The *Christian Book of Concord* was originally published in 1580. It contained the brand-new *Formula of Concord*, along with important creeds and confessions that had been well-received before it. Those are:
– The three ecumenical creeds: the Apostles’ Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the Nicene Creed. These date from the first few centuries after Christ. They were written to confess the true faith as taught by the apostles of Jesus Christ, over against several contrary beliefs that were being promoted.
– The *Augsburg Confession*, written and delivered to the Holy Roman Emperor in 1530 by Lutheran laymen at great risk to their lives, their families, and all those associated with them. This happened in the German city of Augsburg, hence the name of this confession. It’s a summary of what Lutherans believe, addressed to the Emperor in the hope that he would recognize them as Christians, and allow them to continue teaching. Every article is drawn from the Bible, and states the issue at stake directly.
– The *Apology of the Augsburg Confession*, written during the year after the 1530 Diet of Augsburg by a Lutheran teacher named Phillip Melanchthon. It is a defense (that’s what “apology” means) of the Lutheran interpretation of holy scripture, against many wild accusations that the Roman Catholic representatives circulated after the *Augsburg Confession* was delivered.
– The *Smalcald Articles*, written in 1536 and adopted by a variety of Lutherans in the hope that they would be able to use the articles to explain their position at a great big church council that was expected to meet soon. The council did not meet until ten years later (the Council of Trent), and it turned out that the Lutherans were not welcome anyway. Still, the *Smalcald Articles* became an important expression of faith for Lutherans in Germany.
– The *Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope*, attached to the *Smalcald Articles*, and sometimes thought to be a part of them. It is a thorough explanation, from holy scripture, about why the Roman papacy is contrary to the Gospel.
– The *Small Catechism* and the *Large Catechism* of Dr. Martin Luther, written in 1528 to help in the Christian education of the people in Saxony, including pastors, Christian teachers, parents, children, and anyone else who wishes to learn the teaching of the Bible.
– The *Formula of Concord*, published in 1577 and accepted by most Lutherans in Germany as a biblically-accurate solution to several controversies that had arisen in the last several decades. It restates much of the doctrine included in the earlier confessions, and also addresses a few other topics more directly.
These are the creeds and confessions of the Lutheran Church, published together in 1580 as *The Christian Book of Concord.* This book is not meant to be a parochial *Lutheran* work, though it arises from the circumstances of the Lutheran Reformation. Instead, it was published as a confession and explanation of biblical doctrine that should be acceptable to anyone who agrees that the Bible is the very Word of God, and the highest authority.
A couple years ago, Concordia Publishing House released a volume called *Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions*, which was considered to be “A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord.” Many of us were excited to see this. It was well done. I would have thought it worth $40 for the volume, based upon the quality and significance of the book. It was not a new translation from the original Latin and German from 1580, but an update of a reliable English translation from the early 20th Century. It also included valuable historical notes and explanations. I recommended it highly. However, it was not without flaws.
After some consideration, the Missouri Synod, which operates Concordia Publishing House, withdrew its approval of the book. A number of serious challenges were raised against many things, from the doctrinal accuracy of the editorial notes and explanations to the clarity of its formatting. Fortunately, this turned into great blessing. The Missouri Synod devoted much more attention to a revision of the book, improving many aspects and adding about 50 pages to it. (Some of the complaints were found to be valid, others were not.) The new edition is now shipping, and may be ordered from Concordia Publishing House and other sources. There were several thousand copies pre-ordered, and Concordia Publishing House is reportedly sending those out now.
This edition is meant to be useful especially to laymen who would like to see how Lutherans explain our position, based on the teachings of holy scripture. If you feel poorly equipped sometimes to explain the biblical teaching of such things as the Lord’s Supper, the Church, Good Works, or the Two Natures in Christ; or if you find yourself wishing for help as you respond to issues like the role of tradition in the church, or free will, or the worship of saints, or the liturgy, then you need this book. Also, if you would like to become better educated as a Christian in the articles of our faith, you can’t go wrong by reading this book. It not only explains the doctrine, both good and bad, but provides the scriptural reasons *why* it’s either good or bad.
The price of the new edition is the same as the old one: retail $30. However, Concordia has reinstated an introductory price for the new release: $20 for as many as you want to buy. I would have paid up to $40 for the previous edition, but this one is a higher quality book both in content and execution. Needless to say, the introductory price is a real bargain. Rev. Paul MacKain, who works for Concordia Publishing House, recommends that you buy as many now as you think you will ever need. He also notes that there will be two other variations coming out of the same book, with fancy leather-type covers and thumb indexes. I looked at the CPH web site, and those variations will be *pricy*!
Unless you want to pay a premium for a premium version, I recommend that you order the regular one, and also order some as gifts for other people. Unfortunately, I already gave the first edition as gifts to several people and won’t shell out the dough for another round, but you can, and this time it’s for real! Note: CPH is also supposed to be sending “correction booklets” [my term] for everyone who had ordered the first edition. If that’s you, you may want to check their web site for availability.
Members and associates of Bethany and Concordia may add their names to our list for a group order. That way we should also save some money on shipping. There’s already a list on the narthex table at Bethany, and should be another one soon at Concordia. Of course, anyone is also free to order their own copies independently.