The Reformation started from a man studying the Bible: Martin Luther. It grew from an educational setting: Wittenberg University. As these facts show, biblical studies and Christian education had the greatest importance for early Lutherans. Everywhere the Reformation spread, Bible reading and Christian education followed. Lutheran congregations, schools, missions, colleges, and universities still place great importance on study of Holy Scripture.
But there is another, perhaps even more important, factor binding the Lutheran Church to the careful study of Scripture, something that distinguished the Lutheran Reformation from other movements--its beliefs about God's Word.
In contrast with what Luther learned about the Word in his youth, he came to believe that the Word was not lifeless and passive but was truly lively and life-giving. He saw that, through His Word, God worked to bless and guide His Church. Therefore, Luther viewed the Gospel of God's Word as a means of grace, as he described it in the Large Catechism:
You must always have God's Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your ears. But where the heart is idle and the Word does not sound, the devil breaks in and has done the damage before we are aware [Matthew 13:24-30]. On the other hand, the Word is so effective that whenever it is seriously contemplated, heard, and used, it is bound never to be without fruit [Isaiah 55:11; Mark 4:20]. It always awakens new understanding, pleasure, and devoutness and produces a pure heart and pure thoughts [Philippians 4:8]. For these words are not lazy or dead, but are creative, living words [Hebrews 4:12].
For Lutherans, studying the Bible is never merely an intellectual exercise. Study is meditation on God's Word (meditatio), an act of devotion. The form and content of earlier Lutheran study Bibles bears this out, including not simply commentary notes but also prayers based on each portion of Scripture or notes on the practical application of the text. By opening the Bible and turning its pages, we petition heaven for mercy, wisdom, and strength. This prayerful study at the heart of Lutheran doctrine and practice was also the chief motive for editors and writers of this study Bible.
What's "Lutheran" about This Study Bible?
When describing The Lutheran Study Bible project to the CPH Board of Directors, to CPH staff, and to potential contributors, we included six goals for the work. We sought to create a study Bible that does the following:
- Presents justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in
Christ alone, as the chief teaching of Scripture
(Lk 24:44-;47; Jn 5:39; SA II I 1-4)
- Properly distinguishes and applies Law and Gospel (reading the Bible as a book about justification; Jn 1:17; Gal 3:21-22;
Ap XIIA 53-54)
- Emphasizes God's work through the means of grace
(Mt 26:26-29; Jn 3:5; 20:22-23; Rm 10:17; SA III IV)
- Functions from a "Scripture alone" point of view and presents a "Scripture interprets Scripture" approach to using the Bible
(Ps 119; 1Tm 6:3; 2Tm 3:16-17; FC Ep Sum)
- Equips the laity for works of service, with a particular focus on evangelism in their various vocations/callings in life
(Ps 145:4--13; Eph 2; Ap XV 41-42)
- Presents a uniquely Lutheran study Bible that features genuinely Lutheran notes and comments throughout, references to the Lutheran Confessions where appropriate, focus on the Small Catechism for helps and explanations, citations from Luther throughout, and materials to aid daily devotion and prayer
In the Lutheran Church, a broad range of readers use study Bibles. Users vary in age from thirteen-year-old confirmation students, who may be reading the Bible for the first time, to mature pastors with a master's degree in theology. We have tried to provide a resource that could offer help to this broad readership. For example, readers who are new to the Bible will likely appreciate the overviews that appear on the first page of each introduction to a biblical book. Mature students of Scripture may appreciate the citations of Luther and other Church Fathers that appear in the introductions and notes. We pray that all readers may grow in faith and in confidence in applying Scripture by growing in the use of the various helps provided.
We should also add a brief comment about including quotations from Luther and other Church Fathers. The Concordia Self-Study Bible included some such material. We decided to offer more citations in TLSB to illustrate our continuity with faithful Christian teachers across the ages and to introduce people to the richness of their insights. We do not intend to suggest that the Church Fathers should become a source of doctrine or that their authority equals or rivals the Bible. We receive their faithful statements like the good counsel of faithful older pastors who serve among us today, imparting their wisdom and refreshing us by their encouragement and example. Martin Chemnitz, a major Lutheran theologian with extensive knowledge of the Church Fathers, commends their use with many helpful cautions in his "Treatise on the Reading of the Fathers or Doctors of the Church" (LTh 1:27-33).
Our first reflections on The Lutheran Study Bible project began in 2003. Development began in earnest in 2004 with the Grow in His Word Research Project in the Adult Bible Study area. We at CPH are very grateful to the Lord and to His faithful servants who contributed in so many ways to this work. We pray that it may lead you to meditate with joy on God's life-giving Word.
"Give me life according to Your word!" Psalm 119:25