Perhaps many of you have already heard about or made use of the NET Bible made available by the folks at Bible.org. If you have had opportunity to use this free resource, you will no doubt have also discovered its many useful footnotes (60,932 translators’ notes). But you will no doubt also have observed its tendency toward dynamic equivalence translation and to embrace the occasional odd reading. However, Michael Marlowe, in his August 2006 review of the NET Bible, shows that the problems with the version run considerably deeper. Here is the conclusion to Marlowe’s review:
The NET Bible has some good features. The primary strength of the version is its value as a free internet resource for fledgling scholars who would otherwise have no convenient access to the kind of grammatical and text-critical information presented in the notes. But the “tn” and “sn” notes cannot be relied upon to inform the reader where scholars differ on important points of interpretation. When they do notice other interpretations, they tend to be dismissive, defensive, and sometimes misleading. These notes are in need of some careful revision. Students who are studying the notes of the NET Bible should realize that many of them barely scratch the surface of the interpretive issues, and they are no substitute for a comprehensive exegetical commentary.It would be to their advantage if the editors were to get a clearer sense of the purpose of the version. Apparently it was originally conceived as a Bible for students who required a fairly literal translation for close study, with detailed exegetical notes; but revisions moved the text in a paraphrastic direction, as if it had to be understandable to uneducated and casual readers, to those who are offended at “sexist” language, and even to such dull readers as those who cannot understand obvious metaphors (e.g. “under his feet”). The result is, the translation itself is not very useful for close study. And there are already several versions which present a more idiomatic translation for readers who need one. What is needed is a version that will be useful to the same readers who will benefit from the scholarly marginal apparatus. It does not make sense to attach such an apparatus to a version intended for uneducated readers. The translation should be much more literal than it is now.
We also would like to see the un-Christian treatment of the Old Testament repaired, but it seems that the editors have committed themselves to this approach. The explanation for it in the preface is facile and theologically inadequate. We cannot overlook the rationalistic presuppositions of their approach, which practically excludes the apostolic interpretations of the Old Testament. Although the editors seem to hope that their version will be “acceptable to Bible readers everywhere,” they must know that it will not be acceptable to conservatives as long as they persist in this treatment of the Old Testament. The editors should not imagine that they have been “responsible to the universal body of Christ” when they merely invite people to send email to their website. The body of Christ has been around for nearly two thousand years, and it is no small thing to be responsible to it. When modern scholars cherish novelties, show contempt for the universal Church’s heritage of interpretation, and boast of their independence from all “ecclesiastical” bodies, they minimize their responsibility to the Church.
I think Marlowe does a good job of demonstrating the validity of the issues he raises and would recommend reading the entire review. I will continue to personally make good use of the resources available at Bible.org, including the NET Bible with its generally helpful and informative notes, and I would recommend these resources as well. But I would recommend using them with a critical eye and great care, and I am thankful for Michael Marlowe’s help in being more properly discerning.