Thursday, March 19, 2015

The NET Bible

It was sometime during the either the Summer of 1999 or 2000. I had moved to the Pacific Northwest, migrating from Seattle to a small town a good ride northwest of the city. At the time, I was living the life one would suppose a single young man would live, on his own three thousand or so miles from home.
Every day and night was an adventure, the specifics of which are best left unstated. There, tucked in the Cascades, I encountered some of the most interesting and utterly unique people of my life. There was, in retrospect, a necessary degree of culture shock, but it was an amazing time.
Working odd and inconsistent hours led to unexpected stretches of free time. Working mainly to pay the rent, getting by mainly on Raman noodles and the cheap processed food stuffs at the local convenience store, I wasn't in the position to stretch my budget. Life was lived "on the cheap," and the local library was the hub for conversation, free coffee, books, and, of course, internet.
This was back in the days of dial-up connection and what the head IT librarian referred to as "web crash" every weekday between 2pm and 4pm PST when, as he theorized, "all of the people on the East Cost get home to check their email," causing massive slow down and frequent booting off of AOL. I guess I can still believe it; the web hadn't become omnipresent in our lives just then and w weren't checking email constantly.
Between trying to kick start a writing, painting and performing arts career, and maybe becoming an amateur guru (because that's really what you did in obscure little towns in the Pacific Northwest), I would spend long stretches at the library devouring any material I could find related to Biblical Studies and the history of Christianity. Having left my hefty study edition of the New Jerusalem Bible back east at home, I tried to track down books on some of the topics I remember reading about in the NJB's study notes. To that end, I was in the right spot. There was an unusually high percentage of independent churches and religion reading people in the area. The books were readily found in the stacks. 
Apart from a Latin New Testament I picked up at a used bookstore back east, I didn't really have a bible, and my interest wasn't so much in the New Testament. But, whatever, you make it work. It was during this time, in the middle of one long stretch at the public library, I came across the NET Bible (New English Translation). As I recall, I was trying to find some notes on the composition of  handful of biblical texts on the web when I stumbled across the host site.
At the time, the NET Bible was an open source project. It was designed to provide a free access study bible to the web during those burgeoning days of web ministry among Protestant churches. The NET Bible itself consisted, as I recall, of draft translations with copious translators notes; I thought then that it was akin to a New Jerusalem Bible by Protestant scholars. I came back to that e-text time and time again. Again, everything was in draft form. There were notices on the website about a future printed edition, but that was some untold number of years in the future, or so it seemed at the time.
I had wondered whatever became of the project, having not been on the website since I returned east. It seems the NET Bible has come of age.
The project has reached its first goal - the New English Translation is in print. Whether or not it continues to be revised in light of the most recent textual evidence and scholarly standards remains to be seen. If I recall correctly, there was an intention of revising the text every decade or so - no small feet when you consider the average publication windows between new editions.
By exploring the books of the bible on the website, you can have full access to this version. You can also access the study notes and translation notes by clicking the footnotes dispersed throughout the text. By so doing, one can see the delicate balance at play between translation (as a science and an art) and scholarship (primarily between textual and form criticism.
Needless to say, I'd recommend spending more time with this version.

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