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Since the publication of my book Differences Between Bible Versions, I have received many letters on this subject, especially from ''KJV Only'' advocates. Following are three of these letters with my responses to the letter writers' concerns.
DEAR MR. ZEOLLA: I have enjoyed getting your newsletters. Superb! I have enclosed a brochure on a ''modern'' Bible called, God's Word. It's yours to keep. Also, I use various editions of the King James Version (KJV), which help to clarify it. I also use the Modern King James Version (MKJV).
I admire some points of the New King James Version (NKJV) and it seems good; but I have serious reservations about it, when the Nestle/ Aland is used in the margins. Anyway, take care! Yours truly, L.W. Lancaster, CA
RESPONSE: The same day I received the preceding letter I had looked through a copy of God's Word at a local Christian bookstore, and to say the least, I was not impressed.
First, it is based on the Nestle/ Aland Greek text. I believe this text is inferior to the Textus Receptus/ Majority Text type the KJV, NKJV, and MKJV are based on.
Second, the brochure says that God's Word is, "Today's translation that says what it MEANS." (1) And this is my biggest problem with such translations. They attempt to tell the reader what God MEANT by what He said, rather than just giving what God SAID and leaving it to readers to decide for themselves what He MEANT. And when translators interpret rather than just translate, inevitably, their theological biases infiltrate the text.
In God's Word this bias appears to be Arminianism. This can be seen in 2Peter 3:9 where the word "people" has been added without any warrant from the Greek text or context. Even worse, there is no indication that this word has been added. And this added word radically changes the meaning of the text. (2)
Acts 13:48 in God's Word reads, "Everyone who had been PREPARED for everlasting life believed." Meanwhile the KJV has, "ORDAINED to eternal life" and the NKJV, "APPOINTED to eternal life." And, in fact, either of these latter renderings is an appropriate translation of the Greek word. But "prepared" is not. (3)
And there is a big difference here. One can be "prepared" to do something but not actually end up doing it. But if you are "ordained" to do something, well, you'll do it!
Furthermore, the brochure says about God's Word, "FOR THE FIRST TIME, we can now understand the Bible as clearly as if the writers had been native English speakers of the 20th century!" (4) Really? What a claim! Every version that has been produced in the past century has made such a claim.
Lastly, as for the NKJV footnoting the Nestle/ Aland text, this system is very helpful in a Bible study/ church context. A while ago I visited a church where the pastor was preaching on 1Peter 1:22-25. He first read the text from the New American Standard Version (NASB). But when he began preaching, he read from the KJV as he went along.
In verse 22 the KJV says we are, "obeying the truth THROUGH THE SPIRIT." And the preacher made a point of emphasizing we can only obey the truth THROUGH THE SPIRIT (a very true observation!). However, for those who were still reading the NASB, this important phrase is omitted! And even those who had the KJV were probably wondering why this important phrase was left out when he first read the text.
The problem was due, of course, to a textual variant. And neither the KJV or the NASB footnotes this variant. However, the NKJV does. So, with the NKJV before me, I was probably about the only one in the church that knew what was going on.
DEAR GARY: I do appreciate your letter and sending me your order form. I was glad to send you the brochure on God's Word. I see it being sold in our "Christian" bookstore and secular bookstore. As the late David O. Fuller had said, "It is a shame to see God's Holy Word kicked around like a football."
Mr. Fuller believed that profit is the main motive behind translations. I agree with him 100%. Also, if the "Bible" God's Word has Arminianism in it, I am a LITTLE surprised, but not much. You see, I believe in the TRUE eternal security of the believer; not false security.
The first one is religion, when people depend on their good works to get to heaven. The second type is the so-called "love gospel" that leaves out repentance and teaches only about the love of God. The third type is when true believers depend on themselves; not on God, according to Psalm 18. I know TRUE Christians like Jack L. Chick, Texe Marrs, Trinitarian Bible Society, and others that believe in eternal security.
I do see what you mean about the so-called Bible God's Word adding words to the Greek text. I agree with you about people claiming that each translation is easy to read. That's why these versions sell so well! That's why these vital doctrines are rarely taught, because of these watered-down Bibles: repentance, hell, cost of following Jesus, separation, self-denial....
About the NKJV, I have a pamphlet on it by the ministry of Foundation Magazine" with M.H. Reynolds as president of it. Let me know what you think of it. Also enclosed is a pamphlet on eternal security by Dave Hunt, author of The Seduction of Christianity....
Also enclosed is a Chick Tract called ''The Attack'' which shows how Satan and Rome have tried to destroy the Word of God. I also know of more than 45 ministries that use the KJV and the majority text.... Do take care. Yours truly, L.W.; Lancaster, CA
RESPONSE: First, as for the tracts the letter writer sent me, personally I do not care for Chick Tracts, to say the least. I do not believe the mean-spirited, dogmatic language is necessary and I find reading the venom in these tracts to be very difficult. In my writings I try to address controversial subjects in a straightforward manner. I do present my position strongly, but without the venom.
Also, the accuracy of Chick Tracts is questionable. For instance, the tract sent includes the phrase, "Roman Emperor Constantine (the first pope) ...." (5) To equate a Roman emperor with the pope either displays sloppiness or a complete lack of knowledge of the historical situation.
The emperor was the head of the SECULAR authorities; the pope was the head of the RELIGIOUS world. They were two different offices (although the pope often tried to control the emperor). The "pope" (more correctly, bishop of Rome) during Constantine's reign was Sylvester I.
The pamphlet on the NKJV is similar to the one I critique in Chapter Four of my book. I have been sent similar tracts by others.
In every one of these, verses from the NKJV are compared with the KJV. The NKJV is always declared to be inaccurate simply because it disagrees with the KJV. But what matters is what the Hebrew or Greek text says. And when checking the original text for the various examples, more often than not, I believe the NKJV has the better rendering. So, needless to say, these tracts have not convinced me to abandon the NKJV.
This is not to say the NKJV is perfect or that the KJV is unreliable. I simply believe the two versions should be compared in Bible study and when there is a significant difference, the original language should be checked.
Lastly, as regards "Eternal Security" or "once saved, always saved" (as the tract by Hunt calls it), the use of these terms probably leads to some of the confusion about this doctrine. A better term would be "Perseverance of the Saints" (The "P" in "TULIP" the acronym for the Five Points of Calvinism).
This doctrine states that a true believer will persevere in the way of holiness until glorification. Not that a believer will live a sinless life, but that if (or when) he sins, the Holy Spirit will convict him of his sin and lead him back to the way of holiness. A false "believer" will sooner or later" fall into and stay in unrepentant sin (Heb 12:3-11).
John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress illustrates this doctrine perfectly. I recently reread this book and I highly recommend it!
DEAR BROTHER GARY: I am writing in regards to the NKJV. My pastor was teaching on Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22:8: "And Abraham said, 'My son, God will provide FOR Himself the lamb for a burnt offering'" (NKJV). In the KJV it reads, "And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.'"
My pastor said that the word "for" does not belong in Genesis 22:8; that it changes a prophetic statement to a regular or non-prophetic statement. My pastor is an ex-Methodist evangelist and has only recently been challenging the newer versions.
I've enclosed a pamphlet on the NKJV by Dr. Peter Ruckman. I realize he is very caustic in his remarks but I agree we must search the Scriptures for truth. And sometimes the truth hurts. God bless, S.S.; Lincoln, DE
RESPONSE: I really do not see much of a difference between the two translations of Genesis 22:8; but to respond, the reason the NKJV has "for Himself" rather than just "himself" is because of a "dot" know in Hebrew as a dagesh. This dot occurs in the first letter of the word (a Lamed). And in Hebrew, a prefixed Lamed is a preposition which means "to" "for" "in regard to." (6) So the NKJV accounts for the dagesh, whereas the KJV doesn't. So based on the Hebrew text, the NKJV is the more exact translation.
The point here is, before criticizing a particular translation of a verse in the Bible the Hebrew or Greek needs to be checked. And, of course, this assumes that the person doing the criticizing actually knows Hebrew and Greek. And this is the problem with tracts like the one the letter writer sent me; nowhere do they even refer to the Greek text. As such, all their criticisms of the NKJV are irrelevant.
What matters is what the original Hebrew and Greek texts say. To say a newer version is "apostate" (as this tract does) just because it disagrees with the KJV is nothing but circular reasoning. (7) Once again, see Chapter Four of my book for more on the KJV vs. NKJV controversy.
And lastly, Ruckman's tract is definitely "very caustic." There ARE poor translations out there. But it grieves me when I see such venom directed at the NKJV simply because it is not the KJV. It should be saved for the truly bad versions. But even then, I wouldn't use such crass language myself.
Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light
1) "God's Word" pamphlet (Word Publishing). Emphases added.
2) See the study note in the New Geneva Study Bible for the correct interpretation of this often misinterpreted verse.
3) Tasso: "to appoint, ordain, order." Joseph Thayer, The Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publ., 1981), p. 615.
Or, "order, fix, determine, appoint." Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, transl. by Wm. Arndt and F.W. Gingrich (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), p. 806. Nowhere is the idea of "prepare" mentioned.
4) "God's Word" pamphlet (Word Publishing). Emphases added.
5) "The Attack" (Chino, CA: Chick Publications), p. 7.
6) Brown, Driver, Briggs, and Gesenius, Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), p. 510.
7) Peter Ruckman, "A Critique of the New King James Bible" (Pensacola, FL: Baptist Bible Bookstore, 1979).
The above letters were published in Darkness to Light
and posted on this Web site in 1996.
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