|Bible Research > English Versions > 20th Century > NKJV|
New Testament, 1979. Arthur Farstad et al., The New King James Bible, New Testament. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1979.
Bible, 1982. Arthur Farstad, ed., Holy Bible: The New King James Version: Containing the Old and New Testaments. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.
The New King James Version was conceived by Arthur Farstad, a conservative Baptist and a former editor at Thomas Nelson Publishers. The project was inaugurated in 1975 with two meetings (Nashville and Chicago) of 68 interested persons, most of them prominent Baptists but also with some conservative Presbyterians. The men who were invited to these meetings prepared the guidelines for the NKJV. The names of the scholars involved in the production of the version are listed below.
In 1984 the NKJV was slightly revised by a committee of reviewers chaired by Farstad.
The New King James Version is a conservative revision of the King James version that does not make any alterations on the basis of a revised Greek or Hebrew text, but adheres to the readings presumed to underlie the King James version. In the New Testament, this means that the Greek text followed is the Textus Receptus of the early printed editions of the sixteenth century. The ancient manuscripts, upon which critical editions of the Greek text have been based for nearly two centuries now, are ignored (except in the marginal notes). So, for example, the Johannine Comma is printed in the text of 1 John 5:7-8 just as it was in the King James Version (although a note informs the reader that “only 4 or 5 very late manuscripts contain these words in Greek”).
Statements made in the Preface regarding this aspect of the version are somewhat misleading. The Preface points out that the few late medieval manuscripts upon which the Textus Receptus was based “were representative of many more” which constitute “the traditional text of the Greek-speaking churches” (also called the ‘Byzantine Text’), and it further asserts that “it is now widely held that the Byzantine Text that largely supports the Textus Receptus has as much right as the Alexandrian or any other tradition to be weighed in determining the text of the New Testament.” While this statement is true as far as it goes — all manuscripts and other witnesses to the text deserve to be weighed and are weighed by scholars — the reader should be told that nearly all competent scholars agree that the so-called Byzantine manuscript tradition of the middle ages can never be given the same evidential weight as the ancient manuscripts.
The NKJV editors have provided information on the readings of the ancient manuscripts in the margin. Most of the significant differences between the underlying Greek text of the NKJV and the ancient manuscripts are indicated there, by notes which give the readings of the United Bible Societies’ third edition. Also indicated are significant differences from the “Majority Text” published by Hodges and Farstad in 1982. The Preface explains that with these notes the NKJV “benefits readers of all textual persuasions,” and this is true. No other Bible version has such a complete set of text-critical notes. However, it is not true that the editors have presented this information minus “tendentious remarks,” as is claimed in the Preface. The textual note on the Story of the Adulteress in the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel reads, “NU brackets 7:53 through 8:11 as not in the original text. They are present in over 900 mss. of John.” Obviously the purpose of the second sentence in this note is to give a ‘Majority Text’ rationale for the authenticity of the story. Students would have been better served by a note which indicated that the verses are absent from the ancient manuscripts and versions.
The NKJV revisers followed the essentially literal method of translation used in the original King James Version, which the NKJV Preface calls “complete equivalence,” in contrast to the “dynamic equivalence” of less literal versions. See the NKJV Preface below for their discussion of translation principles.
Because the NKJV is an essentially literal translation we may compare it to the New American Standard Bible (NASB). When we ask which of the two versions is most literal, sometimes we find that it is the NASB. For example, the NASB’s rendering of 1 Corinthians 13:8-11 is more literal.
|1 Corinthians 13:8-11|
|NASB: Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.||NKJV: Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.|
Here the NASB, by representing the Greek forms of καταργεω consistently as “done away,” gives a rather awkward translation, but it shows more clearly how Paul is using and emphasizing the key word of the passage. The NKJV preserves the excellent literary style of the KJV, in which monotonous repetitions of the same word are avoided, but the emphasis produced by Paul’s hammering away with καταργεω is lost when the reader does not know that the same word is being used repeatedly.
