Updated: May 3, 2022
Many today make the argument that the NKJV is a good translation in the same vein as the King James Version (KJV), that it’s translated from the same text as the KJV, with merely an update on the few archaic words. I would like to show how both of these arguments are actual falsehoods propagated by the editors and translators, who have succeeded in deceiving professing believers on those two foundational points: (1) It's a good translation and a KJV (it’s not), and (2) It’s based on the Textus Receptus (it’s not).
1. Firstly, it’s not a good translation and it’s not a KJV, even though that claim is made.
The NKJV actually attacks the KJV and the Greek Textus Receptus (TR) it came out of. None of the translators preferred the KJV or the Greek TR, evident in the footnotes and preface, and nine of the translators were also on the NIV team. The NKJV footnotes cast doubt on its very words, taking away certainty concerning the text. As opposed to stressing the importance of the text behind the KJV, the translators do the opposite and attack it. They say it is inferior and make no attempt to hide its inferior (they didn’t deceive about that!). They weren't attempting to keep people connected with the KJV.
The motive was in fact to get people disconnected from it. That strategy could work in an incremental way. You start with no longer using the KJV and then you are ready to move to some other version that comes entirely from another text, since the NKJV was mostly based upon that text anyway. It's a way to get KJV users to take a look and what they get are men telling them that they don't even have the best text of scripture. James Price, a big man on the translation committee of the OT, authored a large volume attacking the KJV, and in a personal email to David Cloud he indicated he was not a TR advocate and rather supported the modern Critical Text (CT).
The NKJV preface itself gives the reader an uncritical introduction to and taste of the CT and then helpfully undermines the TR with dozens of brief footnotes that say things like, "NU-Text and M-Text omit...", "NU-Text reads...", "NU-Text omits...", or "Only four or five or five very late manuscripts contain these words..." The NU and M-text are not the TR but the Westcott and Hort (which is the Critical Text - CT). The NKJV translators themselves acknowledge they approached this with the idea that "By giving a clearly defined set of variants the NKJV benefits readers of all textual persuasions." They didn’t get those variants from the TR but from the CT.
The entire process of translating the NKJV was a mockery of the KJV and its underlying text. That they were clearly CT supporters and TR despisers is evident in their position, footnotes, preface, personal writings, etc. This on its own would be enough but there is even more conclusive evidence, and that is my next point.
2. Secondly, contrary to the claims of the translators, the text does not come conclusively from the same text as the KJV. They lied about it being a simple updating of the KJV and that it was translated from the TR.
While passing off as being true to the TR, the NKJV ignores the TR over 1,200 times, undermines and casts doubt upon the TR while exalting the CT, and uses words translated from the CT. Many of the word changes are not changes which result from removing archaisms, etc, but changes which clearly reveal that, contrary to their agreed basis, the NKJV translators departed from the the TR in favour of the same wording found in versions translated from the corrupted CT Greek text (from whence all other modern versions come from). Upon examination we see that the word variations come because of the underlying text, which was the CT.
Heres a brief sample mainly from the NT of a much longer list that could be produced, especially since I didn't look much into the OT, considering the focus is on the NT-TR:
Mt 22:10, the NKJV follows the CT which has “hous” (“whom”) while the TR has “hosous” (“as many as”).
Lk. 1:35, the NKJV follows the CT in leaving out "ek sou" ("of thee") unlike the KJV.
Lk. 5:7, the TR has “tois” (“which”) while the CT doesn’t have that word — the NKJV follows the CT while the KJV does not.
Lk. 6:9, the TR has a plural “sabbasin” and the CT has a singular “sabbato” — the KJV is plural, Sabbath days, and the NKJV is singular “the Sabbath.”
Ac. 10:7 the NKJV follows the CT text in omitting "unto Cornelius" in the first clause.
Ac. 15:23, the NKJV follows the CT text in omitting "tade", or "after this manner".
Ac. 17:14, the NKJV omits "as it were" ("ws"/“hos”) and thus once again follows the CT text.
Ac. 19:9, the NKJV follows the CT in omitting "tis," so it effects the translation in leaving out the word "one," as in "one Tyrannus."
Ac. 19:39, the the NKJV follows the CT text in "peraiterw" instead of "peri eterwn", subtle but different.
Rom. 14:9, the CT leaves out the first “kai,” which is translated “both” in the KJV and left out in the NKJV, following the CT.
2 Cor. 3:14, the NKJV uses the the CT (“hoti”) rather than the TR (“ho”) and so translates the conjunction “because,” while the KJV translates the relative pronoun, “which.”
2 Cor. 4:14, the NKJV says “with Jesus” following the CT (“sun”) while the KJV says “by Jesus” following the TR (“dia”).
Phil. 2:9, the CT has the Greek article (“to”) before “name” (“the name”) and the TR has no article (“a name”) and so the NKJV reflects this deviation.
Col. 3:17, the CT leaves out another “kai,” and the NKJV follows instead of the TR, which keeps the “kai,” which then changes the translation from “God and Father” to “God the Father.”
Ju. 1:3, the NKJV puts in “our” (“hemon”) following the CT, which also completely changes the meaning of “the common salvation” (TR - KJV) that Jude was warning about (he was NOT saying “our” salvation, I.e. true personal salvation, was unclean or profane, the meaning of the word “common,” but rather “the common salvation” which wasn’t personal to him or any of the true born again believers he was writing to — he was exhorting them to earnestly contend against a corrupted salvation, the purpose for the epistle).
Ju. 1:19, the CT text omits “eautou (“themselves"), as does the NKJV.
2 Jn. 1:7, the NKJV says “have gone out into the world” following the CT (“exelthon”) instead of “are entered into the world” (“eiselthon”) as in the KJV which follows the TR.
Rev. 6:11, the NKJV follows the CT with the singular “robe” while the KJV follows the TR with the plural “robes.” The Greek word in the TR is plural and in the CT it is singular.
Is. 9:3, the NKJV changes the Hebrew text behind the KJV by leaving out the “not” (“lo”) with OT textual criticism, the difference being that joy is increased instead of not being increased.
So the translators are bald-faced liars. They didn’t just update the KJV; they also used an entirely different text. This is obviously evident and these are only some examples. There are hundreds of more examples of the above. As far as I'm concerned, that lie has now been exposed. Some may say it out of ignorance, but some are flat out lying about it. The NKJV does not come from the same text as the KJV. It does not represent God's preserved and inspired Words found on the Hebrew Masoretic Text and Greek Textus Receptus.
The translators and editors of the NKJV, like those of any other modern perversion, and those that support these corruptions of Gods Word (especially after knowing the truth) should take careful heed to the terrifying words of Rev. 22:18-19, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”