The Lutheran Study Bible More Aptly Named Self-Study Bible

            You’ll recall that the 1986 Bible published by Concordia Publishing House was titled Concordia Self-Study Bible. The knock on it was that it was a Lutheranized version of Zondervan’s NIV Study Bible. However, even given the inherent Calvinistic, Reformed, Millennialism bias of the 1984 NIV Bible translation as well as the weakness of some of the notes they didn’t remove, it still was a study Bible that aided in studying the Bible by one’s self. This is as opposed to the 2009 The Lutheran Study Bible which is study of the self.

I’m not talking about its weakness towards post-modernism which in itself puts self at the center. I refer to this in an August 19, 2013 blog. Neither do I refer to its weak Confessional Lutheranism. I reference this in a November 16, 2009 blog. No, I’m talking about the embrace of narrative, story-telling to enhance Bible study.

The 1990s is where narrative preaching and teaching flowered. At Advanced Officer Chaplain School, I heard a United Church of Christ pastor give a narrative sermon. It was entertaining, engaging, enthralling even, but, in the end, I had no idea what the point of the message was. It was great narration but no education and little real information.

Also in the 90s was the famous O.J. Simpson trial. Recently, upon the recommendation of one millennial and one Gen-Xer, my wife and I watched a supposedly non-fiction retelling of the mid-90’s saga. Neither the misses nor I were impressed. Perhaps because we were adults at the time and were saturated with it then. In any event, both sides of the case realized that it’s the side with the better narrative that wins. The defense doesn’t in try to address the facts presented by the prosecution. Instead it spins a narrative of intuitional and individual racism. The facts don’t matter, the story does.

Enter The Lutheran Study Bible which advances the study of self by appealing to the fact that good stories keep you engaged. Each book of the Bible begins with a section titled “Reading” followed by the book(s) involved. They are like a Targum on the entire book(s), but they’re vaguer. They’re stories appealing to all five senses.

They go well with many of the notes which aren’t so much a recitation of the facts, as was the case with the 1986 Self-Study Bible, but a stirring of emotions. The story drives the facts. This goes well with Dr. Voelz’s 1999 inoculation of the Missouri Synod with post-modern communication theories. The words, i.e. the facts don’t drive the message; the perception of facts by the writer and the reader do. This in turn goes well with the post-modern textual criticism techniques where the facts of the text aren’t determinative but whether you can tell the story of Christ with them is.

Think about the times your child asked you to make up a story rather than read one. Inevitably, no matter what story you told, it was about you. It had to be for it came from you. The Lutheran Study Bible makes the Bible about you. At first blush, this sounds Lutheran. Nope. Lutheran would be “for you.”

About Rev. Paul R. Harris

Ordained pastor of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
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