Elsewhere we find that the NKJV revisers left a number of needlessly divergent renderings in the KJV unchanged. In 1 Corinthians 3:17 the versions read:
|NASB: If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.||NKJV: If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.|
Here the Greek verb φθειρω, meaning “defile” or “ruin,” is used twice, and for it the NASB uses the concordant rendering “destroy.” Although this may not be the best rendering, it does show how Paul is applying the principle of the lex talionis (the punishment fits the crime). But the NKJV, following the KJV, uses two different words for φθειρω, “defile” and “destroy.”
The NKJV revisers did not completely ignore the desirability of concordant renderings. We notice, for instance, that the renderings of Matt. 26:41 and Mark 14:38, which had been different in the KJV, are now exactly the same in the NKJV, as they are in the Greek.
In general we find that where the NKJV is less literal than the NASB, it is because of renderings carried over from the KJV. Sometimes it is not just a matter of style, but of interpretation. For example, in Romans 1:5 the NKJV has “obedience to the faith” instead of “obedience of faith,” which restricts the meaning to an interpretation which may not be correct. It would probably be better to give the more literal rendering “the obedience of faith” here so that “of faith” may be explained as a genitive of source, with the idea that “the obedience flows from faith.” 1 But because the KJV is for the most part a highly literal version, and generally refrains from resolving amiguity, the renderings carried over into the NKJV do not often restrict the sense unduly.
In many places the NKJV exceeds the NASB in literalism, chiefly by retaining the Hebrew and Greek manner of speech (following the KJV) which the NASB sometimes renders in more idiomatic English. The examples below will illustrate this.
|NASB (1977): And the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? 19 For I have chosen him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice; in order that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”||NKJV (1982): And the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, 18 since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”|
Here we focus on the verb יָדַע (yadagh) translated “have chosen” in the NASB and “have known” in the NKJV. This is the common Hebrew word for “know,” but it was used also in the sense “become familiar” or “conversant” with. God “knows” everything, of course, but he knows Abraham in a special way. One might say that he knows him as a man knows his friends and relatives. He has a relationship with him. The NASB tries to express this special sense by rendering the word “chosen,” but this is not quite right. The word יָדַע here refers more broadly to a relationship of familiarity. It is because of this relationship of familiarity, and not specifically because He chose him, that God tells Abraham what he intends to do to Sodom. The NKJV requires the reader to infer from the context the Hebraistic or biblical sense of “have known” (יָדַע) here, which involves some extra linguistic processing, but at least the reader who grasps the sense has truly understood what is meant. In other places where the word יָדַע is used in this sense we find a similar difference of rendering:
|NASB: You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.||NKJV: You only have I known of all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.|
|NASB: Yet I have been the Lord your God since the land of Egypt; and you were not to know any God except Me, for there is no savior besides Me. 5 I cared for you in the wilderness, in the land of drought. 6 As they had their pasture they became satisfied, and being satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore, they forgot Me.||NKJV: Yet I am the Lord your God ever since the land of Egypt, and you shall know no God but me; for there is no savior besides Me. 5 I knew you in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. 6 When they had pasture, they were filled; they were filled and their heart was exalted; therefore they forgot Me.|
In the New Testament, where the Greek verb γινωσκω is used as the equivalent of the Hebrew יָדַע, we sometimes find the same Hebraic sense when the knower is God, e.g. 1 Cor. 8:3, “if anyone loves God, he is known [εγνωσται] by Him,” and Gal. 4:9, “now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known [γνωσθεντες] by God.” But the NASB in these places uses the word “known,” as does the NKJV. We also find that both versions translate literally the more emphatic idiom “I know you by name” in Exodus 33:12 and 17.
|NASB: ... who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,||NKJV: ... who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh,|
The NASB here interprets the “seed” (σπερμα) as referring to one person (Mary) who is “a descendant” of David, but this is contrary to usage; the expression ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυὶδ (“from seed of David”) means more generally “from David’s posterity.” Again the NKJV simply reproduces the Hebraism of the original, and leaves the interpretation to the reader.
