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Correspondence with the Editor of the MKJV and LITV

Below are two letter exchanges I have had with J.P. Green Sr. The letters are followed by comparisons of verses in two different Bible versions. But first, some background material.

Prefatory Remarks

Mr. Green and I have corresponded for several years now. He is the editor of the Modern King James Version (MKJV) and the Literal Translation of the Bible (LITV - for "Literal Version"). He also directs Christian Literature World, which publishes the MKJV and LITV, along with Christian Literature World (CLW). The latter is a hardcopy, magazine/ book catalog. I recommend all of these publications on various pages of this Web site.

Prior to Mr. Green’s first letter below I had sent a short note to him asking when Sovereign Grace would be getting on the Web (it had been mentioned previously in CLW that it would be doing so). I also asked if he would like to cross-link Web sites when it he did finally get on the ‘Net.

We have also previously had many discussions on the subject of Bible versions. CLW even offers for sell my short book on the subject (Difference Between Bible Versions). So be assured this debate is being discussed on very friendly terms even when the discussion gets a little heated.

Moreover, I first came in contact with Sovereign Grace and Mr. Green about ten years ago while I was attending Denver Seminary. At the time I was using the New American Standard Bible (NASB) as my primary Bible. It was in part due to the letters and writings of Mr. Green that I switched from the NASB to the New King James Version (NKJV). This background makes the following dialog somewhat ironic.

Mr. Green helped convince me that the "Critical Text" on which the New Testament of the NASB is based is not as reliable as the Textus Receptus which the NKJV and King James Version (KJV) use.

Even more ironic is I was taking Greek at the time. The professors at the seminary strongly promoted the "Critical Text." A couple of the professors even worked on the translation of the New International Version (NIV), which uses the Critical Text. I had previously abandoned the use of the NIV due to its very non-literal method of translating. Now I was abandoning any version based on the Critical Text and switching to the NKJV!

Exchange #1

Beloved brother Gary:  You are in my thoughts and prayers on an almost daily basis. It is so good to see you entering the lists against the detractors from the glory and sovereignty of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

To answer your note, yes IF we ever get to the point of being on the Web we will be glad to reference to your contributions. There always seems to be something new we have to do before we can take the time to get fully into the Internet, and to post important literature items as well.

We just had an e-mail from one who intends to put a fact sheet on the Literal Translation of the Bible on the ‘Net, with questions and answers, and a fine recommendation.

It puzzles me that you should regard the NKJV so highly. They have a Manichean change in John 10:14,15. They fail to identify all but one of the 14 occasions when our Lord stated emphatically, I AM! And they have Jesus tasting death for everyone in Hebrews 2:9.

Besides the fact that they reprint numerous verses of the KJV which are paraphrase, or just plain wrong (for instance when they continue to refer to eunuchs as officers without noting the difference). I have about 5 pages of such comparisons if you think they would be interesting to you. This is not a complaint.

This is not in any way to show any lack of love and understanding for you in all the work that you have done in your little paper, or on the ‘Net. To me you are a favorite brother….

By His Marvelous Mercy, Love in Christ, Jay P. Green Sr.

Dear J.P. Green:  Thank you for your letter. In regards to my use of the NKJV, I do believe it is generally a reliable translation. It most definitely is more reliable than most other modern-day translations!

However, as you, and others, have pointed out to me, it is not as literal as it could or should be. And, as I state in my book and on my Web site, I would rather read what God said, not what some translator believes God MEANT by what He said.

Meanwhile, the LITV version, and even the MKJV, are somewhat more accurate translations. As such, I have thought of switching to the LITV as the "default" version for my ministry and personal study. But I have stuck with the NKJV for a couple of "practical" reasons.

First, the hardcopy edition of the NKJV I use has cross-reference and a mini-concordance in the back. When I am away form my other reference works and my computer, these simple aids are very helpful. Meanwhile, the leather-bound LITV and MKJV you recently published, although very attractive and inexpensive, do not have these aids.

Secondly, and more importantly, I use two different Bible programs: Biblesoft’s PC Study Bible and the Online Bible which you offer. Both are 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 PC Study Bible, while, of course, the MKJV and LITV are on the Online Bible.

In addition, while the Online Bible has much more on it, the PC Study Bible was much easier to use. Also, the PC Study Bible was the only Bible program that I could find with a Hebrew/ Greek/ English interlinear (which was one of the reason I purchased it in the first place). So I have relied mainly on it for my studies and ministry.

However, with the introduction of version 7.0 of the Online Bible, it is now the easier to use of the two. The changes on this upgrade are great! (Thanks for sending it to me). Also, you recently sent out a mailing mentioning that your The Interlinear Bible will shortly be available as an add-on (please let me know when it is ready).

The Online Bible is still not "perfect" (as if any PC program could be). Most especially, although you can now install selected portions on your hard drive, even if only using these items you still need to put in the CD ROM. But the PC Study Bible allows selective hard drive installation without the need to insert the CD if only using those items.

Despite this drawback, I will probably rely much more on the Online Bible. And with the LITV version being on this program I am thinking on switching to it as the default version for my ministry. It may not be until next year though.

Now if we could just get a hardcopy of the LITV with cross-references and a mini-concordance. Just a thought.

Keep up the good work! Yours in Christ, Gary Z.

Exchange #2

Beloved Bro. Gary:  Thanks for the letter in July. Can’t keep up with even important correspondence. We will be fully on the Web this month, will post the entire CLW on it, and a lot of other stuff as we go along. We will URL with you as soon as we can get them to take in several others.

Better give up on the NKJV, dear brother. It is NOT reliable, So by quoting it you are perhaps misleading some of your readers into thinking that it is probably as good as they can get. Of course, being immersed in it, I hate misrepresentations of what God said.

Deliberate mistranslations, adopting of some of the heresies of the Egyptian mss. [manuscripts], and such things as having Jesus violate His own words by drinking wine (sour or otherwise) a mistake I made in the MKJV, too, makes NKJV unreliable.

And I feel strongly about the nullifying of Jesus repeated claims to being the I AM, only once in NKJV, leaving 12 other places they destroy His statement by adding the (he).

Concordances and References:? Yes, when we can afford it. Many references are included in my T & T [Translation and Textual] Notes on the Gospels, on your Online CD. And I would guess quite a bit more information you are not aware of.

Check out the NKJV against those Notes, and I am sure you will agree the NKJV is withholding from its readers myriads of words that God actually breathed out.

You are in my daily prayers, dear friend. Love in Christ, Jay Sr.

Dear J. P. Green:  Thank you for your most recent letter and the pages on the NKJV vs. MKJV. In regards to the pages comparing the NKJV with the MKJV you sent me, I simply do not have the time to give a detailed response. But looking over the list, I will say that in some cases the MKJV rendering is more accurate than that of the NKJV; but in my opinion, in some cases, either of the two renderings are possible. There is not always only one "correct" way to translate a passage.

In some verses I even believe the rendering of the NKJV is to be preferred to that of the MKJV. And in some, if it was up to me, I would translate the passage in a manner different than either of the two versions.

The bottom line, I will stick by my long-standing recommendation to my readers to compare more than one translation in Bible study. Now I do believe that the best translations currently available are the KJV, NKJV, MKJV and LITV versions. So I will continue to recommend that one of these be picked as one's primary Bible version, and at least one additional one for comparison sakes.

For me, I have decided to continue to use the NKJV as the "default" version for my studies and ministry; but I will always consult and at times will quote in my newsletter and on my Web site from any of the other three as well, especially the LITV.

If this position is not "good" enough for you, oh well.

As for the "Notes" on the Online Bible, yes I am aware that it is packed with information. Unfortunately, due to my health problems, I am not able to sit at my computer, or anywhere for that matter, for very long periods of time. Much of my day is spent laying flat on my back. And I have yet to figure out how to use my computer in that position! So I am reduced to using whatever study tools I can hold over my head and read. And my compact NKJV with study notes works just fine.

It is good to see CLW has finally got online! In fact, I am glad you got the information to me when you did. I will be mentioning your ministry in my next newsletter. Now I can include your URL along with your address and phone number.

Thanks for keeping my ministry in your prayers. I will keep yours in mine as well.

Yours in Christ, Gary Z.

Verse Comparisons

As mentioned in my second letter, I do not have the time to review Mr. Green's five pages of NKJV-MKJV verse comparisons. But I will discuss briefly the verses on these pages which he refers to in his first letter.

Hebrews 2:9:
As Mr. Green mentions, in Hebrews 2:9 the NKJV says that Jesus tasted death "for everyone." Meanwhile, the MKJV renders this phrase, "for every [son]."

There are very important theological implications in these differing renderings. Then NKJV seems to be promoting "unlimited atonement" (an Arminian position); whereas, the MKJV rendering is consistent with "limited atonement" (a Calvinist position).

Now, the Greek text simply has "every" (Greek, pas) - there is no "one" in the text. So the NKJV is inaccurate on this verse, especially since the word "one" is not even in italics to indicate it has been added. Furthermore, nowhere in the context of the verse does the word "one" occur so "one" cannot be the antecedent to the word "every."

The MKJV is more accurate in that the added word (son) is placed in brackets. This indicates it has been added and is not in the Greek. Also, the word "son" does occur in the next verse. So it is a possible antecedent to the word "every."

But generally antecedents to words come BEFORE the word ("ante" means "before"). But there is really no word prior to "every" that could serve as an antecedent. So "son" is probably correct.

However, given this uncertainty, and the intense theological implications of either of the above renderings, if it was up to me, I would translate the verse simply as "for all." The Greek word pas can just as legitimately be translated as "all." And using this rendering does not leave the verse "hanging" as it would if it was rendered "for every." Also, using "all" would not introduce any theological bias.

Now, if I was producing a Bible translation, I might mention in a footnote that I think the best antecedent to the indefinite pronoun "all" would come from the following verse. The footnote would say something like: "all referring to all sons, see verse 10." That is what footnotes are for, to introduce material that is not in the text.

John 10:14,15:
As for John 10:14,15, I can’t for the life of me figure out what Mr. Green is getting at. I have read and re-read the verses in the NKJV and MKJV and cannot see any significant difference.

But so the reader can compare them, they are:
NKJV: "I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep."

MKJV: "I am the Good Shepherd, and I know those that are Mine, and I am known by those who are Mine. Even as the Father knows Me, I also know the Father. And I lay down My life for the sheep."

"I AM"
The MKJV has Jesus declaring "I AM" on 14 different occasions. But the NKJV only has Jesus declaring "I AM" once. The one time is in John 8:58. In this passage Jesus is very clearly claiming Deity. But in the other 13 it is not always so clear.

The verses where "I AM" appear in the MKJV are: Matt 14:27, Mark 6:50; 13:6; 14:62; Luke 21:8; 22:70; John 4:26; 6:20; 8:24,28; 13:13,19; 18:5,6,8 (some of these are parallel passages so the number of verses is greater than 13).

Instead of "I AM" the NKJV renders the phrase in these verses either as "It is I" (Matt 14:27 - with a footnote reading, "Lit. I am.") or as "I am He" (Mark 13:6; The "He" is in italics to indicate that it has been added).

Personally, I would not use either of the NKJV renderings nor the rendering of the MKJV. Saying "It is I" is a clear re-writing of the text. Adding "He" eliminates the possible claim to Deity, which is introducing interpretation into the text.

Similarly, putting the words in all capitals also introduces interpretation. It makes the text necessarily referring to Deity, which some might dispute for at least some of the verses.

What I would do is simply translate each occurrence as "I am" (normal capitalization). This way, the phrase could be taken as a claim to Deity or it could not be so taken. It would be left to the reader to decide what Jesus meant by what He said.

Eunuchs vs. Officers:
As for eunuchs vs. officers, Mr. Green’s main concern here regards the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. Gen 39:1 in the NKJV calls Potiphar an "officer" while the MKJV refers to him as an "eunuch" (which means a man who has been castrated).

Mr. Green comments on this difference, "It is important here in that it explains the lusting of Potiphar’s wife after Joseph."

Now it would be true; if Potiphar was an eunuch one could understand why his wife would be looking for sexual gratification elsewhere. However, many women have committed adultery even when their husbands were not castrated! So it is not necessary for Potiphar to have been an eunuch for his wife to have lusted after Joseph.

As for the Hebrew word, the lexicon on the Online Bible states, "Eunuch - Literally bed-keeper or chamberlain, and not necessarily in all cases one who was mutilated, although the practice of employing such mutilated persons in Oriental courts was common #2Ki 9:32 Es 2:3."

On the Online Bible are also the footnotes from the original Geneva Bible. The note on this verse states, "And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, [and] captain of the guard. Or ‘eunuch’, which does not always signify a man that is gelded, but also someone that is in some high position."

John Gill’s Commentary is also on the Online Bible. His comment on this verse is, "unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh; the word is sometimes used for an eunuch, but cannot design one here, since Potiphar had a wife, and some say a child; but he either was a chamberlain, or however some officer at court…."

So the word can mean "eunuch" but does not necessarily do so. So if Mr. Green wants to render it as eunuch in the MKJV he is justified in doing so; but the NKJV is also justified in not so rendering it. This is one of those cases where there is not necessarily only one "correct" way to translate a passage.

Conclusion

As can be seen, I do not slavishly always agree with the NKJV; however, I also do not always agree with the MKJV either. So again, the bottom line is, compare more than one version in Bible study. And, if possible, use an interlinear. This study aid gives even the non-Hebrew and non-Greek reader some access to the original languages.

Mr. Green’s Interlinear Bible is a particularly helpful interlinear. It is currently being re-released in an updated four volume set (three volumes for the OT and one for the NT). I already have the NT volume.

Each page has three columns. The middle column has the Greek Text (Textus Receptus) with a word-for-word English translation in-between each line of the Greek (hence "interlinear"). Strong’s Concordance numbers are then placed above each Greek word. The left-hand column has the LITV and the right column the KJV. I assume the OT volumes will have a similar design when they are available.

BTW, my name is in The Interlinear NT under "Acknowledgements" (page xx). I did some proofreading for the final manuscript. However, one small thing: they misspelled my name! They spelled it "Zeola" (one "l"); whereas I spell it "Zeolla" (two "l’s"). Oh well.

Note: The above correspondence occurred back in 1997.  Mr. Green has since gone to be with the Lord, and CLW now is out of business.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above letter exchanges were posted on this Web site in September 1997.
The Note was added March 29, 2009.

Bible Versions Controversy: MKJV & LITV
Bible Versions Controversy

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