Why I use the NKJV (Part 1)

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by Martin Marprelate, Sep 1, 2015.

  1. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate
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    Proverbs 30:5. ‘Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.’

    Regular readers of this forum will have noticed that I use the New King James Version almost invariably. The reason for this is that I believe that the Traditional Text of the New Testament, used in the Authorized Version (or King James Version, hereafter A.V.) of the Bible and in the New King James Version is more likely to be correct than the so-called Critical Text favoured by the Bible Societies {1}, most writers on the subject, such as Don Carson and James White and by most other modern Bible versions such as the NIV, ESV, NASB etc.

    My qualifications for writing on this subject are somewhat tenuous. As an unconverted teenager, I studied Classical languages for my B.A. degree and that included a limited amount of Textual Criticism. My concern is that the same secular methods of textual criticism that I studied as a youngster and applied to ancient secular writers such as Catullus, Cicero and Thucidides are being applied to the holy and inerrant word of God and that the work of liberal theologians and unbelieving textual experts are being accepted by evangelicals in a way that they would never accept a liberal exegetical commentary.

    Let me say out the outset that I do not regard this controversy as being a matter of absolutely crucial importance. Indeed, my own church uses the NIV, and I believe that it is more important for me to support the preaching of the Gospel and to maintain unity than to insist upon my view on Bible Versions. Moreover, we now have so many ancient manuscripts available to us and they all share so much in common despite their differences that we can say that none of them challenges in any way the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. However, evangelicals believe that the original writings were inerrant and it must therefore be important to us to get as near as possible to those divinely-inspired sources. Also, since commentators who support the C.T. do not hesitate to speak of the ‘most reliable manuscripts’ whilst ignoring 95% of the extant sources, I feel it is legitimate for me to take up the cudgels on behalf of the Traditional Text.

    For those who may be unfamiliar with this controversy, I will now give a short summary. In 1516, a Dutch scholar named Desiderimus Erasmus published a new Greek Testament along with a Latin translation. He prepared this from a very small number of ancient manuscripts that were available to him. In 1526, William Tyndale translated this Greek Testament into English, and Erasmus’ New Testament, slightly modified, became the basis for a series of new English Bibles which culminated in the famous Authorized Version of 1611. From around 1700, this became pretty much the only Bible version used in Britain. Over the years, many new Greek manuscripts and fragments were discovered, but these tended (with a few exceptions) to be in line in most places with the ones which Erasmus had used.

    However, there was one very ancient manuscript, lodged in the Vatican library in Rome, now called Codex Vaticanus, which differed in a number of places from what we will now call the Traditional Text. It appears that Erasmus and many scholars who came after him were aware of this manuscript but had rejected it as inaccurate. Then, late in the 19th Century, a complete manuscript was discovered in a monastery in the Sinai Desert which seemed older than any other one discovered and which agreed in many ways with Codex Vaticanus, though with several differences. It was given the name Codex Sinaiticus. Following this, the English textual scholars, Westcott and Hort, proposed that a revision of the English Bible be prepared in line with their theories and with Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. Despite much resistance from various quarters, this eventually appeared as the Revised Version. This new Bible did not achieve universal acceptance and the A.V. continued to be the Bible most commonly used. The Revised Standard Version, the New English Bible and the Good News Bible appeared after the War, all based on Westcott and Hort’s Critical Text (hereafter C.T.), but none of these supplanted the A.V. It was not until 1973 that the New International Version was published, once again using the C.T., that the supremacy of the A.V. was successfully challenged. Since then there has been an avalanche of new Bibles, all of them except the NKJV based on the C.T.

    Most of the arguments against the C.T. have come from those who are wedded exclusively to the A.V. Some of these have been just plain silly, contending that the A.V. itself is somehow inerrant. Others, notably those from the Trinitarian Bible Society are more serious, but are marred in my opinion by the utter determination to stick with the A.V. My position is different. Whilst I respect the A.V. and am always happy to preach from it when asked, I do not believe that it is sensible to persevere with a Bible version with archaic language which many people find almost impossible fully to understand. The Bible should be written in the language of ordinary people; I therefore use and recommend the NKJV, but am quite prepared to consider another version if one should come out based on the Traditional Text and prove to be more accurate. I understand that such a BIble version is about to appear, the Modern English Version http://modernenglishversion.com/clear/ I have only had time to glance at it, but it is not yet clear to me that it is an advance on the NJKV.

    When I studied textual criticism at University, I recall that there were three {2} particular rules which scholars used to try and establish the true text when the surviving manuscripts disagreed. We shall look at these in turn

    1. The oldest manuscript is likely to be the most accurate. It needs to be understood that all ancient writings other than the Bible have a very small number of surviving manuscripts. One of my ‘Set Texts’ at University was the Poems of Catullus. As I recall, there are only three surviving manuscripts of Catullus, all dated 600 years or more after his time. One of these is believed to be older than the others, and so, when they differed, the older one was preferred. This might seem to be reasonable, but there is no assurance in the matter. The older manuscript might well have been copied more times than the more recent ones; or the older one might have been copied badly one or more times while the more recent ones may have been copied faithfully dozens of times. We have no way of knowing.

    However, when we come to the New Testament, there are literally thousands of extant manuscripts. So let us consider the last nine verses of Mark 16. The NIV states, “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20.” The ESV is a little more circumspect: “Some of the earliest manuscripts so not include 16:9-20.” What are the facts? Well, our old friends Sinaiticus and Vaticanus do not contain the verses, although the latter has the space for them left blank, showing that the scribe was at least aware of them. There is also one other Greek manuscript in which the verses are missing. They are contained in more than 600 other Greek manuscripts and in the old Latin and Peshitta Syrian versions as well as being quoted by 2nd Century writers such as Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and Tertullian who wrote almost 200 years before the estimated dates of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. I ask, is it sensible to prefer two, admittedly older manuscripts over hundreds of others?

    [Continued]

    Notes
    {1} But not, of course, by the Trinitarian Bible Society http://www.trinitarianbiblesociety.org which upholds the Received Text which underlies the A.V. and NKJV. I do not wish to tie myself to the Received Text in its entirety, and am therefore speaking of the Traditional Text; but I believe that the Received Text is likely to be more correct in many more places than the Critical Text.

    {2} After 40 years, my memory is not what it was. There may well have been more, but these three stand out in my mind.
     
  2. Martin Marprelate

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    Why I use the NKJV (Part 2)

    2. Where manuscripts differ, the shorter reading is to be preferred over the longer.

    The reasoning here is that scribes may have added comments to the text in the margin which later copyists have incorporated into the text. Obviously it is impossible to prove that this is not so, but is it not more likely that an inattentive copyist has accidentally left something out? Frankly, when it comes to the word of God, I expect the fuller, theologically richer reading to be correct. Let us look at two verses:

    Luke 11:2b-4, NKJV. ‘Our Father in heaven , hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread and forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

    Luke 11:2b-4, ESV. ‘Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’

    The wretchedly ugly and abbreviated reading of the ESV and most other modern versions is found in no more than five or six Greek manuscripts, whereas the Traditional Text is found in at least 600. The argument put forward by the supporters of the C.T. is that the Traditional reading has been harmonized with the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13, but this is really not very persuasive. There are at least two other differences between the Traditional readings of the Prayer in Matthew and Luke. Surely, if a scribe was going to harmonize Luke with Matthew, he would have done the job properly? It is far more probable that the reading of the C.T. is the result of an inattentive scribe missing out two sections of the prayer.

    Here is another example of the same principle.

    Romans 3:22, NKJV. ‘….Even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.’

    Romans 3:22, ESV. ‘…..The righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, for all who believe.’

