How We Know the New King James Version (NKJV) is Not an Updated KJV or a Good Translation
Updated: Mar 5
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).
There are GREAT differences between the TR and CT. The TR, which has always been the Received Text by believers and churches over the last two millennia, derives from the majority of manuscripts, which is 5,600 plus, while the CT originates from mainly 2 (!) manuscripts, which even contradict between the two in thousands of places. To read more about the great differences between these two Greek Texts and the great differences between the KJV and Modern Versions, please read this report: Why Modern Bible Versions are Corrupt, and the King James Version is Not.
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.
3. There are many deviations from the TR contrary to the translators claims, and many serious and critical omissions, additions and changes in the NT.
Consider some examples:
“Lord” and God removed over 100 times.
“Repent” removed 25 times.
“Blood” removed 23 times.
“Hell” removed 22 times, and severely softened through transliterating the Greek word.
“Heaven” removed 50 times.
“New testament” completely removed.
“Damned” completely removed.
“Damnation” completely removed.
The singular and plural pronouns “ye” and “thou,” which exist in the TR Text, completely removed.
Corrupts the Gospel of salvation, turning salvation into a process, thereby turning it into “another gospel” (2 Cor 11:4; Gal 1:6-9).
Dishonours the Lord Jesus Christ through the changing of His titles.
Some of the many passages the NKJV perverts: Gen 10:11; 36:24; Matt. 27:34; Lk. 1:35; 5:7; 6:9; Jn. 18:24; Ac. 10:7; 15:23; 17:14; 19:9; 19:39; I Cor. 6:4; Gal. 5:4; Heb 3:16; Ju. 1:3, 19; Rev. 16:16.
The following verses are entirely questioned in the margin of the NKJV on the basis of the Critical Text, the unreliable and corrupt United Bible Societies Text: Matt 17:21; 18:11; 21:4; 23:14; 24:6; Mk 7:16; 9:44; 9:46; 11:26; 15:28; 16:9-20; Lk 17:36; 22:43; 22:44; 23:17; Jn 5:4; 7:53-8:11 Acts 8:37; 15:34; 24:7; 28:29; Rom 16:24; 1 Jn 5:7
The NKJV makes thousands of unnecessary changes. There are an estimated 100,000 changes, averaging 80 per page. This was probably done for copyright purposes.
The NKJV changes texts to gender neutrality.
Consider John 12:32.
The KJV reads: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”
In contrast, the NKJV reads “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
There is no textual variant here. The Greek text reads:vκἀγὼ ἐὰν ὑψωθῶ ἐκ τῆς γῆς, πάντας ἑλκύσω πρὸς ἐμαυτόν (kagō ean hypsōthō ek tēs gēs, pantas helkysō pros emauton).
The masculine form of pantas is properly rendered "all men." The NKJV alters the text to the more feminist "all peoples" to prevent "man/men" from being the generic word for mankind (oops, excuse me, "humankind"; using "mankind" might have been a microaggression and evidence of systemic racism and sexism).
Note also that here, as in vast numbers of other places, the NKJV is not simply updating archaic and hard-to-understand language in the KJV; "all men" is not hard to understand in the least. Its a blatant attack on God, and on God's Word.
Here is the real reason they made the NKJV (The Real Reason They Made the NKJV). In the video, Dr. Kirk DiVietro tells of his eye-witness account where a Thomas Nelson executive, the publisher of the NKJV, admits that it was intended to be a transition Bible to get people away from the classic KJV and to a modern translation.
The NKJV plays KJV supporters for fools, and was always meant to be a bridge between the KJV and modern perversions.
It's also not easier to read. That is a terrible excuse for disobedience, and it doesn't fly with the Lord God Almighty.
Dr. Donald Waite’s comment on this is helpful. Dr. Waite is a Baptist scholar and man of God who defends the KJV through his Bible for Today ministry in Collingswood, New Jersey:
“Some people say they like a particular version because they say it’s more readable. Now, readability is one thing, but does the readability conform to what’s in the original Greek and Hebrew language? You can have a lot of readability, but if it doesn’t match up with what God has said, it’s of no profit. In the King James Bible, the words match what God has said. You may say it’s difficult to read, but study it out. It’s hard in the Hebrew and Greek and, perhaps, even in the English in the King James Bible. But to change it around just to make it simple, or interpreting it, instead of translating it, is wrong. You’ve got lots of interpretation, but we don’t want that in a translation. We want exactly what God said in the Hebrew or Greek brought over into English” (Waite, Defending the King James Bible, p. 242).
Here is another timely comment on it by Dr. Waite:
“The Bible is not a first grade primer. It is God’s book. It is a book that must be diligently read. It is only by ‘searching the Scriptures’ that we find what pertains to life and death. It tells of creation, of the mighty universe, of the future or the past, of the Mighty God and His wonders, of the Holy Spirit’s ministry among Christians, of the Son of God’s great sacrifice for sin, of home in Heaven for the believer, and of a fiery hell for the unsaved. How dare we assume that His Word can be capsulated in a comic book [or a version that reads ‘like the morning newspaper’].”
The NKJV might contain some of Gods Word but it’s certainly not the Word of God in English.
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.”