OceanSide church of Christ

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The New King James Version

Lesson #21

Victor M. Eskew




A.    Some Bibles use the word “new” in an attempt to indicate that an old version has been updated.

1.      New King James Version

2.      New American Standard Version


B.      This is seldom the true nature of the case.  Usually, the new translation has other influences upon it other than just an “update” of the older version.


C.     Because this is true, it is essential to look at the new version in detail.  Never assume the new version is just a remodel of the old version.


D.    In this lesson, we will be looking at the New King James Version.




A.    This version was commissioned in 1975 by Thomas Nelson Publishers.


B.      Dr. Arthur Farstad was the Executive Editor of the NKJV. 

1.      He served on the faculty of the Dallas Theological Seminary teaching the Greek language.

2.      Mr. Farstad died on September 1, 1998.


C.     The team of translators was composed of 130 respected scholars.


D.    The version was completed in three stages:

1.      Stage 1:  the New Testament in 1979

2.      Stage 2:  the New Testament and Psalms in 1980

3.      Stage 3:  the Old Testament and New Testament in 1982


E.      The purpose of the translators:  to create a completely new, modern translation of the Scriptures, yet one that would retain the purity and stylistic beauty of the original King James.


F.      We are told that the translators used the “complete equivalence” method of translation.


G.     There were several purposes the translators had in mind:

1.      Abandon the use of the Jacobean pronouns such as “thee,” “thou,” and “ye.”

2.      Update the archaic words and any words that had changed meanings.

3.      The translators have also noted many of the differences between the text underlying the KJV and text that undergirds many of the modern translations.  This is done in hundreds of footnotes.

a.      Some see this as a way of making a bridge between the KJV and the modern versions.

b.      One man recounts what he heard from a Thomas Nelson representative at an event promoting the NKJV at the Hackman’s Bible Bookstore in Allentown, PA.



“During the presentation of the NKJV the Thomas Nelson representative made a statement to the best of my memory was, ‘We are all educated people here.  We would never say this to our people, but we all know that the King James Version is a poor translation based on poor texts.  But every attempt to give your people a better bible has failed.  They just won’t accept them.  So we have gone back and done a revision of the King James Version, a fifth revision.  Hopefully it will serve as a transitional bridge to eventually get your people to accept a more accurate Bible.’”


II.                TWO MAJOR CHANGES


A.    The word “repent” is changed to a different word 44 times in the NKJV.

1.      Relent (Matt. 21:32)

a.      KJV: For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not:  but the publicans and the harlots believed him:  and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.

b.      NKJV:  For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him:  and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

2.      Remorseful (Matt. 27:3)

a.      KJV:  Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priest and elders.

b.      NKJV:  Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priest and elders.

3.      Irrevocable (Matt. 11:29)

a.      KJV:  For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

b.      NKJV:  For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.


B.      The word “seed” is changed to descendants (Gen. 12:7; 13:15-16; 15:5, 13, 18; 17:8-10, 19; 22:17; 24:7).  Fortunately in Genesis 22:18 they retain the word “seed” for this is a prophecy concerning the Christ (See Gal. 3:16).


III.             NOT SO EASY TO READ


A.    Enigma for interpretation (Prov. 1:6)


B.      Sheol is put for grave (Prov. 1:12)


C.     Palanquin is put for a chariot of the wood (SoS 3:9)


D.    Satraps for princes (Dan. 3:3)


E.      Black cummin for fitches (Isa. 28:27)


F.      Prattle for prophesy (Micah 2:6)


G.     Dysentery is put for bloody flux (Acts 28:8)


H.    Alighting; Allays; Armlets; Befalls; Belial; Bleat; Bray; Buffet; Burnished; Caldron; Carrion; Chalkstones; Circumspect; Citron; Dainties; Dandled; Daubed; Dappled; Enmity; Entrails; Fallow; Festal; Fowlers; Fuller; Furlongs; Jackdaw; Mammon; Matrix; Paramours; Parapet; Pilfering; Pinions; plaited; Potentate; Potsherd; Poultice; Prattler; Prow; Pyre; Quadrans; Raze; Retinue; Rivulets; Rogue; Satiate; Shards; Sistrums; Skiff; Supplanted; Tamarisk; Terebinth; Timbrel; Tresses; Verdure; Verity; Waifs; Wane; Wend; and woof




A.    Fornication is replaced with sexual immorality in Matthew 19:9.


And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.


B.      Grave is changed to hades in I Corinthians 15:55


O death, where is thy sting?  O hades, where is thy victory?  (NOTE:  This is a transliteration of the Greek).


C.     Allegory is changed to symbolic in Galatians 4:24.

1.      KJV:  Which things are an allegory:  for these are two covenants…

2.      NKJV:  Which things are symbolic.  For these are two covenants…


D.    The word “Comforter” in reference to the Holy Spirit is changed to “Helper” (John 14:16, 26, 15:26; 16:7).


And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever –




A.    II Kings 23:29


In his days Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt went to the aid of the king of Assyria…


                        II Chronicles 35:20


After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by the Euphrates…




A.    Psalm 10:5

1.      KJV:  His ways are always grievous…

2.      NKJV:  His ways are always prospering…


B.      Isaiah 9:3

1.      KJV:  Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy…

2.      NKJV:  You have multiplied the nation, and increased its joy…




C.     Zechariah 9:17

1.      KJV:  For how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty!...

2.      NKJV:  for how great is its goodness, and how great its beauty!...


D.    Acts 18:6

1.      KJV:  And when they opposed themselves and blasphemed…

2.      NKJV:  But when they opposed him and blasphemed…




A.    Genesis 32:28

1.      KJV:  And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel:  for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

2.      NKJV:  And He said, Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.


B.      Matthew 18:26

1.      KJV:  The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

2.      NKJV:  There servant therefore fell down before him, saying, Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.


C.     Galatians 2:20

1.      KJV:  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.

2.      NKJV:  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 the faith in the Son of God, who love me and gave himself for me.




A.    Genesis 5:2

1.      KJV:  Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.

2.      NKJV:  He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created.


B.      I Kings 22:38

1.      KJV:  And one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armour; according unto the word of the Lord which he spake.

2.      NKJV:  Then someone washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood while the harlots bathed, according to the word of the Lord which he had spoken.


C.     Acts 3:13; 4:27, 30 changes the words “Son” and “Child” to servant.

1.      Acts 3:13 (KJV):  The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus...

2.      Acts 3:13 (NKJV):  The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus…

3.      NOTE:  Some believe that this is a subtle attack on the deity of Christ.

D.    Galatians 5:12

1.      KJV:  I would they were even cut off which trouble you.

2.      NKJV:  I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off.


E.      Hebrews 2:16

1.      KJV:  For verily he took not on him the nature of angels:  but he took on him the seed of Abraham.

2.      NKJV:  For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but he does give aid to the seed of Abraham.




A.    Many of the translators of the NKJV did not accept the Textus Receptus (KJV) but do accept texts that resemble the Wescott-Hort Text.

B.      When the 1982 edition came out, changes were made that brought the New Testament closer to the modern translations of the Bible.


C.     Examples:

1.      Acts 4:27 – holy child changed to holy servant (NKJV, NASB, RSV)

2.      Acts 8:9 – bewitched changed to astonished (NKJV, NASB)

3.      II Corinthians 10:5 – imaginations changed to arguments (NKJV, NIV, RSV)

4.      Titus 3:10 – heretick changed to divisive man (NKJV, NIV)




A.    It is interesting how quickly some condemn the KJV, but do not want to say anything against the new versions.


B.      One has said:  “New does not necessarily mean better.”


C.     The proliferation of new versions has done two things.

1.      Brought millions of dollars to the publishers.

2.      Created confusion in reading the Bible in numerous places.