This was originally going to be a post about just the NIV, and then I was going to finish up this series by a post about the NET Bible and the NASB together. But I was doing a three-way comparison this afternoon on Bible Gateway between these three, NIV on the left, NET in the middle, and NASB on the right, going verse-by-verse in Romans 3, and I noticed something I probably wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t arranged them this way. I noticed that the NIV is the easiest and clearest contemporary English translation of the three; the NASB is considerably more difficult owing to its way of translating some of the original languages idioms and word order — the way the translators tried to stick as closely to the original words and still have an understandable English translation; and smack dab in the middle between the NIV and the NASB is the NET Bible, perfectly moderating between the two, sometimes being closer to the NIV, and other times being closer to the NASB.
The interesting thing I noticed, besides that order, is that the NIV seems just as accurate to the original languages’ message as the NASB! It just communicates that message in more contemporary and understandable English. Very rarely do I ever find anything in either of those translations that I can point to as being a translator’s opinion, or a translator’s own theological interpretation. And the same applies to the NET as well, as far as I can see, though I don’t have quite as much experience with the NET as I do with the other two.
So these are my conclusions: 1) The NASB is an excellent formal equivalence translation, excellent for study, but more difficult for reading out loud to a group and more difficult to understand in many cases. I highly recommend it, but keep in mind its difficulties. While it would work for somebody’s one-and-only Bible, it may be better for use as a comparison in Bible study. 2) The NET is probably considered to be a moderating translation, but I would place it on the scale about halfway between the NASB and the NIV. Its translators strove for literal accuracy, but also tried to keep it readable, and rely on their many thousands of translators notes which are included in some of their printed Bibles (the First Edition) to explain any translation questions which may arise. If I were to buy a printed NET Bible for personal use, because of size and weight, and font size (readability) it would have to be the Reader’s Edition, which uses an 11 pt. font for readability, and I would have to rely on the NET Bible Online Study Environment for the 62000 notes, because on the computer I can adjust the font size to accommodate my eyesight. 3) That leaves us with the NIV, which is simply the best combination of literal accuracy and easy-readability of any Bible on the market today, in my humble and educated opinion. Is it perfect? Of course not! Don’t be ridiculous! There is no such thing as a perfect Bible translation. There are times I wonder if a nuance in the original language has been left out or changed. I’m not always positive about the translators’ change from “brothers” to “brothers and sisters”, for example. And to someone like me who went to school back in the 60s, the change from the generic “he” to the contemporary generic singular “they” can be maddening. But that’s how much the English language has changed over the past 30 years or so.
Little is said about the translators themselves. They’re usually just an amorphous blob out there somewhere, nameless, faceless. But the fact is nearly every well-known and accepted translation on the market today was translated by a committee, a group of people. And it’s a fact that each of these translation teams is made up of fine scholars, most of them godly scholars, who have done their utmost to bring to us the very best English translation of the Holy Scriptures that is humanly possible! The difference usually comes in the translation philosophy of the group, or the philosophy that group is charged with. These translations are faithful transmissions of the original manuscripts into today’s English, and are all worthy of our respect, if not reverence. The translation teams should also be held up as worthy of our respect and we shouldn’t be tearing down any Bible translators as was so commonly done a few years ago during what was often known as the “translation wars”.
At any rate, these are my choices for the final three among my preferred translations. Third place would go to the NASB, because somebody has to be third and the other two are generally easier to read and understand. Second place goes to the NET Bible, because of its accuracy, relatively easy reading and understanding of the NET text itself, and the 62,000+ study and translator’s notes to help our understanding and which make the NET Bible First Edition a powerful study Bible. The first place is the new NIV. Almost perfect. But not quite.