At the end of 2019, our church began to use the New King James Version (NKJV) from the pulpit and in church publications. Prior to this, we used the King James Version (KJV) exclusively. This brief article explains why the change was made.
The KJV was first published in 1611. Within a few decades, the KJV became the dominate English translation of the Bible. Through the years, minor revisions were made (mostly to update spelling, but also to change some words and grammar). Modern editions of the KJV follow a revision made in 1769 (about 150 years after initial printing and about 250 years in the past).
Since 1611, many words used in the KJV have changed in meaning or have gone out of use altogether. While no further changes were made to the KJV since 1769, changes have occurred continually to the English language. As a result, through no fault of its own, the KJV no longer speaks the same English we do. Hundreds of examples could be given, and even the most ardent supporters of the KJV recognize this problem. This is evident through the numerous mini-dictionaries of archaic words they have published to help the modern reader. To be a good reader of the KJV you must learn to recognize all the words that have changed in meaning and know the definitions of many that are now obsolete.
We believe this is an unnecessary barrier to the study of God’s Word. Those who have used the KJV for many years may have little difficultly with the older English. However, the older English is frequently difficult to those new to the faith. This difficulty is not insurmountable, but it is unnecessary. Why should someone have to learn a different version of English to understand God’s Words? There are many new words that a student of the Bible will need to learn already; why add to the list hundreds of words that are no longer used or have changed in meaning? Why not just use a translation of the Bible in modern English?
These concerns led us to the NKJV.
The NKJV was chosen over other modern English translations for several reasons.
- The NKJV generally reads like the KJV. It removes archaic words and grammar but retains a close kinship with the KJV. It aims to preserve the authority and accuracy, as well as the rhythm and beauty, of the KJV while making it understandable to current readers.
- The NKJV is translated from the same Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts as the KJV. Based on the more recently discovered manuscripts, most modern translations omit some of the phrases and verses found in the KJV. The NKJV retains every verse of the KJV, while noting significant textual variations in the footnotes.
- The NKJV is stable. It was originally published in 1982 and the text remains unchanged. Many other modern translations undergo frequent revision.
- The NKJV gives the meaning clearly in natural English while maintaining as much of the wording and grammar of the original languages as possible. This makes the NKJV ideal for close study.
Pastor Jack taught two lessons on the preservation of the Bible that further address the subject of English Bible translations: