The NKJV or New King James Version (1982) is an English translation of the Bible. It is supposed to be an update of the Authorized or King James Version (KJV). It was made by American Baptists in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Jerry Falwell, among others, helped to oversee it. By 2006 it was outsold in America only by the NIV, the New International Version.
The KJV was by far the most faithful and beautiful translation of the Bible into English. But the English in it was old-fashioned even in 1611 when it came out. And now, nearly 400 years later, it is hard to read and understand.
There have been plenty of English translations in the past 50 years, like the NIV, but none have matched both the faithfulness and beauty of the KJV. And so it lives on. But few are completely happy with it.
The NKJV was supposed to be the answer to this by updating the English just enough so that it would be clear and understandable again.
Sorry, no such luck.
There are two good things about the NKJV and three things bad:
First, the good:
- If you want a Bible that is pretty easy to read and that you can use in a church that reads from the King James Bible, then it is a good Bible to have. The wording is close enough that you can follow along when someone reads from from the King James Bible.
- Unlike most other Bibles, it shows all the different readings that certain verses have because of differences between the old Bibles that people translate from.
Now for the bad:
- It is markedly less faithful than the King James Bible. Words are left out and words are watered down to make for easier reading. Instead of “seed” it has “descendants”, instead of “heretic” it has “divisive man”, and so on. While it is not nearly as bad as some translations, it is still less faithful than the King James. That makes it bad for Bible study where the meanings of words matter. For the same reason it also makes it bad for learning Bible verses by heart.
- It is not based on the best manuscripts. The KJV was based on the best manuscripts of its day, but over the past 400 years better ones have been found. Also, scholars have gone over them with a fine-tooth comb and caught copying mistakes. The NKJV benefits from very little of this.
- It is not even completely based on the manuscripts that the old KJV uses. The KJV is so good and has been the main Bible in the English-speaking world for so long that some believe that God made sure it was a completely faithful translation. Those who believe this see the NKJV as dangerous.
So the NKJV is good for general reading, but not for those who read the Bible closely.
The Third Millenium Bible is supposed to be a better update of the KJV.