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The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. .

The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Edited by Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert. Translated by Charles Arand, Eric Gritsch, Robert Kolb, James Schaaf+, Jane Strohl, and Timothy J. Wengert. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000. xii and 774 pages. Cloth. $45.00. Also available on CD-ROM for $39.00.

The Book of Concord is a collection of creeds, confessions, and teachings that provide the normative doctrines of the Lutheran Church. The collection of 10 documents (The Three Ecumenical Creeds, The Augsburg Confession, Apology of the Augsburg Confession, The Smalcald Articles, Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, The Small Catechism, The Large Catechism, and Formula of Concord) was originally published on the 50th anniversary of the presentation of the Augsburg Confession on June 25, 1580. This is the fifth English translation, replacing the one edited by Theodore E. Tappert that was published in 1959. Prior to that were the Henkel edition of 1851, the Jacobs edition of 1882, and the Concordia Triglotta of 1921. This is an extensively revised translation, based on the Tappert edition and the 11th edition of the German Bekenntnisschriften der evangelish-lutherischen Kirche. The translation employs contemporary English usage and incorporates the most recent scholarship on the various texts. The edit ors solicited input in the preparation of the new edition from more than a hundred scholars. The Scripture quotations are based on the New Revised Standard Version. This edition includes the same paragraph divisions as the Tappert edition.

The central document in The Book of Concord is the Augsburg Confession. The confession was written at the request of EmperorCharles V in order to offer a public explanation of the Lutheran position. Charles V was seeking to consolidate his divided empire in the face of the threat of Turkish imperial forces. Luther had been declared an outlaw in 1521. Therefore Philip Melanchthon, Luther's closest collaborator, prepared the text of the Augsburg Confession, taking consideration of previously existing documents. The 28 articles of the Augsburg Confession, 21 taking doctrinal positions and 7 explaining various reform efforts, was read before the emperor at the Diet of Augsburg on June 25, 1530, in a German version. Melanchthon also submitted a Latin version to the emperor at that time. The new edition of The Book of Concord includes translations of both the German and Latin versions on facing pages, not in parallel columns on the same page as in the Tappert edition, an improvement in readability.

The text of the Augsburg Confession is presented in its original, unaltered version. This is an important emphasis in light of the textual variations that later appeared. As an example of the new translation, consider Article 4 of the Augsburg Confession, "Concerning Justification," about which Luther wrote in The Smalcald Articles, "On this article stands all that we teach and practice..."

Furthermore, it is taught that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God through our merit, work, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God out of grace for Christ's sake through faith when we believe that Christ has suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness in his sight, as St. Paul says in Romans 3[:21-26] and 4[:5]. (pp. 38, 40).

The editors refer to the Augsburg Confession as a "mission statement" for the Evangelical churches. That being the case, Article 4 is the core of the mission statement.

It would be a great gain for Lutheran congregations if this new edition of The Book of Concord were to inspire renewed study on the part of pastors and church members. Only occasionally does one hear an enlightening reference to the confessional writings in sermons by ordained pastors. Apart from the Small Catechism, few church members have even the most basic understanding of what the Lutheran Confessions are. One valuable feature of this edition is the inclusion of detailed annotations to the text, which serve as a learning aid for students. Informative introductions to the entire Book of Concord and to each of the individual writings provide background for interpreting the confessions in their respective historical contexts. Three indexes enhance the book for use in study. The Index of Biblical References demonstrates how thoroughly the reformers grounded their positions on the Scriptures. The Biographical Index is an innovative and extremely important feature of the new edition, providing succinct identif ications of the many historical persons referred to in The Book of Concord. This index is 17 pages long. The extensive Subject Index assists the reader in locating particular references by carefully subdividing the main topics. The CD-ROM version also allows the reader ease in undertaking topical searches. Two additional volumes, a collection of other relevant historical texts and an historical commentary, have been recently published by Fortress Press and will further promote renewed appreciation for the Lutheran confessional writings.

The publication of this volume is a monumental achievement. The editors and translators have rendered a service of inestimable value to the English-speaking Lutheran Church of the 21st century. It testifies to the ability of representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod to cooperate on a Venture that goes to the heart of our common faith. It would honor the ecumenical intent of the Augsburg Confession and the spirit of "concord" by which these Confessions are named were the publication of this volume to generate a study process--both by scholars and in the congregations of these two church bodies--that could lead to renewed affirmation of the common faith tradition that we share. The tragic sense of alienation and sometimes animosity between our, church bodies remains a serious ecumenical challenge. By returning to our shared Lutheran origins we might enter a process that could lead to the dismantling of this regrettable impasse. May the appearance of th is edition of The Book of Concord inspire us to new efforts to reclaim the faith we share!
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Author:Nessan, Craig L.
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 2002
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