Review of the NetBible

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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