The Navigator’s Hand

The Navigators have a great illustration to show ways to interact with the Bible. The hand illustration has five methods labeled across the fingers: Hear, Read, Study, Memorize, and Meditate.

Image from www.navigators.org

Hear: If you only go to church on Sunday and never open your Bible, you will still hear the word (hopefully!). If you turn on your favorite local Christian radio station then you will hear the word. When you listen to a sermon, or a devotional, or a Christian song or hymn, someone else has meditated on the word and you are getting their fruit second hand. This can still be valuable, but not as valuable as going to the source for yourself.

Read: Reading is different than studying. At the Christian book store there are hundreds of study Bibles, but there aren’t many Bibles that are designed for pure reading. When you sit down with your study Bible, there are notes, section sub headings, word studies, cultural notes, and all sorts of other really helpful information. But that isn’t how you normally sit down and read. When the Message was first published, it was a Bible with no chapters and verses. It was a Bible designed to be read. The NIV has just released a Books of the Bible edition also with no chapter or verses. The ESV has also released a reader’s edition. There is value in being able to sit down with your Bible and read large portions at a time. Read, then read again. Read fast, then go back and read slow. Read with your style of reading, then take advice from others. Reading is a skill, and there is always room for improvement. Learn to ignore the section headings, put paragraphs together and see the big picture. The main point of reading is to OBSERVE the text: What does it say?

Study: This is where your study Bible is really helpful. After you have read, and you have paid attention to what it says, then you are ready to INTERPRET: What does it mean? In reading you are sticking to the text to see what it says. In studying you can bring in commentaries, but it is important to interact with the text first. The commentaries are useless if you don’t know what the text has said first. But there are some great commentaries. If you want to find out about available commentaries for the different books of the Bible, www.bestcommentaries.com is a great resource. If you want some great commentaries for free there are a few places to get some (Constable’s Notes, ICC OT & NT, Keil & Delitzsch commentaries). Something may not be clear from your initial reading: names, places, cultural references, idioms. A good commentary can provide some help. A commentary may come to conclusions you disagree with, however, I find it helpful to wrestle with the differences. Articulate why you disagree, and perhaps write out your thoughts. I am not endorsing everything said in all the commentaries listed above, but there is very useful insight. Learn to sift the good from the bad when it comes to the commentaries. But more importantly keep your study focused on the text after you have OBSERVED what the text says, then INTERPRET what it means. The better your observation the better your interpretation.

Memorize: In Matthew 4, Jesus is tempted by Satan. Satan uses some Bible verses as part of his temptations. Jesus quotes scripture from memory, and uses them in context of their true meaning to refute Satan. The value of memorizing scripture is immeasurable. It gives you the foundation to have scripture come to mind when you are weak, when you are vulnerable, and most importantly when you need it. Memorizing helps improve your OBSERVATION of the text, and to reevaluate your interpretations. Memorization helps you focus on the structure of sentences, and helps lead you to the next step of Meditation. Try to memorize verses in context, get the whole paragraph or full thought the verse communicates. There are some challenges to memorization. I started memorizing verses from the NIV, but then I came across the NASB and wanted to start changing versions. It’s hard to memorize verses from multiple versions. One solution, try memorizing in the original languages as a gateway to learning Greek and Hebrew. Another challenge is passage of time. I had a stack of Bible verses I had memorized. I’ve lost that stack of verses, and can’t recreate it. I’ll have to re-memorize those verses, because it takes time and commitment to memorize and retain.

Meditate: What are you thinking about when you drive to work? While you are waiting at the dentist? When you are awake at night and can’t fall asleep? Why not fill that time with scripture? Meditation is thinking on something. When you memorize scripture you have already begun the process of meditation. You can’t avoid thinking about what you are memorizing. Each phrase learned of a verse leads one to ponder its meaning. Meditation on scripture throughout your day also helps you to think about how it applies to the different things and situations you come across. It helps you put into practice the scriptures. This is APPLICATION of the text to your life: How to live it? Great application comes from great interpretation that came from great observation.

The goal of every sermon is to get you to do something. The best sermons are the ones that come from the text, and the pastor walks you through what it says, helps you see what it means, and then hammers it home with how you can do it in your life. But any sermon you hear, good or bad, can lead you to the text. You can read for yourself, and study to go deep. Memorize the parts that you want or need to work on most, and meditate. The Holy Spirit guides you and empowers you to do the Father’s will. He leads you through the text. This is how God has communicated Himself to us, and how He continually speaks to us. Stay in the Word!

Review of the NetBible

IMG_20160403_143303

The NetBible is a Bible that is available for download for free at bible.org. It was created out of a desire to have a Bible under a copyright that allows it to be downloaded for free. Every Bible has some copyright restrictions, some versions allow more use than others in publications. The NetBible is extremely generous in its allowance. It is the only translation that can be downloaded and printed (up to 1000 complete bibles) and given royalty free. The majority of the translation team is from Dallas Theological Seminary, there are a few from other seminaries and churches. I must confess for my review, that I am a DTS alum. I love the faculty, and believe in this project.

My review is of the premium bonded leather full notes edition. This Bible was gifted to me at a DTS meeting for alums a few years ago. There was no expectation to produce a review of the Bible, but I enjoy it so much I wanted to offer a sincere review. I bought a first beta edition of the NET Bible in 2001, back when it was only 57,875 notes. That was prior to my DTS studies, and part of what drew me to the seminary.

IMG_20160403_143959IMG_20160403_143513

The bonded leather does have a plastic feel to it, but it is pliable. I am afraid to bend it too much, I believe it would leave a crease. The text on the spine reads ‘THE NET BIBLE’ centered near the top, ‘with 60,932 translation notes’ centered on the lower part of the spine just above the publisher stamp ‘bible.org’. There are three faint ribs on the spine to provide a little extra texture. There is an additional stamp ‘Premium Bonded Leather’ on the back cover. (Bible.org also offers a leather edition that I’m sure is a much nicer cover.)

The real treat of this Bible is what is inside that cover. This translation is fun to read. It is honest with the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic underlying the translation. It explains itself with an overwhelming amount of notes. A quick skim through the NET Bible reveals most pages have over 50% notes less than 50% text. Some pages have almost all notes and just a verse or two of text (See Gen 1:1 and John 1:1). The notes are divided into four types, study notes (sn), text critical notes (tc), translation notes (tn), and map references (map). The translation notes help guide to commentaries, technical articles, language reference works. The references are technical and may appeal to the serious Bible nerd. The study notes are also helpful to bring out cultural background and other useful information to help illumine the text. The overall intent of the NET Bible notes serve a different purpose than those of something like the Life Application Study Bible. Like in its title the Life Application Study Bible serves to provide application from the text, rather than explain and dig into word meaning and textual issues.

IMG_20160403_143708IMG_20160403_143534

The text in the NET Bible is paragraph format in double columns. Poetry starts a new line with each verse. Scripture quoting scripture is indicated with bold italics, if it is an allusion to scripture it is only in italics. Every verse has the chapter and verse included in bold. This does make devotional reading cumbersome, but I have gotten used to it. There are no chapter breaks in the text, but there are section headers that usually break two chapters apart. The section headers have a space between the preceding and following sections to set them apart, and they are in italics to distinguish from the text of scripture. The notes can be a distraction in the full notes edition. The notes are a smaller font than the text. Younger eyes are probably fine with the small font, I like to have a magnifying glass. These notes are so valuable they are worth the trouble. The paper is very thin and there is noticeable bleed through. The notes appear to have consistent line matching near the bottom of each page. The line matching on the scripture passages is less consistent. The section headings do not have a full space above and below, so each section heading throws off the line matching. The text is still readable with the bleed through.

IMG_20160403_143831IMG_20160403_144327

The NET Bible is a good readable translation. I really enjoy reading it, and it is a fun translation to read aloud with my children. The English used is very colloquial. It includes all you would expect in your Bible vocabulary (justify, sanctify, glorify, redeem, etc.) but it still maintains a very readableness to it. This is a delightful translation to read. It avoids the stiffness and formality of an overly literal translation, but still gives you a literal translation in the notes.

With the flaws in my printed version, I do more devotional reading with the AndBible app on android. AndBible allows you to download the NET Bible, and you can read without the notes, and you can even remove the verses. Bible.org has also published a compact version and a readers version. These additional versions provide a more pleasant reading experience than the full notes version. The full notes version provides a wealth of information that no other study bible provides. It is a gateway to exploring the text, learning about the underlying original languages, and getting into resources that will help unpack the text.

The NET Bible attempts to make clear the meaning of a passage, even over traditional interpretation:

Matthew 6:9  So pray this way: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored (NET)

Matthew 6:9  Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. (ESV)

The NET Bible is bold. It has some translations that don’t make it into other versions. The notes allow the translators of the NET to do this because then can explain their decision.

Judges 11:39  After two months she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed. She died a virgin. Her tragic death gave rise to a custom in Israel. (NET)

Judges 11:39  And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made. She had never known a man, and it became a custom in Israel. (ESV)

Malachi 1:2-3  yet I chose Jacob and rejected Esau. (NET)

Malachi 1:2-3   Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. (ESV)

Romans 3:21-25  21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed–  22 namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction,  23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  24 But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.  25 God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. (NET)

Romans 3:21-25  21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it–  22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (ESV)

Please understand, I love the ESV. I only use it for illustrative purposes, in each of these comparisons the ESV translations are similar to most other evangelical translations. The NET is bold it its approach to translating, honest with the text. The translators are able to explain their approach in the footnotes. It is a valuable translation to have available to reference when preparing to teach a sermon or small group lesson. It is available for free at bible.org, but it is nice to have a print version. My copy is the bonded leather, I may break down and buy the nice tuscany leather cover after the next major update.

The technical details from bible.org

Full Notes Features:

  • All 60,932 translators’ notes
  • Full color satellite maps of the Holy Lands
  • 9.5 point font
Print Bible features:

  • Premium Cromwell Leather
  • Premium Bible paper
  • Premium Smyth sewn binding
  • Gold gilded edges and a premium ribbon
Bible Specifications

  • Width – 6 3/4″
  • Length – 9 5/8″
  • Thickness – 2″

Scripture quotations marked ESV are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. The “ESV” and “English Standard Version” are trademarks of Good News Publishers. Use of either trademark beyond the use described in this Permission Notice requires the permission of Good News Publishers.

Scripture quotations designated “NET” are from the NET Bible, copyright 2005 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. www.netbible.com