THE KING JAMES VERSION VS. THE NEW KING JAMES VERSION: A Response to James L. Melton’s “The NKJV: A Deadly Translation”

THE KING JAMES VERSION VS. THE NEW KING JAMES VERSION: A Response to James L. Melton’s “The NKJV: A Deadly Translation”

© 2012, by John Tors. All Rights Reserved.

(Melton’s article is found http://jesus-is-lord.com/nkjvdead.htm.  Accessed on February 20, 2012.)

The words of Scripture were divinely inspired (“God-breathed” 2 Timothy 3:16) in the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek languages, and it is these texts that are inerrant and infallible.  Every version in English or any other language is a translation of the inspired text, and is not itself an inspired text.  Translations may be good or bad, but they are translations, nothing more or less.

However, there is a group we can call the “King James Version Only Advocates” (KJVOA), of which James L. Melton is a member, who take it as an article of dogma that the English King James Version translation is a divinely inspired translation, every bit as inspired as the original languages, if not more so.  Faith is good if it is in what God has said, but it should not repose in man-made ideas, and the idea that the KJV is itself divinely inspired is most certainly a man-made idea.  KJVOA try to make the case from Scripture that this dogma is biblical, but even a cursory examination of their arguments shows that they are worthless, and are merely an attempt to support a conclusion that has already been reached independently of fact and logic.

It follows from their dogma that, to KJVOA, the KJV is necessarily perfect in every way, and so every other translation is judged not by its own quality or fidelity to the original languages but by its agreement or lack thereof to the KJV; if the KJV mistranslates something and another version translates it correctly, the other version is to be condemned for that, because it has dared to disagree with the KJV.

It is not hard to see that, with this approach, every translation that is not the KJV will be condemned by the KJVOA (in essence for not being the KJV).  Lists of deviations from the KJV will be offered as “proof” that a version is corrupt, when, of course, all such “proof” shows is that this version is not the KJV – which we already know.

There is not much point to arguing with KJVOA.  If dogma is based on facts and reason, then it can be challenged on the grounds of facts and reason, but when it is based on fiat and invincible ignorance, then there is no basis for reasoned discussion.  KJVOA are often extremely mean spirited and vicious, too, and anyone who does not agree with the KJV-only position is demonized.  There is an example of this in Melton’s piece, where he writes,

The following information should be helpful when dealing with Christians who have been swindled by the Laodicean lovers of filthy lucre” (bolding added).

KJVOA seem incapable of imagining that a translator can actually be motivated by a desire to make God’s word accessible in English as accurately as possible; no, they must always be ascribed base motives, only in it for money, loving “filthy lucre.”  In fact, the hatred exhibited by many KJVOA against anyone who does not accept their man-made dogma is truly deplorable.

As I have said, this is a response to James L. Melton, not for James L. Melton, for I have no basis for any confidence that he would listen to reason in this matter.  It is written for those who may find Melton’s claims troubling.  Rest assured, as we shall see, everything he writes is rubbish.  What follows is a point-by-point response.  (His comments are in bold and italics, to distinguish them from my responses.)

We will now give some special attention to one of the deadliest translations on the market–the New King James Version, first published in 1979.  It is a deadly version because it’s editors have succeeded in deceiving the body of Christ on two main points: (1) That it’s a King James Bible (which is a lie), and (2) that it’s based on the Textus Receptus (which is only a partial truth).  The following information should be helpful when dealing with Christians who have been swindled by the Laodicean lovers of filthy lucre:

“Deadly” means causing death.  Neither of Melton’s points in any way indicates that the NKJV causes death or even any harm, even if his points were true.  They are not.  The New King James Version clearly identifies itself as the New King James Version, not the old one.  It is a revision of the KJV, the fifth revision in fact (the original 1611 KJV was revised in 1625, 1629, 1762, and 1769).

The 1982 revision is, of course, far more extensive than the previous ones, since far more time has gone by between the fourth and fifth revisions than between any other two previous revisions, and the English language has changed more dramatically in that time than previously.  The 1769 KJV is still in use, which is another reason to label this as the New KJV, to distinguish it from the original (albeit revised) one.  The NKJV is certainly based on the KJV, and in light of all this, to claim that it “is a lie” for the NKJV to bill itself as a “King James Bible” is unfair.