|NASB: Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.||NKJV: What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.|
The NASB’s “what benefit were you then deriving” here is an atttempt to explain what Paul means by “what καρπος (lit. ‘fruit’) did you have,” but unfortunately it fails to give the meaning. The RSV is more accurate with “what return did you get,” because here Paul seems to be using a figure of speech which employs the sense “profit” or “return on investment” for καρπος. The NKJV gives the straightforward rendering “fruit,” which suggests an agricultural metaphor.
|2 Corinthians 11:29|
|NASB: Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?||NKJV: Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?|
The NASB here is uncharacteristically paraphrastic. The NKJV preserves the vivid language of the original, which may be interpreted in more than one way.
|NASB: Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices.||NKJV: Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds.|
“Self” is not a literal translation of ανθρωπος. The word means “man,” in the sense “human being,” and it should be translated literally because the “old man” vs. “new man” language points to the Pauline analogy with Adam and Christ.
|1 Peter 1:13|
|NASB (1995): Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.||NKJV: Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.|
The NASB’s paraphrastic rendering here ruins the allusion to Exodus 12:11, “and thus you shall eat it, with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand.” We note that in the first edition of the NASB this verse was more accurately translated, “gird your minds for action.” It should not have been changed.
|NASB: The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements.||NKJV: The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.|
The conversion to miles and yards in the NASB eliminates the numerical symbolism, which should be preserved. Readers could have been told what “furlongs” and “cubits” are in a note.
The bold Hebraisms of the KJV are not always retained in the NKJV. For instance, we see that “the calves of our lips” in Hosea 14:2 have been changed to “the sacrifices of our lips.” But of all versions of the complete Bible published in the twentieth century, the NKJV seems to retain the Hebrew form of expression most often.
In conclusion we will say that the New King James Version is comparable to the NASB in literal accuracy, and sometimes exceeds it. It is equally valuable for detailed study of the Bible. Its English style is superior to the NASB. Its main fault is the use of the Textus Receptus instead of a critically edited text, based upon ancient manuscripts; but the marginal notes will compensate for this, if the student makes a habit of consulting the margin. So we can recommend this version for students who do not ignore the margin.
August 2004, revised October 2009
1. A Critical and Doctrinal Commentary Upon the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, by William G. T. Shedd (New York: Scribner, 1879), p. 13.
In the preface to the 1611 edition, the translators of the Authorized Version, known popularly as the King James Bible, state that it was not their purpose “to make a new translation ... but to make a good one better.” Indebted to the earlier work of William Tyndale and others, they saw their best contribution to consist in revising and enhancing the excellence of the English versions which had sprung from the Reformation of the sixteenth century. In harmony with the purpose of the King James scholars, the translators and editors of the present work have not pursued a goal of innovation. They have perceived the Holy Bible, New King James Version, as a continuation of the labors of the earlier translators, thus unlocking for today’s readers the spiritual treasures found especially in the Authorized Version of the Holy Scriptures.
For nearly four hundred years, and throughout several revisions of its English form, the King James Bible has been deeply revered among the English-speaking peoples of the world. The precision of translation for which it is historically renowned, and its majesty of style, have enabled that monumental version of the Word of God to become the mainspring of the religion, language, and legal foundations of our civilization.
Although the Elizabethan period and our own era share in zeal for technical advance, the former period was more aggressively devoted to classical learning. Along with this awakened concern for the classics came a flourishing companion in interest in the Scriptures, an interest that was enlivened by the conviction that the manuscripts were providentially handed down and were a trustworthy record of the inspired Word of God. The King James translators were committed to producing an English Bible that would be a precise translation, and by no means a paraphrase or a broadly approximate rendering. On the one hand, the scholars were almost as familiar with the original languages of the Bible as with their native English. On the other hand, their reverence for the divine Author and His Word assured a translation of the Scriptures in which only a principle of utmost accuracy could be accepted.
In 1786 Catholic scholar Alexander Geddes said of the King James Bible, “If accuracy and strictest attention to the letter of the text be supposed to constitute an excellent version, this is of all versions the most excellent.” George Bernard Shaw became a literary legend in our century because of his severe and often humorous criticisms of our most cherished values. Surprisingly, however, Shaw pays the following tribute to the scholars commissioned by King James: “The translation was extraordinarily well done because to the translators what they were translating was not merely a curious collection of ancient books written by different authors in different stages of culture, but the Word of God divinely revealed through His chosen and expressly inspired scribes. In this conviction they carried out their work with boundless reverence and care and achieved a beautifully artistic result.” History agrees with these estimates. Therefore, while seeking to unveil the excellent form of the traditional English Bible, special care has also been taken in the present edition to preserve the work of precision which is the legacy of the 1611 translators.
