The Lutheran Study Bible (TLSB)–A First Look

It’s finally here!  As hoped, my copy of The Lutheran Study Bible (TLSB) arrived yesterday from CPH, so I thought I’d take a few minutes and discuss my first impressions.  This is by no means a thorough or critical review of the contents of the notes, etc., just a few of my first thoughts on some of the features of this highly-anticipated release.TLSB

TLSB size–Those familiar with the Treasury of Daily Prayer will notice that TLSB has almost the exactly same dimensions as TDP.  This means that, proportionally, it is a bit more ‘squarish’ than most books, but I confess that I really enjoy its proportions aesthetically.  As wide as the pages are (nearly 7″), I much prefer the hardback binding to a very floppy leather…I can almost hear some of you gasp as that!

TLSB text–The TLSB uses the English Standard Version (ESV) bible, and though the copyright page lists a 2001 copyright from Crossway, a cursory check of the changes between the 2001 and 2007 versions (from Rick Mansfield’s blog) reveals that this is indeed the updated 2007 version of the text.  While not a huge deal, it frees Laban’s children from the oversight of his goats (ha, ha) and spares the rest of us some awkward renderings that were improved in the update.

TLSB fonts–I’m not exactly sure what font size is used, but the print is perfectly readable, even with the bit of bleed through that is common to just about every bible.  The font size of the main text is approximately the same of that used in the NLT Study Bible (to cite a recent example), but the TLSB print is more crisp, clear, and readable.  The font of the notes is quite a bit smaller but still clear and easy to read.  This is a red-letter edition bible, which I am not fond of for either theological or practical reasons, but the red lettering is also crisp and easy on the eyes.

TLSB book outlines–I’ll probably show a bit of my bent toward being an egghead here, but the outlines presented at the beginning of each book are superb.  Some bibles present half-hearted outlines that paint so broadly as to be less-than-helpful.  Until now, the gold standard in my mind were the outlines shown in the Reformation Study Bible, but I can say without hesitation that TLSB has the most thorough outlines I’ve ever seen in a study bible.  They go at least three levels deep (sometimes four) and are a tremendous help for getting feel of the overall structure and flow of the books.  Fantastic!

TLSB drawings–Anyone who has seen any of the preview/promo material has probably seen the examples of Schnorr’s engravings that precede every book in TLSB.  As classical representations of biblical events, I happen to like them, though I suppose some will think otherwise.  CPH was fortunate enough to secure permissions to use several of Hugh Claycombe’s line drawings of the Tabernacle, the temples, Jerusalem, Jesus’ route through Passion Week, etc.  If you’ve used the NIV Study Bible, you’ll recognize these drawings immediately.  I personally think they are some of the most helpful illustrations of their type to appear in recent study bibles.

TLSB maps–This is the single lackluster area I’ve noticed so far in TLSB.  The color maps appear in the front, interestingly, and are relatively few and devoid of much detail.  The consistency of the in-text maps varies widely from other similarly bland ones (e.g., Jesus’ ministry in the gospels on p. 1584) to some wonderfully detailed and helpful ones (e.g., Assyrian exile of Israel, p.609).  As a complete cartophile, I treasure great maps but find nothing to get too excited about here.

TLSB articles and charts–The in-text articles and charts are definitely a strong-point of this bible!  The articles cover a wide range of topics, from the primarily doctrinal to the primarily application-focused.  Those I have read are well-done, concise, and very helpful in addressing the concerns raised (including alternate viewpoints) by each topic.  Charts are similarly well-done, thorough, and helpful.  More to follow on these in future reviews.

TLSB book introductions–While I haven’t had the opportunity to read many of the introductions, I have been pleased with those I have looked over.  The introductions do not hesitate to deal with matters of historical higher criticism; discuss form, genre, and literary devices where helpful; include large excerpts from Luther’s introductions, and provide a wealth of other helpful introductory information.  One of my favorite features is the substantial definitions included in the “Key Terms and Phrases” sections before the Pentateuch, the Psalms, and the Pauline Epistles.  Given the sometimes challenging language of the ESV, I think this offers great insight into some ‘churchy’ theological terms that may be used differently in Scripture than in everyday language.

These ‘few’ thoughts have gotten pretty long, and I haven’t even mentioned the TLSB introductory materials–articles on how to read the bible (hermeneutics) and understanding Law and Gospel; lectionaries; a two-year reading plan; and the text of Luther’s Small Catechism.  All this, and a more in-depth review of the content of the study notes will have to wait for another day!

After just a few short hours, I can say without reservation that, in TLSB, CPH has provided an amazing resource that will serve to edify, strengthen, and nurture the church of God for many years to come.  My heartfelt thanks goes out to all who contributed!

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6 thoughts on “The Lutheran Study Bible (TLSB)–A First Look

  1. The primary text font is one called Weidemann. It was originally designed to be a Bible font. (Sorry, I’m a font geek and just know this stuff.)
    -Pr. Alex Klages

    • Joel, sorry to take a whole day to respond! At the end of the OT, there is a three-page article on inspiration, authority, and canon of Scripture, which includes about a page on OT apocrypha and OT/NT pseudepigrapha. Immediately after this section are another three pages with excerpts from Luther’s Prefaces to the Apocrypha. I read rumors that CPH is mulling over the possibility of releasing an Apocrypha ‘supplement’ to TLSB but chose to not include it as part of this release to avoid confusion since the Apocrypha has fallen into obscurity in most congregations.

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