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By Gary F. Zeolla
For several years now, I have been using The New King James Version (NKJV) as the "default" Bible version for my ministry and for personal Bible study.1 I have been using the NKJV as I believe it is a very reliable translation. It most definitely is more reliable than most other modern-day versions.
However, the NKJV is not always quite as literal as I would like. But there are two modern-day translations available that can be even more literal than the NKJV.
Both are published by Sovereign Grace Publishers (a small Christian publishing company).
The first version is the Modern King James Version (MKJV).2 It is similar to the NKJV, even virtually word-for-word identical in many places (such as in Psalm 23 and the "Lords Prayer" - Matt 6:9-13). But at other times it is somewhat more literal that the NKJV.
For instance, the only difference between the two versions in the Lords Prayer is one word in verse 13. The NKJV has, "deliver us from the evil one." Meanwhile the MKJV has "deliver us from the evil." It omits the word "one" at the end. It is omitted as the word is not in the Greek text.
For comparison, the King James Version (KJV) has here, "deliver us from evil." So the KJV rightly leaves off "one" but it also omits "the." However, the definitive article is in the Greek. So the MKJV is also more accurate than the KJV in this verse.
This difference is significant. The KJV rendering makes the petition sound as one asking to be delivered from evil in general. By "the evil one" the petition in the NKJV appears to be asking for deliverance from Satan.
However, the MKJV is ambiguous, which is the way it is in the Greek. It could be either of the above interpretations, or maybe something else. So the MKJV presents what God SAID and leaves it to the reader to decide what God meant. Meanwhile both the KJV and NKJV give what the translators believe God MEANT by what He said, making the decision for the reader.
Lastly, in regards to the MKJV, it is a very readable translation. So despite the claims of many today, it is possible to have a readable AND accurate translation.
The other version is The Literal Translation of the Bible (LITV for "Literal Version").3 The LITV is the marginal reading in The Interlinear Bible (also published by Sovereign Grace).
The LITV is more literal than all three of the versions mentioned above. For instance, the above versions all start the Lords Prayer with the petition for Gods name to be "hallowed." The LITV, however, reads, "let be sanctified Your name." This rendering is more accurate as the verb is in the passive tense, not active as "hallowed" would seem to imply.
As for readability, the LITV may seem somewhat awkward at times. But this may be because people are not used to reading what God actually said in the manner in which he said it. At other times, the LITV may be even more understandable.
For instance, there are probably many people who have prayed the Lords Prayer time and time again without ever knowing what "hallowed" actually means. But "sanctified" is a more common word, at least for Christians.4
So Why the NKJV?
So if the MKJV and LITV are somewhat more accurate than the NKJV, then why have I continued to use the NKJV?5 First off, as mentioned, the NKJV is a reliable version. Many reading the above discussion probably thought it was just "nit-picking." And in a way it is.
When you get to versions as accurate as the above four versions are, the differences generally are minor. Each is trying to translate the text as closely to the original as possible. However, as indicated, even minor differences can have significant implications for the careful reader.
It is because of these minor differences, that I always recommend that more than one version of the Bible be compared in Bible study.
But when using the generally less literal versions that are otherwise available today, the differences can become rather great. The reason is, the translators are not trying to render the words of the original text as closely as possible. Instead, they are trying to render the "thought" or "meaning" of the text. And with such a principle, the "translators"can be much more "creative" in their renderings.
Personally, I would prefer to start with what God SAID. If I need help in understanding what He MEANT by what He said, then I would rather check a commentary, study Bible, or other study helps rather than a re-written Bible.
There is also the subject of Greek-text type. Each of the four versions mentioned here use a slightly different Greek text than most other modern-day versions. For instance, all four of these versions include the doxology at the end of the Lords Prayer: "For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen" (NKJV).6
Meanwhile, most other modern-day versions omit this doxology. At best, some place it in a footnote. The reason for the difference is complicated and will not be pursued here.
Now, if a person insists on using a translation other than one of the four above, I strongly recommend at least having one of these versions nearby for comparison. That way, at least youll know when a passage is far from the original and when something was omitted that would be found in the above versions.
Secondly, I have stuck with the NKJV for a couple of "practical" reasons. First, the hardcopy edition of the NKJV I use has center-column, cross-references and textual notes, along with a mini-concordance and other helps in the back.
When I am away form my other reference works and my computer, these simple aids are very helpful. Also my favorite study Bible, Thomas Nelson's New Geneva Study Bible, is based on NKJV.7
Meanwhile, the MKJV and LITV are only available in plain-text versions (i.e. no study helps).
The second practical reason is even more important.
I use two different Bible computer programs: Biblesofts PC Study Bible (PCSB) and The Online Bible (OLB).
