A lot of fundamental churches have switched from the time-honored King James Bible, to the New King James Version. They say it's more accurate, and easier to read at the same time. Is the NKJV an improvement to the KJB? Or - is it really a King James Bible at all? We need to take a serious, honest look at this, so let's start now...
"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." -Matthew 16:18 KJB
"And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18 NKJV
We've already found a problem with the "easier to understand" NKJV. Most people know what the word "hell" means, but how many of us speak Greek, and know the meaning of "Hades?"
Hades is the Greek word for Hell. However, by the NKJV saying Hades instead of hell, a can of worms has been opened. To the ancient Greeks, Hades was a name of one of their Greek Gods. Therefore, if one is steeped in Greek mythology, but not in Biblical Greek, they could come away thinking the NKJV is saying that there is a Greek god named Hades, and Hades will try to fight Jehovah's church.
Now, this interpretation cannot be assumed by reading the KJB, where it is clear it's not the gates to the Greek mythological god Hades, but the gates of hell.
For others, Hades means a place of parties and doing what you want. To hear that Hades means hell, would mean to them that hell is a place of parties and unfurled hedonism, and many will then determine that's where they want to go when they die, because that would be better than playing some harp on a cloud in heaven. Of course, we know from the King James Bible that that's not what heaven is like, and that that's not what hell is like. Hell is a place of eternal torment.
My point here, is that by the NKJV translators transliterating Hades, instead of translating hell, it has/can change what the Scriptures really say. The meaning of the word Hades has changed in many cultures through the centuries, but the meaning of hell has remained the same.
Some would argue that the NKJV is right for transliterating hades and sheol for hell in many places. I believe this just causes confusion. Sheol is hell. We don't need to know the Hebrew word "sheol" to know about the lowest hell:
"For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains." -Deut. 32:22 KJB
"For a fire is kindled in My anger, And shall burn to the lowest hell; It shall consume the earth with her increase, And set on fire the foundations of the mountains." -Deut. 32:22 - NKJV
Hmmm, why didn't the NKJV translators translate hell as sheol in the above? That's what the Hebrew word for hell is, in the above. Why did they pick and choose when to transliterate, and when to translate?
"The sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me" -2 Samuel 22:6 KJB
"The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me." -2 Sam. 22:6 NKJV
People can figure out what "sorrows of hell" mean, but what in the world does "sorrows of Sheol" mean?
Why did the NKJV translators choose to transliterate here, instead of translate? Sheol is the Old Testament word for hell, and hades is the New Testament word for hell.
The NKJV has the word "hell" in it 32 times. It has the Old Testament sheol 18 times, and the New Testament hades 11 times.
Why the inconsistencies? Sheol is the abode of the dead. When referring to the physical dead, it refers to the grave. This is why the King James translators translated sheol as grave 31 times. Another 31 times it clearly referred to hell, and 3 times it referred to the pit, which is also hell.
Hades is the New Testament word for the abode of the dead. When referring to the body, it is the grave. When referring to the spirit, it is hell. The King James translators rightly recognized this, and therefore found one place in the New Testament where hades was the grave, while the other 10 times clearly refers to hell.
As you can see, we don't need the NKJV to tell us when sheol or hades is referring to the grave or hell, as the KJB already does that for us. Meanwhile, the NKJV doesn't really give us the distinction. In some places it says "hell," and others, it says sheol/hades. What's scary, is that the NKJV isn't consistent in this, and therefore gives no real theological advantage over the KJB.
The New King James Version claims to be easier to read, because it has removed the "thees and thous." Did you know that people in King James' time didn't walk around saying thee and thou all the time? That was not part of the everyday language. The thees and thous were added for clarity.
Let me give you an example, and then I'll explain... We've used the book "Getting Started with Latin" off and on in our homeschool. In some of the lessons, one of the author's given English translations is y'all. This is because Hebrew, Greek, and many other languages have some descriptive pronouns, telling us if the text or person speaking is referring to one person, or more than one person. Further, Hebrew, Greek, and some other languages also have verb variations which tell us if they are speaking or writing in the first, second, or third person.
In common English we don't have those subtle, yet ever so important distinctions. Now, southerners have caught on a bit, with the use of the word y'all, but that's about as close as we get.
When reading the Word of God, accuracy is key. This means it is important to know if one person is being addressed or many. Is the person speaking in first, second, or third person?
This is why there are the thees and thous. Thee, thou, thine, thy = one person - singular. Ye, you, your - two or more people. Example:
"Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." -John 3:7 KJB
Do you see the fine distinction? Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus, and he is saying to Nicodemus (thee) that everyone (ye) must be born again.
Does the NKJV carry such preciseness? Let's take a look and see:
"Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’" -John 3:7 NKJV
Hmmm, the above sounds like Jesus is telling Nicodemus that only he needs to be born again. Now, some will pipe up and say that even thou the thee and ye distinctions are missing, the correct interpretation can be gathered via context. Yes, it can, but how many people are going to really dig for context? We hear people take Scriptures out of context all the time, such as "ye shall not judge," "let he who cast the first stone," and "God is love," etc. Why not use the NKJV, or just about any new bible version of John 3:7, and take it out of context, and say that Jesus was saying that only Nicodemus needed to be born again?
Come on, how many people look up the other out of context passages I just mentioned? If they don't bother looking up those, you can be sure that at least some of them won't bother looking up the correct context of John 3:7.
Okay, so some of you would argue that the KJB translation is therefore more correct, but how many people know what the thee and ye mean? Good point. That's our/society's fault, for not teaching that anymore. Let's get that knowledge back out there. Else, I guess we'll need a southern KJB:
"Marvel not that I said unto you, Nicodemus, Y'all must be born again." Hmmm, something tells me we should just stick to thee and ye.
Look, in just a matter of a few minutes, you've learned how to quickly and easily decipher the thees and thous. In just a minute or less from now, you'll also understand the est and eth verb endings, and then you can dig deeper in a King James Bible than you can in ANY other English translation out there.
Est is second person. For example:
"So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs." -John 21:15 KJB
You can remember that the est verb ending is second person, by the eSt (just remember s - second).
Eth is third person. For example:
"The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand." -John 3:35 KJB
You can remember that the eth verb ending is third person, by the eTH (just remember th - third).
Perhaps now you see that every instance of the word sheol and hades brings confusion, and the lack of the thees and thous, and verb endings hides distinction. These are reasons enough to step away from the New King James Version. However, I'd like to show you something else, even more sinister...
You see, the version is called the NEW King James, however it is not. Obviously, King James didn't authorize a new translation of the original. He couldn't have, as he's been dead a long time. BTW, King James was NOT a homosexual, or the other horrible things said about him. An honest student of history can learn the truth for themselves. It's not that hard to find. King James was an honorable, godly man, but not absolutely pristine, as none of us are.
Another reason the NKJV is not a NEW King James Bible, is because it's not fully translated from the same manuscripts that the King James Bible was. The translators chose to translate some from the correct Hebrew Masoretic texts, and correct Greek Textus Receptus texts, but they also translated from very corrupted, evidenced as tampered with, Roman Catholic texts. Yes, let's say it straight out... The NKJV Bible is a hybrid Roman Catholic Bible! Please click here for more in-depth information about the original manuscripts, versus the corrupted ones.
Thirdly, we know the NKJV is not a King James Bible, because the translators of the King James Bible did a literal translation of the Bible. This simply means they just translated it. They didn't change it around to sound better, or to "make more sense." They just translated what it said into English. However, there are some areas where the translators did need to make a few minor changes, else it wouldn't translate properly into English. They were very honest about this, and italicized each word in each instance where they did this. Further, there were times where they had a fairly literal translation, but there was a more literal one, in which they put into the margin. There were also some instances, where they translated what they were fairly sure was the correct translation, but there was some question, so they put the possible alternate translation in the margin.
If you get a center column reference Bible from Local Church Bible Publishers, you'll see the King James notes in the center column. Further, you'll be blessed to have the "Epistle Dedicatory," and the "Translators to the Reader" included in the front of the Bible, which many KJB publishers no longer include.
The King James translators were honest about the manuscripts used (as they wrote about in the two above mentioned documents) and they also were honest about their translation, via the italics and margin (center column) notes.
The NKJV? Not so much. You are not told when they translated from the correct manuscripts or the corrupt ones, and a quick reading through the NKJV preface informs us that unlike the KJB, the NKJV is NOT a literal translation. It is a literary equivalent, which is basically a form of paraphrase! Now, in their preface, they call it a "complete equivalence," while "presenting it in a good literary form." They then go on to confess that they changed some of the wordage to make more sense. A complete equivalence being presented "with good literary form" is the same thing as Dynamic Equivalence, when you get to the bottom of it, and Dynamic Equivalence, when you really look at it, is basically a paraphrase done by many, instead of one. Stated simply, unless it's a literal translation, and not messed with, it's a paraphrase to some degree. The NIV is more towards the paraphrase side than the NKJV, and the Living Bible is a full out paraphrase.
By reading the NKJV, you are reading what the translators think the words mean, from whichever manuscript from their list, they chose to translate it from, whether it be a corrupted Roman Catholic manuscript, or not. Satan would only need one bad apple on the translation committee in order to get some of his wrong translations in there, and that's what seems to have happened. Take a look at this:
"For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ." -2 Corinthians 2:17 KJB
"For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ." -2 Corinthians 2:17 NKJV
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." -2 Timothy 2:15 KJB
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." -2 Timothy 2:15 NKJV
A servant serves, because they choose to do so. A slave has no choice...
