When I preach, I typically quote from the NIV, but I have been using the NET Bible for my study and preparation for about a year now. I have found it to be a refreshing translation that seems to have a much more robust linguistic style than the NIV but that also seems to be as accurate as possible. There has always been an underlying “accuracy” fight between the supposed “literals” ( NASB, NSRV, etc.) and the “dynamics” (NIV). The NIV is assumed to be less accurate, but to be honest “literalness” is not always the more accurate choice. However, the NASB and the NSRV have been my “go to” checks for English translation variance. Interestingly the NET has, for the most part, negated this tension as I have found the NET to be far superior than any other translation in explaining and exploring the lexical issues surrounding their choices for particular renderings. The footnotes are rich. If you click on the verse number, you will be directed to a page showing multiple renderings from multiple translations. Very handy.
All of this may seem un-important or a bit high-brow for a church planter, but it really isn’t. There are three guiding values that shape my approach to ministry: relevance, intentionality, and relationship. These are driven by the way God has shaped my life *and* by my research into the de-churched and the un-churched. While there is a robust debate on Bible translation that is very broad, my own struggles with the plethora of choices is focused on how a translation plays in the lives of people.
I want a relevant translation. The Word is always relevant, but are the translations? Seriously, “thee” and “thou” (and other KJV style devices) are interjected constructs that HURT the text rather than help. I always hear (or see) our younger folks giggle when someone quotes that mess. On the other hand, the Message seems to be popular among the younger folks. The problem is that while the KJV is irrelevant as a translation, the Message is irrelevant as a main study source. I keep reminding folks that it is NOT a Bible – it is “cliff notes” on steroids, but it not a Bible. It’s a reinterpretation, not a translation. It can be immensely helpful in exploring the nuances of potential meaning. But I’ve noticed several serious problems with how Mr. Patterson views some passages, and I don’t think they are consistent with the language. The paraphrasing also seems somewhat dated. I have found the NET to be good middle ground. It is really easy to read, but is insanely accurate when textual-accuracy is the priority, in profoundly meaningful where textual-meaning is the priority – all this with a refreshing linguistic style. This is incredibly useful to new Christians or “re-Christians” who are just coming to love God’s word.
I want a translation that is intentional. “Intentional”, perhaps more than any other word, is how I would describe the NET. You can buy the NET in print, but to me, the awesome sauce of the NET is the online Bible. You get the most current revisions, derived from extremely intentional and careful study and re-study of passages. The online version of the translation has this “living” feel to it. You can just imagine the committee meeting right at this moment, discussing passages, and constantly refining the renderings. The people I come across are very thoughtful and discerning people – the NET is a perfect Bible for people who want to know the “what’s” and “why’s”.
I want a translation that is relational. The entire paragraph above, discussing the NET’s intentionality can be applied here as well. There is a sense of community revolving around the NET. It is hard to explain, but the online experience is truly unparalleled. You just have to check it out for yourself to see what I mean. The “Discovery Box” is awesome! (The only online system that I think has a more relational feel is YouVersion, which is a multi-translation Bible reader, not a translation itself). Relationships are not a mantra for the generations we are now ministering to – it is a way of life – engaging the bible in such a manner just makes sense.
Conclusion. I really dig it. I am still struggling over whether or not to make the NET my primary preaching text as well, but it’s not because there is a problem with it. It is an “old dog / new tricks” thing. I am “used to” the NIV and very familiar with its renderings. But, I know it’s just a matter of time.
Don’t take my word for it. Try it and do some research on it. Really good reviews of the NET are rare, but here is one I think does an amazing job: http://homepage.mac.com/rmansfield/thislamp/files/20090905_net_bible.html