    The C.T. version, exemplified by the ESV, is a tortology. It is through faith for all who believe. Well, who else would it be for if it’s through faith? The Traditional reading of the NKJV is much more profound. The righteousness of God by faith comes ‘to all’ as it is preached, but it is ‘upon all’ who receive it. The C.T. reading is found in about 20 manuscripts, the Traditional reading in several hundred. There is no reason why a scribe would have inserted extra words. Without doubt the shorter reading is the result of words being missed out.

    3. The most unusual or ridiculous reading- the one that makes least sense- is most likely to be the original.

    This is the theory that I find most offensive of all. The idea is that a reading that appears to make no sense, or contains a factual error, is likely to have been ‘corrected’ by a scribe at some stage. Even in secular writings, I wonder how helpful this rule is. If an ancient writer was accustomed to write nonsense, why ever is anyone studying him? But when we come to the word of God, surely no believer could possibly support such an idea. Either the Bible is the word of God or it isn’t! If it is, then God did not inspire the Apostles and evangelists to write stuff that is wrong or which makes no sense. Let’s see how this works out is practice.

    Eph. 3:14-15, NKJV. ‘For this reason I bow my knees before the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family (or ‘people’ or ‘nation’) in heaven and earth is named.’

    Eph. 3:14-15, NIV. ‘For this reason I kneel before the Father from whom the whole family in heaven and earth derives its name.’

    The C.T. reading is supported by 19 Greek manuscripts; the Traditional reading is found is over 500, as well as the majority of the ancient writers who cite the verses.

    By what name is the family of God known? Why, as Christians of course. We are not ‘Fatherians’ or ‘Godians.’ The NIV reading makes no real sense. Unfortunately this may be the very reason why many textual critics prefer it. The ESV tries to make some sense of its reading in a footnote where it suggests that the Greek word Patria might actually mean ‘fatherhood’ rather than ‘family.’ But this is not the word’s primary meaning as a glance at a Greek dictionary will confirm. As indicated above, patria means ‘family,’ ‘people’ or ‘nation.’ The English words ‘Patriarch,’ meaning head of the family, and ‘Patriotic’ come from it.

    Luke 4:44- 5:1, NKJV. ‘And He was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee. So it was, as the multitudes pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret.’

    Luke 4:44- 5:1, ESV. ‘And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea. On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.’

    Once again, the vast majority of ancient manuscripts, along with the Church Fathers, support the Traditional Text. The point here is that the Lake of Gennesaret is in Galilee, not Judea, but for that very reason, the majority of textual critics uphold the Critical Text and make Luke into a geographical nincompoop.

    John 7:8-10, NKJV. ‘” You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.” When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee. But when His brothers had gone up, He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.’

    John 7:8-10, ESV. ‘”You go up to the feast. I am not going to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee. But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly, but in private.’

    The question is over the little word ‘yet’ in verse 8. Its omission makes out the Lord Jesus to be either indecisive or a liar. The word is missing in only a tiny number of the hundreds of extant ancient manuscripts; even Codex Vaticanus contains it. Yet the ESV and also, to its shame, the NASB, omit the word, though the NIV (1984 edition) includes it. The ESV writes in its margin, ‘Some manuscripts add yet.’ Some manuscripts? Would it not be more honest to say, ‘98% of the manuscripts add yet’? The only possible reason to omit the word is that just because the C.T. reading is so ridiculous and objectionable, a scribe might possibly have added it. Such an explanation might be acceptable to a Richard Dawkins or a Bart Erhmann, but it surely cannot be acceptable to anyone who believes that the Bible is the true and complete word of God. The word from heaven declared, “This is My beloved Son; hear Him!” (Mark 9:7). Why would we listen to someone who was either a liar or couldn’t make up his mind? No, no! We should accept the witness of the vast majority of the ancient witnesses, dismiss the omission as the error of an inattentive copyist, and honour Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life.

    To sum up, I believe that the Bible is the very word of God, and as such I believe that the most exalted, God-honouring reading of a text is likely to be the correct one. I do not believe that God would have hidden His word in a tiny number of Greek manuscripts, and to have locked away the correct readings from His people for hundreds of years. Nor do I believe that textual critics who are not evangelical Christians should be given any authority to say what the text of the Bible is. I am prepared to listen to people like Don Carson or James White, even though I don’t agree with them, but I am not prepared to accept the views of a Kurt Aland or a Bruce Metzger or anyone for whom the Bible is not the word of God in its entirety.

    Very briefly, here are other reasons why I prefer the NKJV over most other Bibles. First of all it is a literal translation. If one is studying the Bible seriously, the more literal the better, consonant of course, with good English. Secondly, where it adds words to the text to help with the sense, it puts them in italics so that the reader knows that they have been added. I find this most helpful. The NASB also does it. It is a real shame that the ESV, which is otherwise a good translation of the Critical Text, does not follow this rule.
     
    #2 Martin Marprelate, Sep 1, 2015
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  3. McCree79

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    So many things to talk about here, but let's look at Luke and why the ESV is likely right about the use of "Judea". Let's look how Luke as used the word Judea elsewhere.

    Luke 1:5 " There in the days of Herod, king of Judea..." NKJV.

    Herod was king of Judea, Samaria and Galilee, but Luke choose to describe the area as "Judea".

    Luke 23:5 " He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning in Galilee and to this place ". NKJV

    The chief priest included Galilee into "Judea".

    Acts 10:35...." Proclaimed throughout Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism..." NKJV Luke 6:17 and 7:17 show similar usage of "Judea" Luke frequently used Judea to describe areas were Jews reside. He uses it to describe the Kingdom of Herod. Galilee being inhabited by Jews and under Herod, would fit Luke's habit describing it as "Judea"


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  4. McCree79

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    The ESV in no way presents him as a liar. Verse 10 shows that he went privately and did not attend publicly. Jesus was speaking of going publicly.... Teaching or preforming miracles...."My time has not yet come". The present tense of the Greek in the CT can also be rendered as "I am Not going now". So any issue regarding latter would be issue of translation, not the CT. Either way V.10 provides the clarity needed.

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  5. McCree79

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    Both versions have the same meaning. Even in the NKJV rendering, the naming is attributed to the FATHER.

    *"Naming" shows his Fatherhood and superiority over creation

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    #5 McCree79, Sep 1, 2015
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  6. McCree79

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    I do use the NKJV alot. One of my favorites along with NIV, NASB and ESV. I use the 4 frequently.

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  7. Rippon

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    You mean tautology.
    Pietistic expansion.
    Without a doubt, the shorter reading was following the exemplar.
    Please, the way you couched the position is itself absurd. It is rather that the harder reading is generally preferred.
    No, the NIV renders it this way:
    "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name."
    The "most literal" does not necessarily mean the most accurate.
    If you like optical nightmares you would be a fan of italics in the text. A lot more italics have been added since the early KJVs.
    It is frankly silly to insist on this "principle" actually. To be consistent many more italics need to be added --it is just an exercise in futility.
     
    #7 Rippon, Sep 1, 2015
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  8. Martin Marprelate

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    It is one thing to describe the USA and Canada as 'North America;' it's another thing to say that the Great Bear Lake is in the USA.
    I don't see that it does provide clarity. It rather suggests that our Lord snuck into Jerusalem so that his brothers wouldn't see Him and ask Him why He deceived them. When 98% of the texts, including Sinaiticus, give us a perfectly sensible account, I really don't see why we need to give credence to the 2%.
    They have the same meaning in that Paul is praying to the Father. but the whole family in heaven and earth is not named after the Father.
    I don't see that it is. In the NKJV, the nearest antecedent is the Lord Jesus Christ.

    However, my main point in posting was to suggest that we should not be using secular principles in deciding about the things of God, or taking notice of those who set themselves up as experts on the Scriptures who don't believe those same Scriptures are the word of God.
     
  9. McCree79

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    You comparison isn't a level playing field. USA and Canada have different governments. Judea, Galiliee and Samaria were all under Herod. The NKJV uses Judea as geographical "blanket" for Herod's area 5 or 6 times in Luke and Acts. Of we deny its usage in that sense, then we must say Luke and the chief priests were all , as you say, "nincompoops" when it comes to geography.
    I disagree and stand be previous statement.

    They have the same meaning in that Paul is praying to the Father. but the whole family in heaven and earth is not named after the Father.
    Christ is being used to describe the Father. Just as the description of naming describes the Father.
    Not sure what you are implying here. There are plenty of Christians involved on modern(C.T) textual criticism that believe Scriptures are the word of God.

    *Greek grammar, and English grammar are secular principles. So should we not be translations Scripture period?



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    #9 McCree79, Sep 2, 2015
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  10. Rippon

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    A Snippet

    The Trinty Bible Society does not like the NKJV. At the end of part 1 in an article on this particular translation it was stated:"...the New King James has thrown down ancient landmarks and made their translation of the bible a potential haven for heretics by including heretical readings from the Alexandrian text as footnotes."
     
  11. Martin Marprelate

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    Trinitarian Bible Society. Yes, I'm aware of that. I'm in possession of one of their critiques of the NKJV, and they do score some palpable hits. However, I am still of the opinion that the NKJV is the best translation on the market at present. I'm hoping that a revision will take into account some of the TBS comments and make it better still.
     
  12. Rippon

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    Would you say that what I had quoted was a palpable hit? I don't think it was legitimate criticism at all. A. Hembd's piece was just a screed.

    I'm not even a fan of the NKJV and yet I think the article was entirely unfair.
     
  13. McCree79

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    I have skimmed 3 of the 4 articles the TBS has posted on the NKJV. I focused on NT and sections they added emphasis. It is garbage. They attack the NKJV with bias and with distortion. They reffer to it has having "heretical readings" without establishing what heresy is. Noting in the NKJV is beyond orthrodox. TBS published hit pieces agaisnt the NKJV. Nothing about their articles is fair.



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  14. McCree79

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    My favorite part of the TBS articles is when they imply that the Byzantine Text was free from Rome because it was in the Byzantine Empire. Which is deceiving. 330 AD emperor Constantine(Roman emperor) moved the capital of the empire to Byzantium. It was the Roman empire in the 4th century, which is when the earliest of the majority text dates to. I find nothing about the TBS that would qualify them to be a reliable source.

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  15. Van

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    What is odd is that folks who claim the NKJV underlying text is superior, do not use the WEB. All of the claimed behaviors of the scribes would apply to the WEB, and it eliminates many of the errors of the TR.
     
  16. McCree79

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    My only issue with the WEB is its format? It is still only digital correct? It's fine for quick references or text comparison, but I can't stand to read the Bible in a eBook format....any book for that matter.

    *I have actually been looking for a majority text(not TR) Bible. JofJ gave me a couple of good recommendations. I wish the WEB was available in traditional binding.

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  17. Martin Marprelate

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    If I agreed with all the TBS's criticisms of the NKJV, I wouldn't still be using it, would I? But I do know some of the guys involved with the TBS and they are fine Christian brothers, if a little blinkered.
     
  18. Van

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    If you want to compare, use the NKJV and compare with the WEB. They are basically the same, except the archaic "hallowed" is explained (may your name be kept holy). Both suffer at the end (evil one) rather than as the KJV translates it, "evil."

    The WEB version of Romans 3:22 includes "and on all"

    And by using the WEB all the egregious errors of the TR are avoided.
     
  19. Martin Marprelate

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    The WEB is only available in electric format at present.
    Also, and more importantly, it is an ecumenical venture. The Church of Rome and liberal denominations are involved with it. For that reason, it's not going to be a good translation, whatever text it uses.
     
  20. McCree79

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    The RCC???? I thought all 50 translators were Evangelical. I am unaware of a any Catholics....not saying there isn't. I just haven't heard that.

    * There is a Catholic edition, but I doubt that is what Van uses.

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