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Green's NKJV Review, Reviewed

Part One

By Gary F. Zeolla

Jay P. Green, Sr. [the translator of The Literal Translation of the Bible (LITV) and The Modern King James Version of the Bible (MKJV)] has been circulating a document entitled Extensive Review of the New King James Version. The purpose of the document is to show the NKJV is not a reliable translation of the Bible. This is done mainly by comparing the NKJV to Green's own MKJV.

In my two-part article Green's Response, Responded to, I address the introductory materials seen in Green's review. In this three-part review, I will study the New Testament verses he cites in his review. I will concentrate on the New Testament as that is what I have been working on for my own translation, The Analytical-Literal Translation (ALT).

In working on this review, I will be using the four Greek lexicons on my BibleWorks for Windows program. These include: The United Bible Societies (UBS) Dictionary, Friberg’s Lexicon, Liddell and Scott’s (L&S) lexicon, and Louw and Nida’s (L&N) lexicon, along with A.T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the Greek NT. I will also be referring to Dana and Mantey’s Manual Grammar of the Greek NT and the NKJV Interlinear. See the Bibliography at the end of Part Three for full biographical details. I will also consult other resources as needed.

Green's comments are in black and enclosed in "great than" and lesser than signs." My responses are in red.

>SOME EXAMPLES of the differences between the NKJV and MKJV, the NKJV translations are first, then the MKJV:

NKJV: Matt. 3:14, John tried to prevent Him (tried to not in the Greek, not italicized)]

MKJV: John restrained Him<

Two questions are raised here: 1. Are the words "tried to" added? 2. Is the Greek word best translated as "prevent" or "restrain?"

A.T. Robertson states about this verse, "Mat 3:14 - Would have hindered. Rather "tried to prevent" as Moffatt has it. It is the conative imperfect."

So this Greek scholar recommends translating the verb exactly as the NKJV has it. The conative imperfect is discussed in Part One of the Grammatical Renderings section in the Companion Volume to the ALT. Here, it will just be said, this usage of the imperfect refers to attempted action. So "tried to" is a perfectly legitimate way to translate the grammar. As such, the words are not added, so they do not need to be italicized.

As for the meaning of the word, Friberg defines it as, "prevent, restrain, dissuade. So either the NKJV or MKJV translation is possible.

>NKJV: Matt. 4:24, those who had been . . . epileptics(noun) and paralytics (noun)

MKJV: those who had been moonstruck (verb) and paralyzed (verb) -- they thrust in epileptics for #4583, yet their footnote at Matt. 17:15 admits that the word means moonstruck. These were demon-possessed, not epileptic, but the boy's father thought that it was the effect of the moon.<

First off, the word translated as "epileptics" vs. "moonstruck" is a participle. And one possible usage of a participle is as a substantive, i.e. as a noun. So the NKJV is justified as translating it as such.

As for the meaning of the word, the UBS Dictionary defines it as, "(lit. be moon-struck) be an epileptic." Liddell and Scott has "to be moonstruck, i.e. epileptic." So moonstruck is the most literal meaning of the word, but epileptic has lexical support as well.

As for "paralytics (noun)" vs. "paralyzed (verb)," the word is actually an adjective. But Friberg states, "paralytic, not able to walk, disabled; substantive. in the NT a paralyzed person, paralytic. The UBS Dictionary has, "paralytic, cripple." And L&S has simply, "paralytic." So translating it as the noun "paralytic" is exactly how the lexicons define it.

>Matt. 6:30: O you of little faith

MKJV: Little-faiths (O you of not in Greek)<

The word in question is an adjective. All four lexicons in BibleWorks define it as "of little faith." Including the "of" makes the phrase descriptive, i.e. functioning as an adjective. So the word "of" is not added, so it does not need to be italicized. As for the words, "O you," the word is in the vocative case. This is the case of direct address. And using "O you" is a way of bringing out the case.

None of the lexicons give the meaning of "Little-faiths." Moreover, this phrase would function as a noun, not an adjective. But it is worded as an address, thus fitting the vocative case. So the NKJV reading brings out both the adjectival and the vocative nature of the word, whereas the MKJV only the latter.

