NET Bible Review 1

I am not sure whether to dignify my discussion of the NET Bible with the label “review”. However, this will not be a unidimensional perspective – the NET Bible defies any simplistic categorization. I will, nonetheless, out of modesty and awareness of my own limitations, restrict myself to the New Testament and hope that the NET Bible Old Testament and “Apocrypha” will be reviewed elsewhere or by someone else on this blog.

Here is an example of the kind of language one can expect in the NET Bible.

    The purpose of this enlightenment is that25 through the church the multifaceted wisdom26 of God should now be disclosed to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly realms. 3:11 This was according to27 the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 3:12 in whom we have boldness and confident access28 to God29 because of30 Christ’s31 faithfulness.32 Ephesians 3:10-12

The language is up to date and the exegesis reflects recent scholarship. “Manifold” becomes “multifaceted” as in the HCSB and “faith in Christ” becomes “Christ’s faithfulness”. “Propitiation” is replaced by “atoning sacrifice” and the Jews have become the “Jewish leaders”.

The NET Bible reflects gender accurate language with “fishers of people” – Mark 1:17, “children of God” – Matt. 5:9, “brothers and sisters” – Hebrews 2:17, a “human” Christ – 1 Tim. 2:5 and “someone” instead of a “man” in James 2:2.

So far, I have only noticed a handful of differences between the way that the NET Bible and the TNIV handle gender language. The NET Bible uses the generic “he” pronoun. However, it is well worth noting that this does not represent an ideological difference between the NET Bible editors and the TNIV editors. The following explanation is given in the preface to the NET Bible,

    Finally, with regard to the issue of translational gender inclusivity it is important to note the flexibility shown by the New Testament authors themselves when citing Old Testament texts. A few examples will suffice: in Isaiah 52:7 the prophet states “how beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news”; this was incorporated by Paul in Romans 10:15 as “the feet of those who proclaim the good news.” In Psalm 36:1 the psalmist writes, “There is no fear of God before his eyes,” while Paul quotes this in Romans 3:18 as “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

    Again, the psalmist writes in Psalm 32:1, “Blessed is he whose lawless deeds are forgiven, whose sins are covered,” while Paul in Romans 4:7 has “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.” Even more striking is the citation by Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:18 of 2 Samuel 7:14, where God states, “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to me.” Paul renders this as “I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters.”

    Furthermore, it cannot be claimed that Paul is simply following the common version of the Greek Old Testament (the LXX) here, since the LXX follows the Hebrew text closely at this point, literally, “I will be to him for a father, and he will be to me for a son.” Although considerable flexibility is shown in Paul’s handling of this text, hardly anyone would charge him with capitulating to a feminist agenda!

I did notice a couple of times where I found the translation a bit odd in gender terms and I would like to know more about these decisions. For exmple, Eph. 4:8 is “When he ascended on high he captured6 captives; he gave gifts to men.” There is no explanation and I don’t know if this is significant.

In Hebrews 2:6 the traditional phrase “man” and “son of man” is retained without footnotes. This is particularly odd since Psalm 8:4 reads

    Of what importance is the human race,10 that you should notice11 them?
    Of what importance is mankind,12 that you should pay attention to them.

I would be very interested in hearing from others what the reasoning for this might be and why it is not footnoted.

The one other instance I noted was in Galatians 4, where once again God has “sons”. I find it somewhat strange that no one remarks on the fact that Luther’s Bible had exclusively “children” in this passage, and I have yet to hear how that this damaged the Reformation.

In spite of these few isolated examples, I cannot find any significant difference in translation philosphy between the NET Bible and the TNIV. In fact, I find the TNIV to be much more reminiscent of the the King James tradition. I am therefore puzzled as to why Wayne Grudem’s endorsement is on the NET Bible site. Although he restricts his endorsement to the notes, he does allow his name to stand, and he has not mounted a campaign against the NET Bible. I have to ask if Grudem’s campaign against the TNIV has a basis other than the one stated.

Here is one last observation to the effect that I have found some wording in the NET Bible awkward.

    Do not neglect the spiritual gift you have,17 given to you and confirmed by prophetic words18 when the elders laid hands on you1 TIm. 4:14
        Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters,1 by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice – alive, holy, and pleasing to God. Rom. 12:1

        For from you the message of the Lord16 has echoed forth not just in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place reports of your faith in God have spread, 1 Thess. 1:8

          Is it just me or is there something odd about the language of these verses? I shall continue this review another day.


