Article: Psalms 5 How Different the Versions! by Will Kinney

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Psalm 139

Contrast the Authorized King James Bible with the NKJV. It should be obvious that if you change the words you likewise change the meaning of something. The NKJV is not just an innocent update of the "archaic" language of the AV 1611. It has changed the meaning of hundreds of verses.


Psalm 139:3

139:3 "Thou COMPASSEST my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways."

To compass is to surround and enclose something. God is all around us. "Thou compassest my path" is the reading of the Geneva Bible, the Spanish Reina Valera 1909 (has rodeado - you have surrounded), Webster's 1833 translation, KJV 21 and the Third Millenium Bible.

The NKJV says: "You COMPREHEND my path and my lying down", while the NASB says: "You scrutinize my path",and the NIV has "You discern my path".

Psalm 139:11

139:11 "If I say, Surely the darkness shall COVER me; even the night shall be light about me."

The NKJV reads differently and has a very misleading footnote. It says: "If I say, "Surely the darkness shall FALL ON me"; then in a footnote states: "Vulgate and Symmachus read - cover", as though the Hebrew cannot be rendered as the King James Version has it, but imply that the KJB tranlators got it from the Vulgate instead of the Hebrew.

Yet versions that likewise read "the darkness shall COVER me" are the RSV, NRSV, ESV, Darby, Douay, Spanish, 1936 Hebrew translation, Italian Diodati, the Bible in Basic English and others. Even the NASB and NIV along with the Geneva Bible say "Surely the darkness shall hide me."

Psalm 139:13

139:13 "For thou hast POSSESSED MY REINS: thou hast COVERED me in my mother's womb."

The word "reins" is not archaic and means the seat of the feelings and affections. It is found in the RV, ASV, Geneva, Young's, 1917, 1936 Jewish translations, TMB and the KJV 21st Century versions.

The word "possess" means to buy, to purchase, to get and to possess. It never means "to form" as the NKJV has it. The word is used in speaking of wisdom in Proverbs 8:22 "The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way"; Jeremiah 32:15 "vineyards shall be possessed again in this land"; and in Genesis 14:19, 22 "the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth."

"Thou hast POSSESSED my reins" is the reading of the Revised Version, 1936, Douay, Darby, Geneva, and Young's, yet the NKJV goes along with the NASB, NIV and says: "You have FORMED my inward parts."

139:13 "Thou hast COVERED me in my mother's womb". To cover is # 5526 and means literally to cover, sometimes implying to protect or defend. Psalm 140:7 "thou hast covered my head in the day of battle"; Exodus 40:3 "and cover the ark with the vail"; Job 40:22 "the shady trees cover him".

"Thou hast COVERED me in my mother's womb" is the reading of the RV, ASV, NKJV, Geneva, Darby and Young's, but the NIV joins the RSV and says: "You KNIT ME TOGETHER", and the NASB has "you WEAVED ME in my mother's womb."

Psalm 139:16

139:16 The biggest change in meaning in this Psalm is found in verse 16. In the KJB we read: "Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book ALL MY MEMBERS were written, WHICH IN CONTINUANCE were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them."

This is the same reading or sense as found in the Revised Version, Darby, TMB, Webster's, KJV 21, New English Bible, Geneva, Darby, and the Spanish Reina Valera, and the Italian Diodati. It is speaking about the formation or our bodies.

The Revised Version reads: "Thine eyes did see mine unperfect substance, and in thy book were all my members written, which day by day were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them."

Darby: "Thine eyes did see my unformed substance, and in thy book all my members were written: during many days they were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them."

Geneva Bible: "Thine eyes did see me when I was without form; for in thy book were all things written, which in continuance were fashioned, when there was none of them before."

New English Bible 1970: "Thou didst see my limbs unformed in the womb, and in thy book they are all recorded; day by day they were fashioned, not one of them was late in growing."

Spanish Reina Valera 1960 "Mi embrión vieron tus ojos, y en tu libro estaban escritas todas aquellas cosas que fueron luego formadas, sin faltar una de ellas."

Matthew Henry notes in his commentary

My substance, when hid in the womb, in the forming, an unshapen embryo, was not hidden from thee; thy eyes did see my substance. As the eye of God saw us then, so his hand wrought us; we were his work. In thy book all my members were written. Eternal wisdom formed the plan, and by that almighty power raised the noble structure.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made; we may justly be astonished at the admirable contrivance of these living temples, the composition of every part, and the harmony of all together. All our members in continuance were fashioned, according as they were written in the book of God's wise counsel, when as yet there was none of them. If any of our members had been wanting in God's book, they would have been wanting in our bodies, but, through his goodness, we have all our limbs and sense, the want of any of which might have made us burdens to ourselves. See what reason we have then to praise God for our creation, and to conclude that he who saw our substance when it was unfashioned sees it now that it is fashioned.

Charles H. Spurgeon

Verse 16. "Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect. While as yet the vessel was upon the wheel the Potter saw it all. The Lord knows not only our shape, but our substance: this is substantial knowledge indeed. The Lord's observation of us is intent and intentional, --"Thine eyes did see." Moreover, the divine mind discerns all things as clearly and certainly as men perceive by actual eye sight. His is not hearsay acquaintance, but the knowledge which comes of sight. And in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. An architect draws his plans, and makes out his specifications; even so did the great Maker of our frame write down all our members in the book of his purposes. That we have eyes, and ears, and hands, and feet, is all due to the wise and gracious purpose of heaven: it was so ordered in the secret decree by which all things are as they are. God's purposes concern our limbs and faculties. Their form, and shape, and everything about them were appointed of God long before they had any existence. God saw us when we could not be seen, and he wrote about us when there was nothing of us to write about. When as yet there were none of our members in existence, all those members were before the eye of God in the sketch book of his foreknowledge and predestination.

This verse is an exceedingly difficult one to translate, but we do not think that any of the proposed amendments are better than the rendering afforded us by the Authorized Version."

John Calvin

16. Thine eyes beheld my shapelessness, etc. The embryo, when first conceived in the womb, has no form; and David speaks of God’s having known him when he was yet a shapeless mass, is the name given to the foetus from the time of conception to birth inclusive. The argument is from the greater’ to the less. If he was known to God before he had grown to certain definite shape, much less could he now elude his observation. He adds, that all things were written in his book; that is, the whole method of his formation was well known to God.

Whatever is an object of God’s knowledge he is said to have registered in writing, for he needs no helps to memory. Interpreters are not agreed as to the second clause. Some read, yamim, in the nominative case, when days were made; the sense being, according to them — All my bones were written in thy book, O God! from the beginning of the world, when days were first formed by thee, and when as yet none of them actually existed. The other is the more natural meaning, That the different parts of the human body are formed in a succession of time; for in the first germ there is no arrangement of parts, or proportion of members, but it is developed, and takes its peculiar form progressively.

However the NKJV joins the NASB, NIV and changes the meaning as found in the KJB. It says: "Your eyes saw my substance being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, THE DAYS FASHIONED for me, When as yet there were none of them."

The NIV has a similar thought saying: "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Instead of the members of our body being formed, the NKJV, NIV, NASB, and RSV speak about the DAYS being written and ordained.

It is funny to hear many modern version proponents complain about what they themselves call "the liberal RSV and NRSV"; yet they follow the same texts and read the same way as the NASB and NIV, and now in great part the NKJV. This is truly a case of the blind leading the blind. Just pick up that "liberal RSV" and compare it to the NASB and NIV, and marvel at the irony.

139:21 "Do not I hate them. O LORD, that hate thee? And AM I NOT GRIEVED with those that rise up against thee?"

"Am I not grieved" is the reading of the RV, ASV, Young's, Webster's, KJV 21, TMB and others. The word is used in Psalm 95:10 "Forty years long was I grieved with this generation", and Psalm 119:158 "I beheld the transgressors and was grieved." However again the NKJV joins the RSV, NASB, NIV by saying: "Do not I LOATHE those who rise up against You?". Not the same meaning.

139:23 "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my THOUGHTS".

"Thoughts" is the reading of the RV, ASV, Geneva, and Young's among others, and merely means what he is thinking. But again, the NKJV joins the NASB, NIV and says: "know my ANXIETIES", while the NASB, NIV have " know my ANXIOUS THOUGHTS". I can have a lot of thoughts in my head and this Pslam is full of many wonderful thoughts that occupied David's mind at the time. But "thoughts" in general are not the same as "anxious" thoughts. The meaning is changed. The modern versions have to change enough words in their versions in order to get a copyright and make their money. Very often they make changes in the wording merely for the sake of these copyright changes - not because they are more accurate.

Psalm 141:5-7 Bible Babel in Action

The purpose of this brief study of Psalm 141 is to reveal two fundamental truths that are often overlooked by many Christians. Number one - not all bible versions say the same things but with different words. Number two - if we learn the original languages there still would be great disagreement about what God has said.

5. "Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, WHICH SHALL NOT BREAK MY HEAD, for yet my prayer also shall be IN THEIR CALAMITIES.

6. WHEN their judges are OVERTHROWN IN STONY PLACES, they shall hear my words; for they are sweet.

7. Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth, as when ONE CUTTETH AND CLEAVETH WOOD UPON THE EARTH.

Charles Spurgeon comments: ". And let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head." Oil breaks no heads, and rebuke does no man any harm; rather, as oil refreshes and perfumes, so does reproof when fitly taken sweeten and renew the heart. Many a man has had his head broken at the feasts of the wicked, but none at the table of a true hearted reprover.

In verse 5 the Psalmist likens the reproof of the righteous as oil "which shall not BREAK MY HEAD", and his prayer will be their calamities as well. So read the King James Bible, Webster's 1833 translation, the Third Millenium Bible, the KJV 21st Century version, the Geneva Bible, Diodati, and the Spanish Reina Valera - "no me herirá la cabeza".

However the NKJV aligns itself again with the NASB and NIV in giving a very different meaning. The NKJV says: "Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him reprove me; It shall be an excellent oil. LET NOT MY HEAD REFUSE IT. For still my prayer is AGAINST THE DEEDS OF THE WICKED."

Besides altering "it shall not break my head" to "let not my head refuse it", the NKJV completely changes the meaning of the second part of the verse from praying for the righteous in their calamities to "praying against the deeds of the wicked".

Here are a few other versions to show the confusion in these verses.

NKJV, NASB, NIV - "Let not my head REFUSE IT". (accept it)

RSV, NRSV, NEB - "but let the oil of THE WICKED NEVER ANOINT my head". (don't accept it)

Verse 7. "Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth, as when ONE CUTTETH AND CLEAVETH WOOD UPON THE EARTH."

So read the KJB, Darby, Diodati, Today's English Version, Third Millenium Bible, Webster's, Green's Modern KJV, and the KJV 21.

New English Bible 1970 - "Their bones shall be scattered at the mouth of Sheol, LIKE SPLINTERS OF WOOD OR STONE ON THE GROUND."

Geneva Bible - "our bones lie scattered at the grave's mouth, as he that HEWED WOOD or diggeth in the earth."

NKJV, NIV, NASB - "our bones are scattered at the mouth of the grave AS ONE PLOWS AND BREAKS UP THE EARTH."

RSV, NRSV - "AS A ROCK WHICH ONE CLEAVES AND SCATTERS ON THE LAND, so shall THEIR bones be strewn at the mouth of Sheol."

Young's "literal" translation - "As one tilling and ripping up in the land, Have our bones been scattered AT THE COMMAND OF SAUL." !!!

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