The PCSB is available in several different versions, with an increasing number of resources on each version. The version I have is the "Reference Library Plus." It retails for $250.8 The CD has 138 MB on it. It is a Windows program and runs on Windows 95.
The PCSB is very easy to use. Also, it allows selective hard drive installation of the various resources. You then do not need to insert the CD if only using those items. But there is still access to items on the CD if they are needed by inserting the CD.
Also, the PCSB was the only Bible program I could find with a Hebrew/ Greek/ English interlinear (which was the main reason I purchased it in the first place).9
Meanwhile, the OLB costs only about $60. But it has 492 MB on the CD. So if price and volume of material are your main considerations, the OLB is the way to go. Also, the OLB is available for Windows/ Win95 and the MAC. So if you're a MAC user it's the only one of these two programs you could use.
But the OLB was more difficult to use. And the CD needed to be inserted at all times to run the program.
For me, I'm glad I have both. They are both excellent programs and compliment each other very nicely. For the most part, the versions and reference works on the one differ from the ones on the other. For instance, the NKJV is on the PCSB, while the MKJV and LITV are on the OLB.
In addition, the KJV is on both programs, plus several other Bible versions. So comparing Bible versions, as recommended above, is made very easy. Also, there is easy access to the concordances, lexicons, Bible dictionaries, commentaries, study Bible notes, and the many other helps on both of these programs.10
But, again, the PCSB has been the easier of the two to do complicated studies. So I have relied mainly on the PCSB, and hence the NKJV, for my studies and ministry.
However, with the introduction of version 7.0 of the OLB, it is now about as easy to use as the PCSB.11 Also, I recently received a mailing from Sovereign Grace mentioning that The Interlinear Bible will shortly be available as an add-on to the OLB.
But the OLB is still not "perfect" (as if any computer program could be). Most especially, although you can now install selected portions to your hard drive, even if only using these items, you still need to put in the CD ROM. This is a major drawback.12
Conclusion & More Information
For now, I will probably still use the PCSB for my primary Bible program and, thus, the NKJV as my "default" Bible version. But I will be using the OLB much more than before. So quotations from the MKJV and LITV versions will be showing up more often on this Web site.
For more information on the PCSB, see the Biblesoft Home Page.
For additional details on the OLB, see the Online Bible Homepage. Also, if you already own version 6.1 or better, a free upgrade to version 7.0 can be downloaded from the site. It is available in a 16 bit or 32 bit version.
See Literal Translation of the Bible - FAQ for more information on the LITV. See also Sample Chapter One Menu for samples of the text.
All of the items mentioned above should be available at reduced prices from one or more of the book companies listed at Christian Books and Software.
Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light
1 New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.
2 Holy Bible, Modern King James Version, copyright 1962, 1990, 1993. Used by permission of the copyright holder, Jay P. Green Sr.
3 Literal Translation of the Bible, Copyright 1995. Used by permission of the copyright holder, Jay P. Green Sr.
4 In case the reader is wondering, "hallowed" means: "1. Sanctified; consecrated: a hallowed cemetery. 2. Highly venerated; sacrosanct: our hallowed war heroes.
"Sanctify" means: 1. To set apart for sacred use; consecrate. 2. To make holy; purify. 3. To give religious sanction to, as with an oath or a vow: sanctify a marriage. 4. To give social or moral sanction to. 5. To make productive of holiness or spiritual blessing" (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition copyright © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed from InfoSoft International, Inc. All rights reserved.).
5 I have been asked this question by advocates of the MKJV and LITV versions, along with "KJV only" people. This article is for the former. As for the latter, that would be another subject. But do I hope this article begins to shows why I believe modern-day translations can be as accurate as the KJV, if not more so.
6 This passage is identical in all four versions, except for minor punctuation differences. Also, the KJV has "thine" instead of "Yours" and the LITV has "to the ages" instead of "forever."
7 The Believers Study Bible, Ryries Study Bible, and other study Bibles can also be found that are based on the NKJV.
8 But I purchased my copy of the PCSB for only $117 by combining three different sales at a local Christian bookstore.
9 There are now additional programs with on interlinear on them but they tend to be much more expensive.
10 Unfortunately, neither of the programs have the New Geneva Study Bible notes on it. The OLB does have the notes from the original 1560 Geneva Bible though.
11 Biblesoft recently sent out a mailing saying that a new version of the PCSB will available soon. So there may be changes on it that will still make the PCSB the much easier to use of the two programs. However, the upgrade will cost $100. A bit steep for an upgrade.
12 Actually, there is a way to set-up the program so that the CD is not needed. However, this installation then leaves the items still on the CD inaccessible. And 493 MB is way too much to fully install on a hard drive.
Bible Versions and Bible Programs. Copyright © 1999 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.zeolla.org/christian).
The above article was posted on this Web site in August 1997.
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