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NKJV Charged with Using RSV and NASB Readings

By Tim Branton

One prominent KJVO defender has charged the NKJV with using readings found in the Revised Version or the New American Standard Version.[1]  As the statement goes, this is true.  Many of the readings used by the NKJV are, in fact, the same as those used by other Bible versions. Unfortunately, my brother goes a step further and would have us to believe the NKJV relied on readings derived from the Critical Text, something the authors of the NKJV deny in their Preface.[2] 

 But before we analyze these two statements, let me give you the full paragraph so the reader can see with his own eyes the charges.  In the paragraph above the paragraph under consideration he writes "Conservative estimates of the total translation changes in the NKJV are generally put at over 100,000!" (emphasis his).  Then the following paragraph appears:

             Along this line of abuse, the most shocking revelation about the

            "New" King James Version is that it is literally laced with "old" readings          from the Revised Standard and New American Standard Versions.  This    revival of Alexandrian readings is one of the best-kept secrets of the decade.[3]

In the following paragraph he reveals that these comments come in part from a study he did of John, chapter 1.  He does not share his research in any detail but informs us that he found some changes in 45 out of the 51 verses and that of these 45 verses 34 of them exhibit "a distinct RSV or NASV reading while 6 show a partial reading.  Only 5 (15%) appear unique to the NKJV."[4]

 Thus, his two charges are (1) that the NKJV is "literally laced with 'old' readings" from the RSV and the NASV and that (2) these NKJV renderings represent a "revival of Alexandrian readings..."

 My own studies of the NKJV led me to believe that our brother has built his case on sandy ground.  This paper shall prove beyond a reasonable doubt that both of his charges are faults.

 

Refutation of Charges

 

In chapter one, verse 1 of the Gospel of John we find both the KJV and NKJV identical but in verse 2 the NKJV substitutes the pronoun "He" for the words "The same" as found in the KJV.  And a quick check of the ASV and NASV reveal that they indeed do have the pronoun "He" confirming in the minds of our Brother that that old NKJV copied these Alexandrian versions.  But is it really that simply? 

If our Brother had done his homework, he would have discovered that this Greek pronoun appears 11 times in this first chapter alone, 7 of them being the exact same form (same case, number and gender).  He would further have discovered that the KJV renders this specific Greek word (ουτος) as "the same" (vvs. 2, 7 and 33), "this" (v. 15, 30 and 34) and "he" (v. 41).  

So now we have a problem!  Did the NKJV copy the RSV and NASV by using "he" in verse 2 or did they simply use a translation of this pronoun which the KJV itself frequently uses?  But before answering that question, how could our Brother have avoided this embarrassing mistake?  

There are actually three ways he, or any reader for that matter, could have checked to see if the NKJV rendering was a rendering that the KJV itself often uses for this Greek word.  The first, and by far the easiest, would be to use Bible software[5] with the Enhanced Strong's Concordance.  Using this software we find that this Greek word appears 355 times in the New Testament with the KJV rendering it as “this” 157 times, “these” 59 times, “he” 31 times, “the same” 28 times, “this man” 25 times, “she” 12 times, “they” 10 times, and translated miscellaneously 33 times.[6]

 Another simple way would have been to find the Strong's number for this word (#3778) and use J. B. Smith's Greek-English Concordance.  This is a very simple book (for those who are deathly afraid of computers) which lays out in statistical tables every word in Greek NT. 

A more difficult way (particularly for this word) would be to trace it using Strong's Concordance (be sure it has the Strong’s numbers; not all concordances do).  By looking up the word "same" and finding John 1:2, you would see that the Strong's # is 3778.  Then by looking up the word "he" and scanning all entries for the number 3778 you could easily see that the KJV itself renders this Greek word as "he" in 31 places.  In fact, the KJV renders this word as "he" more often than it does as "the same."So, did the NKJV follow the modern versions with some "old Alexandrian reading?  Not hardly!

The next change made by the NKJV is found in John 1:3[7] where the KJV's "by" is changed to "through."  This verse and others like it that ascribe power to Christ are, to the KJVO folks, sacrosanct as they appear in the KJV.  But again, a little work would show our brother that this Greek word rendered "by" in verse 3 by the KJV is rendered, you guessed it, as "through" in verse 7. 

But do the KJVO advocates have grounds to insist that only "by" can properly be used in this verse?  To answer that question we need to examine a few passages found in the King James Version having to do with the power of Christ .

 

John 1:7 tells us that He came as a witness that "all men through him might believe." 

            John 3:17 tells us that "the world through him might be saved." 

            Rom 5:9 tells us that "we shall be saved from wrath through him." 

            Rom 8:37 tells us that "we are more than conquerors through him..." 

Eph 2:18 tell us that "through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father." 

            1 John 4:9 tells "that we might live through him." 

Rom 11:36 in some ways confirms our verse in John 1 with this:  "For of him, and through him and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever." 

In each of the above passages the word "through" is the same Greek word rendered "by" in John 1:3.  If according to the theology of the KJV translators and the KJVO advocates, it is theologically correct to say that we "might believe" through Him, we "might be saved" through Him, we "shall be saved from wrath" through Him, we are "more than conquerors" through Him, we "have access" to the Father through Him, we "might live" through Him and "all things" are through Him, on what basis would we conclude that the word "by" can be the ONLY possible rendering of this Greek word in this verse?  

Again, I encourage the reader to use his Strong's Concordance to verify what has just been presented.  Look up the word "by" and then look for John 1:3, 10.  The Greek word number is 1223.  Then look up word "through" and scan down the listings looking for the number 1223.  You will find that the KJV renders this word as "through" some 88 times!

This same technique can be used to discredit fully fifty percent of those words in the NKJV objected to by the KJVO writers.  For the last 6 years I have compiled a spreadsheet with changes made by the NKJV.  As of October 2009 I have documented over 7,000 specific changes made by the NKJV representing an estimated 30,000 occurrences.[8]  The two examples given below are only representative; in fact, there are some places where the NKJV makes a hundred changes to just one Greek word.  I think my average of 4 occurrences per word is conservative.  So when you add all these together plus all the changes made to verbs with the "eth" ending, it is little wonder that there are an estimated 100,000 differences between the two texts.   

My research has led me to the conclusion that there are relatively few changes of any real importance, a conclusion I understand will be disputed by the KJVO readers but a conclusion I think we can easily prove when we eliminate the fluff used by those who so quickly disapprove of other versions.  Until we get rid of the chaff the mountain looks tall but if we could get down to the changes which are real indeed, then I think we could find more agreement than our friends on the other side would believe possible.


 

[1] Grady, William P., (1993, 2001).  Final Authority.  Knoxville, TN: Grady Publications, p. 305

[2] "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. " The New King James Version. 1982. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Grady, p. 305.

[4] Grady, p. 305.

[5] I used Logos Bible Software primarily but other popular software offers the same easy means of verification, including e-Sword which is absolutely free.  (www.e-sword.net)

[6]Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the text of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurrence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.) (G3778). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.

[7] The same 3 Greek words underlying "made by him" are found in verse 10.

[8] For example word #1831 is rendered "went forth" by the KJV but changed to "went out" by the NKJV in at least 15 places.  Assuming an average rate of 4 changes per word yields over 25,000 occurrences.  What is interesting about this word is that the KJV itself renders this word as "went out" more often than "went forth."  Similarly, Greek word #5207 is most often rendered by the KJV as "son" or "sons" but there are a number of places where the KJV renders it as "child" or "children."  In at least 32 instances the NKJV changed it to "son" or "sons." 

NKJV Charged with Using RSV and NASB Readings. Copyright 2016 by Tim Branton.

The above article was posted on this Web site December 27, 2026.

Bible Versions Controversy: KJV vs. NKJV
Bible Versions Controversy

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