Some thoughts on the New King James Version

I have been using the NKJV more and more, and in hopes of shedding some light on it, I am posting this article from Wikipedia. Chick Tracts, and fundamentalists Baptists, will tell you that it is not a KJV and list a variety of reasons. You have to remember, they hold a very unscriptural view of a translation made by man. This doctrine is roughly 150 years old, but is strongly held by ultraconservative fundamentalists. The NKJV is an excellent step in the Tyndale Tradition (of which the KJV is apart of) and a worthy successor to the old AV)

Chick points out,

Please decide what God is saying to Moses:

“And the LORD said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws?” (Exodus 16:28, NKJV)

It looks like God is saying, “Moses, you are continuing to refuse to keep My commandments and My laws.” But look carefully at the accurate King James:

“And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?”

Now we understand! It was the people, not Moses, that God was upset with. “Ye” and “you” mean more than one person. “Thee,” “thou,” “thy,” “thine,” “doeth,” “hast,” etc., only mean one person. How do we know? The “y” is plural. The “t” is singular.

Does that make sense to you? Or, are they adding to the very Word of God? The idea that one single translation is the only inspired Word of God cannot be found in the entire Bible, a Bible in which the Apostle Paul, writing in Greek quoted both the Hebrew and the Greek versions of the Old Testament.

Again from Chick:

Go to Gehenna?

The NKJV claims to be “more accurate” because it leaves untranslated words like “Gehenna,” “Hades” and “Sheol.” What do they mean? You will know from the King James the exact meaning: “hell.” We know what that means. Meaning is very important. When’s the last time you heard someone told to “Go to Gehenna”?

Now, anyone with a bit of Greek, or the ability to actually crack open a lexicon, knows the difference between Gehenna, Hades, and Sheol. And they also know the difference that it plays in the theology that it creates. Hades is not Hell, unlike Gehenna. Neither is Sheol. Hades/Sheol is rightly grave, the intermediate place between heaven and and the final Lake of Fire, which is Gehenna.

Chick then goes on to point out some ‘major’ differences:

1 Thessalonians 5:22:

“Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

“Abstain from every form of evil.”

Now, I ask you to simply look and see which is the stricter translation? Merely abstaining from the appearance of evil or the actual form of evil? I mean, according to the KJV, it appears that as long as you hide it, you can do it.

One of the ‘objections’ that the KJVO crowd throws at the ‘Modern Versions’ is that all the Modern Versions are copyrighted, as opposed to the KJV.

The text of the NKJV is copyrighted by Thomas Nelson Publishers, while there is no copyright today on the text of the KJV. If your KJV has maps or notes, then it may have a copyright, but the text itself does not.

There is a reason that the KJV does not have a copyright – because it is almost 400 years old. If you were to buy the Cambridge KJV, you will actually notice a copyright by the Crown of England.

New King James Version – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Beginnings

The NKJV translation project, which was conceived by Arthur Farstad, was inaugurated in 1975 with two meetings (Nashville and Chicago) of 68 interested persons, most of them prominent Baptists but also including some conservative Presbyterians. The men who were invited to these meetings prepared the guidelines for the NKJV. The New Testament was published in 1979, the Psalms in 1980, and the full NKJV Bible in 1982.

The aim of its translators was to update the vocabulary and grammar of the King James Version, while preserving the classic style and beauty of the 1611 version. Although it uses substantially the same Hebrew and Greek texts as the original KJV, it indicates where more commonly accepted manuscripts differ.

Update to King James Version

According to the preface of the New King James Version (p. v-vi), the NKJV uses the 1967/1977 Stuttgart edition of the Biblia Hebraica for the Old Testament, with frequent comparisons made to the Bomberg edition of 1524-25, which was used for the King James Version. Both the Old Testament text of the NKJV and that of the KJV come from the ben Asher text (known as the Masoretic Text). However, the 1967/1977 Stuttgart edition of the Biblia Hebraica used by the NKJV uses an earlier manuscript (the Leningrad Manuscript B19a) than that of the KJV.

The New King James Version also uses the Received Text for the New Testament, just as the King James Version had used. The translators have also sought to follow the principles of translation used in the original King James Version, which the NKJV revisers call “complete equivalence” in contrast to “dynamic equivalence” used by many other modern translations.

The task of updating the English of the KJV involved significant changes in word order, grammar, vocabulary, and spelling. One of the most significant features of the NKJV was its abandonment of the second person pronouns “thou,” “thee,” “ye,” “thy,” and “thine.” Verb forms were also modernized in the NKJV (for example, “speaks” rather than “speaketh”).

Criticisms

Language Style

One major criticism of the NKJV is that it is rendered in a language format that has never been spoken. By maintaining much of the Elizabethan structure and syntax of the KJV (an intentional effect on the part of the revisers, who intended for a reader to be able to follow along in one version as the other version is read aloud), the NKJV at times has been criticized for putting modern words into archaic orders. Unlike the Revised Version of 1881-85 and American Standard Version of 1901, which sought to take advantage of modern scholarship but left the overall text worded in archaic Jacobean language, the NKJV sounds neither Jacobean nor particularly modern. Also many of the double meanings in many of the verses have now been lost.

Underlying texts

A second major criticism involves the fact that it is based, as noted above, solely upon the ancient texts available during the time of King James and not on earlier manuscripts and documents which have since been discovered. Since these manuscripts, most of which reflect an Alexandrian text-type, are argued by some of today’s scholars to be more reliable, the NKJV’s adherence to the Majority Text (which has ties to the Textus Receptus) seems to many to violate the spirit of open scholarship and open inquiry, and to ascribe a level of perfection to the documents available to the 17th century scholars that they would not have claimed for them. (Regarding this point see David Dewey, A User’s Guide to Bible Translations, pp. 162-3, where he quotes strong criticism of the NKJV’s textual basis by Steven Sheeley and Robert Nash.)

However, not all textual critics agree that the earliest manuscripts are the most accurate. Alternative readings based on other texts do appear as footnotes in the New King James Version, and unlike other translations the NKJV does not contain subjective comments like “the best manuscripts add, etc.” Instead, the footnotes simply state which manuscript sets do not contain the passage. However, this is unlikely to placate those who feel that the “Johannine Comma” (at 1 John 5:7), for example, is not a legitimate portion of scripture and should not be treated as such.

King James Only Belief

Believers in the “King-James-Only Movement,” see the New King James Version as something less than a true successor to the KJV. In their view, the NKJV makes significant changes to the meaning of the KJV translators. For example, Acts 17:22, in which Paul in the KJV calls the men of Athens “too superstitious,” is interpreted in the NKJV to have Paul call them “very religious”.

At the same time, many churches and evangelical groups have embraced the NKJV as an acceptable compromise between the original KJV and a Bible that uses a more modern syntax.

External texts

Online text of the NKJV

  • Bible Gateway.com provides information on NKJV and links to the text of each chapter.

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8 Replies to “Some thoughts on the New King James Version”

  1. Hi Polycarp! I didn’t read this entire article – but I did laugh at some of Chick’s arguments – as if the KJV is perfect and doesn’t have it’s own mistranslations from Hebrew/Greek to English. This is why I’m glad to have a parallel Bible – 4 Bibles in one – so when I read, I can look across at the four versions to get a feel for a verse and if I have any doubts, I get out my Hebrew/Greek dictionary.

    We know many who are KJV-only type people and I chuckled the other day as I was teaching our children something from the Bible and as I looked at the KJV, I couldn’t help but think, “There is no way children get what that is saying…” I’d rather say it in simple terms rather than thous and all these other big words – I don’t see my 3 and 5 year olds learning too much from that. I think only reading the KJV can really cripple some – not to say that the Spirit can’t still teach people all things even through Shakespearean-like versions of the Bible. 🙂

  2. I would like to say this is an excellent topic.
    The New King James IS in fact a true successor
    to the Tyndale and also from the King James Version.
    The NKJV supposedly has a 12 yo reading level.
    So this is definately a good book for kids! 🙂
    I recommend buying the NKJV with the Giant
    Print and the Reference features.
    From what I know it is important to use
    this reference feature for accuracy when
    reading the NKJV.
    ALSO
    As a side note I own the Complete audio NT
    NKJV read by Johnny Cash before he died.

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