>NKJV: Matt. 9:10, sat down

MKJV: reclined (in those days they did not sit to eat, but reclined)<

Here the MKJV is most technically accurate. Friberg has, "(1) gener. lie, recline (MK 5.40); (2) predom. in the NT of being at a table, where in the Roman style reclining couches were used recline at table, sit to eat, be at table (MT 9.10)."

>NKJV: Matt. 11:29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart,

MKJV: Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.<

There are only two words that are different here, in the phrase "from Me" vs. of "Me" and in the word "gentle" vs. "meek."

As for the first, "Me" is a genitive. And the most basic way of translating the genitive is with "of." However, it is preceded by the preposition apo. And the most basic translation of apo is "from." So the MKJV seems to have ignored the preposition.

As for "gentle" vs. "meek," Friberg defines the word as, "as a mild and friendly disposition gentle, kind, considerate, meek (in the older sense of strong but accommodating); subst. gentle, unassuming people (MT 5.5). The UBS dictionary has, "humble, gentle," and L&N has, "pertaining to being gentle and mild - 'mild, gentle, meek.'"

So all three lexicons give "gentle" as a possible meaning, and L&N specifically gives "gentle" as the meaning in this verse. But "meek" is given in two of the lexicons. So it is also possible.

However, an important question is, how many people use the term "meek" today, or even know what it means? In other words, a modern-day translation should utilize words that people actually use, or at least know the meaning of, whenever possible. This is not always possible as there are "technical" terms in the Bible (like "sanctification") that someone new to the Bible would need to learn. But there is nothing technical about "meek." It is simply an archaic word.

>NKJV: Matt. 12:18: Gentiles

MKJV: nations (#1484 -- the contrast in both the OT and the NT is between the Jews, the chosen people, and all outside peoples. The Oxford Dictionary gives nations as the meaning. The emphasis is on race.)<

First, the number (#1484) in Green’s comments are a reference to Strong’s concordance numbers. Green’s Interlinear is keyed to Strong’s numbers.

That said, Friberg defines the word as, "(1) generally. a nation, a people (LU 7.5); (2) pl. ta ethen used to designate non-Jews the Gentiles, nations, foreigners (RO 15.10, 11); w. a neg. sense pagans, heathen (MT 6.32). The UBS Dictionary has, "nation, people; ta ethen .. non-Jews, Gentiles; pagans, heathen, unbelievers."

So either "nations" or "Gentiles" is a possible rendering. But notice that both lexicons indicate that with the definitive article (ta) the word most specifically means "non-Jews" which is what the word "Gentile" means. So the NKJV is probably more accurate, but the MKJV’s reading is possible also.

As for why Green refers to the Oxford Dictionary, I am not sure. The question is, what is the meaning of the Greek word? The meanings of the English words are not in doubt. Moreover, given Green’s comments that the contrast is between the Jews and all outside people, it would seem that he would think "Gentiles" would be the preferred translation, since this is what this word signifies.

But it must be said, either "nations" or Gentiles" are possible translations. The context of each passage where the word occurs needs to be studied to determine which rendering is best in a given verse.

>NKJV: Matt. 14:27, It is I, do not be afraid.

MKJV: I AM! Do not be afraid (In fourteen verses Jesus identifies Himself as the eternal God, yet only in John 8:58 the NKJV properly translates ego eimi as I AM!).<

This is a point that really seems important to Green. He mentions it several other times in his review, along with having mentioned it in many times in his magazine and in personal letters to this writer.

Two issues need to be addressed: First, is Jesus making a claim to deity every time He uses the words ego eimi? Second, should a translator insert the interpretation of these words being a claim to deity by capitalizing them?

In answer to the first, John 9:9 is instructive. The context is in reference to the man who was born blind and whom Jesus healed. There was debate as to whether the man was the one who had been born blind. There verse then reads, quoting from the NKJV, "Some said, ‘This is he.’ Others said, ‘He is like him.’ He said, ‘I am he.’"

Note that the word "he" is italicized meaning it is added. The Greek text is simply "I am" (ego eimi). But it is very doubtful the formerly blind man was making a claim to deity! So it is possible for someone to identify themselves with the words "I am" without it being a claim to deity. Context must determine if such a claim is being made or not.

Second, given that it can be debatable when a claim to deity is being made or not by the words ego eimi, it becomes problematic for a translator to insert his opinion as to when such a claim is being made by capitalizing "I AM." A translator should not be inserting his interpretation into the text. But this is exactly what Green is doing with his capitalization.

OTOH, the NKJV is hiding the possibility that Jesus is making a claim to deity in Matt. 14:27 by translating ego eimi as "It is I." IMO, the best practice is just to translate the words literally and with normal capitalization as, "I am" and leave it to the reader to decide if a claim to deity is being made or not.

And note, Green also adds "he" (in brackets) to the formerly blind man’s response in John 9:9. So he is hiding a possible objection to his belief. Again, I believe the best practice is just to translate the text as is, and let readers decide on the theological ramifications for themselves.

>NKJV: Matt. 16:19, will be bound in heaven

MKJV: has been bound in Heaven (twice;) also in Matt. 18:18 (the tense must be translated here in order to give the true sense; the apostles could bind or loose only what God had already bound in Heaven)<

Here Green is correct. The verb is in the perfect tense, indicating prior action with continuing results. So peoples’ sins are forgiven prior to the apostles pronouncing them as such.

>NKJV: Matt. 17:27, a piece of money

MKJV: a stater is what the Greek says; since stater has a certain value, while a piece of money does not. (In all places where Roman coins are written, the NKJV fails to identify what they are).<

How to render things like monetary and measurement units are very difficult. If a translator does what Green suggests and simply transliterates the Greek term into English letters, the reader will have no idea what the word means, let alone the size of the unit involved. But to give a modern-day equivalent is not really a translation. Monetary units are especially difficult given that the value of modern-day denominations change due to inflation. So to give an approximate equivalent in modern terms would render the translation out-of-date very quickly.

So what’s a translator to do? For the ALT I decided to give the transliterated term in the text, but then to give a modern-day equivalent in brackets. For monetary units, rather than using money units like dollars I am giving the equivalent in the weight of the coin in gold or silver (in this case, about half an ounce or 14 grams of silver). So my method provides full information to the reader, but it can leave the text somewhat awkward to read.

Green’s practice is partly similar to mine in that he is giving the transliterated equivalent. But without additional information in brackets or a footnote, it leaves the reader of the MKJV without any idea of how much a "stater" is worth, or even that it is a "piece of money."

OTOH, the NKJV translation is rather vague as Green indicates. But at least the reader knows what is being referred to (i.e. money), even if there is no indication of the value of the coin.

So there are problems with either the MKJV’s or the NKJV’s method, or even my method in the ALT. But, as indicated, this is a difficult area of translation and no solution is perfect.

>NKJV: Matt. 19:9, sexual immorality

MKJV: fornication (This word has always been kept in Bible versions until this age. The NKJV joins those attempting to do away with a very expressive word which translates porneia #4202. Thayer's Lexicon plainly says, "properly of illicit sexual intercourse." Morality is only local opinion, and there are many forms of sexual immorality which are not properly fornication.<

First, the NKJV does use "sexual immorality" at times, but at other times it uses "fornication." That said, I agree with Green that "sexual immorality" is rather vague. OTOH, I disagree with him that porneia only refers to sexual intercourse and not to other forms of sexual behavior. So for the ALT I chose to translate this word as "sexual sin." See the entry for "Sexual sin" in the ALT: Glossary for further details.

>NKJV: Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:5: Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.

MKJV: Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your King comes to you, meek, and sitting on an ass, even a colt the foal of an ass.

[being meek is more than being lowly; these terms do not equate each other. If you go to a zoo and see a donkey and an ass, you will find them quite a different animal.]<

The word here is the same as in Matt 11:29. There the NKJV translated the word as "gentle." That translation had lexical support, but "lowly" really does not. But again, "meek" is an archaic word. So neither translation seems ideal. "Gentle" or "humble" would probably be better.

As for "donkey" vs. "ass," the UBS Dictionary gives simply "donkey" as the meaning. Friberg is more detailed, "a domesticated animal for pulling a plow or carrying a burden; in the NT donkey, pack animal."

As for Green’s claim that a donkey and an ass are different animals, my Webster’s dictionary gives the following definition for "ass" - "1 n. 1. Also called donkey. a long-eared, slow, surefooted domesticated mammal, Equus asinus, related to the horse, used chiefly as a beast of burden. 2. any wild species of the genus Equus, as the onager. 3. a stupid, foolish, or stubborn person."

For "donkey" it states, "1. a domesticated ass, Equus asinus. 2. a stupid, silly, or obstinate person. -adj. 3. auxiliary: donkey engine; donkey pump."

So it would seem they are the same animal, with the distinction being a donkey is domesticated while an ass is not. Since Jesus was riding on the animal it would seem it was domesticated. And given the lexical evidence, the NKJV’s "donkey" is the preferred translation.

>NKJV: Matt. 27:27, whole garrison

MKJV: cohort (a tenth of a Roman legion) <

Friberg defines the Greek word speipa as, "cohort, batallion, a Roman military t.t. for the tenth part of a legion, normally containing 600 men (AC 10.1); as a detachment of soldiers troop, band, company (JN 18.3)."

So Green is technically correct, a speipa is a tenth of a Roman legion. However, how many people would have known this without looking it up in a dictionary? For that matter, how many would have known that a "cohort" referred to a military unit? At least most people know that a "garrison" has something to do with the military. So which is "better?" The more exact translation or the more understandable one? It’s a judgement call on the part of the translator.

One point to note, preceding speipa is the Greek word olos which means "whole." The word is translated in the NKJV but not in the MKJV.

>NKJV: Mark 2:4: uncovered the roof

MKJV: unroofed the roof (they literally dug through the roof.)<

Friberg defines the verb as, "unroof, remove or break through a roof (MK 2.4)." Moreover, the verb aposteyazo is cognate (has the same root) as the noun steye ("roof"). So "unroofed the roof" is more literal, but it is a rather awkward English phrase. Meanwhile, the NKJV does accurately presents the meaning, and is more natural English. So again, it’s a judgement call as to which is the "better" translation.

However, L&N caution, "In Mk 2.4 aposteyazo refers to only a part of the roof, and therefore in a number of languages it may be necessary to translate as 'they made a hole in the roof.'" The point being, to say "unroofed the roof" or even "uncovered the roof" makes it sound as if the whole roof was removed. It is for this reason, that for the ALT I am using "unroofed the roof" as the main translation, but then giving the alternative translation of "uncovered [a hole in]] the roof."

>NKJV: Mark 9:39, works a miracle

MKJV: work of power. <

First off, the noun is in the accusative case (i.e. a direct object). This is the grammatical form of the NKJV’s "a miracle." However, using "of" makes the noun in MKJV look like it is a genitive, which it is not. So grammatically, the NKJV is more accurate. As for the meaning of the word, it is rather wide ranging.

Friberg has:
(1) as able to produce a strong effect power, might, strength (AC 1.8); pl. as universal or supernatural rulers powers (MT 24.29); (2) as capacity for someth. ability, capability (2C 8.3); (3) as ability to communicate through language meaning, force (1C 14.11); (4) as supernatural manifestations of power miracle, wonder, powerful deed (HE 2.4); (5) as the value and usefulness of money wealth, resources, riches (RV 18.3).

So both "power" and "miracle" have lexical support.

>NKJV: Mark 15:15 wanting to gratify the crowd

MKJV: deciding to do the easiest [to] the crowd (fearing what the Jews would report to Rome. Pilate decided to do the easiest)<

First, Friberg defines the verb as, "(1) of a pers. desiring someth. wish, want, desire (AC 25.22); (2) of a pers. deliberating and deciding someth. will, determine, intend (2C 1.15); (3) of God wish, want (2P 3.9); decide, will (JA 1.18)." So "want" is a common translation, whereas "decide" is less so.

As for the adjective, Friberg has:
used of implied measurement that reaches to a certain stage sufficient, enough, adequate; (1) of number and quantity large (enough), considerable, much (MK 10.46); subst. the amount of money needed for release fr. custody, bond, bail (AC 17.9); idiomatically ikanon poiein lit. do what is enough, i.e. please, satisfy (MK 15.15); (2) of time considerable, long (LU 8.27); pl. of days or years many, a considerable number of (AC 9.23); (3) of pers. fit, worthy (MT 8.8); qualified, adequate, competent (2C 2.16).

So "easiest" is not given as a possible meaning. But for the phrase, Friberg gives the "literal" translation of "do what is enough" but indicates the intended meaning is "please" or "satisfy." And the NKJV’s "gratify" would be a synonym of the latter. Overall, it is a rather difficult verse to translate.

This three-part article is continued at: Green’s NKJV Review, Reviewed - Part Two.

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The above article was posted on this Web site September 9, 1999.

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