          1. Eric Rowe
            Posted May 25, 2007 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

            Good review.
            My take on the NET is that it so forthrightly makes its own footnotes such a major part of it, that the translation itself can only be evaluated as it is read in conversation with the notes, similar to translations found in commentaries.
            I really find very little I like about the actual translation on its own. But as a vehicle for all of the information the footnotes have, it’s effective.

          2. Gary Zimmerli
            Posted May 25, 2007 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

            I think Eric has said it very well. I use the NET Bible on my computer frequently, and I agree that there are better translations as far as reading is concerned. It’s the notes that make the NET Bible so effective.

          3. Mike
            Posted May 25, 2007 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

            Suzanne, if you want to leave them feedback about those places where there probably should be a note and there is not, has a place for giving comments on the translations, suggested changes, added notes, etc.


          4. anonymous
            Posted May 25, 2007 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

            I like the NET Bible quite a bit more than any other modern Evangelical translations. The notes are quite useful and different (more technical) than those found in typical study Bibles.

            I think that using the NET Bible to get closer to through the original languages is far more effective practically and pedagogically than solutions from Evangelical publishers such as the “Reverse Interlinear” invented by Zondervan with the NIV and copied by Crossway with the ESV. I think the NET Bible approach is preferable to using “Strongs numbers” and other crutches. And I think that the NET Bible diglot is the most useful New Testament diglot of our time.

            Finally, although I’ve said it many times before, there is no NET Bible Apocrypha. If one actually takes care to look at what is online, it is only short works and fragments. It is a little like me translating the Song of Songs and claiming that I have a translation of the Hebrew Bible.

          5. Suzanne McCarthy
            Posted May 25, 2007 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

            In order to be responsive to your comment, I placed quotation marks around “Apocrypha”.

            It appears that the NET Bible does not have an “in house” English stylist, but is dependent on reponses from SIL staff and others.

          6. Glennsp
            Posted May 26, 2007 at 12:22 am | Permalink

            the Bible without the ‘Apocrypha’ is complete so your analogy with the Song of Songs and the Hebrew Bible doesn’t work.
            The ‘Apocrypha’ is not necessary to the Bible.

          7. anonymous
            Posted May 26, 2007 at 1:01 am | Permalink

            Glenn, I don’t want to enter into that argument, but I simply note that the post talked explicitly about the NET Apocrypha — something that does not exist.

          8. Suzanne McCarthy
            Posted May 26, 2007 at 4:20 am | Permalink

            We shall call it the “so-named NET Apocrypha”. My concern is the length to which the NET Bible goes to undermine the Song of Solomon.

          9. anonymous
            Posted May 26, 2007 at 7:15 am | Permalink

            It is not “so-named” — the translators are upfront about the fact that they have only translated minor fragments.

          10. A. D. Hunt
            Posted January 26, 2008 at 5:00 am | Permalink

            Although for now there are only fragmentary translations for the so called apocrypha (grow up Protestants, there are over 1 billion Christians in the world that consider them at LEAST deuterocannonical) it seems that the NET ‘crew’ intends for them to be completed at some point in the future.

          11. Wing
            Posted May 30, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

            i am with Mr. Wayne Grudem in support of NET Bible. As nobody is prefect, I don’t think the NET Bible is prefect either. But it is one of the better ones and more importantly it is available on line with its pretty well researched study notes.

            personally, i find it very helpful.

            And I am not sold by your vague negative comment by saying it simply as ODD. Forgive me if I am forthwith. God bless.

          12. Wes
            Posted August 23, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

            When compared with the poetic tense of the KJV, along with its widespread familiarity, most other translations may seem lacking. Though there is much to be said for clarity, and in this regard the NET Bible excels. Here is a unique opportunity to understand the perspective and process employed by the interpreters. It is a living definable bridge, between translation, original language and GOD. One could ask, is the search for graceful or grace. The Net Bible is a more than adequate translation, and I find this to be true, the cleaner the window the easier it is to see through.

            I think back to the Day of Pentecost, where each man heard the disciples speaking in their own language. The same message was processed differently, yet the end result was the same effect. The language heard was not the key it was the message. If the translation is true to the original, the message will be understood and serve its purpose. GOD Bless and good living.

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