As I considered the usefulness of the NKJV to someone who was raised on the KJV, it occurred to me that it might be worthwhile to review some common KJVO objections. I have pulled the following 16 objections written by James L. Melton, and will respond to each.
1. The text of the NKJV is copyrighted by Thomas Nelson Publishers, while there is no copyright today on the text of the KJV. If your KJV has maps or notes, then it may have a copyright, but the text itself does not.
ANSWER: The assumption is that a copyright is a bad thing, when it is not. In any case, the KJV was originally copyrighted by the Crown of England, that copyright is simply not enforceable outside of the UK.
2. There's nothing "new" about the NKJV logo. It is a "666" symbol of the pagan trinity which was used in the ancient Egyptian mysteries. It was also used by satanist Aleister Crowley around the turn of this century. The symbol can be seen on the New King James Bible, on certain rock albums (like Led Zepplin's), or you can see it on the cover of such New Age books as The Aquarian Conspiracy. (See Riplinger's tract on the NKJV.)
ANSWER: Be careful of guilt-by-association. The symbol is known as the triquetra, and has been used for different purposes throughout history. It original use is uncertain, and it came to be used by Christians to represent the Trinity, where it was sometimes referred to as the "Trinity Knot." It was in this context that it was used on the NKJV. However, it is also used in pagan and Satanic contexts. This is a classic meat-offered-to-idols issue. For more in-depth info, see http://docs.abwe.org/CEIM/good-soil/resource-articles/TriquetraJamesDPrice.pdf .
3a. It is estimated that the NKJV makes over 100,000 translation changes, which comes to over eighty changes per page and about three changes per verse! A great number of these changes bring the NKJV in line with the readings of such Alexandrian perversions as the NIV and the RSV.
ANSWER: The assumption is that the changes are bad, and since many of them match newer versions, that proves it. This assumption is without merit. The NKJV uses the same underlying Greek text as the KJV, and changes are merely better translations of that text. In most cases, newer versions merely beat the NKJV to the punch in this area, thus the similarities.
3b. Where changes are not made in the text, subtle footnotes often give credence to the Westcott and Hort Greek Text.
ANSWER: The assumption is made that the footnotes were included to give credence to another text. This is not so; the footnotes were included to alert the reader of differences between texts. In addition, this accusation implies that these footnotes are used everywhere the NKJV does not match the KJV. This is false as well.
4. While passing off as being true to the Textus Receptus, the NKJV IGNORES the Receptus over 1,200 times.
Untrue; otherwise, why would the NKJV footnote where other texts disagree?
5. In the NKJV, there are 22 omissions of "hell", 23 omissions of "blood", 44 omissions of "repent", 50 omissions of "heaven", 51 omissions of "God", and 66 omissions of "Lord". The terms "devils", "damnation", "JEHOVAH", and "new testament" are completely omitted.
The assumption is that something has been left out, when really, it's all translational differences. Let's review these "omissions":
In the OT, the NKJV uses Sheol instead of Hell 12 times. Sheol is more precise and refers to the grave. The KJV actually supports this distinction in a number of places: Job 17:16, Prov 1:12, Isa 38:10, Isa 38:18, Eze 31:15.
In the NT, the NKJV uses Hades instead of Hell 10 times. Again, Hades is more precise and refers to the grave. Again, the KJV supports this distinction in I Cor 15:55.
The NKJV does not leave out "blood" at all where the KJV has it, although it does use words like "bloodline" or "bloodshed" at times. There is one exception to this, Acts 28:8: the KJV has "bloody flux," and the NKJV has "dysentery," which is hardly an issue.
In the places where it is alleged that the NKJV takes out "repent," other words are used, such as "change their minds," "relent," or in the cases of God stopping judgment, "have compassion." The NKJV uses better words in Rom 11:29 (the calling of God is "irrevocable") and in II Cor 7:8 ("For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it.")
Nowhere is the idea of repentance "taken out" as so boldly alleged.
The NKJV does not use the word "heaven" many times when what is being referred to is the atmosphere, or sky.
GOD and LORD-
What is happening is that personal pronouns are being used to prevent repetition in places where the God as the object is clear. In some places the KJV uses the proper name when only the pronoun is found in the text.
In the OT the KJV represents the Jehovah as "LORD" with the exception of 4 verses. The NKJV uses "LORD" in all places.
Let's wrap this up. Shall we argue over "devils" (KJV) vs. "demons" (NKJV)? "Damnation" (KJV) vs. "condemnation" (NKJV)? "Testament" (KJV) vs. "covenant" (NKJV)? This is getting nitpicky to the extreme.
6. The NKJV demotes the Lord Jesus Christ. In John 1:3, the KJV says that all things were made "by" Jesus Christ, but in the NKJV, all things were just made "through" Him. The word "Servant" replaces "Son" in Acts 3:13 and 3:26. "Servant" replaces "child" in Acts 4:27 and 4:30. The word "Jesus" is omitted from Mark 2:15, Hebrews 4:8, and Acts 7:45.
ANSWER: John 1:3 KJV: "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." "Without him" indicates the agency of Godhead together through Christ (let us make man in our image). Saying "through" him is actually more accurate.
Christ is a servant, and put Himself in a servant's role as a model to His disciples. I fail to see how this demotes Christ.
The Greek has the pronoun at Mark 2:15. Heb 4:8 and Acts 7:45 read "Joshua" in the NKJV, which is another form of the name "Jesus."
7. The NKJV confuses people about salvation. In Hebrews 10:14 it replaces "are sanctified" with "are being sanctified", and it replaces "are saved" with "are being saved" in I Corinthians 1:18 and II Corinthians 2:15. The words "may believe" have been replaced with "may continue to believe" in I John 5:13. The old straight and "narrow" way of Matthew 7:14 has become the "difficult" way in the NKJV.
ANSWER: Heb 10:14 KJV: "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." The first part of the verse makes it clear in both versions that we are perfect in Him. Either reading for the end of the verse makes sense here. Actually, saying that those who "are being sanctified" are already perfected by Christ's offering, as the NKJV does, is a much stronger support for eternal security.
Salvation is more than positional sanctification, so there is no problem with the readings in I Cor 1:18 or II Cor 2:15.
As far as I John 5:13, John was probably writing to people whose faith was being challenged. To write "continue to believe" is possible given the tense of the greek word behind "ye may believe". In any case, the NKJV indicates the words are added.
The KJV doesn't read "straight," it reads "strait." "Strait" means narrow, and by extension, difficult. Mat 7:14 in the NKJV makes more sense.
8. In II Corinthians 10:5 the KJV reads "casting down imaginations", but the NKJV reads "casting down arguments". The word "thought", which occurs later in the verse, matches "imaginations", not "arguments". This change weakens the verse.
ANSWER: "Imaginations" is simply an archaic form of "reasonings." "Arguments" makes much more sense to the modern reader.
9. The KJV tells us to reject a "heretick" after the second admonition in Titus 3:10. The NKJV tells us to reject a "divisive man". How nice! Now the Alexandrians and Ecumenicals have justification for rejecting anyone they wish to label as "divisive men".
ANSWER: Is it easier to label someone "divisive" or "heretical?" The context provided by v.9 indicates the subject is a man that engages in unprofitable contention and strife. The focus IS on divisiveness and sectarianism, traits that will always be found in true "heretics."
10. According to the NKJV, no one would stoop so low as to "corrupt" God's word. No, they just "peddle" it (II Cor. 2:17). The reading matches the Alexandrian versions.
ANSWER: The NKJV reading is more than vindicated:
John Gill comments thus:
"which corrupt the word of God; by "the word of God," may be meant the Scriptures in general, which are from God, contain his will, and which he uses for the good of men, and his own glory, and may be corrupted by false glosses, and human mixtures, and by adding to them, or taking from them; or the Gospel in particular, which is the word of truth, of faith, righteousness, reconciliation, and salvation, and which was corrupted by these false teachers, by making merchandise of it; they huckstered the word of God, made gain of it, sought merely their own worldly interest and advantage in it, and so mixed it with their own vain philosophy, to please the carnal ears and hearts of men; they blended law and Gospel, grace and works, in the business of salvation; they did, as peddling merchants do, mix good and bad commodities together, and then vend them for sound ware; or as vintners, who mix their wine with water, and sell it for neat wine."
the Geneva commentary reads:
"We do not handle it craftily and covetously, or less sincerely than we ought. And he uses a metaphor, which is taken from hucksters, who used to play the false harlot with whatever came into their hands."
The greek text of the TR and CT are the same as regards this portion of the verse. Do you see how hard and persistently this person is trying to tie the NKJV to the "Alexandrian" text?
11. Since the NKJV has "changed the truth of God into a lie", it has also changed Romans 1:25 to read "exchanged the truth of God for the lie". This reading matches the readings of the new perversions, so how say ye it's a King James Bible?
ANSWER: There is absolutely no difference between the TR and CT in this verse. Today, we are wont to think of the word "change" in terms of transforming one thing to another- that would be the greek word allasso (G236), which is not used in this verse.
The point of the verse is that, given the natural manifestations of God's power, you might expect man to accept the truth about God. Instead, reprobates attribute these manifestations in nature to other gods or causes, thus trading (or exchanging) the truth for a lie.
12. The NKJV gives us no command to "study" God's word in II Timothy 2:15.
ANSWER: "Study" is an archaic form of "be diligent," which is what the NKJV has.
13. The word "science" is replaced with "knowledge" in I Timothy 6:20, although "science" has occurred in every edition of the KJV since 1611! How say ye it's a King James Bible?
ANSWER: This greek word is translated as "knowledge" in the KJV all 28 other times it appears in Scripture.
14. The Jews "require" a sign, according to I Corinthians 1:22 (and according to Jesus Christ - John 4:48), but the NKJV says they only "request" a sign. They didn't "request" one when signs first appeared in Exodus 4, and there are numerous places throughout the Bible where God gives Israel signs when they haven't requested anything (Exo. 4, Exo. 31:13, Num. 26:10, I Sam. 2:34, Isa. 7:10-14, Luke 2:12, etc). They "require" a sign, because signs are a part of their national heritage.
ANSWER: Jesus said that no sign would be given to that generation except the sign of the prophet Jonah. If the Jews truly required a sign in the sense of needing it, Jesus would have done it. Instead He pointed them to His resurrection. Truly the Jews WANT a sign, but did not NEED it, and thus it is something they ASK for, but not require, not in the modern sense of the word. "Require" is often an archaic form of "ask."
15. The King James reading in II Corinthians 5:17 says that if any man is in Christ he is a new "creature", which matches the words of Christ in Mark 16:15. The cross reference is destroyed in the NKJV, which uses the word "creation."
ANSWER: A “creature” is something that is “created” and thus is a part of the “creation.” “Creation” would appear to be the better word because it emphasizes the transformation. The cross reference is hardly “destroyed.”
16. As a final note, we'd like to point out how the NKJV is very inconsistent in it's attempt to update the language of the KJV. The preface to the NKJV states that previous "revisions" of the KJV have "sought to keep abreast of changes in English speech", and also that they too are taking a "further step toward this objective". However, when taking a closer look at the language of the NKJV, we find that oftentimes they are stepping BACKWARDS! Please note a few examples of how well the NKJV has "kept abreast of the changes in the English language":
Ezra 31:4 little rivers rivulets
Psalms 43:1 Judge Vindicate
Psalms 139:23 thoughts anxieties
Isaiah 28:1 fat verdant
Amos 5:21 smell savor
Matthew 26:7 box flask
Luke 8:31 the deep the abyss
John 10:41 did performed
Luke 19:11-27 pounds minas
John 19:9 judgement hall Praetorium
Acts 1:18 bowels entrails
Acts 18:12 deputy proconsul
Acts 21:38 uproar insurrection
Acts 27:30 boat skiff
Hebrews 12:8 bastard illegitimate
ANSWER: In all of these places, the NJKV is using a more specific and accurate word.
1. Few people truly inspect the claims of KJVOs, if they did, this type of thing wouldn’t persuade anyone.
2. Accuracy to the TR takes a backseat to fidelity to the KJV for KJVOs.
3. Archaic words and expressions in the KJV from the 17th century have been contrasted with modern versions without regard for changing meaning of language.
4. Guilt-by-association is a major tactic used against new versions.
5. This author was simply not fair to the NKJV.
A few more words on the NKJV:
Despite what Ruckman or Riplinger say, the NKJV NT was translated from Scrivener’s TR, which has the text behind the KJV. Riplinger actually produced a list of places where she felt the NKJV did not follow the TR; as it turned out, the words used in the NKJV could be accurate translations of both the TR and the CT in those places.
Secondly, while it is true that the NKJV used the Stuttgart Edition of the OT Hebrew and not the Ben Chayyim Edition, according to Dr. James D. Price, the OT editor for the NKJV, there are only 8 places of difference, and in all places, the NKJV follows the KJV.