Where new translation has been necessary in the New King James Version, the most complete representation of the original has been rendered by considering the history of usage and etymology of words in their contexts. This principle of complete equivalence seeks to preserve all of the information in the text, while presenting it in good literary form. Dynamic equivalence, a recent procedure in Bible translation, commonly results in paraphrasing where a more literal rendering is needed to reflect a specific and vital sense. For example, complete equivalence truly renders the original text in expressions such as “lifted her voice and wept” (Gen. 21:16); “I gave you cleanness of teeth” (Amos 4:6); “Jesus met them, saying, Rejoice!” (Matt. 28:9); and “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?” (John 2:4). Complete equivalence translates fully, in order to provide an English text that is both accurate and readable.
In keeping with the principle of complete equivalence, it is the policy to translate interjections which are commonly omitted in modern language renderings of the Bible. As an example, the interjection behold, in the older King James editions, continues to have a place in English usage, especially in dramatically calling attention to a spectacular scene, or an event of profound importance such as the Immanuel prophecy of Isaiah 7:14. Consequently, behold is retained for these occasions in the present edition. However, the Hebrew and Greek originals for this word can be translated variously, depending on the circumstances in the passage. Therefore, in addition to behold, words such as indeed, look, see, and surely are also rendered to convey the appropriate sense suggested by the context in each case.
In faithfulness to God and to our readers, it was deemed appropriate that all participating scholars sign a statement affirming their belief in the verbal and plenary inspiration of Scripture, and in the inerrancy of the original autographs.
The King James scholars readily appreciated the intrinsic beauty of divine revelation. They accordingly disciplined their talents to render well-chosen English words of their time, as well as a graceful, often musical arrangement of language, which has stirred the hearts of Bible readers through the years. The translators, the committees, and the editors of the present edition, while sensitive to the late-twentieth-century English idiom, and while adhering faithfully to the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts, have sought to maintain those lyrical and devotional qualities that are so highly regarded in the Authorized Version. This devotional quality is especially apparent in the poetic and prophetic books, although even the relatively plain style of the Gospels and Epistles cannot strictly be likened, as sometimes suggested, to modern newspaper style. The Koine Greek of the New Testament is influenced by the Hebrew background of the writers, for whom even the gospel narratives were not merely flat utterance, but often sung in various degrees of rhythm.
Students of the Bible applaud the timeless devotional character of our historic Bible. Yet it is also universally understood that our language, like all living languages, has undergone profound change since 1611. Subsequent revisions of the King James Bible have sought to keep abreast of changes in English speech. The present work is a further step toward this objective. Where obsolescence and other reading difficulties exist, present-day vocabulary, punctuation, and grammar have been carefully integrated. Words representing ancient objects, such as chariot and phylactery, have no modern substitutes and are therefore retained.
A special feature of the New King James Version is its conformity to the thought flow of the 1611 Bible. The reader discovers that the sequence and selection of words, phrases, and clauses of the new edition, while much clearer, are so close to the traditional that there is remarkable ease in listening to the reading of either edition while following with the other.
In the discipline of translating biblical and other ancient languages, a standard method of transliteration, that is, the English spelling of untranslated words, such as names of persons and places, has never been commonly adopted. In keeping with the design of the present work, the King James spelling of untranslated words is retained, although made uniform throughout. For example, instead of the spellings Isaiah and Elijah in the Old Testament, and Esaias and Elias in the New Testament, Isaiah and Elijah now appear in both Testaments.
King James doctrinal and theological terms, for example, propitiation, justification, and sanctification, are generally familiar to English-speaking peoples. Such terms have been retained except where the original language indicates need for a more precise translation.
Readers of the Authorized Version will immediately be struck by the absence of several pronouns: thee, thou, and ye are replaced by the simple you, while your and yours are substituted for thy and thine as applicable. Thee, thou, thy and thine were once forms of address to express a special relationship to human as well as divine persons. These pronouns are no longer part of our language. However, reverence for God in the present work is preserved by capitalizing pronouns, including You, Your and Yours, which refer to Him. Additionally, capitalization of these pronouns benefits the reader by clearly distinguishing divine and human persons referred to in a passage. Without such capitalization the distinction is often obscure, because the antecedent of a pronoun is not always clear in the English translation.
In addition to the pronoun usages of the seventeenth century, the -eth and -est verb endings, so familiar in the earlier King James editions, are now obsolete. Unless a speaker is schooled in these verb endings, there is common difficulty in selecting the correct form to be used with a given subject of the verb in vocal prayer. That is, should we use love, loveth, or lovest? do, doeth, doest, or dost? have, hath, or hast? Because these forms are obsolete, contemporary English usage has been substituted for the previous verb endings.
In older editions of the King James Version, the frequency of the connective and far exceeded the limits of present English usage. Also, biblical linguists agree that the Hebrew and Greek original words for this conjunction may commonly be translated otherwise, depending on the immediate context. Therefore, instead of and, alternatives such as also, but, however, now, so, then, and thus are accordingly rendered in the present edition, when the original language permits.
The real character of the Authorized Version does not reside in its archaic pronouns or verbs or other grammatical forms of the seventeenth century, but rather in the care taken by its scholars to impart the letter and spirit of the original text in a majestic and reverent style.
The format of the New King James Version is designed to enhance the vividness and devotional quality of the Holy Scriptures:
The Hebrew Bible has come down to us through the scrupulous care of ancient scribes who copied the original text in successive generations. By the sixth century A.D. the scribes were succeeded by a group known as the Masoretes, who continued to preserve the sacred Scriptures for another five hundred years in a form known as the Masoretic Text. Babylonia, Palestine, and Tiberias were the main centers of Masoretic activity; but by the tenth century A.D. the Masoretes of Tiberias, led by the family of ben Asher, gained the ascendancy. Through subsequent editions, the ben Asher text became in the twelfth century the only recognized form of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Daniel Bomberg printed the first Rabbinic Bible in 1516-17; that work was followed in 1524-25 by a second edition prepared by Jacob ben Chayyim and also published by Bomberg. The text of ben Chayyim was adopted in most subsequent Hebrew Bibles, including those used by the King James translators. The ben Chayyim text was also used for the first two editions of Rudolph Kittel’s Biblia Hebraica of 1906 and 1912. In 1937 Paul Kahle published a third edition of Biblia Hebraica. This edition was based on the oldest dated manuscript of the ben Asher text, the Leningrad Manuscript B19a (A.D. 1008), which Kahle regarded as superior to that used by ben Chayyim.
For the New King James Version the text used was the 1967/1977 Stuttgart edition of the Biblia Hebraica, with frequent comparisons being made with the Bomberg edition of 1524-25. The Septuagint (Greek) Version of the Old Testament and the Latin Vulgate also were consulted. In addition to referring to a variety of ancient versions of the Hebrew Scriptures, the New King James Version draws on the resources of relevant manuscripts from the Dead Sea caves. In the few places where the Hebrew was so obscure that the 1611 King James was compelled to follow one of the versions, but where information is now available to resolve the problems, the New King James Version follows the Hebrew text. Significant variations are recorded in footnotes.
There is more manuscript support for the New Testament than for any other body of ancient literature. Over five thousand Greek, eight thousand Latin, and many more manuscripts in other languages attest the integrity of the New Testament. There is only one basic New Testament used by Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox, by conservatives and liberals. Minor variations in hand copying have appeared through the centuries, before mechanical printing began about A.D. 1450.
Some variations exist in the spelling of Greek words, in word order, and in similar details. These ordinarily do not show up in translation and do not affect the sense of the text in any way.
Other manuscript differences such as omission or inclusion of a word or a clause, and two paragraphs in the Gospels, should not overshadow the overwhelming degree of agreement which exists among the ancient records. Bible readers may be assured that the most important differences in English New Testaments of today are due, not to manuscript divergence, but to the way in which translators view the task of translation: How literally should the text be rendered? How does the translator view the matter of biblical inspiration? Does the translator adopt a paraphrase when a literal rendering would be quite clear and more to the point? The New King James Version follows the historic precedent of the Authorized Version in maintaining a literal approach to translation, except where the idiom of the original language cannot be translated directly into our tongue.
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. Although based on the relatively few available manuscripts, these were representative of many more which existed at the time but only became known later. In the late nineteenth century, B. Westcott and F. Hort taught that this text had been officially edited by the fourth-century church, but a total lack of historical evidence for this event has forced a revision of the theory. It is now widely held that the Byzantine Text that largely supports the Textus Receptus has as much right as the Alexandrian or any other tradition to be weighed in determining the text of the New Testament.
Since the 1880s most contemporary translations of the New Testament have relied upon a relatively few manuscripts discovered chiefly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Such translations depend primarily on two manuscripts, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, because of their greater age. The Greek text obtained by using these sources and the related papyri (our most ancient manuscripts) is known as the Alexandrian Text. However, some scholars have grounds for doubting the faithfulness of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, since they often disagree with one another, and Sinaiticus exhibits excessive omission.
A third viewpoint of New Testament scholarship holds that the best text is based on the consensus of the majority of existing Greek manuscripts. This text is called the Majority Text. Most of these manuscripts are in substantial agreement. Even though many are late, and none is earlier than the fifth century, usually their readings are verified by papyri, ancient versions, quotations from the early church fathers, or a combination of these. The Majority Text is similar to the Textus Receptus, but it corrects those readings which have little or no support in the Greek manuscript tradition.
Today, scholars agree that the science of New Testament textual criticism is in a state of flux. Very few scholars still favor the Textus Receptus as such, and then often for its historical prestige as the text of Luther, Calvin, Tyndale, and the King James Version. For about a century most have followed a Critical Text (so called because it is edited according to specific principles of textual criticism) which depends heavily upon the Alexandrian type of text. More recently many have abandoned this Critical Text (which is quite similar to the one edited by Westcott and Hort) for one that is more eclectic. Finally, a small but growing number of scholars prefer the Majority Text, which is close to the traditional text except in the Revelation.
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 in the body of the New Testament and to indicate major Critical and Majority Text variant readings in the footnotes. Although these variations are duly indicated in the footnotes of the present edition, it is most important to emphasize that fully eighty-five percent of the New Testament text is the same in the Textus Receptus, the Alexandrian Text, and the Majority Text.
Significant explanatory notes, alternate translations, and cross-references, as well as New Testament citations of Old Testament passages, are supplied in the footnotes.
Important textual variants in the Old Testament are identified in a standard form.
The textual notes in the present edition of the New Testament make no evaluation of readings, but do clearly indicate the manuscript sources of readings. They objectively present the facts without such tendentious remarks as “the best manuscripts omit” or “the most reliable manuscripts read.” Such notes are value judgments that differ according to varying viewpoints on the text. By giving a clearly defined set of variants the New King James Version benefits readers of all textual persuasions.
Where significant variations occur in the New Testament Greek manuscripts, textual notes are classified as follows:
1. NU-Text. These variations from the traditional text generally represent the Alexandrian or Egyptian type of text described previously in “The New Testament Text.” They are found in the Critical Text published in the twenty-sixth edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament (N) and in the United Bible Societies’ third edition (U), hence the acronym, “NU-Text.”
2. M-Text. This symbol indicates points of variation in the Majority Text from the traditional text, as also previously discussed in “The New Testament Text.” It should be noted that M stands for whatever reading is printed in the published Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text, whether supported by overwhelming, strong, or only a divided majority textual tradition.
The textual notes reflect the scholarship of the past 150 years and will assist the reader to observe the variations between the different manuscript traditions of the New Testament. Such information is generally not available in English translations of the New Testament.
Copyright 1997, Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Dr. Arthur L. Farstad. Executive Editor.
*Dr. Borland and Prof. Hodges served on the committee only for the revision of 1984.
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