Book Review
New King James Version


New King James Version (NKJV) (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982) - Though first published in 1982, the New King James Version [NKJV] should not really be considered a modern version. The NKJV's wording always corresponds exactly with the KJV, because both the NKJV and the KJV are based upon the same Hebrew and Greek texts; however unlike the original KJV, the NKJV does not include the Apocrypha. Though the NKJV provides a modern English rewording of the KJV wording, the NKJV still has all of the same errors that the KJV derived from Erasmus' Greek New Testament, which is plagued with corrupt readings. Below are three blatant examples of corrupt texts in the KJV and NKJV. In all three verses, Erasmus' Greek New Testament text was based upon copies of the Latin Vulgate, not on any ancient Greek texts. In other words, the corruption of these verses has no support in any Greek texts of the New Testament prior to 1516.

In the original 1982 Preface of the NKJV, "the New Testament Text" subsection included the following:

The New King James Version has been based on this Received Text, thus perpetuating the tradition begun by William Tyndale in 1525 and continued by the 1611 translators in rendering the Authorized Version.

In the revised Preface of the NKJV, "the New Testament Text" subsection of The Scofield Study Bible (NY: Oxford University Press, 2002, page xiv) and other Thomas Nelson Publisher reference editions now include the following:

In light of these facts, and also 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 [explained earlier in the Preface as "first publilshed in 1516, and later called the Textus Receptus or Received Text"] in the body of the New Testament and to indicate major Critical and Majority variant readings in the footnotes.

In Arthur Farstad's recent book praising the NKJV called The New King James Version: In The Great Tradition (Thomas Nelson, 2003), the book's jacket states:

In 1975, the boldest, most extensive project in modern Bible publishing history began. 130 Bible scholars, pastors and communicators gathered with one goal in mind -- to preserve the accuracy, authority and beauty of the King James Version while updating the language for modern readers.

The facts about Erasmus' Greek New Testament and about the Bible Versions whose New Testaments are based on it are too overwhelmingly concrete to dismiss. The facts simply do not support the NKJV being a reliable representation of the original Bible texts. The NKJV's translation itself is quite good. Unfortunately its Greek New Testament textual basis has serious flaws that result in its adding words, phrases, and even whole verses in the NKJV that clearly were not in the original texts. For a detailed explanation of this, see For a list of some of the many places where the KJV and NKJV need to be corrected, see

Even conservative biblical scholar Harold Freeman, in his chapter on "Biblical Criticism and Biblical Preaching" honestly comments on the textual corruption of 1Jo 5:7, which appears in the Textus Receptus, the KJV, and the NKJV:

Textual criticism is the discipline that seeks to identify the original wording of an ancient document. Textual criticism of the Bible benefits preaching by preventing nonbiblical sermons... We regret giving up a nice doctrinal sermon on the Trinity based on 1 John 5:7b (KJV). Nevertheless, if it is determined that these are additions to the original writings, whether intentional or accidental, biblical preaching based on these texts cannot occur... Sermons based on spurious or corrupted texts cannot be genuinely biblical. The determination of exactly what the Scripture said is the starting point for biblical preaching. (Biblical Hermeneutics, Second Edition, edited by Bruce Corley, Steve W. Lemke, and Grant Lovejoy, Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002, page 388.)

Those who can read Greek can further explore what is currently the most reliable representation of the original Greek text of the New Testament by using the following resources:

  1. The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (United Bible Societies, 1993). This work is very widely regarded as the definitive Greek text of the New Testament and the best current representation of the original text. It is also the most reliable and most thoroughly documented Greek New Testament currently available, containing voluminous footnotes that list major early manuscript that support each of the various readings for each verse.
  2. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition, by Bruce Metzger (New York: United Bible Societies, 1993). This work is based upon The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition, and is comprised of verse-by-verse explanations of the Editorial Committee of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament. It provides a detailed, well-reasoned explanation of why a word, phrase, or verse found in some Bible versions is or is not considered to be part of the original texts of the Greek New Testament.
  3. The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, Corrected & Enlarged Edition, edited by Philip W. Comfort and David P. Barrett (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2001). This book has the actual text of Greek manuscripts that go back as far as the beginning of the 2nd century A.D., which is more than 1000 years earlier than the earliest texts used by Erasmus to create his Greek New Testament.

The overall most accurate and most readable English Bible version that best preserves the original wording of the KJV but that also has a very reliable Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek textual basis is the English Standard Version (ESV). For a review of it, you can browse


Copyright 1996-2004 Robert Nguyen Cramer