"For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant." -1 Corinthians 7:22 KJB
"For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave." -1 Corinthians 7:22 NKJV
"Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device." -Acts 17:29 KJB
"Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising." -Acts 17:29 NKJV
Divine Nature is a new age term. Godhead is not.
"Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand." -Psalm 109:6 KJB
"Set a wicked man over him, And let an accuser stand at his right hand." -Psalm 109:6 NKJV
"Then came to him the mother of Zebedees children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him." -Matthew 20:20 KJB
"Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him." -Matthew 20:20 NKJV
"For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many." -Mark 13:6 KJB
"For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many." -Mark 13:6 NKJV
"And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them." -Luke 21:8 KJB
"And He said: “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them." -Luke 21:8 NKJV
"And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people." -Acts 12:4 KJB
"So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover." -Acts 12:4 NKJV
To find out why the above is supposed to be Easter, and not Passover, click here.
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness" -Romans 1:18 KJB
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" -Romans 1:18 NKJV
"Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen." -Romans 1:25 KJB
"who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." -Romans 1:25 NKJV
"For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." -1 Corinthians 1:21 KJB
"For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." -1 Corinthians 1:21 NKJV
"Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" -2 Corinthians 10:5 KJB
"casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" -2 Corinthians 10:5 NKJV
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." -Galatians 2:20 KJB
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." -Galatians 2:20 NKJV
"Abstain from all appearance of evil." -1 Thess. 5:22 KJB
"Abstain from every form of evil." -1 Thess. 5:22 NKJV
"Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself." - 1 Tim. 6:5 KJB
"useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself." -1 Tim. 6:5 NKJV
Wait a minute, godliness IS a means of gain, but gain is not godliness. The NKJV has it backwards.
"For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." -1 Tim. 6:10 KJB
"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." -1 Tim. 6:10 NKJV
"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." -1 John 3:16 KJB
"By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." -1 John 3:16 NKJV
The above, sadly, is just a minute taste as to the differences and problems in the NKJV Bible. Perhaps you don't read a King James Bible, or a New King James Bible, but some other English Bible version. Then your Bible may be worse than the NKJV. Click here to find out.
While many have heard of "King James Only," did you know that there are "New King James Onlyists" out there, as well? As I mentioned earlier in this article, some previously King James Only churches have switched to the New King James, and some of the members of those churches have become New King James Only, abandoning the King James Bible.
One such reason given, is one already refuted above, and that is the argument that the NKJV is "easier to understand." After reading the above, I feel I have given a good enough case to show why that is not true.
Another argument is that they say there are some translation errors. The two examples usually given, are Easter in Acts 12:4, and the word "turtle." I provided a link earlier in this article, which shows why Easter is correct in Acts 12:4. In fact, Acts 12:4 is a good test Scripture to test Bible versions with. If a Bible version says "Passover" in Acts 12:4, instead of the correct "Easter," then put that bible down - it is corrupt.
Now - "turtle." You may wonder what I'm referring to. In the Levitical sacrifice laws of the Old Testament, one of the sacrifices mentioned says "turtle:"
"And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean." -Leviticus 12:8
"And on the eighth day she shall take unto her two turtles, or two young pigeons, and bring them unto the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation." -Leviticus 15:29
I have never been tripped up by this, because from reading the King James Bible, I already know the definition of "turtle" in the above context. Turtle is short for "turtledove." A little before Lev. 15:29, verse 14 tells us it's a turtledove:
"And on the eighth day he shall take to him two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, and come before the Lord unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and give them unto the priest" -Leviticus 15:14
The same goes for Leviticus 12:8. Just two verses before, in verse 6, it makes it clear it's "turtledove:"
"And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest" -Leviticus 12:6
Because of the above built in KJB dictionary, we can also see that turtle means turtledove in Song of Solomon 2:12, where it says "voice of the turtle." Reptilian turtles don't have a voice, but turtledoves do. The context therefore shows us it's referring to the turtledove, not the reptile.
Jeremiah 8:7 also mentioned "turtle." We can tell it's referring to turtledoves also from context, where it says "the turtle and the crane and the swallow." This is a list of birds.
You may have done a double take, when I mentioned the KJB's built in dictionary. I'm not saying some coined phrase when I say that. I mean it. No other Bible translation (including the NKJV) in English has this built in dictionary. To learn how to find and use the built in dictionary, watch a video on it click here.
Lastly, I want to briefly mention the symbol on the front and/or spine of many NKJVs. The one I own has the symbol, but I've heard many of the newer published NKJVs are no longer sporting the symbol. That symbol is 666, as you can see in part of the below, short video: