Acts of the Translators

Lately I've been reading through the book of Acts in the New Testament. I'm a history buff, and I wanted to get a better handle on the life of Paul, God's great missionary to the Gentiles. I knew he had been on many adventures--including three missionary journeys, a shipwreck, some beatings, a few high-profile debates--but it had been so long since I studied Acts that I really didn't know who, what, when, where, or how he did all that.

It's been fun! Now that Nate and John are off to school by 6:45 (and therefore I am awake, having to move Nate along), I find myself at the computer with my coffee and oatmeal before 7 am each day. Boot 'er up, check the news and email, then click on my NET Bible icon. Scroll down to Acts, find my current chapter, sit back and travel through the Mediterranean with Paul and his companions.

While the story of the early church is interesting, and I recommend Acts to everyone, I share this mainly to highlight the medium I've been using. Notice I didn't curl up with my big fat Bible on my comfy couch. I'm the first to admit being a bibliophile (I love books!), but I also enjoy the fact that I can read the Bible on my computer. A shameless plug: go to the NET Bible at You can download your own copy of this Bible version, for free! Or you can access it through the web site, your choice.

One benefit I've seen from reading from my screen instead of the printed page: I don't get as easily distracted. Each chapter is printed in fairly large print on my screen--nothing else. I've found that I focus better on what I'm actually reading, instead of flitting around to neighboring chapters or passages that might catch my eye.

And the notes. Oh, the notes! The NET Bible editors have compiled over 61,000 translator notes to help readers understand why they translated certain words in certain ways, to provide background information to the text, and to explain various issues pertaining to Bible translation. In Acts, the notes helped trace each journey in real miles. They give maps, too! For instance, often Luke (the author of Acts) describes a portion of the actual progress Paul makes on a journey:

21:1 After1 we2 tore ourselves away3 from them, we put out to sea,4 and sailing a straight course,5 we came to Cos,6 on the next day to Rhodes,7 and from there to Patara.8 21:2 We found9 a ship crossing over to Phoenicia,10 went aboard,11 and put out to sea.12 21:3 After we sighted Cyprus13 and left it behind on our port side,14 we sailed on to Syria and put in15 at Tyre,16 because the ship was to unload its cargo there.

The notes for these verses include (I skipped some for brevity's sake):

2sn This marks the beginning of another “we” section in Acts. These have been traditionally understood to mean that Luke was in the company of Paul for this part of the journey.

6sn Cos was an island in the Aegean Sea.

7sn Rhodes was an island off the southwestern coast of Asia Minor.

8sn Patara was a city in Lycia on the southwestern coast of Asia Minor. The entire journey was about 185 mi (295 km).

10sn Phoenicia was the name of an area along the Mediterranean coast north of Palestine.

13sn Cyprus is a large island in the Mediterranean off the south coast of Asia Minor.

16sn Tyre was a city and seaport on the coast of Phoenicia. From Patara to Tyre was about 400 mi (640 km). It required a large cargo ship over 100 ft (30 m) long, and was a four to five day voyage.

The mileage, geography, and grammatical insights add tremendously to my understanding of this book. They help me get a better sense of what lengths Paul and his companions went to in order to share the gospel with the known world. The NET Bible is a great tool for any reader.

So now it's on to First Corinthians. In my mind, Paul recently sailed away from Corinth, bound for Syria. Let's see what he had to say to the church he left behind!