Welcome to the printing of the second beta edition of the NET Bible with all 60,237 translators notes! We want to thank the millions of online NET Bible users and the students, teachers, and churches who have made the NET Bible a part of their daily Bible study, reading, and worship. Their countless observations have been a valuable addition to the NET Bible teams methodical editing of the translation to produce this second beta edition. More people from more countries have used and reviewed the NET Bible during its translation than any translation in historyand you are invited to join that process!
What you have in your handsor on your computer monitor, laptop, or handheld1represents a new approach to Bible translation and a fresh approach to ministry for the new millennium. The NET Bible was created with the Internet in mind. The decision to produce for the first time large quantities of Bibles on Gutenbergs improved press in 1454-1455 sparked a revolution and provided a dramatic increase in the availability of Bibles and biblical study materials in many languages, but over five centuries later many people throughout the world cannot access Bibles and biblical study materials because of their cost and because some governments attempt to prevent their citizens from ever encountering the Bible. The primary goal of the NET Bible project was to leverage the Internet to meet these two critical needs. The Internet represents the single best opportunity for ministry in history because electronic distribution via the Internet allows free delivery of unlimited numbers of Bibles and unlimited amounts of biblical study materials to anyone worldwide who could otherwise not afford them or access themfor zero incremental cost. Organizations willing to share materials on the Internet will accomplish the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 more efficiently than those which follow older ministry models alone. The impact of a publishing ministry can increase by leaps and bounds because it is no longer limited by the number of copies of materials it can afford to print and give away. The NET Bible was created to be the first major modern English translation available free on the Internet for download and use in Bible studies so that the opportunities provided by the Internet could be maximized. Authors, teachers, pastors, and translators cannot ensure that their lifes work can be published anywheremuch less shared on the Internetunless the Bible verses quoted in them are based on a translation for which each author is certain that publishing and ministry permissions will be granted by the copyright holder. Of all the major modern English Bible translations, the NET Bible is the only one that has done this.2
The 60,237 translators notes included with the NET Bible are another product of our Internet focus. Bible readers are often not aware that every translation makes many interpretive decisions for them. One goal of the NET Bible project was to find a way to help the reader see the decisions and choices that went into the translation. The answer was to include notes by the translators. In fact, the nature of the Internet allows unlimited notes. These notes provide an extended dialogue between translator and reader about the nuances which are usually lost in the translation. After the drafts and first rounds of editing were completed, we discovered that the thousands of notes could be made to fit on the printed page after all. What you are now reading is the second beta edition of the NET Bible complete with all the translators notes. Never before in the history of the Bible has a translation been published which includes explanatory notes from the translators and editors as to why the preferred translation was chosen and what the other alternatives are. Students of the Bible, future Bible translators,3 and biblical scholars will all benefit from these unparalleled translators notes.4 One of the goals of the NET Bible with the complete set of translators footnotes is to allow the general publicas well as Bible students, pastors, missionaries, and Bible translators in the fieldto be able to know what the translators of the NET Bible were thinking when a passage or verse was rendered in a particular way. Many times the translator will have made informed decisions based on facts about grammatical, historical, lexical, and textual data not readily available to English-speaking students of the Bible.
Many first beta readers asked for maps. In conjunction with RØHR Productions of Nicosia, Cyprus, we have included maps of the Holy Land based on satellite imagery. We have introduced new map notes to locate places mentioned in the NET Bible text. An exciting combination of technologies was used to produce these incredible images and they represent a very interesting story in and of themselves.
A major change in this second beta edition of the NET Bible involves the text-critical notes for the New Testament. After the printing of the first beta edition, it was suggested to the NET Bible team by the Deutsche Bibelgesellchaft in Stuttgart, Germany, that the information in the New Testament tc notes be standardized to the Nestle-Aland 27th edition text which they print in conjunction with the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster, Germany. Prior to this point, the textual evidence in the tc notes had been drawn from NA27, UBS4, and other sources. Over the last year the Senior New Testament editor in conjunction with the Institut in Münster edited all existing tc notes in the New Testament and added scores more. In this second beta edition all such tc notes have been conformed to the Nestle-Aland 27th edition Greek New Testament (Novum Testamentum Graece), 8th revised printing including papyri 99-116. The changes to the notes are most noticeable with nomenclature for manuscript witnesses: All tc notes in the New Testament now use the same nomenclature as that used by NA27, including the siglum Ï. The reader should consult NA27 for discussion on this nomenclature. In addition, a double dagger () is used in tc notes to indicate when the Greek text underlying the NET Bible differs from NA27; at a glance the reader can now see when the text translated by the NET Bible New Testament differs from that of NA27. This conformity to NA27 increases the quality of the notes tremendously, as it aligns them with the standard critical text of the Greek New Testament used by scholars, pastors, and students all over the world. As a result NET Bible readers will be able to use NA27 more effectively, and readers who use NA27 will see more readily how the process of textual criticism is carried out.
Another significant change to the translators notes (tn) is that all references to BAGD were updated to BDAG.5 All of these changes have resulted in a better translation and an increase to 60,237 translators notes!
All of the biblical text was edited extensively for faithfulness to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts, as well as for English wording and style. Over two thousand new notes of various kinds have been added. These include translators notes (tn), study notes (sn), text-critical notes (tc), and map notes (map). The map notes [map] indicate where the particular location can be found in the two map sections included in the NET Bible, The Journeys of Paul and The Holy Land from the Heavens. Preceding the maps is an index which contains every site on the maps (although the maps do not include every biblical site). The map coordinates in the notes and index first indicate the larger map and then the individual grid location; if a site is shown on more than one map, multiple sets of coordinates will be listed. For example, one of the coordinates for the city of Jerusalem is Map5-B1; this should be read as The Holy Land from the Heavensmap 5grid B1. Another coordinate for Jerusalem is JP1-F4; this should be read as The Journeys of Paulmap 1grid F4.
Many readers asked for a NET Bible that weighed less and was easier to carry. The second beta edition is smaller and much lighter than the first edition. Others asked for more Bible verses per page, so the font size has been reduced from large print in the first beta edition to standard study Bible size in the second beta and the font style of the footnotes has been upgraded to support better readability while permitting more verses per page. Countless readers contacted us with suggestions about the translation and notes, and these have helped us improve the NET Bible in thousands of places.
Because the NET Bible is the first translation to be published in electronic form on the Internet before being published in traditional print media, more people have used and reviewed the working drafts of the NET Bible than any other translation in history.6 The translation committee has invited and received public comment on the first beta edition of the NET Bible from laypersons, clergy, and biblical scholars. That process continues, which is why this is called the second beta edition. We invite feedback from everyone to help us make the NET Bible even better.
In short, the NET Bible that you now hold is different from all the translations that have come before it. It represents a truly new departure in the way Bible translations are presented to the general public. With a translation as revolutionary as the NET Bible, you no doubt have some additional questions. The remainder of this Preface addresses in question-and-answer format the most frequently asked questions, to help you understand what the NET Bible is about and how it differs from the many other Bible translations available to the English-speaking reader today.
The New English Translation, also known as the NET Bible, is a completely new translation of the Bible, not a revision or an update of a previous English version. It was completed by more than twenty biblical scholars who worked directly from the best currently available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. Most of these scholars teach Old or New Testament exegesis in seminaries and graduate schools. Furthermore, the translator assigned to prepare the first draft of the translation and notes for each book of the Bible was chosen in every instance because of his or her work in that particular bookconsisting not only of teaching but of writing and research as well, often extending over several decades. Many of the translators and editors have participated in other translation projects as well. They have been assisted by doctoral students and advised by style consultants and SIL field translators. Hence, the notes alone are the cumulative result of hundreds of thousands of hours of biblical and linguistic research.
With over twenty-five different English translations of the entire Bible and approximately forty of the New Testament, an obvious question you may ask is, why another one? As described above, the initial problem was that other modern translations have not been made available for free electronic distribution over the Internet. Electronic searchable versions of contemporary English translations tend to be very expensive. Anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection is able to use and print out the NET Bible without cost for personal study, preaching, teaching, and training others. In addition, anyone who wants to give away the Bible can print up to 1,000 copies of the NET Bible and distribute them for free without the need for written permission. Pastors without extensive libraries, missionaries and Bible translators in the field, and people in countries where access to Bible study materials are restricted or prohibited will all benefit from access to a contemporary English translation with extensive notes available on the Internet. (The notes accompanying the NET Bible can even help you understand other translations better.) Ultimately what you have in your hands or on your computer monitor with this copy of the NET Bible is Gods word, and we believe it should be available to everyone everywhere to read and study in a version that is accurate, readable, and affordable.
It is not just the new electronic media that justifies this translation, however. A great deal of scholarly literature has been produced on biblical interpretation and translation in the last quarter century. While virtually all other translations produced in the last two decades of the twentieth century were revisions of earlier versions, the NET Bible translators felt that an entirely different kind of translation was needed. In particular, the extensive notes that display for the reader the reasons for the translation are unique among Bible translations, in all languages, in the history of translation. Further, the translation itself is intended to capture the best of several worlds: readable and accurate and elegant all at the same time.
Our translation team desires to follow the Bibles teaching with regard to the distribution of Gods word versus the sales of printed Bibles. The NET Bible team has reflected on the model described in Leviticus 23:22 and asked how Bible publishers ensure that they not completely harvest the corner of their field for the poor and the foreigner. Our crop is a Bible translation. Even though some for-profit Bible publishers have allowed Bible societies to print and give away millions of Bibles, the amount of funds available to all Bible societies and publishers in all of history does not come close to being able to actually give a free printed Bible to all of the two billion people who have some ability to read English. This is why we feel so strongly that the NET Bible must not only be available for viewing on the Internet, but also for free downloading and use by everyone, worldwide, for free, forever. It is a cornerstone and guiding principle of our ministry. This approach helps us come closer to fulfilling the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 by allowing all people of all nations everywhere to learn what God has revealed in his word for them to understand and obey. Learning and following the Bibles instructions must apply to Bible translators and publishers as well as students of the Bible. This is why we offer the NET Bible for free to the worldbecause we think that other publishers have tried too hard to harvest every corner of their field and have not found ways to offer more efficiently Bibles and Bible study tools for free to those who cannot afford to pay for them. Now you know why the NET Bible is available for download and use in Bible studies free to all people, everywhere. It is the only modern translation to do this.
The history of the Bibles translation into English is a long and complicated one, and can only be summarized briefly here. Parts of the Bible appear to have been translated into Old English by Alfred the Great (died a.d. 901), including the Ten Commandments, parts of Exodus 21-23 and Acts 15, and a number of Psalms. Later in the tenth century Abbot Aelfric and perhaps others translated significant parts of the Old Testament into English, as well as the Gospels and some other New Testament books.
By around 1300 parts of the Psalms and the New Testament were being translated into Middle English. These were precursors of the famous versions associated with John Wycliffe (died a.d. 1384). The tradition that Wycliffe himself translated the Bible into English is founded on a statement by his follower Jan Hus. Whether he actually did the translation himself or it was carried out by his followers, he doubtless exerted a great influence over it. These translations were based on the Latin Vulgate, originally the work of Jerome, which was finished at the beginning of the fifth century a.d. and which became the standard Bible of the Western church throughout the Middle Ages.
Several other events in Europe had a significant impact on the history of the English Bible at this point. First was the general revival of learning in Europe known as the Renaissance, which brought about renewed interest in Hebrew and Greek, the original languages of the Bible. Second was the construction of an improved printing press with metal moveable type some time prior to 1450 by Johannes Gutenberg (the first volume book printed on this improved press was the Gutenberg Bible printed ca. 14557). This innovation launched an explosion in the availability of Bibles, which spread to England when the first printing press for English Bibles was established in 1476. The third event occurred when Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg in 1517, setting in motion the Protestant Reformation.8 These events combined to give considerable momentum to the translation of the Bible into everyday language. Luthers New Testament, translated from the Greek into German, appeared in 1522, while William Tyndales, translated from the Greek into English, followed in 1525. Tyndale was arrested in Antwerp in 1535 and executed for translating the Bible into the vernacular, and his translation was vilified by the authorities. Yet almost every English translation for the next hundred years borrowed heavily from Tyndales work, including in particular the King James Version of 1611. Before this landmark in the history of English Bibles, however, there were other translations, like Coverdales in 1535 and the version called Matthews Bible in 1537. Both these Bibles received the royal license in 1537. The year 1539 saw the appearance of the so-called Great Bible, actually a revision of Matthews Bible by Coverdale, which by royal decree of Henry VIII was placed in every church in England.
The reign of Elizabeth I saw the production of two more English Bibles, the Geneva Bible (published in 1560 in Geneva, with a dedication to Elizabeth) and the Bishops Bible (1568, with a second edition in 1572). The former was the Bible used by Shakespeare, and was thoroughly Calvinistic in its translation and notes. It was so far superior in translation to the Great Bible that it became very popular, although the Anglican authorities were not pleased with its Calvinistic leanings. The Bishops Bible was prepared as a response, and as a result English-speaking Protestantism was left at the end of the sixteenth century with two competing Bibles. The problem was not resolved until the Hampton Court Conference of 1604, when King James authorized a new translation of the Bible and specifically prohibited the use of marginal notes commenting on doctrine (notes commenting on the sense of words were permitted, and the original King James Version contained thousands of these). Gradually this translation established itself as the English Bible par excellence, and the last edition of the Geneva Bible appeared in 1644.
Until 1885, when the Revised Version was published in England, the King James Version reigned supreme. An American version of the revision, known as the American Standard Version, was published in 1901. The twentieth century saw the publication of a number of Bibles and New Testaments, among them James Moffatts (NT 1913; OT 1924) and E. J. Goodspeeds (NT 1923), which combined with the Old Testament by A. Gordon, T. Meek, J. M. Powis Smith, and L. Waterman (1935) was published the same year as The Bible: An American Translation. One of the most important English translations of the twentieth century was the Revised Standard Version (NT 1946; complete Bible, 1952). This was a thoroughgoing revision of the KJV and ASV which many consider to be the first of the modern translations. The publication of the RSV was only the beginning of a flood of translations and paraphrases, including (among others) J. B. Phillips The New Testament in Modern English (1958), the Amplified Bible (1965), the Jerusalem Bible (1966), the New American Bible (1970), the New English Bible (1970), the New American Standard Bible (1971), The Living Bible (1971), and the New International Version (1973).
Thirty years have passed since the release of the NIV New Testament.9 This major English translation is taken as a benchmark because it was not a revision or update of an existing translation or a successor to a previous translation.10 During these thirty years neither biblical scholarship nor the English language itself has stood still.11 The NET Bible is the first completely new translation of the Bible to be done in the age of the Internet with full computer networking support involving collaborative file sharing, data storage and retrieval, and the creation of task-specific databases. Biblical scholars exchanged not only E-mail but entire documents over computer networks and the Internet for constant editorial revision and correction. The NET Bible truly is the first English translation for the next millennium, representing a step potentially more significant than the use of Gutenbergs improved printing press for mass producing Bibles in 1455. The original authors of the Bible made the books and letters they had written available to everyone for free. That is what we are now doing electronically and we believe that use of the Internet to distribute Bibles and Bible study materials globally represents the most efficient publishing and ministry model available in history. To a server on the Internet, distributing 6 billion copiesone for everyone on earth!costs nothing to the one giving away the copies, unlike all previous ways of distributing Bibles. The Internet represents the single best opportunity for ministry in the history of the world.
Working with the format of electronic media, it soon became apparent to those of us involved in the translation project that we could do some things that had not been possible before, given the limitations of traditional print media.
In short, the notes allow a running commentary on the translators decisions to a degree never seen before in modern translations of the Bible. The NET Bible with the complete set of translators notes is not just a very readable modern translation, but a copy of the Bible with its own commentary attached containing an average of two notes for each verse. Those who have years of expertise in the study of the original biblical languages can now communicate that information directly to the Bible reader in a convenient, compact fashion that does not require the Bible student to read through a shelf of commentaries.
In addition to format and content, the broad framework of the project is unique among translations. From its beginning the project has been independent of ecclesiastical control. The NET Bible is not funded by any denomination or church. This has directly impacted the content: Translators and editors are free to follow where the text leads and translate as they think best. There is no pressure to make sure the text reads a certain way. This does not mean that the project is not responsible to anyone, however. In a very real sense, the NET Bible is responsible to the universal body of Christ. Through publication on the Internet and free distribution of the text, the editors and translators have sought to submit the NET Bible to their brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world. The questions, comments, and feedback received from them are examined very carefully, and the translation and notes are reevaluated in response. This dynamic process yields a Bible that is honest to the original text of the Bible, yet valuable and acceptable to Bible readers everywhere.
How can you know for sure something wasnt lost in translation in your Bible? As Acts 17:11 indicates, we should check out the scripture ourselves for they eagerly received the message, examining the scriptures carefully every day to see if these things were so. Without either competence in translating Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek yourself or access to the minds of the translators and how translation decisions were made, you cant see if these things were so in order to know if any translation is accurate. The NET Bible is unique among all translations in that it is the first translation that explains itself. The 60,237 notes by the translators explain and document the translators reasoning and the decisions they made throughout the lengthy process of translating and editing the NET Bible. The translators notes are intended to allow Bible students without extensive training in the original languages to be more confident in the English translation they use and to provide a new window into the Bible.
The project began on a rainy night in November 1995 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. There a group of Old and New Testament scholars met with the sponsor of the project at a fine Italian restaurant and later that same night with a larger group of what became the translation team in a hotel lobby to discuss the possibility of an English translation for electronic distribution over the Internet. While the initial discussions concerned a revision and update of some existing English translation, in subsequent discussions the biblical scholars themselves insisted that a completely new translation was both possible and desirable. The initial planning group was interdenominational and evangelical, although not made up of official representatives from church groups or denominations. A deliberate decision was made early on, however, to devote special attention to the avoidance of doctrinal peculiarities or sectarian bias.
A name was chosen that would reflect our goals to provide the Bible to the electronic Internet audience as well as to readers of printed Bibles. Users of the Internet can relate to the NET Bible as an obvious name, plus the phrase New English Translation fits well with the acronym NET.
A major consideration was the size of the translation committee. More than one person should do the work of translation, to avoid the unintentional idiosyncrasies that inevitably result from an individual working in isolation from a community of colleagues. At the same time, it was obvious to all of us that a smaller group of about twenty scholars who shared a number of basic assumptions and followed generally similar approaches to the biblical text in terms of interpretive method and general philosophy of translation would be able to work far faster than a larger committee. In addition, large committees are subject to more differences of opinion, forcing compromise and producing an output that is often neither elegant nor vivid. Our assumptions about the speed with which a smaller team could work proved to be the case, since the time from the commencement of the project to the completion of the first release version of the New Testament (NT version 1.0) was a remarkable thirty-two months.
Since the NET Bible is the first English translation done entirely in paperless form, an idea was borrowed from software developers, an idea which did not exist when the NIV New Testament was completed in 1973a beta test. How does someone beta test the Bible? Just like beta testing softwarewe let people try it and tell us where it could be improved.
By publishing every working draft of the NET Bible on the Internet from the very beginning of the project, more people have previewed the NET Bible than any translation in history. These prepublication reviewers of the NET Bible have logged over one million review sessions and sent the translation committee countless comments. The committee always takes each of these user-comments seriously and many have resulted in substantial improvement to the translation. The translation committee continues to solicit comments to improve both the translation and the notes.
Now the complete NET Bible is available in both electronic and printed form. You have the opportunity to learn from a truly detailed, totally new Bible translation, plus you have our invitation to help us continue to improve the translation through its ongoing development. This is unique in history.
Absolutely. The goal of this translation is to be clear and detailed. While we think were close, that doesnt mean we have yet achieved perfection. If you come across a phrase or verse you feel needs improvement, you can let us know through our online comments database at www.netbible.com/comments.
You can submit a comment on any aspect of the translation, from the quality of English to specific points of Greek or Hebrew grammar to interpretive issues discussed in the notes. We welcome any and all comments which would help us improve the NET Bible. To illustrate that we arent solely interested in just one type of comment, below is a sampling of the types of reviewers and comments we solicit. These are no means exhaustive and you need not reference which category you fit under. These are just examples to encourage you to participate in the beta process.
The procedure followed in the making of the NET Bible involved the assignment of each book of the Old or New Testament to an individual scholar who was well versed in the interpretation of that particular book and in most cases had extensive experience in doing research, teaching, and writing about the book. These scholars produced an initial draft translation of the books assigned to them along with a preliminary set of translators notes (and in some cases text-critical notes and study notes as well). This work was then submitted to the New Testament or Old Testament editorial committee for extensive editing and/or revision. In some cases suggested revisions in form and content were carried out by the original translator, while in other cases an editor reworked the draft translation as needed. The work was then resubmitted to the appropriate editorial committee for final approval. An English style consultant, working independently of the appropriate committee, reviewed the translation for smoothness, clarity, and elegance of contemporary English style. Changes suggested by the style consultant were checked against the original Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek before final incorporation into the translation. In most cases at least three different individuals edited and revised each book of the Bible. In this way the final release version of the NET Bible was checked and revised a number of times at different levels for accuracy, clarity, and English style. Finally it was proofread and field-tested a number of times. Countless hours of research, translation, revision, and interaction thus went into the production of the NET Bible.
No denomination, church, agency, or publisher determined the nature of the NET Bible translation beforehand. It was a translation conceived and designed by biblical scholars who were primarily specialists in the biblical languages and in the exegesis (interpretation) of the biblical text. At the beginning of the project the Executive Steering Committee, composed of members of both the Old and New Testament editorial committees and the project director, held extensive discussions before approving the Guidelines for Translators (now known as the NET Bible Principles of Translation and included in the printed edition as the first li in the Appendices) which set forth the basic character of the NET Bible translation and notes. Faithfulness to the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek in which the biblical documents were originally written was the primary concern. This frequently extended to the connectives (for, then, so, now) used to introduce clauses, sentences, and paragraphs in the original languages. These conjunctions are often omitted in contemporary English translations since current English style does not use them very often to indicate transitions and argument flow. The Executive Steering Committee felt, however, that in many cases it was important for the modern readers understanding to preserve these connections. (In some cases where this would result in awkward English style, these conjunctions have been indicated in the notes that accompany the text.)
The ultimate objective of the NET Bible is to be accurate, readable, and elegant. Yet these three principles are all too often in conflict with each other. Even a universal taxonomy will not work, because some passages pose special problems (such as liturgical use, familiarity, connections with the Old Testament, theological richness, and the like) that would override any rigid taxonomy.
As an illustration15 of the complexity of competing principles, consider the Lords declaration in Mark 1:17: I will make you fishers of men. This wording, found in the KJV, RSV, NASB, NIV, REB, and ultimately going back to Tyndale, is familiar to church-goers. But in contemporary English it communicates a meaning that slightly deviates from the point: Jesus did not just want his apostles to evangelize adult males, but all people (the Greek is aJlie'" ajnqrwvpwn, Jalie" anqrwpwn). But there is a second problem with this verse: fishers of men is archaic. The NRSV opts for I will make you fish for people. This resolves the two problems of the older translations, but introduces two others. First, it sounds as if Jesus will force the disciples to fish for people; second, the conversion of the objective genitive to an object of the preposition results in a subtle shift from a focus on a new occupation to a mere activity. The NLT and TEV get past the first problem but not the second (I will show you how to fish for people, I will teach you to catch people). So, how best to solve the dilemma? The full meaning of Jesus declaration includes both nonexclusive evangelism and implications of an occupational shift. It is too cumbersome to express this as I will make you fishermen of people, though the archaism is removed. Nor is it correct to translate this as I will make you fishers of mankind because that would imply a mission to gentiles which the disciples could not have conceived of at this time in redemptive history. This text illustrates the clash of the translational objectives of accuracy, readability, and elegance. We believe that the great value of the NET Bible is its extensive notes that wrestle with such issues, for the footnotes become a way for us to have our cake and eat it too. But on this passagefor nowwe have settled on the translation, I will turn you into fishers of people. We have retained an archaism both because of its familiarity and because the alternative fishermen was too inelegant. The object complement construction was rendered turn you into fishers instead of make you fishers both because of its clarity and the hint of the disciples conversion as a prerequisite to their new occupation. We chose not to go with the more natural but less accurate rendering of I will teach you to catch people. In this passage, accuracy was more important than readability or elegance. But a decision was not easy; we are still open to suggestions.
Although one of the general principles of this translation is to indicate in the footnotes a more literal rendering, not every departure from such is noted. For one thing, Greek (or Hebrew) and English are sufficiently different that to document every departure would be an exercise in futility. No translation is completely literal, nor should that be a desirable goal. A completely word-for-word literal translation would be unreadable. John 4:15, for example, would be rendered: Says to him the woman, Sir, give to me this the water that not I thirst nor I come here to draw. Matthew 1:18 would say, Of the but Jesus Christ the birth thus was. Being betrothed the mother of him, Mary, to Joseph, before or to come together them she was found in belly having from Spirit Holy. Such examples are not isolated, but are the norm. Claims for a literal translation must necessarily have a lot of fine print.
Literal is also not necessarily faithful. The word order differences between English and Greek, the use of the article, case, infinitives, participles, voice, mood, and other grammatical features are often so different that gibberish is the result if an absolutely literal translation is attempted (as in the two examples cited above). Not only this, but the idioms of one language have to be converted into the receptor language. Thus, in Matthew 1:18, no English translation (not even the King James Version) would dare speak of Marys pregnancy as she was having [it] in the belly. Yet this is the Greek expression for pregnancy. But it is not English. The real question in translation then is not whether it is literal, but whether it is faithful. And fidelity requires converting the lexical, grammatical, idiomatic, and figurative elements (to mention but a few) of the original language into the corresponding package in the receptor language. At times this can be accomplished by maintaining an approximately literal force. At other times, a loose rendering is required if the sentence is to have any meaning in English at all. Of course, this can be overdone. There are two dangers to avoid in translation. First, a translation should not be so literal that it is not good English. The meaning of the original needs to be as faithfully rendered into good English as possible. Second, a translation should not be so loose that it becomes merely an interpretation or allows sectarian interests to overwhelm the resultant text. All translation is interpretation; it cannot be otherwise. But the issue is how much interpretation and how idiosyncratic an interpretation is.
Part of the problem is this: the more literal a translation is, the less readable it generally is; the more readable it is, the less faithful it is to the original meaning (at least in many cases). Some modern translations are quite readable but are not very faithful to the biblical authors meaning. A major goal of good translation is of course readabilitybut not at the expense of the intended meaning. The philosophy of the NET Bible translators was to be interpretive when such an interpretation represents the best thinking of recent scholarship. Thus, for example, in Romans 6:4, the expression newness of life is taken to mean new life by grammarians and exegetes alike and is thus translated this way. But when an interpretive translation is unnecessary or might suggest sectarian bias, and when a more literal rendering results in good English, we have followed the latter course.
A major category of nonliteral translation involves certain conjunctions. For example, the Greek word kaiv (kai), meaning generally and, even, also, yet, but, indeed, is often left untranslated at the beginning of a sentence. When such is the case, there is usually no note given. However, if the possibility exists that an interpretive issue is involved, a note is given.
An additional consideration of the translation team was faithfulness (as far as possible without violation of current English style) to the style of the individual biblical authors. Even within the New Testament, written over a short span of time in comparison with the Old Testament, the authors exhibit their own unique literary styles. Pauls style differs from Peters, and both differ from Johns. The translators and editors attempted to give the modern reader an impression of these stylistic differences where it was possible to do so without sacrificing accuracy, clarity, or readability.
Beyond the primary objective of faithfulness to the original, a second major objective for the NET Bible was the clarity of the translation for the modern reader. This concern for clarity extended to the literary quality and readability of the NET Bible, and individual translators were encouraged to have their translations read aloud so that such factors as assonance and rhythm could be considered. Thus, although originally conceived as a study Bible, the NET Bible is designed to be useful for reading aloud, memorizing, teaching, and preaching, as well as private reading and study.
Much concern has recently been expressed by people unhappy about modern translations of the Bible which employ gender-inclusive language. Some of the changes causing such concern involve the inclusion of references to women in almost all places where the biblical text refers to men, the pluralization of singular references to avoid the use of masculine pronouns like he or him, and even, in extreme cases, the application of such inclusive language to God himself. This last idea is one completely foreign to the original authors of the canonical texts in question.
Having said this, it is also true that many of the ancient texts of the Bible are less gender-specific than English translations often suggest. In many cases an ancient reader encountering a masculine noun or pronoun would have recognized it to be generic without having to be told. Modern readers (accustomed to the tendency of current English style to use inclusive language wherever possible) often assume the opposite to be true: if both genders are not explicitly mentioned, an assumption of exclusivity is frequently the result.
It is important to distinguish two approaches to gender inclusivity in the history of the Bibles translation into English. The first approach we might call Ideological Gender Inclusivity, since it attempts, on an ideological basis, to remove objectionable elements like patriarchalism or even male metaphors for God himself. No such radical approach has been followed with the NET Bible. The other approach could be called Gender-Accurate Translation, which simply means translating terms without respect to gender when the intended meaning or application is broad and not gender-specific. This type of translation has been around at least since the publication of William Tyndales New Testament in 1526, when he rendered the phrase uiJoiV qeou' (Juioi qeou, sons of God) as children of God, a gender neutral translation. Along these same lines the KJV of 1611 rendered /[email protected] (ben, son) or its plural 2,822 times as son or sons and 1,533 times as child or children, resulting in a gender-neutral translation 35% of the time. A further example of gender-neutral translation can be found in Hosea 2:4, which refers to Gomers three children, two sons and one daughter. The Hebrew text of Hosea 2:4 literally reads Upon her sons also I will have no pity, because they are sons of whoredom. Yet the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint (LXX), uses the Greek term for children, tevkna (tekna, Hosea 2:6 LXX, which is neuter gender), and among English translations the KJV, ASV, NIV, and NRSV all employ children.
With the NET Bible our concern was to be gender-accurate rather than gender-inclusive, striving for faithfulness to the original biblical texts while at the same time seeking to attain accuracy in terms of current English style. The English language constantly undergoes change. Acceptable conventions for dealing with gender-related language have undergone a great deal of change in the last few decades, and more change in this area will certainly come in the future. As the conventions of the English language change, new translations and revisions of existing translations will have to take this into account. This is especially important when the goal of the translation (like that of the NET Bible) is faithfulness to the original.
At the same time, we do not employ Ideological Gender Inclusivity, since we do not believe the Bible should be rewritten to incorporate gender-inclusive language foreign to the original. The Bible is a historical document rooted in a particular set of cultures and languages, each with their own conventions in the area of gender-related language. In addition, these languages and cultures are separated from us not by mere decades, but by millennia. In all cases the goal for the NET Bible was to be as accurate as possible with regard to gender-related language, faithfully reproducing the meaning of the original text in clear contemporary English. In some instances this meant allowing gender distinctions found in the original-language texts to stand in the translation, as for example in a historical settinglike Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee with his disciples in a boatwhen it is almost certain that only males were present. In other instances when a group of people are addressed by the Greek term anqrwpo" (literally, men) and it is clear from context that both men and women are addressed (with the term used in a generic sense), the translation people has been used. Here are some of the other typical features of the NET Bibles handling of gender-related language:
In most of these instances, further explanation of the way the gender-related language has been handled in the translation is given in a translators note.
Considerable time was spent discussing many significant New Testament texts with regard to gender issues. One example of such a text is 1 Timothy 2:5, For there is one God and one mediator between God and anqrwpoi (men / mankind / humankind), the anqrwpos (man / person / human) Christ Jesus. The NET Bible New Testament translation team discussed this intriguing example at length. The basic question was, Is the key to Jesus role as mediator that he mediates for males, or for both men and women? There was also the need to be sensitive to the word play in both halves of the verse involving anqrwpos. Typically the objection has been that a rendering like human compromises Jesus maleness which is also involved here. But the translators had to ask, Which rendering might cause more confusion, a use of men in a generic sense, or a rendering like humanity? Which point is more central to this particular context, the redemption of humanity, or Jesus maleness? Everyone knows Jesus was a male human, so his maleness is not in question here! Deciding that the redemption of humanity was the primary point in the context, and that Jesus participation in humanity was central to his mediatory role, the translators opted for the rendering, For there is one God and one intermediary between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, himself human.
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 Pauls handling of this text, hardly anyone would charge him with capitulating to a feminist agenda!
Absolutely. No translation can achieve perfection, and even if it could, the English language itself would change and the translation would still become dated. The supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary, the standard reference source for English vocabulary, contains over 85,000 entries of words that did not exist in the English language when the OED was published in 1924. No one has any idea of the number of words and phrases that have dropped out of English usage in the same period. No one reading the KJV who comes across expressions like meteyard in Leviticus 19:35, vain jangling in 1 Timothy 1:6, or the mean man in Isaiah 2:9, 5:15, and 31:8 can fail to see how words change in meaning over time. Even terms like usury (Nehemiah 5:10; Ezekiel 18:17) or she-camel (Jeremiah 2:23)both found in the NIVare not familiar to many modern readers.
Additional research, additional discoveries of new manuscripts, or archaeological discoveries that shed additional light on first century history and culture, also contribute to the need for revision. Attempts to produce notes better suited to the needs of users will also result in frequent revision of the notes accompanying the NET Bible. Thus the production of the NET Bible is not a one-time undertaking to be completed and put aside, but an ongoing project with planned improvement and revision.
Nevertheless, with the completion of the whole Bible, revisions to the translation itself will occur in five-year increments, allowing readers to memorize passages with at least a measure of durability.
This edition of the NET Bible is being released as a second beta version. The New Testament was released as a beta version in three separate printings in March, April, and June of 1998. It was then released as version 1.0 (first release version) in October of 1998. During this time, the Old Testament was edited and released as a beta version, along with a new revision of the New Testament (version 2.0). This first printing of the whole NET Bible was completed and E-mailed to the printer just after 2 a.m. on September 11, 2001, coincidentally a day many will long remember. The most recent working draft of the NET Bible has been and will be available for free public access on the Internet. Now after almost two years of use, extensive comments from users, and ongoing improvements from the NET Bible editorial staff, the second beta edition is being released to the printer on September 2, 2003.
A beta release is not a final version; there are things which still need to be done to make the NET Bible better. However, the editors believe that it is now appropriate for it to be released to a wider audience in printed form. It is our desire that Bible teachers and students worldwide spend the next year using the NET Bible second beta version on a regular basis so that their reflections on this translation will help us produce a translation that is even better. We seek your comments and suggestions on the NET Bible, all of which will help the final release version be the best translation it can be. Please use our online comments database at www.netbible.com/comments to send us your suggestions.
Following is a list of major issues which will be addressed before the NET Bible is released as a final version. This list is not meant to be exhaustive. These are the major issues on which the editors are currently working. Other minor issues will be addressed before a final version is released.
What is the story behind these incredible photographic maps?
The Holy Land from the Heavens map supplement is a new addition to the Second Beta Edition of the NET Bible. There are two types of images in this section. Several of these images are photographs of the Holy Land taken from aircraft. The second type are satellite maps of the Holy Land. How these satellite images came to exist may be an interesting story to many readers.