The assertion, meanwhile, that it is deceptive to claim that the NKJV is “based on the Textus Receptus” is itself deceptive.  According to the NKJV Preface,

The King James New Testament was based on the traditional text of the Greek-speaking churches, first published in 1516, and later called the Textus Receptus or Received Text … because the New King James Version is the fifth revision of a historic document translated from specific Greek texts, the editors decided to retain the traditional text in the body of the New Testament …

If Melton wants to claim this is deceptive, he must offer proof, but he does not; he simply asserts the charge.  Certainly from what I have seen, they have followed the TR faithfully.

  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.

So what?  The KJV was published 400 years ago, well beyond even modern standards of longevity of copyrights.  Thomas Nelson sank a lot of money into creating the NKJV and it is not unreasonable to recoup it and turn a profit:

“… for the labourer is worthy of his wages.” (Luke 10:7b)

More to the point, even if KJVOA think that no one should make a profit from Bible translation, this says nothing about the quality and accuracy of the translation.

  1. 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.)

This is a pointless complaint, as it has nothing to do with the actual translation.  Early Celtic Christians used the triquetera as a symbol of the Trinity, as it is looks like a three-in-one.  What others may have done before or since is irrelevant, as we have no control over the activities of others.  This is like complaining that we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas on December 25 because it was originally the date of a pagan holiday.  Nor should we be using the cross or the fish as Christian symbols, as those also have been used by others for non-Christian purposes.

In point of fact, though, the triquetera was never “a “666″ symbol,” nor was it the symbol of a “pagan trinity which was used in the ancient Egyptian mysteries.”  There was no “pagan trinity” in the “ancient Egyptian mysteries”; this was made up by theosophists who wanted to discredit Christianity by claiming they’d borrowed the idea of the trinity from paganism.  It is regrettable that Melton would give this calumny credence.  (Of course, he can prove me wrong by adducing evidence of his claims, but he does not seem to be in the habit of doing such a thing.)

By the way, by writing “See Riplinger’s tract on the NKJV”, Melton destroys any claim he may have had to credibility.   Riplinger, a KJVOA, is notorious for her writings which are characterized by outright dishonesty from cover to cover.  For example, she alters quotes right and left to make them say the opposite of what they do say, as “proof” of her claims e.g. on p. 580 of her book New Age Bible Versions, she writes that the Epistle of Barnabas reads “Satan … is Lord.”  What the Epistle of Barnabas actually says is

… One of light, and the other of darkness. But there is a great difference between these two ways. For over one are stationed the light-bringing angels of God, but over the other the angels of Satan. And He is Lord for ever and ever, but he is prince of the time of iniquity.  (I have highlighted in blue to show how Riplinger cobbled together this lying quotation.)

Anyone who cites Riplinger with approbation, as Melton does, does not deserve to be listened to.

Finally, the triquetera is not part of the NKJV translation, yet Melton finds it problematic.  How much more problematic is it that the original KJV included the non-inspired Apocrypha in its very text?

  1. 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!

Really?  “Estimated” by whom?  Where is the list of these “over 100,000 translation changes”?  Melton does not give even one example, so his claim cannot be taken seriously.  In point of fact, translation changes are made, since the NKJV is a revision, which necessitates “translation changesby definition.  But that is not a bad thing; the whole point of the revision is to improve the translation and make the word of God clearer for today’s English speakers.  This is a bad thing only if you accept as dogma that the original KJV is inerrant – which is a ludicrous position.

A great number of these changes bring the NKJV in line with the readings of such Alexandrian perversions as the NIV and the RSV.

Yet again, although Melton alleges “a great number of these changes,” he somehow does not give us even one example.  And the truth of the matter is that the NKJV is based on the Textus Receptus, not the Alexandrian Text.  If there are any changes in the NKJV that agree with the NIV or the RSV, it would be in such cases where there is no textual difference, and the NIV or RSV translator chose a more accurate word there than the KJV translators did.  That does happen occasionally: “God-breathed” is a much better translation of θεόπνευστος (theopneustos) in 2 Timothy 3:16 than is the KJV’s “inspiration of God.”  (Unfortunately, the NKJV chose to stay with the KJV on this one.)  Of course, the NKJV changes every “thee” and “thou” to “you”, which is what one finds in the NIV and RSV, because “thee” and “thou” are not used in modern English, so perhaps that is what Melton had in mind.  If so, it is a bogus argument.

Where changes are not made in the text, subtle footnotes often give credence to the Westcott and Hort Greek Text.

The “subtle footnotes” list what is found in the critical text so that the reader can know the differences; it does not “give credence” to them; in fact, by leaving them out of the text, they are discredited more than given credence.  However, I am nonplussed that Melton would bring up this as an argument against the NKJV, in light of the fact that the 1611 KJV also included variant readings from other manuscripts in “subtle footnotes,” as Melton calls them.

  1. While passing off as being true to the Textus Receptus, the NKJV IGNORES the Receptus over 1,200 times.

It may be getting tiresome to point this out, but Melton again levies a charge that he does not document, nor, though he claims this is done “over 1,200 times,” can he be bothered to give even one example.  In fact, the NKJV translates from the Textus Receptus and never “IGNORES” it.  At most one could say that some of the translations chosen are not the best that could have been picked, but the same can be said of the KJV.

  1. 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.

Ooh, Melton finally gives some specifics!  How nice!  Now we can see how truly bogus his claims are.  They can all be checked by consulting KJV and NKJV concordances side by side for each of these words, to see where and how often they occur in each translation.

In the NKJV, there are 22 omissions of “hell”,

There are not “22 omissions of ‘hell’”; there are 23 places in which the NKJV translates the Hebrew or Greek with a word other than hell (and one passage in which the NKJV uses “hell” where the KJV uses “grave.”)  The twenty-two passages are 2 Samuel 22:6; Job 11:8, 26:6; Psalm 16:10, 18:5, 86:13, 116:3; Isaiah 5:14, 14:15, 28:15, 28:18, 57:9; Jonah 2:2; Matthew 11:23, 16:18; Luke 10:15, 16:23; Acts 2:27, 2:31; and Revelation 1:18, 6:8, 20:13, 20:14.

In every one of these OT passages, the NKJV has “sheol,” which is a transliteration of the actual Hebrew word and therefore is correct by definition.  Sheol is the abode of the spirits of the dead, prior to the final allocation of corporeal people into heaven and hell after the Millennium.  Sheol is not hell, but the KJV translators apparently didn’t realize that there is a spiritual abode of the dead, and so they mistranslated sheol as “hell” in these places.

The New Testament writers used haides (“Hades”) for sheol, the abode of the spirits of the dead, and gehenna (or, in one passage, tartarus) for hell, the final corporeal destination for the damned.  Again, the KJV translators didn’t understand this difference, and they mistakenly translated all occurrences of ᾁδης (haides) as well as γέεννα (gehenna) and tartarus as “hell.”  Far from being a problem with the NKJV, then, this is one of the most serious problems with the KJV, which even has Jesus going to hell in Psalm 16:10/Acts 2:27, 31!  The KJV also risibly tells us that hell will be cast into hell, in Revelation 20:14.

23 omissions of “blood”,

Actually, by comparing the KJV and NKJV concordances side by side, we find that there are only three passages, not 23, in which the KJV uses “blood” and the NKJV does not.  In Genesis 9:5 the NKVJ uses “lifeblood” where the KJV uses “blood of your lives” which is the same thing, though clearer in the NKJV.

In Leviticus 19:16, the KJV has “neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour;” and the NKJV has “nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor.”  The NKJV correctly expresses the idea of the passage, and more clearly.

In Acts 28:8, the KJV has “bloody flux” where the NKJV has “dysentery.”  The word for blood haima does not appear in the Greek, but the word δυσεντερίᾳ (dusenteria), which means “dysentery”; in fact, the English word is a transliteration of the actual Greek word, so the NKJV translation is completely correct.  The KJV translation only describes part of the symptoms, and not clearly.

Those are the only differences, so the claim that the NKJV has “23 omissions of ‘blood’” is nonsense.  It would be interesting to see where Melton got this idea from; it is certain that he did not bother to check its veracity.

44 omissions of “repent”,

Actually, this provides a salutary example of superior translation in the NKJV.  When a Christian hears the word “repent,” he understands it to mean a very specific thing: turning away from sin and to faith in Christ.  In King James’ time, though, “repent” meant any sort of changing of the mind or regret or rethinking.  Thus, the word “repent” occurs more times in the KJV not because the NKJV is excising the actual theological concept that we understand today, but because they used it for general changing of the mind, so that the KJV actually has God repenting!  The following are just three examples of many:

Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people … And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.” (Exodus 32:12, 14)

“… the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.” (1 Samuel 15:35b)

“The LORD repented for this … The LORD repented for this …” (Amos 7:3-6)

The NKJV is much more precise and conveys what people understand by repentance, whereas the KJV makes it look as if God is sorry!  No reasonable person can argue that the KJV’s approach is better, so it seems extremely suspicious to advance the argument that “44 omissions of ‘repent’” in the NKJV is a problem with the NKJV.

