New King James Version

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English Bible Versions

The New King James Version is a modern version on the bible that claims to be based on the Textus Receptus Greek and the Masoretic Hebrew texts.

It is generally acknowledged that the problems which are associated with the NKJV are not as numerous or as serious as those found in other versions such as the New International Version, the Revised English Bible or the Good News Bible. The NKJV does not omit dozens of verses, hundreds of phrases and words as is done in these other versions. It is not a loose translation or a paraphrase. However, the problems of the NKJV are significant in the light of the claim by its publishers and others that it is an accurate improvement of the AV and thus should replace the AV. The version includes many doubt producing footnotes, which favor critical text readings.

The New King James Version (NKJV) is published by Thomas Nelson, Inc. [1]. The anglicized edition was originally known as the Revised Authorized Version, but the NKJV title is now used universally.

The NKJV was published in three stages:

New King James Bible, New Testament; 1979 New King James Bible, New Testament and Psalms; 1980 New King James Version of the Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments; 1982

Gideons International, an organization that places Bibles in hotels and hospitals, uses the NKJV translation.



The NKJV translation project, which was conceived by Arthur Farstad, was inaugurated in 1975 with two meetings (Nashville and Chicago) of 68 interested persons, most of them prominent Baptists but also including some conservative Presbyterians. The men who were invited to these meetings prepared the guidelines for the NKJV. The New Testament was published in 1979, the Book of Psalms in 1980, and the full NKJV Bible in 1982.

The aim of its translators was to update the vocabulary and grammar of the King James Version, while preserving the classic style and beauty of the 1611 version. Although it uses substantially the same Hebrew and Greek texts as the original KJV, it indicates where more commonly accepted manuscripts differ.

Update to King James Version

According to the preface of the New King James Version (p. v-vi), the NKJV uses the 1967/1977 Stuttgart edition of the Biblia Hebraica for the Old Testament, with frequent comparisons made to the Ben Hayyim edition of the Mikraot Gedolot published by Bomberg in 1524-25, which was used for the King James Version. Both the Old Testament text of the NKJV and that of the KJV come from the ben Asher text (known as the Masoretic Text). However, the 1967/1977 Stuttgart edition of the Biblia Hebraica used by the NKJV uses an earlier manuscript (the Leningrad Manuscript B19a) than that of the KJV.

The New King James Version also uses the Textus Receptus ("Received Text") for the New Testament, just as the King James Version had used. The translators have also sought to follow translation principles of translation used in the original King James Version, which the NKJV revisers call "complete equivalence" in contrast to "dynamic equivalence" used by many other modern translations.

The task of updating the English of the KJV involved significant changes in word order, grammar, vocabulary, and spelling. One of the most significant features of the NKJV was its abandonment of the second person pronouns “thou,” "thee," “ye,” “thy,” and “thine.” Verb forms were also modernized in the NKJV (for example, "speaks" rather than "speaketh").


New King James Version (1982)
New King James Version (1982)

Language style

One criticism of the NKJV is that it is rendered in a language format that has never been spoken. By maintaining much of the Elizabethan structure and syntax of the KJV (an intentional effect on the part of the revisers, who intended for a reader to be able to follow along in one version as the other version is read aloud), the NKJV at times has been criticized for putting modern words into archaic orders. Unlike the Revised Version of 1881-85 and American Standard Version of 1901, which sought to take advantage of modern scholarship but left the overall text worded in archaic Jacobean language, the NKJV sounds neither Jacobean nor particularly modern. Also many of the double meanings in many of the verses have now been lost.

Underlying texts

A second criticism involves the fact that it is based, as noted above, solely upon the ancient texts available during the time of King James and not on manuscripts and documents which have since been discovered or largly rejected by the church, i.e. Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus. Since these manuscripts, most of which - for the New Testament - reflect an Alexandrian text-type, are argued by most of today's biblical scholars to be more reliable, the NKJV's adherence to the Majority Text (which has ties to the Textus Receptus) is accused of violating the spirit of open scholarship and open inquiry, and to ascribe a level of perfection to the documents available to the 17th century scholars that they would not have claimed for them.

However, not all textual critics agree that the earliest manuscripts are the most accurate. Alternative readings based on other texts do appear as footnotes in the New King James Version, and unlike other translations (such as the New International Version), the NKJV does not contain value comments like "the best manuscripts add, etc." Instead, the footnotes simply state which manuscript sets do not contain the passage (similar to the approach previously taken by the New World Translation) of the Jehovah's Witnesses. However, this is unlikely to placate those who feel that the "Johannine Comma" (at 1 John 5:7), for example, is not a legitimate portion of scripture and should not be treated as such. The NKJV holds to a loose stance for the Textus Receptus and Masoretic Text, but incorporates other corrupt manuscripts in its footnotes and follows corrupt definitions from other versions, which in doing so, reveals their belief that the KJV is in error in 1000’s of places.

The Hebrew Text that the NKJV is translated from is slightly different from the Masoretic text used by the KJV. The KJV is primarily translated from the Bomberg edition (1524-25) of the Masoretic text prepared by Jacob ben Chayyim. The NKJV uses the 1967/77 Stuttgart edition of the Biblia Hebraica, with frequent comparisons made with the Bomberg edition of 1525. In addition the NKJV consulted, the LXX or Septuagint Greek Old Testament, the Latin Vulgate a variety of ancient versions of the Hebrew Scriptures, as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls (NKJV preface,


James Price

Dr. James D. Price was the executive editor of the Old Testament of the New King James Version. Price was formerly Chairman and Professor of the Department of Old Testament, Temple Baptist Theological Seminary, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Price has been retired since 2005.

'Not a TR Advocate'

In 1996 David Cloud corresponded with the executive editor of the Old Testament - Dr James Price.

Cloud stated:

"..he admitted to me that he is not committed to the Received Text and that he supports the modern critical text in general:

‘I am not a TR advocate. I happen to believe that God has preserved the autographic text in the whole body of evidence that He has preserved, not merely through the textual decisions of a committee of fallible men based on a handful of late manuscripts. The modern critical texts like NA26/27 (Nestle-Aland) and UBS (United Bible Societies) provide a list of the variations that have entered the manuscript traditions, and they provide the evidence that supports the different variants. In the apparatus they have left nothing out, the evidence is there. The apparatus indicates where possible additions, omissions, and alterations have occurred… I am not at war with the conservative modern versions [such as the New International Version and the New American Standard Version]’. (James Price, e-mail to David Cloud, April 30, 1996).

The above demonstrates how the executive editor of the Old Testament of the New King James Version does not advocate the Greek Textus Receptus; but rather that he is an advocate of the Nestle-Aland critical Greek text.

The overall principal editor of the New King James Version, Arthur L. Farstad, was also coprincipal editor, along with Zane Hodges, of the Hodges-Farstad majority text, a Greek text that makes nearly 1,900 changes to the Textus Receptus. This fact could lead us to answer why the editors of the New King James desired to show us with their textual apparatus of alternate Greek readings in the footnotes, because they do not believe in the Textus Receptus, but approve alternate readings and other Greek texts!

Arthur L. Farstad

Dr Farstad stated in his preface to the New King James:

"Today, scholars agree that the science of New Testament textual criticism is in a state of flux. Very few scholars still favour the Textus Receptus as such, and then often for its historical prestige as the text of Luther, Calvin, Tyndale, and the King James Version. For about a century most have followed a Critical Text (so called because it is edited according to specific principles of textual criticism) which depends heavily upon the Alexandrian type of text. More recently many have abandoned this Critical Text (which is quite similar to the one edited by Westcott and Hort) for one that is more eclectic. Finally, a small but growing number of scholars prefer the majority text, which is close to the traditional text except in the Revelation." Dr. Arthur Farstad, (Chairman of the NKJV Executive Review Committee)[1]

Thus, we see that Dr Farstad deprecates the Textus Receptus. New Testament textual criticism is in a state of flux, he tells us; the old is no longer good, he implies. Very few scholars still favour that old-fashioned Textus Receptus, which was once universally recognised by the Church as the providentially preserved and pure text of all ages, and which once held universal sway as the Byzantine text for 1,400 years, the last nearly five hundred years as the printed Textus Receptus. But no, we must now set aside that old-fashioned text; we must turn instead to the Greek texts favoured by the REAL scholars: either to the critical text, which is favoured by most, or to the new so called Byzantine majority text which is favoured by an increasing minority of scholars. Thus, the editors of the NKJV will now do us a great favour by setting forth to us these better readings in the margin, these better readings which they have given in English in the margin, these better readings which overthrow and undermine the authority of the translation from the Textus Receptus we see in the main body of the text.[2]

Apparently, according to these "NEW" King James men, the Textus Receptus is no longer to be regarded as the providentially preserved Greek text because it was compiled by a ‘committee of fallible men’ using ‘a few late manuscripts’, as Dr Price has told us. If, as we are told by Dr Farstad (who was co-editor of the Hodges-Farstad majority Greek text which is at major variance with the Textus Receptus in over 1,000 places), that scholars today hold for the most part to either the critical text or the majority text and therefore those texts are better than the Textus Receptus, then one of those texts and a translation made from one of those texts should be what we read. Therefore, it follows that the NKJV's main contributors consider that the Textus Receptus, and its faithful translation, the Authorised Version, should be set aside for the “new” Greek.

Marion H. Reynolds Jr. of the Fundamental Evangelistic Association said:

“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?”

King James Only belief

The supposed "occult" NKJV logo
The supposed "occult" NKJV logo

Proponents of the "King-James-Only Movement" see the New King James Version as something less than a true successor to the KJV. Proponents view the NKJV as making significant changes to the meaning of the KJV translators. For example, Acts 17:22, in which Paul in the KJV calls the men of Athens "too superstitious", is interpreted in the NKJV to have Paul call them "very religious".

At the same time, many churches and evangelical groups have embraced the NKJV as an acceptable compromise between the original KJV and a Bible that uses a more modern syntax.

The Logo

The supposed 666 inside the NKJV logo
The supposed 666 inside the NKJV logo

Some King James Only proponants teach that the NKJV logo is an occult symbol[1], and this symbol has been called by Texe Marrs as "Satan's fingerprint". But when the original King James Version of 1611 is examined, it has mason handshakes throughout (masonry was not cultic until the late 1700's) and similar triangular symbology representing the trinity etc.. which has also been adoped by the occult (as almost every symbol has). David Bray combines several anachronistc Mason and Rosicrucian conspiracy theories to claim that the 1611 version has occult symbology [2]. While many see the symbol as a serious issue as there are believers who believe that such symbols are demonic, many believers do not think so, and in the defence of the KJV and comparing it to the NKJV this would be a side issue rather than that comparing the actual words written.


The NKJV’s 774 footnotes cast doubt on which verses are inspired. The New King James Version casts doubt on the authenticity of 873 verses in the New Testament. While the NKJV claims to be translated from the Textus Receptus the 'NU' denotes the Nestles/United Bible Society's Greek text, which is basically the same as Westcott and Hort readings. `M' denotes the Hodges-Farstad-Nelson Majority Greek text. According to the New King James Version preface:

Where significant variations occur in the New Testament Greek Manuscripts, textual notes are classified as follows:

NU-Text These variations from the traditional text generally represent the Alexandrian or Egyptian type of text [the oldest, but sometimes questioned text]. They are found in the Critical Text published in the Twenty-sixth edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament (N) and in the United Bible Society's third edition (U), hence the acronym "NU-text."

M-Text This symbol indicates points of variation in the Majority Text from the traditional text [a consensus of most Greek manuscripts]. It should be noted that M stands for whatever reading is printed in the published Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text, whether supported by overwhelming, strong, or only a divided majority textual tradition.

See NKJV Footnotes


See NKJV Preface

Changes from the KJV

Matthew 1:1

  • The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (KJV)
  • The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (NKJV)

"Generation" means to be generated or to be placed in time, where the origination of the eternal Christ's body occurred, and the Word became flesh. Christ was not generated from man, but through Mary and from God, linking to verse 18. The genealogy mentioned is of Joseph, and not Jesus. Thus the New King James Version's translation is faulty having "The genealogy of Jesus Christ" because Christ had no earthly genealogy except through His mother.

Hebrews 3:16

  • For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. (KJV)
  • For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? (NKJV)

The KJV clearly says that "some" i.e. most of the older generation of Israel, "howbeit not all" meaning Joshua and Caleb, "did provoke." The NKJV says that everyone who came out of Egypt rebelled. This is clearly mistranslated and ruins the basic Old Testament historical narrative.

See Also


External links

Will Kinney Articles on the NKJV

Trinitarian Bible Society articles on the NKJV


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