When you compare these images to other satellite imagery or photographs, you will immediately notice their unique resolution and quality. This gives you, the reader, a great deal of informationrelative altitude, topography, vegetation, available mountain passes, travel routes, etc.and this information is often vital to understanding the Bible. As we searched for maps to include in the NET Bible, we found that the high quality map lithographs included in 16th century Bibles had not been surpassed by the maps in contemporary study Bibles. Now they have. The images in The Holy Land from the Heavens are far better than any maps that have ever been included in any Bible.
What you see is essentially a photograph in the sense that all of the colors shown derive from a single satellite photograph, but it is so vastly improved that we feel we owe you an explanation. The process to create these images was quite complex. Every image began as a photograph taken by a U.S. LandSat 5 satellite on a cold, crystal clear morning in January. Every color is thus true and contextual, not a mixture of images from different days. It was a rare and specifically chosen day because there were virtually no clouds anywhere in the entire region. Because LandSat images are taken from directly above, contain no altitude data, and have only a 30 meter resolutionfar worse than the result you see heremore needed to be done to make the images better. A resolution of 30 meters means is that a building which is 30 by 30 meters would appear as one single dot on the image, so objects smaller than this size would not be visible at this resolution.
To improve the images, data from a French SPOT satellite was integrated in order to increase the resolution to 10 meters, so that smaller features of the landscape could be seen. This was complicated because the SPOT satellite data is black and white, but has 10 meter resolution. Thus there are 9 pixels of data (9 dots) in the SPOT data for every single colored dot in the LandSat data. Since these two satellites took their pictures from different altitudes and different locations in the sky, combining the two images required continuous compensation for differences in altitude, focal length, and image skewbecause these two images sources were never intended to be combined into a single image. Therefore it was required that the combined images be precisely aligned, that the edges of every mountain and valley be identical and not blurred, resulting in an extensive investment of money, love, time, and technology. Along the way, two photographic exposure settings were required so that the desert south was not overexposed and the vegetation of the north was not underexposed. So the base image had to be an integration of two exposure settings shot at the same time by the same satellite in order to achieve the photographic exposure perfection you see. Once the SPOT and LandSat photographs were integrated, the image was still a topographically boring look from above with no altitude data.
The next step was to drape these two-dimensional images over a 3-D relief model of the terrain which added topographical data. This required relatively complex math and a significant amount of computer time. On some maps, this kind of data is shown as contour lines overlaid onto the images and labeled with altitude numbers for each contour line. Using this approach, locations where the contour lines are very close represent steep slopes. This method is fine for hiking maps, but obscures a photographic image and certainly detracts from the beauty of high resolution color satellite images like these.
The final step, therefore, was to develop software which would remove the need for contour lines by rendering the entire image as if it had not been taken from directly above in space, but as if the observer was viewing the scene from out the side window of a commercial airliner. In this manner, altitude information would appear photographically as height in a natural way rather than as numbers on a vertical view from above. One draw back of this oblique scene projection is that the opposite sides of large mountains and valleys are obscured. For this reason, there are two views presented for each scene to allow you to see behind each of the mountainsone looking from the southwest and another from the northeast. In this manner, none of the original data is lost in these photographs. You can see both sides of each mountain from 180 degree opposing photographs of each region. In addition, the natural distortion that occurs when projecting an oblique image is also accounted for by looking at the same region from two different perspectives.
Why these particular viewing perspectives (northeast and southwest)? Since the computer could have projected each image from any angle, these photographs could have been rendered as if shot looking in any compass directionlooking north or east for example. But these particular perspectives have been chosen for a specific reason. Depth perception and contour imaging clues interpreted in the brain are hinted at by shadows in photographs. Although the original photographs were taken from above, the sun was not high overhead at the same time, so the shadows included in the original satellite photos dictate the optimum viewing angle of the scenes. Since the original photographs were taken early on a winter morning, the sun was low on the southeast horizon, casting long shadows to the northwest from the southeast. The eye understands an image best when viewed perpendicular to the direction of any shadows. Therefore, in order to produce the most illuminating three dimensional image, the observer must look at right angles to these shadows. These circumstances dictate that the best viewing perspectives for the reader will be looking northeast and southwest .
These images took more time and technology than have ever been used before in the creation of images for biblical studies. They are the result of over thirty years of diligent effort by RØHR Productions Ltd. whose goal is to create unsurpassed images of the Holy Land, images which enable the reader to better understand the land of the Bibleand provide teachers a far better than normal reference for guiding students through biblical narratives in their proper geographical context. Although we have modified these maps to suit the smaller format of the NET Bible they are all derived from the Holy Land Satellite Atlas: Volumes 1 and 2 (and the related 3-D Animation CD of the Holy Land), published by RØHR Productions Ltd. We are grateful for permission to use them in the NET Bible. The effort that went into the procurement and production of these images deserves your support. We encourage you to obtain RØHRs family of imagery reference materials in order to support both your studies and RØHRs ongoing efforts.
One distinctive characteristic is how the NET Bible strives for accuracy. The NET Bible seeks to be accurate by translating passages consistently and properly within their grammatical, historical, and theological context. The interplay and proper understanding of these three contexts has produced some distinctive translations within the NET Bible. By explaining these here we hope to help the Bible reader understand more fully the translation task undertaken to produce the NET Bible, but even more importantly to understand more fully the Bible itself.
As a translator approaches a passage there are a number of contexts which must be considered. They can be summed up under three broad terms: grammatical, historical, and theological. Grammatical context involves a natural, accurate understanding of the language of the original text which provides parameters for how language functions and which meanings are possible and probable for a given text. This is what most naturally comes to mind when translation work is done. It is the primary work of the translator to determine what meaning is expressed in the original language and how that can best be expressed in the target language. Understanding in this area has improved immensely over the last several years, especially with the advent of computer tools for language study. One of the primary goals of the NET Bible has been to stay abreast of current research in this area. The footnotes in the NET Bible often refer to recent articles, books, and dissertations which have new data regarding how biblical languages function. As our understanding of these languages improves, naturally it will affect the translation of particular passages.
Historical context involves an understanding of the peoples, cultures, customs, and history of the times in which the Bible was written. As with the grammatical context, the historical context provides parameters for understanding the meaning of passages in the Bible and how they should be translated. It looks at the historical background and events of the text to provide a good balance for possible interpretations and meanings of a text.
Theological context is the understanding of God and his work that a particular author would have at the time he wrote a particular passage of scripture. In a manner similar to historical context, theological context provides parameters for deciding upon the meaning of a text and the best way to translate it. The Bible was written over a period of about 2,500 years. During this time, theological understanding changed dramatically. Moses did not know and understand God the way Paul did. This does not mean that Moses knew God in a wrong way and that Paul knew him the right way; it simply means that God had revealed more about himself over time, so Paul had a fuller understanding of who God was and what he was doing in the world. When translating an earlier passage of scripture, the translator should take into account that the theological understanding of the author will be different from that of a later author.
As implied above, these three concepts form a limited hierarchy. Grammatical context is the most important because it deals with the nuts and bolts of the language which convey meaning which ultimately can be translated. For example, in English one cannot communicate to a reader that the sky is blue by writing The tree is green. The words and phrases which make up this sentence can only communicate a limited meaning, and this is defined by the grammar, the syntax of the phrases, the meanings of the individual words, and other similar considerations. Understanding the grammatical context is the most important task of the translator, for the meaning is found in these words and phrases. The translators and editors of the NET Bible translate a passage with precedence given to the grammatical context. The historical and theological context provide a reasonable system of checks and balances; they help the translator decide what is the most probable meaning of the original text and how that meaning should be translated. They do not drive the translation; instead they guide it so that the most probable meaning is conveyed.
A very important concept for understanding the translation philosophy of the NET Bible and how these three contexts work together is progressive revelation. Simply put, progressive revelation recognizes that God reveals himselfhis nature as well as his word, plans, and purposesover time. He did not reveal everything about himself and what he was doing in the world all at once; instead he graciously revealed more and more as time went on. Later revelation serves to complement and supplement what has come before. The relation of this reality to translation work creates a great deal of tension, especially as it relates to the theological context, because certain earlier passages are clarified by later ones. Does the translator translate the older passage with a view to the clarification that the later passage brings, or does the translator concentrate solely on the native context of the older passage? The translators and editors for the NET Bible have generally chosen to do the latter for a variety of reasons. A translation which takes into account the progress of revelation will be true to the three contexts discussed above. It is also very beneficial to the Bible reader to have the progress of revelation accurately represented in the translation of particular texts. This helps the reader see how God has worked through the centuries, and it helps the reader to stand more accurately in the place of the original recipients of the text. Both of these are very instructive and inspirational, and they help the reader to connect with the text in a more fulfilling way.
A discussion of particular passages in the NET Biblehow they have been translated and whywill illuminate these concepts. Explaining these examples will show how the translators and editors have put the aspects of the translation theory discussed above into practice. The translators and editors believe these issues are important for readers of the Bible to grasp, so all these passages have extensive notes regarding these issues. An example from both the Old and New Testaments will be given.
Isaiah 7:14. This verse has seen a great deal of discussion in the history of interpretation. The text of the verse from the NET Bible is as follows:
Look, this young woman is about to conceive and will give birth to a son. You, young woman, will name him Immanuel.
The most visible issue surrounding this verse is the translation of the Hebrew word hm*l=u^ (almah). The NET Bible uses the phrase young woman, while many translations use the word virgin. The arguments center upon two main points: the actual meaning of the term as it is used in Hebrew, and the use of this verse in the New Testament. There is a great deal of debate about the actual meaning of the Hebrew word. However, in the New Testament when this verse is cited in Matthew 1:23 the Greek word parqevno" (parqenos) is used, and this word can mean nothing but virgin. Therefore, many people see Isaiah 7:14 as a prophecy about the virgin birth with Matthew 1:23 serving as a divine commentary on the Isaiah passage which establishes its meaning. The interplay of these issues makes a resolution quite complex. It is the opinion of the translators and editors that the Hebrew word used in Isaiah 7:14 means young woman and actually carries no connotations of sexual experience, so the grammatical context of the verse in the Old Testament is in our opinion fairly straightforward. Neither does the historical context of Isaiah 7:14 point to any connection with the birth of the Messiah: in its original historical context, this verse was pointing to a sign for King Ahaz that the alliance between Syria and Israel which was threatening the land of Judah would come to nothing. The theological context of Isaiah 7:14 is also limited: it is a presentation of Gods divine power to show himself strong on behalf of his people. The role or birth of the Messiah does not come into view here. So the historical and theological contexts of the verse support the grammatical: the word hm*l=u^ (almah) means young woman and should be translated as such. Within the book of Isaiah itself, however, the author begins to develop the theological context of this verse, and this provides a connection to the use of the passage in Matthew. In Isaiah 8:9-10 the prophet delivers an announcement of future victory over Israels enemies; the special child Immanuel, alluded to in the last line of v. 10, is a guarantee that the covenant promises of God will result in future greatness. The child mentioned in Isaiah 7:14 is a pledge of Gods presence during the time of Ahaz, but he also is a promise of Gods presence in the future when he gives his people victory over all their enemies. This theological development progresses even further when another child is promised in Isaiah 9:6-7 who will be a perfect ruler over Israel, manifesting Gods presence perfectly and ultimately among his people. The New Testament author draws from this development and uses the original passage in Isaiah to make the connection between the child originally promised and the child who would be the ultimate fulfillment of that initial promise. The use of Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23 draws upon the theological development present in the book of Isaiah, but it does not change the meaning of Isaiah 7:14 in its original context.
Passages Involving pivsti" Cristou' and Similar Expressions in Paul. The phrase pivsti" Cristou' (pisti" Cristou) is a difficult one to translate. The issue centers on the relationship of the genitive noun Cristou' to the head noun pivsti": is the genitive subjective or objective? That is, is the emphasis of this phrase on Christ as the one who exercises faith (subjective) or on Christ as the one in whom others have faith (objective)? Traditionally these phrases have been interpreted emphasizing Christ as the object of faith; faith in Jesus Christ is the traditional translation. However, in recent years an increasing number of New Testament scholars are arguing from both the grammatical and theological contexts that pivsti" Cristou' and similar phrases in Paul (Rom 3:22, 26; Gal 2:16, 20; 3:22; Eph 3:12; Phil 3:9) involve a subjective genitive and emphasize Christ as the one who exercises faith: the faithfulness of Christ. A wider glance at the use of the noun pivsti" in the rest of the New Testament shows that when it takes a personal genitive that genitive is almost never objective. Certainly faith in Christ is a Pauline concept, but Bible scholars have begun to see that in Pauls theological thought there is also an emphasis on Christ as one who is faithful and therefore worthy of our faith. The grammatical and theological contexts are not decisive, and either translation is acceptable. The editors decided to follow the subjective genitive view because a decision had to be madefaith of Christ, a literal translation, communicates very little to the average reader in the contextand because scholarship in this area is now leaning toward this view. The question is certainly not closed, however, and if further research indicates that the grammatical or theological context proves decisive for the other view, the translation will be modified to reflect that.
In short, the translators and editors of the NET Bible are committed to following the text where it leads and translating it honestly. The translation philosophy leaves no other options: For the sake of Christ and the truth, the translators and editors are compelled to translate as they have done in the examples above and throughout the NET Bible. The 19th century conservative Christian scholar Henry Alford stated it best: a translator of Holy Scripture must be ready to sacrifice the choicest text, and the plainest proof of doctrine, if the words are not those of what he is constrained in his conscience to receive as Gods testimony.
For the specific guidelines employed by the translators and editors of the NET Bible, see NET Bible Principles of Translation in the reference material at the end.
The starting point for the Hebrew text16 translated to produce the NET Bible Old Testament was the standard edition known as Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS), which represents the text of the Leningrad Codex B19A (L), still the oldest dated manuscript of the complete Hebrew Bible. Thus the Hebrew text on which the present translation of the Old Testament is based does not represent a critical, or reconstructed, text in the same way the standard critical editions of the Greek New Testament do. It is generally recognized that the Hebrew text represented by the Leningrad Codex occasionally needs to be corrected based on other Hebrew manuscripts, early versions, and the biblical manuscripts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the case of the Old Testament such decisions were left up to the individual translators who prepared the initial drafts for consideration by the Old Testament Editorial Committee. The textual decisions made by the translators were then reviewed by the editors and a textual consultant, and in some cases were revised. Conjectural emendation was employed only where necessary to make sense of the Hebrew text in order to be able to translate it. Significant textual variants or emendations are noted in a text-critical note [tc]. These notes frequently include references to principal versional evidence where relevant. The text-critical notes on the Old Testament are not intended to be exhaustive, but to provide the reader with basic information about the major textual issues affecting the translation.
Some of the divisions found in copies of the Hebrew Bible were already established by the end of the Masoretic era (ca. a.d. 900). While it is generally understood that the division of the Old Testament text into verses goes back to the early centuries of the Christian era, the standard verse division which has continued in use up to the present was fixed by the Ben Asher family around a.d. 900.
In the places where the Hebrew versification differs from that of the English Bible, the NET Bible follows standard English practice, but a study note [sn] gives the corresponding Hebrew versification. Unlike the Hebrew text, which treats the superscriptions to individual psalms as the first verse, the NET Bible follows most English Bibles17 in leaving the superscriptions unnumbered, and they are set in a slightly smaller font size to distinguish them from the text of the Psalm proper.
The translation of the Divine Name represents special problems for all English Bibles. The most difficult issue is the handling of the so-called tetragrammaton, the four consonants which represent the name of God in the Old Testament. This was rendered traditionally as Jehovah in the King James Version, but it is generally recognized that this represents a combination of the consonants of the tetragrammaton, hwhy (YHWH), and the vowels from a completely different Hebrew word, yn`d)a& (adonai, master), which were substituted by the Masoretes so that pronunciation of the Divine Name could be avoided: Whenever hwhy (YHWH), appeared in the text, the presence of the vowels from the word yn`d)a& (adonai) signaled to the reader that the word yn`d)a& (adonai) was to be pronounced instead.
Today most Old Testament scholars agree that the vocalization of the Divine Name would originally have been something like Yahweh, and this has become the generally accepted rendering. The Executive Steering Committee of the NET Bible spent considerable time discussing whether or not to employ Yahweh in the translation. Several Old Testament editors and translators favored its use, reasoning that because of its use in the lyrics of contemporary Christian songs and its appearance in Bible study materials, the name Yahweh had gained more general acceptance. In spite of this, however, the Committee eventually decided to follow the usage of most English translations and render the Divine Name as Lord in small caps. Thus the frequent combination <yh!Oa# hw`hy+ (Yahweh elohim) is rendered as Lord God.
Other combinations like toab*x= hw`hy+ (Yahweh Tsévaot), traditionally rendered Lord of Hosts, have been translated either as Sovereign Lord or the Lord who leads armies depending on the context. Such instances are typically indicated by a translators note [tn].
As for the Greek text used in the NET Bible New Testament, an eclectic text was followed, differing in a number of places from the standard critical text as represented by the Nestle-Aland 27th edition and the United Bible Societies 4th edition. The translators who prepared the initial drafts of individual New Testament books made preliminary decisions regarding textual variants, and these were then checked and discussed by editors and a textual consultant. Where there are significant variant readings, these are normally indicated in a text-critical note [tc], along with a few of the principal witnesses (Greek manuscripts, ancient versions, and patristic writers) supporting the variants. While this listing of manuscript evidence is not intended to be exhaustive, readers familiar with the major witnesses will find this feature useful in making brief evaluations for themselves, sometimes with the aid of the textual apparatus in a standard critical edition of the Greek New Testament.
Divisions in the New Testament text like chapters, paragraphs, and verses were added later in the process of handing the text down from one generation to the next.18 Verse divisions were added to the New Testament, for example, in 1551. They are not part of the original documents, and in many cases give the appearance of being rather arbitrary. However, they have become accepted over time, and are useful to students of the Bible as aids to navigation when reading through or referring to the text. The text of the NET Bible itself has been arranged in paragraphs determined by the translators and editors. In almost all cases the verse divisions follow standard English practice. In the few instances where there is a difference between the versification of the standard critical editions of the Greek New Testament and most English versions19 this is indicated by a translators note [tn].
New Testament quotations from the Old Testament are indicated by a combination of boldface and italic type. Less direct allusions to Old Testament passages are indicated by italic type only. In both cases a study note [sn] gives the Old Testament reference.
As a further aid to readers and students of the Bible, descriptive sectional headings are given in italics. These were determined by the translators and editors in an attempt to be as helpful as possible, but should not be viewed as an integral part of the NET Bible text. They were not part of the original Hebrew and Greek texts that formed the basis for the translation.
Earlier printed editions of the Bible (the King James Version of 1611, for example) did not make use of quotation marks. Modern readers have come to expect them, however, so the NET Bible follows standard conventions of setting direct quotations with various combinations of single and double quotation marks. In cases where embedded quotations would require the use of more than three layers of quotation marks (instances are found in many of the Old Testament prophetic books which could run to five or more layers of embedded quotation), a more streamlined approach has been followed to eliminate excess layers of quotation marks by the use of colons and commas.
Types of Notes in the NET Bible
There are four basic kinds of notes employed in the NET Bible, text-critical notes [tc], translators notes [tn], study notes [sn], and map notes [map]. In this second beta version of the NET Bible the translators notes are generally more numerous and considerably more technical in nature than the study notes (although the latter will continue to be expanded and developed in future editions of the NET Bible).
The text-critical notes [tc] discuss alternate (variant) readings found in the various manuscripts and groups of manuscripts of the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament. These notes can indicate historically important readings, exegetically significant readings, or readings accepted by the translation that are different from standard critical editions. The basic Hebrew text followed by the translators of the NET Bible is that of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS). For the New Testament, in cases where the translation follows a different reading than that found in NA27, a text-critical note [tc] preceded by a double dagger () explains the major options and defends the reading followed in the translation.
The translators notes [tn] are the most numerous. They explain the rationale for the translation and give alternative translations, interpretive options, and other technical information. Translators notes generally fall into the following categories:
The study notes [sn] are explanatory notes intended for the nonspecialist engaged in the reading or study of the Bible. This category includes comments about historical or cultural background, explanation of obscure phrases or brief discussions of context, discussions of the theological point made by the biblical author, cross-references and references to Old Testament quotations or allusions in the New Testament, or other miscellaneous information helpful to the modern reader.
The map notes [map] indicate for the reader where the particular location can be found in the two map sections included in the NET Bible, The Journeys of Paul and The Holy Land from the Heavens. Preceding the maps is an index which contains every site on the maps, although the maps do not include every biblical site. The map coordinates in the notes and index first indicate the larger map and then the individual grid location; if a site is shown on more than one map, multiple sets of coordinates will be listed. For example, one of the coordinates for the city of Jerusalem is Map5-B1; this should be read as The Holy Land from the Heavensmap 5grid B1. Another coordinate for Jerusalem is JP1-F4; this should be read as The Journeys of Paulmap 1grid F4.
No matter how bad or good a translation may be, it will do you no good at all unless you read and study it! The words of the Prologue to Ecclesiasticus20 (also known as Sirach) are appropriate here: You are therefore urged to read with good will and attention, and to be indulgent in cases where, in spite of our diligent labor in translating, we may appear to have rendered some phrases imperfectly. As the NET Bible team it is our desire and earnest prayer that the Lord add his blessing to our endeavor at the translation of his word.
The NET Bible Project Director
for the Translators, Editors, and Sponsor of the NET Bible