50 omissions of “heaven”,

By comparing KJV and NKJV concordances side by side, we can check on this, and what we find is that there are actually only eleven places in which the KJV has “heaven” and the NKJV does not, not “50”: Genesis 7:23; 1 Kings 18:45; Psalms 68:4, 77:18, 89:37; Isaiah 5:30; Hosea 2:18, 4:3, 7:12; Amos 9:6; and Revelation 6:14 (and one place in which the NKJV has “heavenly” and the KJV does not: Ephesians 6:12).

The implication seems to be that the NKJV is omitting something about God’s dwelling place, but this is complete rubbish.  In fact, the Hebrew word shamayim (“heaven” or “heavens”) refers to three different things, viz. the atmosphere (air layer) of earth, the entire expanse of space, and the spiritual dwelling of God (the “third heaven” of 2 Corinthians 12:2), and it should be translated according to which of these senses is in view in each passage, and in these eleven places, the difference is due to the fact that the KJV translators have failed to do this.

When shamayim is used with “birds,” it is clear that the first use is in view, so in Genesis 7:23 and Hosea 2:18, 4:3, and 7:12, the NKJV has the better “birds of the air” instead of the KJV’s “birds of heaven.”  Also, when meteorological or astronomical descriptions make it clear that the first or second meaning is in view in a passage, it is better to translate shamayim as air or sky, as the NKJV does in 1 Kings 18:45 and Psalm 89:37.  In Revelation 6:14, it is better to translate “sky,” as God’s dwelling place cannot be “rolled up.”

In two of the passages, the KJV translation is flat-out wrong, as in these passages the Hebrew word is not actually shamayim.  In Psalm 77:18, the NKJV correctly translates galgal as “whirlwind” and in Isaiah 5:30 the NKJV correctly translates ariyph as “clouds.”

In Psalm 68:4, the KJV translates “heaven” based on the Targums, not the Masoretic Text.  It is only in Amos 9:6 that it is not clear whether the KJV’s “heaven” or the NKJV’s “sky” is to be preferred.

In sum, it is not even remotely true that there are “50 omissions of ‘heaven’” in the NKJV, and, in ten of the eleven passages where the NKJV “omits” heaven, its translation is actually superior to that of the KJV.

51 omissions of “God”, and 66 omissions of “Lord”.

There are over 4,000 appearances of the word “God” in the “Bible” and more than 6,700 appearances of “Lord,” so I am not going to make the effort to compare these.  Based on what we’ve seen so far from Melton, it will be more nonsense.  However, if he wishes to list the passages in which these alleged omissions are made, we could look at it.

The terms “devils”, “damnation”, “JEHOVAH”, and “new testament” are completely omitted.

The term “devils” appears 48 times in the KJV, four times in the OT and 44 times in the NT.  In all of these passages, the NKJV has “demons.”  The Hebrew word is the plural of sa’iyr, which means hairy one, he-goat, or satyr, and refers to demons, not to the devil.  The Greek word is δαιμονιον (daimonion), of which “demon” is the direct transliteration and necessarily the correct translation.  The term “devil” is διαβολος (diabolos), which literally means “slanderer,” and there is only one devil; the term never appears in the plural.  So the NKJV is correct to translate “demon” in these passages rather than “devils.”

Re: the term “damnation,” there are three relevant Greek terms: κριμα (krima), which means “judgment, condemnation”; κρισις (krisis), which means “judgment”; and κατακριμα (katakrima), which means “judgment against.”  Accordingly, the NKJV translates all of these occurrences as “judgment” or “condemnation,” which is what the terms mean, whereas the KJV sometimes translates them as “damnation” and other times as “condemnation.”

Re: the term “JEHOVAH,” this is a non-existent word.  The personal name of God is revealed in the OT.  The consonants correspond to YHWH, but the vowels have not been recorded for us, as the Jews believed the name to be too holy to say.  When reading the OT, they would substitute “Adonai” (Lord), and the early English translators mistakenly combined the vowels for Adonai with the consonants YHWH to create the hybrid word JEHOVAH.  It should also be noted that whenever the God-breathed NT quotes an OT passage with the personal name of God in it, it substitutes kurios (Lord), corresponding to Adonai, and so in English Bibles LORD is written, in block capitals, to signify that the underlying Hebrew word is YHWH.  The NKJV follows this convention consistently.  The KJV also follows the convention, as it translates YHWH as LORD thousands of times, but in seven places instead transliterates with the erroneous JEHOVAH.  Why it should be considered laudable to translate this way in only these seven places is not clear.

Re: the term “new testament,” the term “testament” is a translation of διαθηκη (diatheke), which means “covenant, testament.”  These words mean the same thing and either can be used to translate diatheke.  The KJV sometimes uses “covenant” and sometimes uses “testament.”  The NKJV is more consistent, using “covenant” except when it is in the sense of a “last will”-type testament and, in one place, the Old Testament when the reference is to the actual written books (2 Corinthians 3:14).  The KJV uses “testament” whenever diatheke is modified by καινη (kaine) i.e. “new testament,” although the reference is never to a written body of work.

  1. The NKJV demotes the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ridiculous.  The full deity and Lordship of Christ are clearly presented in this translation.

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 God-breathed Greek reads δι᾽ αὐτοῦ (di’ autou) i.e. the preposition dia followed by a genitive, which means “through,” not “by.”  “By” would require the preposition ὑπο (hupo) followed by a genitive.  The NKJV is correct and the KJV is wrong, although, in point of fact, the KJV translators probably meant “by (means of)” i.e. “through.”

The word “Servant” replaces “Son” in Acts 3:13 and 3:26. “Servant” replaces “child” in Acts 4:27 and 4:30.

The word in these passages is παις (pais), which can mean “young person, normally below the age of puberty”, “child,” or “servant, one who is committed in total obedience to another.”  It has the special meaning “of Christ in his relation to God.  In this connection it has the meaning servant because of the identification of the ‘servant of God’ of certain OT passages with the Messiah (Isaiah 52:13 et al).” (BDAG, p. 750).  So not only is the NKJV translation choice not wrong, it carries more significance than KJV translation does.  And we should note that two verses earlier, in Acts 4:25 when the reference is to David, the KJV translates the exact same word pais as “servant.”

The word “Jesus” is omitted from Mark 2:15, Hebrews 4:8, and Acts 7:45.

In Mark 2:15, the KJV reads “And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him” while the NKJV reads “Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him.”  This silly complaint seems to be that the KJV says “Jesus” twice in this verse (“Jesus … Jesus”) whereas the NKJV says it only once (“He … Jesus”).  Don’t blame the NKJV; the God-breathed Greek says “He … Jesus”; “Jesus” appears only once.  The KJV has added to God’s word.

Regarding Hebrews 4:8, this complaint is hilarious!  The KJV reads, “For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day” whereas the NKJV reads, “For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.”  Melton complains that the NKJV doesn’t have the word “Jesus” in this passage although the KJV does, but if he would actually bother to read the passage, he would find that the person being talked about here is the Old Testament Joshua, not Jesus at all!  (The name is the same in Greek.)  This is a flagrant error in the KJV!  And it is exactly the same in the case of Acts 7:45, where, if anything, it is even more clear that the person being talked about is Joshua of the OT, not Jesus!

By the way, if Melton is concerned about “demot[ing] the Lord Jesus Christ,” he ought to think about such mistranslations in the KJV as Titus 2:13b, which reads

ἐπιφάνειαν τῆς δόξης τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

epiphaneian tes doxes tou megalou theou kai soteros hemon Iesou Christou.

The KJV translates this as “glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”, which describes God and Jesus as separate beings, whereas the NKJV correctly translates this as “glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”  The Granville Sharp rule, published in 1798, 29 years after the fourth revision of the KJV, states that when two substantives in the same case are joined by καὶ (kai) and the definite articles is present before the first noun and not the second, then both substantives are referring to the same person (in this case, “Jesus Christ” which is grammatically in apposition to the article-substantive-kai-substantive).  So Jesus is being called “our great God and Savior”!

In other words, we have here an important witness to the deity of Christ, which is absent from the KJV because the translators did not know enough Greek grammar at the time.  The KJV, then, is here inadvertently “demot[ing] the Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. 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.

In each of these passages, the verb is a present participle, not a perfect, so the NKJV translations are correct and the KJV translations are wrong.

The words “may believe” have been replaced with “may continue to believe” in I John 5:13.

1 John 5:13 in the NKJV reads,

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

The editors put “continue to” in italics to indicate that there is no such actual word in the Greek text; however, the present subjunctive phrase does express the wish that the readers would “continue” to believe.  On the other hand, consider the reading in the KJV:

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

With this rendering, John tells us that he is writing so that his readers may believe on the name of the Son of God (intent) although he has told us in the very same sentence that his readers are those who already do believe on the name of the Son of God!  The KJV translation seems incoherent.

The old straight and “narrow” way of Matthew 7:14 has become the “difficult” way in the NKJV.

The KJV reads “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way” and the NKJV reads “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way.”  The Greek reads

στενὴ ἡ πύλη καὶ τεθλιμμένη ἡ ὁδὸς

stene he (the) pule (gate) kai (and) tethlimmene he (the) hodos (way)

Στενὴ (Stene) means “narrow (in dimension).”  “Strait” also means “tight, close, narrow,” so the KJV has that correct, although it effectively renders its translation as “narrow is the gate, and narrow is the way.”  Ὁδὸς τεθλιμμένη (hodos tethlimmene) means “a narrow, confined road and therefore source of trouble or difficulty to those using it.” (BDAG p. 457)

In sum, then, it is ludicrous to say that

The NKJV confuses people about salvation.

What we know (or should know) about salvation comes from what the God-breathed word says, and we need to know that as accurately as possible.  In the examples listed here, the NKJV has by and large done a much better job of translating accurately than the KJV has.  If Melton finds that confusing, then the problem must be with his understanding of salvation, based on erroneous translations, and not with the NKJV.  I suggest that Melton get his theology in line with the word of God rather than expecting us to accept wrong translations so he can keep his theology intact.

  1. 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.

Λογισμούς (logismous), which the KJV translates as “imaginations,” means “the product of a cognitive process, calculation, reasoning, reflection, thought.”  It implies a claim based on reason, not imagination, so the NKJV translation is acceptable and the KJV is likely not.  As to “the word ‘thought’, which occurs later in the verse,” it is νόημα (noema), which means “that which one has in mind as product of intellectual process, thought”, so this too has the sense of a thought based on reason, not imagination, and therefore, contra Melton, matches “arguments,” not “imaginations.”

By the way, what Melton doesn’t seem to know is that in King James’ time, one of the meanings of “imaginations” was “schemes, plans, plots,” and that’s probably the sense in which the KJV translators intended it.  But “imaginations” does not have that meaning today, and so is not a suitable translation (though it wasn’t exactly correct, even then).  This illustrates another problem with the KJV: the English has changed in ways that not even the KJVOA can keep track of.

  1. 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”.

Unfortunately for Melton, “divisive man” (or “division-making man”) is exactly what the Greek αἱρετικος (hairetikos) means, so the NKJV is correct.  Like other words, such as διακονος (diakonos) which was the standard Greek word for “servant” and eventually came to have a specific connotation for Christians, viz. “deacon,” the English word “heretic” was eventually coined to mean specifically one who denies one or more salvific belief of Christianity.  But to translate hairetikos as “heretick” in Titus 3:10, rather than according to its actual meaning, is both anachronistic and wrong.

By the way, I find it laughable that Melton would raise the bogus objection that “Now the Alexandrians and Ecumenicals have justification for rejecting anyone they wish to label as ‘divisive men’,” for I know of no one who is as quick and vicious in rejecting those who disagree with them as the King James Only advocates, and they do it without “divisive men” being in their preferred translation.

  1. 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.

The purpose of a Bible translation is not to give opinions about whether people “would stoop so low as to ‘corrupt’ God’s word,” but to translate into English exactly what the Greek says.  The Greek word in 2 Corinthians 2:17 is καπηλεύοντες (kapeleuontes) which unquestionably means “trade in, peddle, huckster” (BDAG, p. 508).  BDAG adds that “Because of the tricks of small tradesmen … the world almost comes to mean adulterate.”  So it doesn’t actually mean “adulterate”, and “adulterate” is not the same as “corrupt”; it is one specific type of corruption.  So the NKJV translation is accurate, and the KJV is not.

As far as “match[ing] the Alexandrian versions,” where there is no textual difference (and there is none in 2 Corinthians 2:17), if the translations are accurate, they should match; why is this a problem?  But if Melton thinks it is, consider John 1:1 in the KJV:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Now look at it in the NASB, an Alexandrian version:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God

Αnd now in the NIV, another Alexandrian version:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Oooh!  The KJV “matches the Alexandrian versions”!  It would be interesting to see if Melton’s head spins all the way around at this.

  1. 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?

The NKJV has not “changed the truth of God into a lie”; it has updated the KJV’s language and corrected some errors in its translation.  One example is Romans 1:25, where the NKJV corrects a rather serious error in the KJV.

The NKJV reads “exchanged [not “changed”] the truth of God for the lie [not “into a lie”]”.  The Greek is

μετήλλαξαν τὴν ἀλήθειαν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν τῷ ψεύδε

metellaxan ten aletheian tou theou en to pseudei.

Μετήλλαξαν (metellaxan) means “exchange (something for something),” (BAGD, p. 638) so the NKJV is correct (and the definite article is there in front of ψεύδε (pseude), so the NKJV is also correct in translating “the lie,” not “a lie” as the KJV has it.)

Now, if Melton will think for just a moment, he will realize that the truth of God can be ignored, but it is God’s truth and cannot be changed by any mere man.  It can be exchanged i.e. discarded in favour of some lie, but it cannot be changed.  The KJV reading here borders on heresy (it is the KJV that is exchanging the truth of God for the lie here), and it is regrettable that KJVOA will defend such a reading so they may keep their man-made KVJO tradition.  (By the way, the KJV makes the very same mistake, in relation to homosexual behaviour, in the very next verse.)

  1. The NKJV gives us no command to “study” God’s word in II Timothy 2:15.

The NKJV reads, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God” in place of the KJV’s “Study to shew thyself approved unto God.”  The God-breathed original Greek says

Σπούδασον σεαυτὸν δόκιμον παραστῆσαι τῷ θεῷ

Spoudason seauton dokimon parastesai to Theo.

Σπουδασον (spoudason) means “to be especially conscientious in discharging an obligation, be zealous/eager, make every effort, be diligent” so the NKJV is correct again.  In this case, though, the KJV is not wrong, but only out of date.  When Melton apparently doesn’t realize is that in King James’ day, one meaning of “study” was “be diligent,” which is what the KJV translators were saying!

  1. 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?

The Greek word here is γνωσις (gnosis), which means “knowledge” in a broad sense; Paul’s readers are being urged not be misled by any sort of false knowledge.  The NKJV’s translation is completely correct.  The KJV’s translation was also correct in King James’ day, when “science” was simply synonymous with “knowledge.”  Today, however, “science” refers only to process of gathering and systematizing knowledge through formal observation and experimentation, and so the word no longer accurately represents what the Greek says.

How say ye it’s a King James Bible?

We say that it is a revision (the fifth revision) of the King James Bible, updated and corrected.  We do not consider being in error a necessary condition to being a “King James Bible”.

  1. 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.

Once again, the issue is what word did God breathe into 1 Corinthians 1:22.  It is αἰτοῦσιν (aitousin), which means “ask, ask for, request” and there is no doubt about this. [The Greek verb for “need” is χρηξω (chreidzo).]  So the NKJV is correct, and the KJV is not.

Melton’s whole line of argument is nonsense.  Yes, there are times when God gave Israel signs for which they did not ask, but can Melton seriously suggest that the Jews of Jesus’ and Paul’s time did not request signs?  If so, he is clearly ignorant of what the Bible records:

Matthew 12:38-39 “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah”

Matthew 16:1,4 “The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven … A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign …”

Luke 11:16 “And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven.”

John 2:18 “Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?”

John 6:30 “They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?”

So Melton is wildly wrong (and contradicting the word of God) when he says that the Jews only require signs, they do not request signs.  Clearly they do both, and, contra Melton, these are not mutually exclusive.

The bottom line, though, is that God breathed the word “request” in 1 Corinthians 1:22.  Melton is trying to argue that the word should be “require,” not “request,” but God has already decided which word to use, and I don’t think any of Melton’s arguments will persuade God to change His mind about this.

  1. 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.”

The Greek word in these passages is κτίσις (ktisis), which means “act of creation, creation” or “the result of a creative act, that which is created” or “system of established authority that is the result of some founding action.”  The usual Greek word for “creature” is κτισμα (ktisma).

Now, every translator knows that when translating from an original language into a target language, if a word is encountered that has more than one meaning, he must pick the best target word depending on the context, which means that the same word is often translated in different ways in different passages.  The NKJV has done it here, and the KJV certainly does it in very many places.

While it is not wrong to translate ktisis as “creature” in 2 Corinthians 5:17, the NKJV’s choice of “creation” is better.  In today’s English “creature” is usually taken to mean “an animate being, usually an animal.”  When we are in Christ, we are regenerated through a creative act of God, but we are the same “animate being” we were before.

It should be noted that Mark 16:15 could also be translated “Preach the Gospel to all creation”, which would probably be better, but the NKJV translators were probably deferring to the original KJV here.

  1. 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”:
SCRIPTUREKJVNKJV
Ezra 31:4little riversrivulets
Psalms 43:1JudgeVindicate
Psalms 139:23thoughtsanxieties
Isaiah 28:1fatverdant
Amos 5:21smellsavor
Matthew 26:7boxflask
Luke 8:31the deepthe abyss
John 10:41didperformed
Luke 19:11-27poundsminas
John 19:9judgement hallPraetorium
Acts 1:18bowelsentrails
Acts 18:12deputyproconsul
Acts 21:38uproarinsurrection
Acts 27:30boatskiff
Hebrews 12:8bastardillegitimate

This is ridiculous, again.  When the NKJV speaks of keeping abreast of changes in the English language, it means replacing words that have changed their meanings since King James’ day, e.g. “study” which no longer means “be diligent” or “science” which no longer refers generally to knowledge.  We have already seen how the use of such archaic words occasion difficulties even for KJVOA such as Melton himself.  (By the way, Melton’s list is somewhat misleading, as he lists the words without context.  Indeed more people may know the word “fat” than the word “verdant”, but in context Isaiah 28:1 reads, “which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!”  Does Melton want to pretend that “fat valleys” makes more sense to people today than “verdant valleys” (or, indeed, that “fat valleys” would make any sense at all)?)

Unlike some modern translations, however, the NKJV is not trying to simplify or “dumb down” its vocabulary, but to pick the most accurate word possible for the translation, the word that best represents the meaning of the original.  For example, Melton complains that in Luke 19:11-27, the NKJV replaces “pound” with “mina.”  Yet “mina” is what the God-breathed Greek says; it’s the unit of money that was used then.  “Pound” is a unit of British money that did not exist in NT times and has no relation to minas.

Speaking of the parable of the minas, we see another example of how the obsolete terminology in the KJV causes problems.  V. 13 in the KJV reads

“And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.”

The NKJV reads instead of “Occupy till I come” “Do business till I come,” because the Greek word is πραγματεύσασθε (pragmateusasthe), which means “do business, trade”; it is what the servants are supposed to do with the money the nobleman left with them.  In King James’ day, one meaning of “occupy” was indeed “do business,” but the word no longer has that meaning.  Now it means “take control of, seize, a country, town, etc.”, and this obsolete translation in the KJV has spawned the misguided Dominion Theology movement.

So now I’d like to give “a final note” of my own.  The Holy Scriptures were God-breathed in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and it is the original texts in those languages that are the very words of God.  Any translation into any other language is just that, a translation of the very words of God.  Some translations are good and some are not good, but none of them is God-breathed or divinely inspired, and none of them is perfect.  Furthermore, no matter how good a translation may be, the fact that languages change through time means that every translation must eventually be updated.  This is true for the KJV no less than for any other translation.

What I have said is undeniable, for in the preceding I have shown errors and obsolete language in the KJV that are problematic and cause harm.  It is ironic that many of these have been surfaced by analyzing the very texts that the KJVOA use to try to show the superiority of the KJV!

Too, it is regrettable and wrong-headed to try to show that other translations are in error by showing that they do not agree with the KJV.  Those who truly care about the word of God must assess translations by comparing them to the God-breathed original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and not to another translation that is declared perfect by fiat.

Finally, on a more sombre note, it is clear that the KJVO position is buttressed by not only by both extreme carelessness and irresponsibility but also by outright lies.  I have no reason to think that Melton is himself dishonest; he may well be passing on the factoids he’s heard in good faith, but he is careless not to check their veracity.  Probably many KJVOA pass on what they heard from other KJVOA who pass them on to others in turn and so on, with none of them bothering to check what they are passing on.

However, at some point the chain had to have started with deliberate lies.  Consider that there are three places where the NKJV “omits” the world “blood” in comparison to the KJV, and eleven places where it “omits” the word “heaven”.  Had someone claimed there were four, or even five, omissions of “blood” and, say, twelve or thirteen omissions of “heaven,” we could consider these to be honest mistakes.  But the claim is made that there are twenty-three of the former and fifty of the latter.  I do not see how these could be honest mistakes.  So KJVOA should think long and hard about whether it is meet to remain in a movement that requires carelessness, irresponsibility, and lies to survive.  This is not honouring to God.

Comments: 2

  1. Paul Robinson says:

    Thx for this – done with grace and restraint – I could NOT possibly be that gentle with these folk.

    As you note, the unifying hallmark of their “cult” is falsehhood, and a utter refusal to set any standard of honesy or truth or even fairness – both for their claims of superiority and for their attacks on anything/everyone else.

    God bless ya!

  2. Dale Bercier says:

    This has truly been a blessing to me! I have encountered this problem of KJV only folks time and time again. Through prayer the LORD has shown me that my NKJV bible is accurate. Thank you for this presentation, and my GOD bless you!

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