academic study Bible. I use the New Oxford Annotated Study Bible, which is aimed at a higher reading level and deals with some more complex notes (though any margin notes are bound to be limited in scope). I'm not at all saying this as a complaint about the Lutheran Study Bible; I'm just pointing out that "study Bible" can mean different things to different people. If you're looking for an every day Bible with basic notes to aid in understanding, this is a great Bible. If you're trying to do a text study to write a sermon or plan a class, probably you'll want another resource.

All in all, I am impressed with the Lutheran Study Bible. The notes are broad and easy to understand. There are some extra resources (for example, "Martin Luther on the Bible", "What Should We Expect When We Read the Bible?", "A Short Guide to Personal Bible Reading", and a "Bible Reading Plan") which offer some other insights. I would recommend it to anyone who was seeking a study Bible for everyday use.

No comments: