The Bible is the oldest complete library or compilation known to mankind. Any document or books near to its age are quite clearly inferior in both content and composition. If you should doubt the truth in that last statement, I suggest that you seek some ancient documents out for reading and study; then draw your own conclusions. Some of the documents we have commented upon at this site might be used: the non-canonical gospels and letters, the Gilgamesh Story, the Creation Epics, or perhaps the Egyptian Book of the Dead.
The NET Bible continues to be one of the most under utilized and unknown English translations of the scriptures. This is unfortunate because it really is a gem. It is readable, but does not dumb down key terms. It is accurate and does not sacrifice literalness for readability. It even has a wealth of translation notes to learn about textual difficulties and decisions. How does one draw more attention to a great translation when the translation does not market itself very well? I suppose this was the same problem the TNIV experienced until its recent demise. Without marketing, no one knows about it.
While preaching through Romans, I found the NET to have a fantastic rendering of Romans 12:1-2.
Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice alive, holy, and pleasing to God which is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God, what is good and well-pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2; NET)
The first point that I really like was the change away from “living sacrifices” to “a sacrifice alive, holy, and pleasing to God.” The NET translation notes explains that there is no reason to move “living” or “alive” to be in front of the sacrifice. I think it slightly changes the force of what Paul was saying. Typically, most understand a “living sacrifice” to be in contrast to the dead animals that were sacrificed under the old covenant. While this observation is still useful, the NET’s rendering shows that the greater point may be that being a sacrifice means we are alive to God and live for God, a point Paul made earlier in this letter (Romans 6:12-14). It is striking to notice how word placement can cause one to see things differently. Paul is not just saying that live our lives as sacrifices to God but everything we do must show the world that we have been made alive by God and live to God. We belong to God because he has made us alive.
The second point is the NET’s choice of going with the rendering “reasonable service,” a choice most modern translations avoid except the NKJV. Most translations choose “spiritual worship.” While the rendering, “spiritual worship” has its merits, I think we should not ignore that Paul’s point could very well be that based on the mercies of God, it is logical, rational, and reasonable for us to give our bodies as sacrifices to God.
The third difference in the NET that I believe is useful is in verse 2, “that you may test and approve what is the will of God.” A number of translations have some funny renderings for this, but I think the NET does a great job giving the thrust of the meaning. The NIV and TNIV use the same combination of “test and approve.”
I wanted to give some praise to the NET as a very good translation that is worth having and using for study. You can use the NET Bible and its translation notes for free online: