The New King James Bible Examined
By M. H. Reynolds
Fundamental Evangelistic Association
Box 6278 Los Osos CA 93412 USA
WHAT ABOUT THE NEW KING JAMES BIBLE? In this article, we want to share with God's people some of the important facts which led us to reject the NKJV and warn others about it. We do not believe that the "NKJV makes the KJV even better" as its publishers claim. To the contrary, our study leads us to conclude that the NKJV vitiates the original, reliable, accurate KJV in a most deceptive manner. While claiming to have "preserved the authority and accuracy" of the original KJV, the actual result is a hybrid text which incorporates many changes identical with or similar to the corruptions found in other modern Bible versions.
Why the New King James Bible? Its publisher, Thomas Nelson Company, says its purpose is "To Preserve the Integrity of the Original in the Language of Today"-"To preserve the authority and accuracy . . . of the original King James while making it understandable to 20th Century readers"-"To update with regard to punctuation and grammar; archaic verbs and pronouns"; and "Up-to-date accuracy with regard to words whose English meaning has changed over a period of 3 1/2 centuries." The completed NKJV text is said to be "Beautifully Clear" and "Highly Readable." Thomas Nelson Publishers has spent millions to convince Christians that the NKJV is "the" Bible of the present and the future.
Why do we recommend rejection of the NKJV? Space limitations preclude a full discussion of every reason, but we do urge a careful consideration of the following facts. It is essential to know that many of the word changes between the original KJV and the NKJV are not changes which result from removing archaisms, etc. Instead, many are changes which clearly reveal that, contrary to their agreed basis, the NKJV translators departed from the original KJV and its underlying Greek text, the Textus Receptus, in favor of the very same wording found in versions translated from corrupted Greek texts.
The instances in which the NKJV breaks with the original KJV by substituting wording identical to that of corrupted modern Bible versions are too numerous to be considered coincidence. And, since Nelson tells us that the NKJV scholars spent "months of prayer, research, and discussion over the handling of a single word," we must conclude that these changes were neither coincidental nor accidental.
The following references are listed as examples of the way the translators inserted erroneous words and meanings from corrupted modern Bible versions into the NKJV text:
Titus 3:10-KJV reads, "A man that is an heretick...reject." NKJV and NIV change "heretick" to "divisive man"; RSV and NASV to "factious" man. (The one who holds to heresy is to be rejected, not the one who exposes false doctrine. The new versions confuse who is in mind here).
Acts 4:27-KJV reads, "Thy holy child, Jesus." NKJV, NASV and RSV change "holy child" to "holy servant."
Acts 8:9-KJV reads, "bewitched the people." NKJV and NASV change "bewitched" to "astonished." NIV and RSV change "bewitched" to "amazed."
Romans 1:25-KJV reads, "changed the truth of God into a lie." NKJV, NASV and NIV read "exchanged the truth of God for the lie" or "a lie."
Romans 4:25-KJV reads, "Who was delivered for our offenses and was raised again for our justification." NKJV and NASV change "for" to "because of." (Even the NIV and RSV use the correct word, "for").
2 Corinthians 10:5-KJV reads, "Casting down imaginations." NKJV, NIV and RSV change "imaginations" to "arguments."
Colossians 3:2-KJV reads, "Set your affection on things above." NKJV, NASV, NIV and RSV change "affection" to "mind."
1 Thessalonians 5:22-KJV reads, "Abstain from all appearance of evil." NKJV, NASV and RSV change "appearance" to "form."
2 Timothy 2:15-KJV reads, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God." NKJV and NASV change "study" to "be diligent." NIV and RSV change "study" to "do your best."
Old Testament examples include:
Psalm 79:1-the word "heathen" in the KJV is changed to "nations" in the NKJV, NASV and NIV.
Isaiah 11:3-the entire phrase, "And shall make Him of quick understanding" in the KJV is eliminated in the NKJV, NASV, NIV and RSV.
Isaiah 66:5-the wonderful phrase, "But He shall appear to your joy" in the KJV disappears without explanation from NKJV, NASV, NIV and RSV.
Daniel 3:25-the fourth person who was in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, was identified as "the Son of God." The same identification is given in the text of the NKJV but a footnote reads "or, a son of the gods," and both NIV and NASV actually have the latter reading in their texts.
In other Old Testament portions, the word "evil" in the KJV is replaced by several different words-doom, disaster, calamity, catastrophe, trouble, adversity, terrible, harm, wild. In four different places in 1 and 2 Kings, "sodomites" is changed to "perverted persons."
The NKJV does not deserve its respected name. It is a perverted version.
Additional examples of significant changes would include the following: Matthew 4:24; 6:13; 7:14; 20:20; Mark 4:19; John 14:2; Acts 17:29; Romans 1:18; Philippians 2:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 1 Timothy 6:5, 10, 20; Hebrews 2:16; 10:14; James 1:15; 1 Peter 1:7.
A striking word change involves changing "corrupt" to "peddling" in 2 Corinthians 2:17. The KJV correctly says, "For we are not as many, which corrupt the Word of God...." But the NKJV, NASV, NIV and RSV, change "corrupt" to "peddling." Is there any great difference between peddling (selling, or making a gain of) the Word of God and corrupting (adulterating) it? Of course there is, and one does not have to be a Greek scholar to decide which word is correct. When this warning was given in the 1st Century, was there any way for people to peddle (make a gain of) God's Word? Of course not-they were suffering for it. The warning clearly refers to corrupting God's Word, something that was common then as it is now. Only in our day has it ever been possible to peddle (make a gain of) the Bible. With its huge profits from the sale of many different Bible versions, the Thomas Nelson Publishers is both corrupting and peddling God's Word.
Dr. Jerry Falwell, a member of the NKJV overview committee, gives this new Bible his unqualified endorsement, stating that "It protects every thought, every idea, every word, just as it was intended to be understood by the original scholars." This simply is not true! As already pointed out, words have been changed and with those changed words have come changed thoughts and ideas.
Some will argue that the changes noted do not affect any fundamental Bible doctrine. We strongly disagree. Is not the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures a fundamental doctrine? Is not every word of the Bible important? Jesus Christ said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt.4:4). He also said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matt. 24:35). Since Christ is concerned about every word, we should also be concerned about every word and raise a voice of protest whenever scholarly sleight of hand is discovered in any modern version, including the NKJV.
In raising strenuous objections to the changed words of the NKJV text, we are not referring to those changes which update old English verb forms without changing the meaning, i.e., removing "est" or "eth" from verb endings. Neither do we refer to updating the old English pronouns "thee," "thou" and "thine" where they refer to individuals. We do consider it a tragic mistake to eliminate the use of "Thee," "Thou" and "Thine" where these refer to Deity. There is a disturbing trend toward stripping God of His Majesty both in word and deed. The substitution of the common pronouns 'You" and "Yours" for "Thee," "Thou" and "Thine" which have historically been used to refer to Deity both in the Scriptures and the Hymns of the Church, only helps pave the way for further attempts of sinful men to bring God down to their level rather than exalting Him in every way possible.
The NKJV translators claimed it was one of their purposes to update words where the meaning of a particular word had changed over the last 375 years. In 2 Thessalonians 2:7, they updated "letteth" to "restraineth"; in Psalm 4:2, "leasing" is updated to "lying"; In 1 Thessalonians 4:15, "prevent" is updated to "precede"; in Matthew 19:14, "suffer" is updated to "let" (meaning allow or pennit).
In other instances it is difficult to understand how the NKJV scholars thought they were updating and clarifying the KJV as, for example, when they substituted "minas" for "pounds" in Luke 19:13; or, "satraps" for "princes" in Daniel 3:3; or, "black cummin" for "fitches" in Isaiah 28:27.
Many Christians today are purchasing NKJV Bibles for three reasons: (1) Many pastors and Christian leaders are highly recommending it. (2) They have been assured by translators and publishers that the NKJV is based upon the same Hebrew and Greek texts used by the KJV translators. However, as already mentioned, such a claim is simply not true and can be easily documented by comparing the wording of the NKJV with the NIV, NASV, RSV and other versions whose translators admittedly used other Hebrew and Greek texts. (3) The NKJV is supposedly easier to read and understand but its impurities actually make it doubly deceptive and dangerous.
The duplicity of the NKJV publishers, translators and endorsers greatly increases the possibility of believers being deceived. The word duplicity is used advisedly. Webster's Dictionary defines duplicity as, "Deception by pretending to feel and act one way while acting another." The following duplicity can be fully documented:
The duplicity of the Thomas Nelson Publishers is clearly evidenced by their supposed concern and stated desire to "preserve the authority and accuracy...of the original King James" Bible. Yet, Nelson is the largest publisher of Bibles in the world and publishes eight of the nine modern versions including the iniquitous Revised Standard Version, copyrighted by the apostate National Council of Churches. If the Thomas Nelson Publishers were genuinely concerned about the purity of the Scriptures, would they continue printing the RSV and other corrupted modern Bible versions?
The duplicity of the NKJV scholars is also a matter for concern. Although each scholar was asked to subscribe to a statement confirming his belief in the plenary, divine, verbal inspiration of the original autographs (none of which exist today), the question of whether or not they also believed in the divine preservation of the divinely inspired originals was not an issue as it should have been. Dr. Arthur Farstad, chairman of the NKJV Executive Review Committee which had the responsibility of final text approval, stated that this committee was about equally divided as to which was the better Greek New Testament text-the Textus Receptus or the Westcott-Hort. Apparently none of them believed that either text was the Divinely preserved Word of God. Yet, all of them participated in a project to "protect and preserve the purity and accuracy" of the original KJV based on the TR. Is not this duplicity of the worst kind, coming from supposedly evangelical scholars?
Further duplicity is revealed in the preface of the NKJV and in a 16-page history of the KJV printed at the end. On page VI of the preface, NKJV readers are given the following erroneous information: "There is only one basic New Testament used by Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox, by conservatives and liberals." This is simply not true! There are two basic New Testament texts-the Divinely preserved Textus Receptus from which the original KJV was translated and the satanically corrupted Westcott-Hort Text (and its revisions) which form the basis of all other modern Bible versions.
NKJV readers are further misinformed as to why there are so many differences between the original KJV and all the modern versions. On page VI of the preface, NKJV readers are assured, "...That the most important differences in the English New Testament of today are due, not to manuscript divergence, but to the way in which translators view the task of translation." This simply is not true. Many important differences in the English New Testament of today are indeed due to manuscript divergence (over 5700 differences exist between the TR and WH Greek texts) in addition to the divergent views of the scholars who produced the various translations.
On page VII of the preface is another very significant statement concerning the NKJV footnotes: "Significant explanatory notes, alternate translations, and cross references, as well as New Testament citations of Old Testament passages, are supplied in footnotes. Important textual variants in the Old Testament are footnoted in a standard form. The textual information in the New Testament footnotes is a unique provision in the history of the English Bible. Terms in the footnotes such as 'better manuscripts' are avoided. The footnotes in the present edition make no evaluation of the readings, but do clearly indicate the manuscript sources of readings which diverge from the traditional text. Thus, a clearly defined presentation of the variants is provided for the benefit of interested readers representing all textual persuasions."
As a crowning climax of duplicity and inconsistency, the editors of the NKJV make the following incongruous statements on pages 1,234 and 1,235 of the King lames history printed at the conclusion of the NKJV text:
"The tendency of recent revisers has been to remove words and phrases from the text of Scripture, based on the most recently discovered extant manuscripts. In using the Greek text underlying the King James Bible, these words and phrases were retained. And, in those few places where the majority of the manuscripts did not support a word or phrase, that fact could best be indicated in a footnote. (The New Testament of the New King James Version shows in its footnotes those places where the major textual traditions differ from the language of the King James Bible.)
"It was the editors' conviction that the use of footnotes would encourage further inquiry by readers. They also recognized that it was easier for the average reader to delete something he or she felt was not properly a part of the text, than to insert a word or phrase which had been left out by the revisers."
Will the next modem Bible be the "Do It Yourself" version? This would be a distinct possibility if the advice of the NKJV editors in the two preceding paragraphs were to be followed. In effect, they are saying, let each reader decide for himself what portions, verses, phrases and words should be included in God's Holy Word." NKJV footnotes, far from being helpful, are an invitation to disobey the plain command of God not to add to or take from His Word. Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18,19.
The preservation of God's divinely inspired Word is clearly set forth in Psalm 12:6,7, "The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation forever. " God has fulfilled His promise through the Textus Receptus and the King James Version. Those who replace the KJV with the NKJV will have been duped into accepting a Bible which still bears a respected name but one which has placed "readability" above purity.
The translators of the original King James Bible had a distinct advantage. They were able to use their vast knowledge of ancient languages and translation abilities prior to the time when the deadly virus of so-called "Higher Criticism" infected the whole field of scholarship. False teachers boldly dissected God's Word with the "tools of scholarship" in order to reconstruct it according to their own speculations and presumptions. The result is a pseudo-intellectual aura in which no one can be sure of anything. It's time to get back to the pure Word of God where faith prevails and doubt is vanquished!
Believers who will take the time to compare the KJV with the NKJV and then with other modern versions will see for themselves why the NKJV should be exposed and repudiated as a polluted version. And, those who will take time to carefully look at the NKJV footnotes will be doubly concerned and will join in warning others about it.
Our plea to God's people is to reject the NKJV Bible and continue preaching, teaching, memorizing and meditating upon the pure, unadulterated, Divinely preserved milk and meat of God's Holy Word-The King James Authorized Version of 1611 upon which God has placed His stamp of approval over a span of nearly four centuries. Nothing is more important than the purity of God's Holy Word.
-M. H. REYNOLDS, EDITOR, FOUNDATION MAGAZINE
Fundamental Evangelistic Association
Box 6278 Los Osos CA 93412 USA