We got our copies of the new Augsburg Lutheran Study Bible this week.
I'm not discarding my New Interpreter's Bible anytime soon; but I think this study Bible is a great resource for laypeople who are afraid of the Bible or who need to be nudged out of a first-grade-Sunday-School-picture-book understanding of the Bible with helpful, easy-to-understand footnotes (which have been moved to a sidebar format, with icons indicating the type of information they're providing; kewl, especially for the Internet generations). The sidebars also provide regular questions for reflection/discussion.
I have to admit I've learned something already: that the venomous creatures starring in yesterday's Old Testament "snake on a stick" lesson are called by the same Hebrew name as the seraphim mentioned by, say, Isaiah. Which has updated my previous mental picture of vipers clinging to the extremities of writhing Israelites, to something approaching a Mini-Me version of the Aerofalos in Link's Crossbow Training.
Some of the reflection questions gave me pause. While flipping through the Pentateuch I saw a question relating to the Levitical prohibition against tattoos...something along the lines of, "What do you think this means for us today?" Maybe this is a result of suffering through many utterly appalling lay-led Bible studies, and I'm sure my spiritual father Dr. Luther would have his foot up my fanny for saying this, but...I don't have a lot of confidence in the discernment skills of the untutored, even with a good study Bible; think the "Follow the shoe!" scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian , or a congregation of cottonmouth-waving snake-handlers, for my honest opinion of what happens when you hand a loaded Bible to people with no context in which to understand the contents. I'm sure some will walk away from that particular question with the new conviction that tattoos are Of The Devil, because The Bible Tells Me So, and Why doesn't Pastor ever talk about things like this that we need to know? But that's just me.
But overall I find the Lutheran Study Bible very user-friendly, with a genuine potential for wooing the tentative into personal reading and group studies; worth the purchase price.