The History of the NKJV Translation
In 1611, the King James Version of the Holy Bible was published in England. No other book has had as much impact on the world as this historic translation. Earlier century scholars maintained the translation by modifying grammar, spelling and word usage to keep the biblical language alive and relevant for each new generation. In 1769, updates to the King James Version ceased, and its words continue to be cherished today. In the last thirty years, more than forty modern translations of the Bible have been published, and the King James Version continues to be the overwhelmingly favorite translation.
In 1975, more than two-hundred years since the King James Version’s last update, the boldest and most extensive revision in the history of modern Bible publishing began. With a 130-person team of Greek, Hebrew, and English scholars, editors, church leaders, and Christian laity Thomas Nelson Publishers sought to preserve the accuracy and poetry of the King James Version, but in a language that the everyday person could understand. In 1979 the NKJV New Testament was finished, releasing only the Book of Psalms in 1980. In 1982, the New King James Version was released in its entirety, seven years after its commission, making it the fifth major revision to the beloved King James Version.
First Bible printed by Cambridge University Press.
Printed by Thomas Buck and Roger Daniel.
Printed by Dr. Thomas Paris, Trinity College, Cambridge University.
Printed by Dr. Benjamin Blayney, Oxford University.
NKJV New Testament released from Thomas Nelson Publishers. The New King James Version becomes the fifth major revision.
NKJV Book of Psalms is released.
NKJV Full Bible is released.
Why the Need for the NKJV Translation
The King James Version is the most widely known Bible translation around the world. Though its Shakespearean English is most recognized when referencing Bible verses, its coherence began to diminish to the common reader. Since 1611, many words used in the English language have changed in meaning or have gone out of use altogether. Additionally, twentieth and twenty-first century scholars, theologians, and Church laity have a much stronger understanding of the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek languages of which the original Scriptures were written.
When the New King James Version was commissioned the need to preserve the beauty and trustworthiness of the King James Version was imminent, however, language and dialect barriers needed to be addressed. The New King James Version Bible translation is scrupulously faithful, a preservation of the authority and accuracy, as well as rhythm and beauty, with resounding clarity and understandability for today’s reader.
Preservation of the Word
When choosing a primary Bible translation, there are three core elements to look for:
The NKJV preserves the traditional literary quality of the King James Version. As the latest revision of the time-honored 1611 Bible, it deliberately seeks to maintain the sound, language, and rhythm that lovers of the Bible have come to expect, while modernizing when necessary to prevent misunderstanding. The Bible reader needs to be fed in both the head and the heart. Accuracy without literary beauty would feed the head more than the heart. Ingenuity or creativity in composition without enough accuracy would thrill the heart, but the head would not be well served. The New King James Version achieves the necessary balance between understanding and spiritual uplift.
The Bible is a literary classic. Even today, 400 years since the King James Version was first published, it is still what people think of first when they think of “the Bible.” Time and again, readers remark that they want their Bible to “sound like the Bible,” and by that they mean the KJV. The NKJV does that better than any other modern Bible translation.
The NKJV translates from the traditional texts of the Hebrew and Aramaic Old Testament and the Greek New Testament, and it has footnotes wherever variations are found in critical texts that would affect the wording of the English translation.
The translation method is “complete equivalence,” which is sometimes known as formal equivalence. It gives the meaning clearly in natural English while maintaining as much of the wording and grammar of the original languages as possible. Therefore, the match between the original language and the English translation is as complete as can be, making the NKJV ideal for close study. The NKJV was created using a painstaking translation and review process involving scholars in countries around the world.
The NKJV is written in today’s language for today’s reader. All of the accuracy and beauty in the world wouldn’t mean much if it couldn’t be understood. To achieve maximum clarity, the NKJV uses modern English that is dignified but natural. Its presentation is formal, yet at the same time, graceful, pleasant, and uncomplicated.
The reading level is eighth grade, which is quite a bit easier than many would expect in a direct revision of the King James Version. That’s because the NKJV’s stylists were careful to eliminate any English that would be archaic, obsolete, or unnatural for today’s reader, but they were deliberate about keeping the good things about the KJV’s style and manner.
Frequently Asked Questions About the NKJV
A 130-person team, including Greek, Hebrew, and English scholars, editors, church leaders, and Christian laity, was commissioned to work on the project. Each pledged commitment to the basic aims of the project, signing a statement of faith declaring a belief that the Scriptures in their entirety are the inspired Word of God, free from error in their original autographs. The process was very similar to the one which produced the beloved 1611 King James Version, but today’s technology allowed for higher levels of accuracy and easier communication among the scholars.
Altogether it took seven years to produce the complete New King James Version. (Coincidentally, the original 1611 translation also took seven years to complete.) The New King James Version represents an investment of over $4.5 million. All of those costs have been paid by Thomas Nelson Publishers.
No. After the original 1611 King James Bible, four major revisions were made, each done to reflect current English usage:
1629 – First Bible printed by Cambridge University Press
1638 – Printed by Thomas Buck and Roger Daniel
1762 – Printed by Dr. Thomas Paris, Trinity College, Cambridge University
1769 – Printed by Dr. Benjamin Blayney, Oxford University
Until now, the standard King James Version available has been the revision of 1769. The New King James Version became the fifth major revision in 1979 when the New Testament released. Psalms followed in 1980, and the full Bible became available in 1982.
No. One goal was to produce, once again, a King James Version worthy of universal trust and acceptance as the text for all English- speaking Christians. The international team who worked on this version was made up of conservative scholars, editors, and laity representing a broad cross- section of Bible-oriented Christianity.
There is no direct relationship. The New King James Version and the New International Version are two totally different kinds of projects. The NIV, the New English Bible, and other modern translations are completely new translations, and each is aimed at replacing the King James Version as the standard for the English-speaking world. In contrast, the goal of the New King James Version is to preserve and improve the King James Version, restoring its originally intended meaning.
Based on the more recently discovered texts, some modern translations omit some of the phrases and verses found in the original King James Version. The scholars of the New King James Version retained every verse of the original King James. Significant textual variations are footnoted, showing the source of every variant reading.
Yes. Scholars were assigned specific Old and New Testament books based on their areas of expertise. They submitted their work to the Executive Editors for the Old and New Testaments, who next gave it to the English Editor to be checked for grammatical accuracy, literary beauty, and effective communication of content. Throughout the entire editing process, the work was regularly reviewed by the clergy and lay advisers on the British Oversight Committee and the North American Overview Committee. The final exhaustive process was carried out by a separate Executive Review Committee for each Testament.