The NET Bible
New English Translation


Welcome to the first printing of the entire NET Bible with all 57,875 translators’ notes! What you have in your hands—or on your computer monitor, laptop, or PDA1—represents 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 invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in 1455 provided a dramatic increase in the availability of Bibles and biblical materials, but five centuries later many people throughout the world cannot access current Bibles and biblical materials because of their cost. The primary goal of the NET Bible project was to leverage the Internet to meet this need. The Internet represents the single best opportunity for ministry in history because electronic distribution via the Internet allows free delivery of unlimited amounts of biblical materials to anyone worldwide who could otherwise not afford or access them—for zero incremental cost. Organizations willing to share materials on the Internet will more efficiently accomplish the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 than by following older ministry models alone. The impact of a publishing ministry can increase by leaps and bounds because it no longer needs to be limited by the number of copies of materials that 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 and other biblical materials so that the opportunities the Internet provides could be maximized. Of the major modern English Bible translations, the NET Bible is the only one that has done this.2

The translators’ notes are another product of our Internet focus. Bible readers are often not aware that every translation makes many 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 translators’ footnotes. In fact, the nature of the Internet allows unlimited footnotes. These footnotes 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 footnotes would fit on the printed page after all. What you are now reading is the first printed edition of the NET Bible complete with all the translators’ notes for both Old and New Testaments. 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 alternatives are. Students of the Bible, future Bible translators,3 and biblical scholars will benefit from these unparalleled translators’ notes.4

By making the NET Bible 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.5 The translation committee invites public comment on this first printed edition of the Old and New Testaments, whether from laypersons, clergy, or biblical scholars. That is why this edition is called a Beta Edition. We invite feedback to make the NET Bible 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.

What is the NET Bible?

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. These scholars teach biblical exegesis in seminaries and graduate schools. Further, the original translator for each book was chosen in every instance because of his or her work in that particular book—often extending over several decades. Many of the translators 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 fruit of hundreds of thousands of hours of biblical and linguistic research.

Why do we need yet another translation of the Bible?

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 we 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 a contemporary English translation tend to be very expensive. Anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection will be able to use and print out the NET Bible without cost for personal study. In addition anyone who wants to share the Bible with others can print up to 1,000 copies and give them away free without the need for written permission. Pastors without expensive 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. 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 God’s Word, and we believe it should be available to everyone to read and study in a version that is accurate, readable, and affordable.

It is not just the new media that justifies this translation; a great deal of scholarly literature has been produced on biblical interpretation and translation in the last quarter of a century. While virtually all other translations produced in the last two decades of the twentieth century were revisions of earlier versions, the NET 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. Further, the translation itself is intended to capture the best of both worlds: readable and accurate.

How did we get our English Bible?

The history of the Bible’s translation into English is a long and complicated one, and can only be summarized 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 invention of the printing press ca. 1455 by Johannes Gutenberg (the first book he printed was a Bible). 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.6 These events combined to give considerable momentum to the translation of the Bible into everyday language. Luther’s New Testament, translated from the Greek into German, appeared in 1522, while William Tyndale’s, 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 Tyndale’s 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 Coverdale’s in 1535 and the version called Matthew’s 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 Matthew’s 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 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 forbade 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 Moffatt’s (NT 1913; OT 1924) and E. J. Goodspeed’s (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).

More than twenty-five years have passed since the release of the NIV New Testament.7 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.8 During these twenty-five years neither biblical scholarship nor the English language itself has stood still.9 The NET Bible is the first completely new translation of the Bible to be done in the age of the Internet (World Wide Web) with full computer networking support. Biblical scholars exchanged not only email 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 as significant as Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1455. The original authors of the Bible made the books and letters they had written available for free. That is what we are now doing electronically.

What is unique and distinctive about the NET Bible?

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 sort of running commentary on the biblical text to a degree never seen before in modern translations of the Bible. The NET Bible with the complete set of translator’s footnotes is not just a readable modern translation, but a copy of the Bible with its own commentary attached containing an average of two notes for each verse.

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 see 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. 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 did the NET Bible project get started?

The project began 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 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, later discussions soon made it apparent 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.

What is the significance of the NET Bible’s name and logo?

A name and logo were 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 abbreviation. Our logo reflects a simple computer mouse linked to an open electronic Bible in the form of a net. This net represents a virtual fisherman’s net, to catch people on the Internet.

What was the size of the NET Bible Translation Committee?

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 (version 1.0) was a remarkable thirty-two months.

What do you mean when you say the NET Bible was beta tested?

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 1973—a beta test. How does someone beta test the Bible? Just like beta testing software, we 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. The website currently delivers about a million Bible studies per week to users in an average of 73 countries. Thus prepublication reviewers of the NET Bible have logged millions of review sessions and sent the translation committee countless comments. The committee always takes each of these user-comments seriously and many have substantially improved the translation. The translation committee continues to solicit comments to improve both the translation and the notes. We also ask for you to pray that God may be pleased with the NET Bible and that people all over the world will have greater knowledge of Him through reading the NET Bible and the thousands of NET Bible-based study materials. These will always be available via both the Internet and printed versions.

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 our invitation to help us continue to improve the translation through its ongoing development. This is unique in history.

Can I still submit suggestions for future improvements?

Absolutely. The goal of this translation is to be clear and detailed. While we think we’re close, that doesn’t mean we have yet achieved perfection. If you come across a phrase or verse you feel needs improvement, you can send an e-mail to
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There are four levels of comments that we request:

  1. I’m not an expert in Greek or Hebrew, but I don’t understand the English meaning of this verse. It uses awkward grammar or words that aren’t in normal English usage. (Translation reflecting normal English usage was the primary goal of the original King James Bible.)
  2. I’m a scholar in the Bible’s original languages, and (a) I really think you could better translate this verse this way ...; (b) here’s what your translation falsely implies in English which was not a nuance of the original; (c) here’s why people of my background will interpret the English phrase in a strange fashion.
  3. There is reasonable division of opinion about this verse’s implications among honest Bible students; a more balanced footnote is needed. (Here you may specify the view you would like to see represented.)
  4. Other comments and endorsements: We don’t request only comments suggesting improvements. We would also like to hear of specific passages where you particularly like what we have done or other features of the NET Bible that you are impressed with. Additionally, we would be very pleased to have your endorsement of the NET Bible.

How was the NET Bible actually made?

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 translator’s 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 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 a minimum of 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.

Who decided what kind of translation the NET Bible was going to be?

No denomination, church, agency, or publisher determined the nature of the NET Bible translation. 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” (see the reference material at the end) 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 reader’s 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.)

What are the chief characteristics of the NET Bible as a translation?

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 illustration13 of the complexity of competing principles, consider the Lord’s 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 ἁλιεῖς ἀνθρώπων. 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. At bottom, 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 passage—for now—we 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.

Is a literal translation the best translation?

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 Mary’s 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 author’s meaning. A major goal of good translation is of course readability—but 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 και (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. Paul’s style differs from Peter’s, and both differ from John’s. 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.

Is the NET Bible suitable for use as more than a study Bible?

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, and preaching, as well as private reading and study.

What position does the NET Bible take on gender-inclusive language?

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 Bible’s 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 Tyndale’s New Testament in 1526, when he rendered the phrase υιοι θεου (“sons of God”) as “children of God,” a gender neutral translation. Along these same lines the KJV of 1611 rendered בֵּן (“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 Gomer’s 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, τεκνα (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 setting—like Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee with his disciples in a boat—when it is almost certain that only males were present. In other instances when a group of people are addressed by the Greek term ανθρωποι (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 Bible’s 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 translator’s 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 ανθρωποι (men / mankind / humankind), the ανθρωπος (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 ανθρωπος. 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 Paul’s handling of this text, hardly anyone would charge him with capitulating to a feminist agenda!

Will the NET Bible be updated on a regular basis?

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 NIV—are not familiar to many modern readers.

Additional research, additional discoveries of new manuscripts, or archeological 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 NET Bible following the current beta period, revisions to the translation itself will occur in five-year increments, allowing readers to memorize passages with at least a measure of durability. However, the translators’ notes, text critical notes, and study notes will not be frozen in this manner, so that the fruits of ongoing research may produce an ever-improving reference and study Bible. Ongoing improvements in the notes will be made available on the website at on a continuous basis.

What is the status of the current edition of the NET Bible?

This edition of the NET Bible is being released as a 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 has been edited and is now ready for release as a beta version, along with a new revision of the New Testament (version 2.0). All the while, the most recent working draft of the NET Bible has been and will be available for free public access on the Internet.

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 students and teachers worldwide spend the next year using the NET Bible beta version 1.0 on a regular basis so that their reflections on this translation will help us produce a translation which 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 send your comments and suggestions via e-mail to < >.

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 as well before a final version is released.

What are some of the distinctive characteristics of the NET Bible translation philosophy?

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 himself—his nature as well as his word, plans, and purposes—over 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 Bible—how they have been translated and why—will 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.

Genesis 3:15. Genesis 3:15 has had a long history of interpretation. At issue presently is whether this text refers to a single entity in conflict with another single entity, or whether groups are in view. The text of the verse in the NET Bible is as follows:

And I will put hostility between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; they will attack your head, but you will attack their heel.

A cursory reading of this passage indicates some major differences between the NET Bible and other traditional translations of this passage: the pronouns used here are plural, while many other translations have singular pronouns (“he will attack your head...”). The editors have received several comments about this verse, most of which point to this difference and ask whether it is valid since it seems to preclude a common interpretation of this verse, namely, that Jesus himself is in view. Here is where the interplay between the three contexts and progressive revelation is useful in determining the proper meaning and translation of this verse. The grammatical context is a primary factor in determining the meaning: the noun translated as “offspring” is a collective singular noun, meaning its grammatical number is singular but in reality it represents more than one thing (analogously, the word “army” in English is similar). The singular pronoun and verb which follow agree grammatically with this collective singular noun. To clarify the collective sense of the pronoun, the translation uses the English plural pronoun “they.” The theological context, informed by progressive revelation, supports this translation. At this time, the future coming of the Messiah had not been revealed, neither to the initial participants of the narrative nor to the author of the book. Therefore, it would be foreign to the original context to bring that meaning back into the passage in translation. The grammatical context and the theological context work together to yield the present translation. This is not to deny that Jesus came and eventually defeated Satan at the cross through his death; that is proclaimed clearly in later passages. However, that concept is not revealed in the grammar and historical setting of this passage.

Isaiah 7:14. This verse has also 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 עלמה (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 παρθενος (parthenos) 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 God’s 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 עלמה (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 Israel’s 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 God’s presence during the time of Ahaz, but he also is a promise of God’s 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 God’s 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. The editors expect to receive criticism, particularly on this passage, from those who are against all modern translations. Our central motivation, however, is faithfulness to the original Hebrew text and context in this instance. While a rendering of “virgin” in Isa 7:14 might lead to wider acceptance, we believe that this kind of acceptance of traditional renderings would not be pleasing to God. The Bible’s clear statements affirming the virgin birth of Christ are not in question here by either the NET Bible or its translators—it is merely a question of which is the most faithful English rendering of the meaning of the original text of Isa 7:14 in Hebrew. The editors of the NET Bible believe that a translation which is ultimately the most faithful to the original text will ultimately prove more useful in both evangelism and ministry by an unswerving focus on accuracy to the original Biblical texts. Ultimately, it is our faith in our sovereign God that causes us to believe that faith is strengthened, not threatened, by faithfulness to the original.

Passages Involving πιστις Χριστου and Similar Expressions in Paul. The phrase πιστις Χριστου (pistis Cristou) is a difficult one to translate. The issue centers on the relationship of the genitive noun Χριστου to the head noun πιστις: 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 πιστις Χριστου 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 πιστις 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 Paul’s 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 made—“faith of Christ,” a literal translation, communicates very little to the average reader in the context—and because scholarship in this area is now leaning towards 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 God’s 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 Hebrew Text Behind the NET Bible Old Testament

The starting point for the Hebrew text14 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.

Arrangement of the Old Testament Text

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 Bibles15 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.

Translation of the Divine Name

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, YHWH, and the vowels from a completely different Hebrew word, adonai (“master”), which were substituted by the Masoretes so that pronunciation of the Divine Name could be avoided: whenever YHWH appeared in the text, the presence of the vowels from the word adonai signaled to the reader that the word 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 Yahweh elohim is rendered as LORD God.16

Other combinations like Yahweh Sebaoth, 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 translator’s note [tn].

The Greek Text Behind the NET Bible New Testament

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.

Arrangement of the New Testament Text

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.17 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 versions18 this is indicated by a translator’s 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.

Sectional Headings in Both Old and New Testaments

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.

Use of Quotation Marks

Earlier printed editions of the Bible (the King James Version of 1611, for example) did not make use 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.

Further Remarks About the Notes in the NET Bible

One of the unique opportunities offered by electronic media is the inclusion of notes to accompany the translation. The notes offer the translator the opportunity to explain and justify the translation where necessary. Although the NET Bible is now available in printed editions, many of the original considerations in designing the format for the notes related to electronic media. No Bible yet published has included notes produced as an integral part of the translation process in as much depth and detail as the notes that accompany the NET Bible. One of the goals of the NET Bible with the complete set of translator’s footnotes is to allow the general public, as well as Bible students, pastors, missionaries, and Bible translators in the field, to 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.

Types of Notes in the NET Bible

There are three basic kinds of notes employed in the NET Bible, “text-critical notes” [tc], “translator’s notes” [tn], and “study notes” [sn]. In beta version 2.0 of the NET Bible the “translator’s 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. The basic Hebrew text followed by the translators of the NET Bible is that of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS), with differences indicated by a text-critical note [tc]. For the New Testament, in cases where the translation follows a different reading than that found in the standard critical editions (NA27 and UBS4) a text-critical note [tc] explains the major options and defends the reading followed in the translation. In some other selected cases (such as the longer ending of Mark or the inclusion of John 7:53-8:11) a text-critical note explains the issues involved even when the translation follows the same reading found in the standard critical editions.

The “translator’s notes” [tn] are the most numerous. They explain the rationale for the translation and give alternative translations, interpretive options, and other technical information. “Translator’s notes” generally fall into the following categories:

The “study notes” [sn] are the other major category of notes occurring in the NET Bible. These 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.

What is our request?

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 Ecclesiasticus19 (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.” 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


1 “PDA” is an acronym for personal digital assistant, commonly referring to a handheld or palmtop computer. The text of the NET Bible is available in a number of common formats for such devices.

2 A free electronic copy of the NET Bible is available for download from

3 SIL/Wycliffe has included the NET Bible (with all the translators’ notes) in its standard reference materials furnished to its field translators.

4 There is an average of 1.8 translators’ notes for each verse in the Bible.

5 The NET Bible website ( as of August 2001 delivers approximately one million Bible studies per week, all for free, to students of the Bible in over 73 countries.

6 Modern Luther scholars have questioned whether Luther actually posted his theses publicly on the Wittenberg church door; he may have circulated them privately. The famous story about the door was related by Melancthon after Luther’s death; Luther himself never mentioned it.

7 The NIV New Testament was issued in 1973 and the entire Bible (with revised NT) published in 1978.

8 Bible translation has certainly not stood still in the interim, however, with the publication of Good News for Modern Man (Today’s English Version, 1976), the New King James Version (1979) as the successor to the KJV, the Reader’s Digest Bible (1982) as a condensation of the RSV, the New Jerusalem Bible (1985) as a revision of the JB (1966), the NRSV (1989) as a significant revision of the RSV (1952), the Revised English Bible (1989) as a revision of the NEB (1970), the New Century Version (1991) as successor to the International Children’s Bible (1986), Eugene H. Peterson’s paraphrase The Message: The New Testament in Contemporary Language (1993), the 21st Century King James Version (1994) as another successor to the venerable KJV, the Contemporary English Version (1995), the NASB update edition (1995), the New International Reader’s Version (1995) based on the NIV, the New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version (1995) based on the NRSV, and the New Living Translation (1996), successor to The Living Bible (1971).

9 The English language changed enough within twenty years to warrant the release of the Contemporary English Version (CEV) in 1995, although as a vernacular translation it was similar to the Good News Bible/TEV published in 1976. Granted, the more vernacular a translation attempts to be, the more frequently it will need to be revised to keep up with changes in the English language.

10 With formal equivalence each word of the original language is represented by a word in the receptor (target) language, and the word and clause order is kept as nearly identical to that of the original language as possible. This approach has been stated as a translation rule by J. B. Lightfoot: “the same English words to represent the same Greek far as possible in the same order.” Thus this approach translates word for word. As a matter of fact, the King James Version itself did not subscribe to this approach, but used a variety of English words to translate the same Greek or Hebrew word on various occasions.

11 With dynamic equivalence (sometimes called functional equivalence) the goal is to render the original language text in the closest natural equivalent in the receptor language, both in meaning and style. This approach translates phrase for phrase or thought for thought.

12 There are, however, occasions in which a more formally equivalent translation is found in the translation; in such instances, the interpretive options are usually found in a footnote.

13 This illustration is taken from “An Open Letter regarding the NET Bible New Testament” by D. B. Wallace, Notes on Translation 14.3 (2000).

14 This includes the brief portions of the Old Testament written in Aramaic.

15 There are some exceptions. The New American Bible, for example, follows the Hebrew versification and treats the superscription as verse 1 of the psalm.

16 An exception to this general rule is the Book of Exodus, since in Exodus 3 God reveals his “name” to Moses. Here the rendering “Yahweh” was retained for literary and stylistic reasons.

17 Divisions of material in the New Testament (somewhat analogous to chapter divisions) date back to codex Vaticanus (B) in the 4th century A.D. The present chapter divisions in the English Bible are attributed to Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, around A.D. 1205. The first edition of the New Testament to be divided into verses was the fourth edition of Robertus Stephanus published in 1551. One of the first translations to be divided into paragraphs (as opposed to the individual verses of the King James Version) was the American Standard Version (1901).

18 For example, both the NA27 and UBS4 editions of the Greek text (along with the NRSV, which generally follows the versification of the critical editions of the Greek text in the New Testament) place the familiar phrase “I have been crucified with Christ” at the end of Galatians 2:19, while most other English versions place these words in Galatians 2:20. This is explained in a note in the NET Bible.

19 Ecclesiasticus (also known as Sirach) is a book of the Old Testament Apocrypha.

Appendix A: NET Bible Principles of Translation

1. Text

2. Interpretive Decisions and Tools

3. Form of Translation

No translation can ever achieve complete formal equivalence.[1] Even a translation which sometimes reflects Hebrew and Greek word order at the expense of English style has to resort to paraphrase in some places. On the other hand, no translation achieves complete dynamic equivalence[2] either. Thus this translation, like every other, ends up somewhere between these extremes. These considerations are reflected by the following specific qualifications:

4. Additional Features of the Translation and Notes

Abbreviations of biblical books follow JBL standard usage. With only a few exceptions JBL style is used for all other abbreviations.

[1] With formal equivalence each word of the original language is represented by a word in the receptor (target) language, and the word and clause order is kept as nearly identical to that of the original language as possible. Thus this approach translates word for word.

[2] With dynamic equivalence (sometimes called functional equivalence) the goal is to render the original language text in the closest natural equivalent in the receptor language, both in meaning and style. This approach translates phrase for phrase or thought for thought.