Monday, December 13, 2010

LHP Review: Bible Editions for the Young at Heart

Mauss, Doug, General Editor. Illustrations by Sergio Cariello. The Action Bible: God's Redemptive Story. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010. 752 Pages. Hardcover. $24.99. (P)

ESV Seek and Find Bible. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010. 1880 Pages. Cloth. $27.99. (LHP)

Engelbrecht, Edward A., General Editor. The Lutheran Study Bible (Compact Royal Blue and Black DuoTone Edition). St. Louis: Concordia, 2009/2010. 2496 Pages. Cloth. $54.99. (LHP)

Bibles are popular gifts, especially at Christmas. With that in mind, we offer our thoughts on three Bible editions for the young and young at heart.

The Action Bible presents 215 fast-paced narratives in chronological order, making it easier to follow the Bible's historical flow and reinforcing the build-up to its thrilling climax.

The stories in The Action Bible communicate clearly and forcefully to contemporary readers. This compelling blend of clear writing plus dramatic images offers an appeal that crosses all age boundaries.
Internationally recognized artist Sergio Cariello has created attention-holding illustrations marked by rich coloring, dramatic shading and lighting, bold and energetic designs, and emotionally charged figures.
Let this epic rendition draw you into all the excitement of the world's most awesome story.
Modern librarians would call a volume like this a "graphic novel." What do I call it? A comic book Bible. I collected comics for about ten years when I was younger, so this is not a derogatory term. :)

Is this a Study edition? No. 
Does it have every story and every verse? No. Neither do many "First" Bibles for children or popular and Biblically faithful Bible "histories."

A volume like this has a different purpose: to teach and/or reinforce the basic timeline, themes, storyline, and message of the Holy Scriptures. In that regard, The Action Bible is a qualified success. 
First, the successes.
  • This is an improved version of the 1978 The Picture Bible. Much of the text is identical. Some is more specific than before. Some of the transitions between Bible accounts/stories has been changed.
  • The art is much improved for a modern audience. The previous edition looked like second-class comics of the 60s and 70s and was getting dated by the 80s and 90s. Part of the update is a switch from a white background/edging to a black story canvas. This looks like the best comics of the 90s and today! 
  • I would be willing to share this with a young person in my care (personal or pastoral) with the following in mind:
Now, my concerns:
  • The added text (compared to TPB) at the very end (744) encourages "decision theology." In addition to Jesus depicted knocking at the door, a Biblical image showing His action for us, the rectangle states: "Jesus stands at the door and knocks. Will you let Him in?" What of John 15:16? What of Joshua 24 in context? How is this teaching consistent with Romans 2 or Psalm 51:5? Our human will is not strong enough to "decide." Does Scripture not say that we are dead in sin and enemies of God? This box could be blacked out by a parent.
  • I liked the title, The Action Bible,  because I assumed the focus would be on God's action, especially in Christ. The introduction (7) ends with this line: "How will you answer God's call to action?" This puts the focus on us rather than the Lord. Pages 6 and 7 could be glued together.
  • The account of Job omits Job's fourth friend (42). A parent could add his advice from a full Bible.
  • The conclusion of St. Peter's Pentecost sermon should refer to repentance, baptism, and the promised benefits of Holy Baptism (656).
  • Similarly, teaching on the Lord's Supper (623) is minimal and could be much improved.
Special Christmas account offprint booklets are available in bulk to encourage Christian parents to buy the full edition of The Action Bible. In the end, the volume's subtitle is "God's Redemptive Story." That's good. I also found the art to be engaging, colorful and action-oriented, leaning toward realism more than being "cartoony."
Our next book is a full-text ESV translation Bible supplemented with some of the best realistic portrait art I have ever seen!

Published in partnership with Concordia Publishing House, this new full-color children’s Bible combines the complete ESV Bible text with more than 120 new, vibrant illustrations of major Bible stories.  Accompanying each full-page illustration is the Bible story itself, clearly and accurately retold for young readers—and for the parents, grandparents, and teachers who read to them.  Each story includes a Key Bible Verse to memorize, Additional Readings for discovering more of the story throughout the Bible, and simple Reflection Questions to help children begin to understand and apply God’s Word.  Colorful icons make it easy for young readers to see where each story is found in the Bible text and to locate the illustration that goes with it.

In addition, dozens of Bible characters are profiled throughout the pages, and color call-out sections provide illustrated facts about important Bible objects, structures, and places. Each Bible book begins with a child-friendly introduction, highlighting the important characters and themes found in it.

The ESV Seek and Find Bible is the ideal first “real” Bible for pre-readers and young readers, ages 5 to 9, to grow up with. It is also a wonderful resource for parents to use in family Bible reading and for teachers who teach the Bible to young children.
  • More than 120 full-page, full-color illustrations
  • Simple Bible story retellings for each illustration
  • Age-appropriate introductions to each Bible book
  • Key Verses to memorize
  • Illustrated profiles of more than 60 major Bible characters
  • Illustrated facts about Bible objects, structures, and places
  • Reflections Questions for children, parents and teachers (Crossway website)
I would love seeing this Bible edition in Christian bookstores beyond the usual reach or current audience of CPH products. This is CPH Sunday School art, art that encourages the youngest among us to think of the Bible as actual history, not characters in the same genre as Spongebob Squarepants and Bugs Bunny.

This is a really good Bible for Children aged 5-9 and their families, a great source of discussion questions and art for family Bible time.
Yes, the above Bible was published with help from Concordia Publishing House (Copyright page ii). Concordia's near-identical edition will make some important changes to the Dictionary and in the telling of The Lord's Supper story (1520). In addition, "The CPH edition also has the additions  such as the Salvation Outline, the Six Chief Parts of Christian Doctrine, and the timelines."
Consider the CPH website description:
Children will love this beautiful, full text ESV translation of the Bible that has been paired up with over 120 vibrant illustrations taken from our line of Growing in Christ paintings. This is the ideal first "real" Bible for children as they read along with parents and teachers for home and classroom use. Perfect for children ages 5 to 8 as a way to increase understanding and personal application of the Bible.
Features include:
  • Book of the Bible Introductions
  • Reflection Questions
  • Illustrated Character Profiles
  • Key Bible Verses
  • Central Themes Throughout the Bible
  • Additional Scripture Readings
  • Timelines
  • Dictionary
  • Salvation Outline
  • Six Chief Parts of Christian Doctrine
The art in both "cousin" Bible editions is phenomenal! I recommend them both, the first with the concerns addressed in the Concordia edition. Christian families of every denominational tradition will be blessed abundantly by the beautiful art and accurate and literal ESV translation presented in the ESV Seek and Find Bible. Crossway is a trustworthy and reliable publisher and partner.

For Lutheran families and other Christian families with access to CPH products, I highly recommend the forthcoming Concordia edition, My Very First Holy Bible with Luther's Small Catechism and other resources included under the same cover.

Both publishers (and their readers) benefit from these editions!

Our third Bible edition is from Concordia Publishing House.

Engage in devotional, Christ-centered Bible reading and study with the distinctive, comprehensive notes and practical application of The Lutheran Study Bible.
The compact size makes it very convenient to carry around with you wherever you go. The soft, flexible, and textured synthetic cover material is complimented with a striking debossed cross design.
This new Bible is the first in English to be developed from the ground-up with notes that are distinctively Lutheran, prepared by Lutheran theologians and pastors from over twenty Lutheran church bodies. Current Lutheran scholarship, insights from the Church Fathers, and rich devotional commentary provides meaningful perspective for both young and mature Christians.

Features all of the same great content found in the regular editions but in a more compact size.
The Lutheran Study Bible features:
• 26,500-plus uniquely Lutheran study notes.
• Over 2,000 application notes and prayers for every part of the Bible.
• 80,000 center column cross-references.
• Over 900 cross-references to 120 full or half-page maps, charts, and diagrams.
• 220-plus articles and introductions to biblical books and topics.
• Insights from early church, medieval and Reformation era church fathers.
• Uses the English Standard Version translation, one of the most precise English translations available.
• Durable Smyth-sewn binding.

6-point type.
Dimensions are 5.25" x 7.25"
Weight: 2.75 lbs
For more information and to see samples visit
Also available as an eBook (ePub)
Wow. This Bible edition is better than advertised!

The pictures posted online of this edition do not do it justice. It is even better in real life than the YouTube video posted by Concordia's publisher himself! 
(See the following:

The black and blue version has a masculine feel to it. It fits well in one hand and is of a nice heft and weight. This is a good size for travel and home and shut-in visits for a pastor who wants the faithfulness of the ESV translation and the best notes in print. 

There is simply no comparison (other than the similar name) between the ELCA/Augsburg Fortress NRSV Lutheran Study Bible of 2008 and the LCMS/Concordia ESV The Lutheran Study Bible which debuted in 2009. TLSB has no powder blue theology!

Yes, the type is small. CPH isn't trying to reach senior citizens with a Bible printed in a 6-point font. They are trying to reach high school and college seniors with an attractive, durable, and faithful Bible. I took a brand-new Concordia Self-Study Bible with me to the University. As a pastor ten years out of seminary, it remains a cherished and trusted possession. In my LOGOS 4 Bible software, CSSB notes join those of The Lutheran Study Bible and its ESV translation. This size and binding for TLSB will be a life-long friend to many young Christians in the LCMS and beyond. My eyes are closing in on 40 and they like the size just fine!

One will note on the website that there is a brown and pink version intended for ladies, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Lutheran Deaconess Association prefers the blue one!

And look for the even more portable Kindle and other digital editions of TLSB to help sanctify those new e-reader devices you may receive this Christmas. All these are in addition to the standard-size TLSB and "larger print" TLSB, both available in a variety of bindings. 

Would it be possible to have this kind of binding (with a slightly heavier cardboard underneath) on the standard and "larger print" sizes of TLSB?

The more I read The Lutheran Study Bible, the more I am simply amazed at the wealth of faithful Lutheran scholarship concentrated in one substantial book. TLSB will serve generations of Lutheran Christian laypeople and pastors to the glory of God and the edification and salvation of man. It will be remembered as a landmark publication in the future histories of Lutheranism and Bible publishing.

Thanks to all three publishers for providing complimentary review copies to us. 

As the Word itself confesses, "The Word of the Lord endures forever." While we should not judge a book merely by its cover, engaging resources, convenient formats, faithful notes and edifying art can be helps to encourage all of us to daily feed on God's Word.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.