The Apocrypha: Lutheran Edition is Getting Great Reviews
Very positive remarks for The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition with Notes. Here are are just a sampling of the comments that have been posted:
(1) CPH has given the church a tremendous resource in “The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition with Notes.” The text itself has, of course, been previously available. The ESV Apocrypha has been available for three years, but only, as far as I am aware, in an Oxford Bible, an edition with very thin pages and lots of bleed through and printed in an odd font that both make it hard to read, and bound with the Old and New Testaments, but with the Apocrypha appended at the end of the NT instead of between the testaments. But the best part of this volume is found in the many articles and other resources before and after, as well as, of course, in the notes at the foot of the pages of most of the Apocyrphal books. One of the neat articles is one about WHY the Apocrypha is largely not found in most English bibles today. I have to say that this is by far the best one-volume resource on the Apocrypha. Absolutely. If you are looking for further resources on the Apocrypha, there are a few available. The Anchor Bible Commentary Series has a number of volumes on the Apocryphal books. The Anchor Bible Commentators generally take a very liberal approach to the Scriptures, a point of view that usually turns me off. However, I don’t know if it is my own perspective on the Apocrypha or the fact that many people feel like they just HAVE to downplay the canonical scriptures and are more fair in dealing with other texts. Either way, from what I have read in the Anchor Bible, the generally liberal bias is not such a problem with these volumes. (They are also a little older, and so are available used at very reasonable prices on amazon.com) Another resource is The Ancient Christian Commmentary on Scripture. This had been planned to be a two volume set on the Apocrypha. However, due to a number of issues, it was reduced to one. The ACCS of course goes through the scriptures and, verse by verse, prints Church Fathers’ comments on the passages. The volume on the Apocrypha is edited by Sever Voicu and is big (547 pp), but does not cover all the Apocryphal books. It does, however, cover what is best or of most interest in the Apocrypha: Tobit, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, Prayer of Azariah and the Three Young Men, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon.
(2) The Lutheran Church has long valued the books of the Old Testament that were written in Greek, in addition to the ones originally in Hebrew. Although many have not held them on the same level of authority as the rest of Scripture, they were always seen as good and useful for the Church to know. In decades past, Lutheran pastors preached texts from these books. Others wrote hymns or liturgical versicles from them. They were included in virtually every Bible published by Lutherans, that is, until we started speaking English and purchasing KJV Bibles (which by the 20th century also no longer printed them.) The bottom line is, no matter how much authority one believes these books have in regard to Divine inspiration, they have great historical value in understanding the time between the Old and New Testaments. They also provide some context to the preaching of Jesus and His apostles. CPH has produced a marvelous volume with great study notes to understand these books. The English Standard Version provides a fine balance of word-for-word literal translation, yet is very readable to the 21st-century eye and ear. Whether you are Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, or even Jewish, some great scholarship has gone into this work to provide a welcome resource to your library. This is great for the individual, and a “must-have” for any library with a serious historical or religious section!
(3) Martin Luther may indeed have declared the Apocryphal books not to be read as equal in authority to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, but he also went through the great trouble of translating them and supported the expense of printing them between the testaments in his German Bible. This study edition is a major step toward recovering that healthful heritage of “non-canonical, but not forgotten!” Dr. Engelbrecht, his staff, and his editorial team are to be heartily commended for their assembling of such a variety and abundance of aids to reading the text of the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books. At the heart of the book is the complete ESV text of the expanded Apocrypha (that is, including 1 & 2 Esdras, 3 & 4 Maccabees, Prayer of Manasseh, and Psalm 151 on top of the classical collection of Apocrypha found in the Roman Catholic Old Testament). There are generous explanatory notes for each of the classical Apocryphal texts, as well as introductions orienting the reader to the historical setting of its composition, its contents, and — in a brilliant move for orienting largely Protestant readers to these texts — its “challenges” and “blessings” for readers. In keeping with the Lutheran emphasis of the publication, there are also sections quoting Martin Luther and Johann Gerhard on the status and value of the particular book. Regrettably, there are no annotations for the “extra” apocrypha; also regrettably, the introductions to those books only list “challenges for readers,” dispensing with the section “blessings for readers.” Perhaps the reader would simply take my word for it that such blessings await the one who, for example, reads of the way commitment to Torah empowers mastery of the passions in 4 Maccabees and comes thereby to understand that Paul meant for the Holy Spirit to do no less in the lives of Christ-followers. This material is prefaced with a series of excerpts from two classic works on the Apocrypha by Edwin Cone Bissell and Raymond Surburg on the history of the Apocrypha in the printed Bible, the historical setting of the Apocryphal books, and the theological teachings of the Apocrypha — a full 70 pages. This material has been edited and updated by Dr. Englebrecht. The rear of the volume is also full of helps for the reader or student, from a fullsome survey of other important bodies of Second Temple Jewish literature (e.g., the Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the works of Philo and Josephus) to ample glossaries of people and groups, of key terms in the Apocrypha, and of the names for God in this literature. The whole closes with a quasi-concordance of major themes in the Apocrypha. All in all, this is a top-notch study edition of the Apocrypha that I would happily recommend to all Christian explorers (the book is indeed written from a faith perspective; Jewish explorers might be better served by the New Oxford Annotated Apocrypha, 4th edition — my other “top pick” for a study edition).
(4) Having been raised in Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregations my whole life, I hadn’t even heard of the Apocrypha until my late teens, and even then they were just talked about as the books that the Catholics had in their Bible that we didn’t. No one ever really knew anything about them, just that we didn’t have them in our Bible so they weren’t that important. Now, as a professional church worker, I’ve had time and occasion to learn more about the Apocrypha and what they’re all about. While not at the same level as God’s Word, they are valuable as historical books and to better understand the history and culture of the Jewish people living in the 400 or so years before Christ. When I heard that Concordia Publishing House (CPH) was coming out with a Lutheran edition of the Apocrypha, I was excited to get a copy and ordered one the day it was released. I haven’t had a chance to read very much of the book yet, but I’m already thrilled and here’s why: First, it reads like a study Bible. There are notes and explanations that fill the pages. They help explain the text and make it easier to understand. There are also numerous references to books of the Bible for the purposes of comparing the doctrines that are found within the pages of the Apocrypha. Second, it’s quite a large book. While the actual Apocrypha and study notes take up about 300 or so pages, there are an additional 200 plus pages of other materials that help the reader understand the relationship of the Apocrypha to the Bible, it’s relationship to other ancient writings, and a great deal of information on the history of the people of Judah at the time of the Apocrypha. The introductions to each book of the Apocrypha also are well written and help capture the essence of the book and the themes it contains. There’s also a full glossary, index of topics and plenty of charts, maps and illustrations throughout the book. Finally, it’s also a handsome volume. It’s a sturdy hardcover edition with very firm binding sharp gold embossing on the cover that make it a welcome edition to any bookshelf or table. I’m very pleased with it and I’m looking forward to many hours spent reading this fantastic resource written with a Lutheran theology and understanding in mind.