The NET Bible (New English Translation) is one of my favorite English translation for at least three reasons:
- It is generally accurate. The NET Bible Team consists of first-class evangelical scholars (mostly professors teaching at and/or trained by Dallas Theological Seminary).
- It is generally readable. Its translation philosophy is similar to the NIV (i.e., dynamic or functional equivalence).
- It is generally explanatory. Its notes include translations based on formal equivalence, giving the reader the best of both worlds. It includes nearly 61,000 footnotes. That’s an average of almost two notes for every verse in the Bible! These notes explain the translation on three levels: (1) textual critical notes (“tc”), which interact with significant textual variants; (2) translator’s notes (“tn”), which explain the translation or give a more rigidly literal alternative to the translation; and (3) study notes (“sn”), which are similar to (but generally more technical than) what you’d find in a conservative study Bible.
Here’s a block quotation from the “Preface to the NET Bible First Edition” (under the section entitled “What is unique and distinctive about the NET Bible?”):
- “First, the NET Bible includes extensive notes with the translation, notes created by the original translators as they worked through the issues and options concerning the translation of the original language texts of the Bible. These notes operate on more than one level – a technical level for pastors, teachers, and students of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek who are interested in the grammatical, syntactical, and text-critical details of the translation, and a more popular level comparable to current study Bibles offering explanatory details of interest to lay Bible students. In electronic format the length of these notes, a considerable problem with conventional printed Bibles, is no longer a major limitation.
- “Second, within the more technical notes the translation team has taken the opportunity to explain and give the rationale for the translation of a particular phrase or verse.
- “Third, the translators and editors used the notes to show major interpretive options and/or textual options for difficult or disputed passages, so that the English reader knows at a glance what the alternatives are.
- “Fourth, the translators and editors used the notes to give a translation that was formally equivalent, while placing a somewhat more functionally equivalent translation in the text itself to promote better readability and understandability. The longstanding tension between these two different approaches to Bible translation has thus been fundamentally solved.
- “Finally, the use of electronic media gives the translators and editors of the NET Bible the possibility of continually updating and improving the translation and notes. The translation itself will be updated in five-year increments, while the notes will undergo a continual process of expansion and refinement.”
- Articles “About the NET Bible,” especially the “Preface to the NET Bible First Edition“
- “NET Bible Videos” by Dr. Michael Burer
- “NET Bible Features,” including free downloads
- Audio NET Bible ($20 for the NT in MP3 format): My wife and I have enjoyed listening straight through this several times. It’s excellent.
I’ve enjoyed consulting the NET Bible countless times over the past seven years or so, both OT and NT (especially while taking Hebrew and Greek exegesis courses). I don’t always agree with the translation or the notes, but I’m almost always better off for consulting them. One of my next projects (this summer maybe?) is to read straight through the GNT and NET Bible NT simultaneously. Hats off to those involved with the production of the NET Bible!
Update on 3/31/2017: In my latest attempt to explain how to interpret and apply the Bible, I include a chapter on Bible translation (pp. 50–81).