As a child attending Lutheran school, I remember our annual parading outside the school building on October 31, all children, pastors, and staff lining up on the west side of the building (facing the Roman Catholic church four blocks away) and singing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” very loudly. It was an example of how we felt about things “Catholic” in those days. I guess we were hoping that our voices would carry those four blocks to their church and school in some meaningful way.

This aversion to things “Catholic” included the Bible they used. It included “extra books” that didn’t belong there, and we children knew better than ever to touch one of those Bibles, much less open it and read from it, lest our attention wander over to “those books.” At least such was my take from those childhood days.

I mention this to demonstrate how things have changed. Over the years, our attitude has softened considerably toward the Roman church. Not always, of course, as when key doctrinal differences are considered. But with a number of other important issues (e.g., abortion, homosexuality), we often recognize a closer affinity with the Roman Catholic Church than with those who share our name “Lutheran.”

And now, courtesy of Concordia Publishing House with its recent release of The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition With Notes, another old fence has come down. I was pleased to be asked to provide a review of this Lutheran publication of “those books” and did so from the perspective of one who has watched 60 years pass since singing as loud as I could every October 31 outside our Lutheran school.

This publication by CPH is far more than yet another sign of the softening of inter-church attitudes. This bold bringing of these intertestamental writings out of the shadows is a major gift to the Lutheran and Protestant world. It not only signals that these writings, rightly understood, are okay to read. It makes available to both clergy and laity alike an important aid for the study of the Bible itself. It provides a first-hand look into the historical context that God Himself regarded as “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4).

In his introduction to the publication, LCMS 3rd Vice-President Paul Maier writes, “Not only does [The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition With Notes] offer an unfailingly accurate translation of the various texts involved, via the English Standard Version, but it is also replete with scholarly notes and commentary to assist the reader–lay or professional–in every way possible….Simply put, this book belongs in every serious library, be that collection Evangelical, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Jewish. Why? No reply could be better than the introduction to the Apocrypha in the German Lutheran Bible: ‘Apocrypha, that is, books which are not held equal to the sacred Scriptures, and nevertheless are useful and good to read.’”

We are truly blessed as a Synod to have a publishing house in our corner of our Lord’s kingdom to provide a host of materials that we can confidently use to do the work of His Church on earth. And we are blessed with CPH leadership that looks continually for opportunities to provide helpful resources, such as The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition with Notes.

Raymond Hartwig