At first I tend to think of the NET Bible as a regular reference Bible, not a study Bible. But that is a fallacy, because the NET Bible First Edition is really the quintessential study Bible. Nearly every verse has several text and translators notes, and many verses include more traditional study notes as well.
This Bible is a fantastic collection of information to help us understand what the original manuscripts not only said, but meant! (Not that we have the originals, of course!) There are so many notes that most of the time the notes take up far more than half the page, and sometimes nearly the entire page! And while quite a lot of those notes only tell you that a certain word was added for clarity in English, or to note the actual word or phrase used in the Greek or Hebrew, there are many notes which go into great detailed discussion of how and why a word or verse has been translated as it has been, or into discussion of a theological point. In my own experience, the NET Bible has the most comprehensive set of study notes of any study Bible available today. They not only help you understand the NET Bible, but they will help you understand the translation choices that have been made in other Bibles as well!
But now we must separate the notes from the NET Bible text. While the notes are wonderful, the text may be less so. Actually, the text itself isn’t bad at all. It’s quite easy to read and understand. It isn’t burdened by archaic, obsolete words and phraseology. But it seems that the extensive notes have made the translators comfortable with some rather odd word choices (read: untraditional), because the notes allow them to give us the reasons for their choices.
A good example of this is Romans 6:23, a very well-known verse which reads this way in the NASB:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I have highlighted the word “wages” for a reason. Let’s see how it reads in the NET Bible:
“For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Now is that unusual or what?
And so the translators give us this note in explanation:
23tn A figurative extension of ὀψώνιον (oywnion), which refers to a soldier’s pay or wages. Here it refers to the end result of an activity, seen as something one receives back in return. In this case the activity is sin, and the translation “payoff” captures this thought. See also L&N 89.42.
OK, so that explains it. We can see where they are coming from, and so we understand what they are saying and why they chose the word “payoff” instead of the more traditional “wages”.
But it does tend to make for a rather weird version. If I were to buy the Readers’ Edition with only a few notes rather than the full First Edition with the over 60,000 text, translator’s and study notes, I might be confused and even put-off by such a translation. It makes me wonder if the NET Bible would really be a proper translation for a group or church to use as their “only” translation. And while I love the notes, I’m not sure I would like to have the NET Bible First Edition as my “one-and-only” or even “main” Bible. But it certainly is a wonderful Bible study tool, and well worth the price!
Speaking of price, the First Edition is priced at $49.99 or thereabouts at any outlet where it can be found. That is for the basic, bottom line version, which is (so-called) bonded leather (I think it’s really the soft-feel imitation leather like Tru-Tone, or perhaps a similar material which includes leather in it.), gold page edging and a single ribbon marker. You can also get a British Tan version for a bit more money, and a genuine leather version for a bit more still.
I understand the bonded leather version is proving to be very durable, in case, like me, you’re worried about such things. It’s also supposed to be a smooth-feeling cover; said to be much like the soft, smooth feel of nice leather gloves.
(Oh by the way, the NET Bible with it’s full 60,000+ notes, is available at Bible.org for free downloads and online use, as well as to purchase.)
My verdict on the NET Bible? It’s an incredible Bible study tool; a wonderful Bible, well worth whatever money you might pay for it. Yet… it’s not quite what I have in mind for my own main Bible.