Vol. 2 - No. 5

May, 1983

The New Kings James Version

by Byron Gage

 "But as it written: 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for them that love Him.' But God has revealed them to us by His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (1 Corinthians 2:9-13 NKJV). "…by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I wrote before in a few words, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)" (Ephesians 3:3-4 NKJV).

It is my understanding that the above passages teach plenary, verbal inspiration. The question arises. "Are the thoughts conveyed to man by the words the Holy Spirit gave to Paul and the others the same thoughts conveyed to us when we read a translation?" For a translation to achieve its stated goal, they must be. It should, as well as a translation can, possess the flavor of the language, the peculiarity of idiom, the simplicity of proper word order, and the accuracy of transmission so as to provide the surest opportunity for parallel conveyance of thought. Parallel, I say, between that which First Century individuals thought when taught by Paul, and what we think when we read a translation of his teachings. What about "red letter" passages? When we read a translation, should we not get the real "message" of what Jesus said? The challenge is that, somehow, we must all learn fully the static Koine Greek language of the First Century, or, we must have a translation which accurately reproduces the Scriptures in language we can read and easily under-stand. Do not misunderstand! No translation can interpret the Bible for you. Profound subjects will still be profound and difficult ones will still be difficult, but an accurate, up to date translation goes far in simplifying the task of understanding.

In Seventeenth Century English-speaking peoples, the King James Version of the Scriptures was a monumental work. It had, as do most translations, some prejudices of a doctrinal nature incorporated in it. Transliteration of the word BAPTIZO, etc., into baptize, etc., is but one example. Translation (accurately done) would have denied the possibility and “scripturality” (to coin a word, bgg, 2011) of sprinkling or pouring instead of dipping. These problems still exist in translations, therefore care must be taken when studying any translation, even the New King James Version. The most obvious problem with the old King James Version is illustrated by the section in the back of the American Bible Society's Large Print New Testament (KJV). It lists over 500 words which are archaic and obsolete. Our language has changed. The problems of understanding very complex subject material is compounded by its being couched in archaic, outdated language.

I believe one of the most compelling reasons that a good translation in modern English should be used is that more people will read more Bible. After all, when a translation, due to its awkwardness because its language is archaic, is not read, it has no effect on people. In order for the Word of God to have its desired effect, even in good and honest hearts, it must enter the heart being under-stood by the heart.

Now, whether or not the New King James Version fits the bill with regards to its accuracy, understandability, and appeal one must judge for oneself. Since this is not a critical review, and, since I am not qualified as a textual critic, suffice it to say that the NKJV is based on the Textus Receptus, or Revised Text which is the same as the KJV. Footnotes are provided where major textual variances occur, being compared with the Nestle-Aland/United Bible Societies' Third Edition (NU), and the Majority text (M).

I have personally enjoyed using the NKJV and intend to use it as much as possible in the future. For what my personal recommendation is worth, you have it. It is beautiful, like the KJV, and comfortable to read publicly. You may purchase inexpensive hardback editions in order to try it out, and I suggest that you do. Even if you prefer to use you old KJV, the NKJV will help you study and understand the Book of books.