Thursday, September 09, 2004

NET Bible

As I mentioned not too long ago, Bible.org, home of the NET Bible has been undergoing some changes recently. The main feature continues to be the New English Translation (NET Bible), which is available in a wide variety of formats (some of them absolutely free).

I have known about the NET Bible for a number of years, and own a few electronic incarnations of it for use with some of the main commercial Bible software programs. But when the second beta edition was released (in September 2003), I made a point of ordering a printed copy. I thought it would be nice to have a bonded leather edition, so I went ahead and ordered it (almost a year later!).

Now that I have been able to look at it in some detail, and use it for a couple of weeks or so, I must say I am really impressed. It is the best study Bible I have seen. In fact, to use the term "study Bible" may be misleading. It is a huge work, with 60,237 notes (and terrific satellite maps of the Holy Land!) written by the translators and editors, which includes a very full critical apparatus in English. Now, since textual criticism is something of a hobby horse of mine (I bought my first UBS Greek New Testament, as well as Metzger's "A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament" long before I learned Greek!), I have particularly enjoyed the frequent text-critical notes.

Under "NET Bible Principles of Translation" (p. 2305) it says that "Computerized concordance programs and electronic search engines were used extensively in the production of this translation". And it shows! Lots of useful statistics on vocabulary, cross references, and other valuable material are included in the study notes and translator's notes. Also, the fact that this is still a work in progress means that certain features (even the translation itself) can be improved based on the feedback from users and the ongoing work of the scholars involved in the project. Last, but not least, much of the philosophy of the NET Bible would fall under the category of "open source scholarship". Therefore, use and distribution of this unique, Internet-based Bible is encouraged. This is the first major modern English translation to follow this path.

All in all, a scholarly study Bible, yet readable and clear, which I can heartily recommend. Incidentally, there is now a new NET Bible Nestle-Aland27 Diglot available. After looking at the features (a PDF can be downloaded here), I can't wait to lay my hands on it. Prices start at $59.95.

Update (September 14): Rick Brannan has posted some thoughts on the diglot.