The New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS) is a fascinating resource—especially, if you’re interested in textual criticism. And, since it is a well-loved resource by Olive Tree employees, we took extra care in making it work well inside the app.

In this post, we’ll cover what NETS is and how it can be helpful in your study. Lastly, we’ll show how it works in the app.

REALLY, WHAT IS IT?

The New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS) is exactly what it sounds like: a translation of a translation.

With NETS, you can read a paragraph-form English Bible that translates the Greek understanding of the Hebrew Old Testament works.

In the preface, the NETS committee shares their two aims of this translation:

  1. to give a faithful translation of the Greek, both in meaning and mode of expression
  2. to create an English tool for the synoptic study of Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible

Before digging further into NETS, let’s discuss where the Septuagint (LXX) comes from and where it is used in history.

HISTORY

CREATION OF THE SEPTUAGINT

Rumor has it, seventy or so Jerusalem elders were ordered to translate Scriptures popular to Egyptian Jews into Greek. This happened sometime between 300 and 200 BC, under the order of King Ptolemy II. Additional rumors state that these translations took place on an island and took seventy-two days to complete.

King Ptolemy II

The Scripture only contained the five books of Moses—the Pentateuch. Then, additional books were translated in the following centuries, in various locations.

Because of the legend, and all the details surrounding “seventy,” the writings were dubbed “the translation of the seventy.” Thus, we now call it the “Septuagint.”

USE OF THE SEPTUAGINT (LXX)

The New Testament writers refer to the LXX in their writings more often than not. Although it would be neat to say that Jesus himself referenced the LXX, we can’t be certain of those claims. At least, Jesus quoted the OT in Aramaic and the NT writers translated it to Greek—which, is still inspired.

PROCESS

When you read the title of NETS, you might assume the translators created an English translation based on a completed Septuagint translation. But remember, these translators are smart. When they know a good way to save time and be accurate, they are going to use it!

So, they based NETS off the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). If you know anything about the NRSV, you’re probably confused. The NRSV is a literal translation that often represents the Hebrew meaning of words in the Old Testament.

However, the NETS committee chose the NRSV as the base text because the translational approach still works well with the LXX, and it has widespread popularity.

WHEN DOES NETS DIFFER FROM THE NRSV?

When NETS differs from the NRSV, it happens for one of six reasons:

  1. The lexical choice of the NRSV to represent the Hebrews is very different from the Greek
  2. If a difference in translational approach occurs between NRSV and Greek translation, ex.: the Greek is hyper-literalistic where the NRSV is not
  3. Word echoes, paratactic style, or other Greek linguistic features require modifications to the NRSV
  4. The Greek translator created a text at variance with the Masoretic Text (MT: authoritative Hebrew and Aramaic text)
  5. At times, the NRSV chose gender-inclusive and explicit language and NETS is choosing to abstain
  6. The NRSV did not translate the MT in some places, using another reading

WHY WOULD I WANT TO READ IT?

There are a few ways you can use NETS to get a bigger picture of what Scripture is trying to say. Here are three, although there are most likely more!

In fact, if you love using NETS, we’d love for you to share how you use this resource in the comments.

NETS AND THE NRSV

Knowing that NETS is based on the NRSV texts opens up a world of possibilities. If you compare NETS and the NRSV side-by-side, you can know that any differences are due to the preferences outlined above.

Specifically, you can look at the NRSV to understand how the Hebrews interpreted the Old Testament. Then, read NETS to understand how the Jews believed it to be best understood in the Greek world.

With both of these translations, you can see the Bible from two, accurate yet different, linguistic angles.

NETS and the NRSV in the parallel tab.

NETS AND THE SEPTUAGINT

No matter where you are at with your Greek, the Bible speaks to our hearts first and foremost in our primary language. So although reading the LXX can be a good practice and push your mind to study the Word in-depth, having a reliable English translation next to it can make a huge difference in application.

By using NETS, instead of a more common translation, you’ll be aided in your understanding of the Greek. And if you feel confident reading the Greek as is, use NETS to check yourself as you go.

NETS and the LXX

NETS AND THE NEW TESTAMENT

Since the NT writers often quote the LXX, using NETS for OT cross-references can be enlightening. Compare and contrast these references with Hebrew-based translations. What layer of meaning does the Greek add to the text?

Mark 7:6-7 quotes the LXX, as seen translated in NETS

WHO PUT NETS TOGETHER?

Albert Pietersma

Pietersma is Professor of Septuagint and Hellenistic Greek at The University of Toronto. He holds three degrees:

  • B.A. Classics and Philosophy, Calvin College, Grand Rapids Michigan, 1962
  • B.D. Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids Michigan, 1965
  • Ph.D. Hebrew Language and Literature (Septuagint), University of Toronto, 1970. Dissertation: “A Textual-Critical Analysis of Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri IV and V.”

Benjamin G. Wright

Wright is the University Distinguished Professor of Religion Studies, Bible, Early Judaism, Christianity at Lehigh University. He also holds three degrees:

  • B.A. Philosophy/Religion, Ursinus College
  • M.Div. Biblical Studies, Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Ph.D. Christian Origins, University of Pennsylvania

NETS IN THE OLIVE TREE BIBLE APP

NETS versification is based on the Göttingen Septuaginta. However, we structured NETS to align with the Rahlfs LXX in the Olive Tree Bible App.  

More often than not, you will navigate to the verse that you intend to see. However, there a few places with variances. We take you to the Rahlfs LXX reference in NETS to improve your experience in the app. If you choose to do a parallel study with the LXX and NETS, using Ralhfs LXX allows the resources to stay in sync while you scroll. See a list of all the variances here.

As you read NETS, the LXX follows along in the Study Center.

Lastly, we want to let you know that Rahlfs LXX does append the “Additions to Esther” to the book of Esther. We have done the same.  

GET THE NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF THE SEPTUAGINT

Does all this information get you excited to study the Old Testament? Then NETS is definitely a resource for you.

2 Comments

  1. peter sandford Reply

    Have the Psalms and other chapter variants been corrected to align NETS to other Bibles?

    • Cierra Loux Reply

      Hey, Peter! The best information I have on that is in the second-to-final paragraph of the post, starting with “Nets versification is…” If that doesn’t answer your question, let me know, and see if you’re able to be more specific with your question. Then I can pass it along to our team to try and get a clear answer for you. Thank you.

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