Posted by: Johnold Strey | May 5, 2009

Confessions for Road, Home, Laptop, and Study

(Updated on March 5, 2010)

A recent family trip to Wisconsin included a stop at Northwestern Publishing House (NPH), the official publisher of my church body, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).  A visit to NPH is pretty much the norm for us during any trip to the greater Milwaukee area, since confessional Lutheran bookstores don’t seem to exist in the San Francisco Bay area.

large_154242While I was visiting NPH, I found and purchased the new pocket edition of the Book of Concord, the official confessions of the Lutheran church.  Concordia Publishing House (CPH), the official publisher of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), published a very nicely bound and attractive reader’s edition of the Book of Concord in 2005 with a newly updated English translation.  The pocket edition, produced just this year, is simply the reader’s edition in a smaller form; in fact, it even includes page numbers to the main reader’s edition in case people are using both simultaneously.  The cost was only $12.99 at NPH for the pocket edition and $31.00 for the main reader’s edition (the costs at CPH might be a little different).  I’m thrilled to see the Lutheran Confessions available at such inexpensive prices and in such convenient editions, and I hope many laypeople will consider getting their hands on a copy and reading the confessions as part of their personal devotional practices.  The theological depth and precision of our Lutheran forefathers is remarkable, but you have to read it to appreciate it.  I gave a “plug” for the pocket edition at a recent Sunday Bible Class after our Wisconsin trip.  If your eyesight isn’t what it used to be, don’t worry — the pocket edition has a resonably sized font so that, unlike many “pocket Bibles,” you should have no trouble reading it.

The new CPH translation and editions of the confessions are the second new version of the Book of Concord to come out this decade.  Fortress Press published a new academic version of the Book of Concord in 2000.  It comes complete with extensive academic footnotes meant for a more professonal or scholarly study (not that the CPH edition lacks those things, however).  And Fortress Press also recently published a companion volume featuring translations of several source documents that went into the Lutheran Confessions (including the Catholic theologians’ confutation to the Augsburg Confession!).

If your German and/or Latin is up to snuff, you may also be interested in the Concordia Triglotta, first published by Concordia in 1921 and then republished through Northwestern.  This edition includes an older English translation alongside the original Latin and German texts.  Apparently it is no longer published in book form, but you can probably find a copy on your pastor’s shelf (unless he got rid of it to make space for “The Purpose Driven Church” or some other such reading), and you can now purchase it in electronic form through NPH.

Finally, a discussion of available English translations for the Lutheran Confessions would be incomplete without mentioning the version published in 1959 translated by Theodore Tappert.  Although there are a few translation errors that scholars have cited, this was the most up-to-date translation until the turn of the century, and so it was commonly used by many Lutheran theologians and pastors until recently (unless, of course, the Tappert edition got the boot to make way for “Your Best Life Now” or something else that’s less than Lutheran).

You can find selected Lutheran Confessions available in a variety of forms.  NPH published its own tranlsation of the Augsburg Confession a few years ago.  This edition would be great for a church’s Bible study hour.  The WELS version of Luther’s Small Catechism is available as an inexpensive booklet, and CPH has published two softcover versions of Luther’s Large Catechism, one in 1978 and another in 2010; both would be great for group study.

The four English versions the Book of Concord cited previously are also available digitially: the 1921 Triglotta, the 1959 Tapert edition (as a part of a larger collection), the 2000 Fortress Press edition, and the 2005 CPH edition.  These digital versions all work with Logos Bible Software.  Logos is a “must have” for anyone interested in serious biblical study these days!  If you are content to work with the older 1921 translation, you can also find the entire tranlsation online free of charge at the Book of Concord website.

On top of all this, NPH sells adult Bible study kits that cover several of the individual Lutheran Confessions: The Large Catechism (part one, part two), the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles, and the Formula of Concord.

Bottom line: There’s no reason our laypeople can’t have easy access to these important historical documents that serve as the official confessions of the Lutheran church!



  1. Right now I’m on my way home from our WELS Arizona pastors’ conference. Thanks to the pocket version of the BOC, I was able to bring it with me and keep up on my reading even while away from home.

  2. I love the pocket edition also! It was the first thing I got with my NPH birthday gift card! It’s so handy, so convenient, and so edifying!

    The only bummer is losing out on the historical intros and pictures!

    As it is, I think I might make this my knee-jerk Christmas/Birthday gift for the next year or two!


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