What do you think of the NKJV?

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Theosophia

Puritan Board Freshman
I like the NKJV quite a bit--it's a pretty true-to-the-text translation, and I see that as a benefit (I do agree that sometimes the capitalized pronouns in scripture, though respectful, can be a weakness). I also like to vary my translations. For example, ESV next to my NKJV and sometimes even pulling up NLT online. It can help to examine what different translations say. Fee and Stuart address it very well in the book How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth. That's a really great resource for those looking into translations.
I felt it worth mentioning though--I have felt convicted recently of over-researching and "splitting hairs" over this topic sometimes. Most of the inter-translation differences do not present any major theological disagreements, at least, not any that would merit deep concern. I know it sounds silly, but sometimes I find myself losing the meaning of scripture in the research. I lose sight of the Gospel when I zoom in and micro-examine. That may not be the case for all, and I definitely don't want to encourage "glossing over" deeper meanings...but the Lord begins to show me that sometimes I find the most profound truths even in simplicity. In this He keeps me humble, as well. :)
 

Stephen L Smith

Administrator
Staff member
I don’t doubt that the NKJV is generally more literal than the ESV. I have found that to be the case myself. However, is the NKJV more literal where it matters? I don’t necessarily care that the NKJV is more literal in places where literalness doesn’t make a difference.
True
I say all this as someone who loves and uses the NKJV primarily, and who goes to a church which primarily uses the NKJV.
You have made reference to a number of translations (pros and cons) so I was wondering what was your primary translation. I assume you like the NKJV because of its commitment to the traditional text?
 

Stephen L Smith

Administrator
Staff member
Our church changed to the NKJV from the ESV two years ago and it has been a welcome change for nearly everyone in the congregation. I for one have found it an excellent change, as not only do I prefer the TR, but the NKJV is an excellent literal translation (I would argue more literal than the NASB77).
I am fascinated because I do not know of many RCNZ who use the NKJV. Most use the ESV or NASB.
 

Polanus1561

Puritan Board Sophomore
I think the 1980's was a big point for churches: NIV or NKJV (from RSV/KJV)? Some/Most? Reformed NIV churches would then proceed to go to the ESV. The NASB never had that accessibility for various reasons.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
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I recently wrote an article for Unio Cum Christo, in which I argued that there are five acceptable translations for English-speaking churches to use: KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, and CSB. These all have various strengths and weaknesses, but all are done in good faith, have no liberal bias, are done by a broad cross-section of evangelical scholars, and have broad support in Reformed churches (the CSB is more supported in Baptist circles, but deserves a broader reach than just Baptists).
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Is this also because most of them try to be as formal as possible?
No. They don't all, actually. It is known (the preface to the KJV says so) that the KJV uses quite a few different English words to translate Hebrew and Greek words, since there is often no easy direct one-to-one correspondence. The meaning of a word is tied to its usage in context. The extreme formal equivalence of the NASB is its greatest weakness, in my opinion. The very best translation philosophy of any of these translations is the CSB, hands down. Every level of the text contributes meaning: word, phrase, sentence, verse, pericope, chapter, book, canon (what they call "optimal equivalence"). All of these have to be taken into account.

In my opinion, both formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence get some things right and some things wrong. The formal equivalence gets it right that words do mean things, and that context cannot be an excuse to gut a word of its meaning. Formal equivalence gets it wrong if and when it doesn't recognize idiomatic expression and/or different meanings of words in different contexts. The dynamic equivalence gets it right when it says that words have meaning in context, and that therefore the thought of the phrase or sentence as a whole must be taken into account. Dynamic equivalence gets it wrong when it glosses over important words, or when it fails to take into account even larger contexts, or when it confidently pushes its own interpretation in the face of other possible interpretations that are equally plausible, thus putting the reader a bit more at the mercy of the translator, and making it difficult for preachers, when they have to say more often than they would like, "The actual Hebrew or Greek says this, instead of what the translation says."
 

SeanPatrickCornell

Puritan Board Junior
I like the NKJV. It's my favorite translation in the TR/MT tradition and it's the translation that my church uses for all scripture citations (although our Elders make it a priority to point out when a passage has alternate translations or textual variants).
 

pmachapman

Puritan Board Freshman
I am fascinated because I do not know of many RCNZ who use the NKJV. Most use the ESV or NASB.
Yeah, we are the only church I am aware of in the RCNZ that uses the NKJV. I believe we were first to use the ESV, too as we were planted soon after the synod that approved the ESV for use in our churches.

Our pastor, Josh, prefers the NKJV, and when it came time to order new bibles, we discussed the idea of buying NKJV bibles, and phasing out the ESV. I discussed it with the men in the congregation who always come to church with their bibles, and the response was pretty unanimous - we miss the NKJV, which we had used in previous churches. I think Sproul did a lot to popularise the NKJV amongst Reformed folks with his New Geneva Study Bible. I think Josh grew to use the NKJV before he went to MARS, as he uses a nice Cambridge wide margin NKJV he bought in the UK, but I haven't really asked him about it.

I have noticed it has made a difference to his preaching, as he is working through Luke, so when he hit the Lord's Prayer, he was able to preach more fully on all of the points of the Lord's Prayer - only for the ending of the Lord's Prayer did he need to refer to Matthew. The literal nature of the NKJV also has made it easier for him to draw out biblical themes in Scripture, like seed/offspring, etc.

Our only problem has been sourcing pew bibles - our original batch of large print pew bibles has been discontinued by Thomas Nelson (their distributor in NZ was clean out of them), but I managed to track down a final box of 15 at Reformers Bookshop in Sydney, and get them sent over this last week.
 

pmachapman

Puritan Board Freshman
I’m thinking of a particular example. The ESV consistently translates זֶרַע as “offspring.” This is significant because the English “offspring,” just like the Hebrew זֶרַע, can be either singular, collective singular, or plural, which makes Paul’s argument in Gal. 3:16 make sense from an English perspective.

The NKJV translates זֶרַע as “seed,” “offspring,” and “descendant,” which ends up, in my opinion, masking the biblical-theological significance of זֶרַע.
Interesting. Thanks to Logos' Bible Word Study feature, I have found the following...

The ESV is mostly consistent with offspring:
1645748416361.png
While the NKJV is about 50% descendant, 25% seed:
1645748444998.png
I realise context is everything, but as a point of comparison the KJV is nearly always seed:
1645748475347.png

Maybe this is a win for the KJV in terms of consistency? Assuming you adequately explain the meaning of seed first to the reader/listener...
 

pmachapman

Puritan Board Freshman
= 100%? Where did you study Mathematics? :D
Ha ha, I failed Sixth Form Maths! There is the other 25% of assorted phrases, as you can see in the chart ;)
I wonder what Josh's views on textual criticism are?
We've talked briefly - he like me appreciates the fuller readings in the TR, but I haven't discussed the topic in-depth - I probably should, but it has never really come up. My main concern when selecting a translation for the pulpit and pew is whether or not the pastor is comfortable teaching from it (which led to our using the NKJV). I think it is terrible when a pastor has to wrestle with the congregation's translation saying things like "Well the pew bible says this, but what it really should say is..."
He would have been taught the CT at MARS.
Yeah, they definitely use the Critical Text at MARS.

What convinced me personally on the TR is the heavy use of it by Chrysostom, as I read his homilies. That told me that the TR renderings are at least as old as our earliest manuscripts, and so should age should not be a factor in weighing them. I realise Textual Criticism is more complex than just dating MSS, but that squashed my last objection to the TR as my primary text for study.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Interesting. Thanks to Logos' Bible Word Study feature, I have found the following...

The ESV is mostly consistent with offspring:
View attachment 8977
While the NKJV is about 50% descendant, 25% seed:
View attachment 8978
I realise context is everything, but as a point of comparison the KJV is nearly always seed:
View attachment 8980

Maybe this is a win for the KJV in terms of consistency? Assuming you adequately explain the meaning of seed first to the reader/listener...
Yes, the KJV is preferable here. That's actually one of the good things about the LSB—it renders זֶרַע as "seed" throughout. The NKJV, when זֶרַע is used in the context of offspring, alternates between "offspring," "descendant(s)," and "seed." It's very annoying. I know it's a small thing, but I do wonder if this, like 1 Thess. 2:7, is yet another indicator that the NKJV was translated primarily by Dispensationalists.
 

aaronsk

Puritan Board Freshman
The NKJV is great for bible studies when you dont want to have to explain that you are not a KJV-only crazy person but prefer the TR. Otherwise the KJV is my preference.
 

Stephen L Smith

Administrator
Staff member
One passage where the NKJV gives a wooden translation is 1 Pet 1:13 " gird up the loins of your mind". It is a wooden translation but it does preserve an important Hebraism.

The LSB is probably next with "having girded your minds for action".

Other translations I checked use the dynamic equivalent "prepare your minds for action" [NASB 95].

To my mind this is a good example of the pros and cons of a literal translation. The NKJV preserves an important Hebraism. I like that. But it is less readable.
the NKJV is an excellent literal translation (I would argue more literal than the NASB77).
Hopefully someone does a study comparing the accuracy of the LSB to the NKJV.
The very best translation philosophy of any of these translations is the CSB, hands down. Every level of the text contributes meaning: word, phrase, sentence, verse, pericope, chapter, book, canon (what they call "optimal equivalence"). All of these have to be taken into account.
Lane, surely the LSB is the best optimal equivalent translation here. It attempts to be readable yet uses the word 'girded' to link to the Hebraism in the verse. The CSB translation here is basically a dynamic equivalent translation "Therefore, with your minds ready for action,"
 

Post Tenebras

Puritan Board Freshman
I like the NKJV, I just hate the uninspired section headings. I can't even read the Song of Solomon in the NKJV.

In its favor, the footnotes in the NKJV are excellent.
 

Stephen L Smith

Administrator
Staff member
I am looking for a NKJV with the following:
  • Words of Christ in Black (I am having trouble finding one in the NKJV)
  • Leather bound but not too expensive
  • Centre column references
If anyone has pointers I would appreciate their insight :)
 

C4MERON

Puritan Board Freshman
Ive tried to find one with black letter text and have been unsuccessful. There are a couple of nice goatskin leather editions around with centre column references such as the Cambridge Pitt Minion and theres one Thomas Nelson do also.. kinda depends on whether red text is a deal breaker for you.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
Ive tried to find one with black letter text and have been unsuccessful. There are a couple of nice goatskin leather editions around with centre column references such as the Cambridge Pitt Minion and theres one Thomas Nelson do also.. kinda depends on whether red text is a deal breaker for you.
The only black-letter edition that I have been able to find is the NKJV Deluxe Reader’s Bible.
 

Logan

Puritan Board Senior
I don't know if there are any with center column reference that are also not red letter. But there are some that are black letter and leather.
https://www.thomasnelsonbibles.com/product/NKJV-large-print-bible-maclaren-series/
https://www.thomasnelsonbibles.com/product/NKJV-large-print-thinline-premier-collection/
https://www.thomasnelsonbibles.com/product/NKJV-single-column-reference-bible/

That last one says it is red letter but all the reviews I've seen (and the image of the book of Matthew on that page) shows it's not, but it does have red highlights for footnote numbers and headers.
 
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PointyHaired Calvinist

Puritan Board Sophomore
I don't know if there are any with center column reference that are also red letter. But there are some that are black letter and leather.

That last one says it is red letter but all the reviews I've seen (and the image of the book of Matthew on that page) shows it's not, but it does have red highlights for footnote numbers and headers.
Some of these have red and black options.

For instance the large print thinline reference is both in black (black and brown covers) and red (blue cover)
 

beloved7

Puritan Board Freshman
I may have to start reading it to get a better feel of it; my translation is KJV yet I have my wife and children read the ESV. So it’s ESV for family worship and our “Scripture of the week” chalk board. NKJV might just strike the perfect balance. Though I do love my KJV.
 

Polanus1561

Puritan Board Sophomore
I may have to start reading it to get a better feel of it; my translation is KJV yet I have my wife and children read the ESV. So it’s ESV for family worship and our “Scripture of the week” chalk board. NKJV might just strike the perfect balance. Though I do love my KJV.
What does your church use?
 
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