Why I Have Come to Prefer the KJV and NKJV

We are living in an era when, as English speakers, we have a multitude of choices when it comes to translations of the Bible. Throughout the history of my Christian journey, I have used many translations for my daily reading, including the New International Version (NIV), New American Standard (NASB), and English Standard Version (ESV). However, the older I get and the longer I’ve studied the Bible, the more I have grown to prefer the King James Version (KJV) and New King James Version (NKJV). Here’s why…

I have come to believe that they are based upon the best collection of ancient manuscripts, known as the Byzantine family of texts. I acknowledge that this is the minority position among conservative Bible scholars today. Yet the fact remains that the Byzantine family is that which has been preserved and cherished by most Christians for the entire history of the Christian church.

Hear me clearly: If you are using a Bible based upon the Alexandrian family of manuscripts (like the NIV, NASB, ESV or NLT), you have a Bible that presents the Gospel clearly and has all the major doctrines of the Christian faith. I am not KJVO (King James Version only).

That said, I like having a Bible in my hand that does not omit certain verses or phrases or question the legitimacy entire sections of the Scripture.

The most glaring omission in modern translations is the end of the book of Mark. I find it very hard to believe that God, in his sovereignty, was not able to providentially preserve the ending of the Gospel of Mark. Yet, if you use the NIV (2011), you will find the last 12 verses of the book prefaced by the words:

[The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9-20]

Then, you will have verses 9 through 20 italicized so as not to confuse it with the Bible above.

Basically, the translators want to inform the reader that they do not think that verses 9 through 20 are legitimately the Word of God. Never mind that for the vast majority of Christian history it was accepted as the authentic Word of God. Never mind that ending the Gospel of Mark with a group of Jesus’s followers trembling, bewildered and afraid seems rather strange.

Another large section of the Gospels that is present in the KJV and NKJV but assumed not authentic to modern translations is the story of the woman caught in adultery, as recorded in John 7.53-8.11. Again, the NIV prefaces it with words similar to those above the ending of Mark, and, again, the text is italicized to differentiate it from the Biblical text surrounding it.

These are the only two cases in which an entire section of Scripture is rejected by the modern translations. But there are many cases of words, phrases, and entire verses being omitted from the modern translations (again, the NKJV is the modern exception).

Examples abound, but let’s consider the traditional ending to the Lord’s Prayer as recorded in the 6th chapter of Matthew. The KJV ends with these words: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

This traditional ending is not found in the Alexandrian texts. Therefore, the NIV omits these words and ends simply with: “And lead us not into temptation, [a] but deliver us from the evil one.[b]”

The “[b]” points to a footnote at the bottom of the page that says:

b. Matthew 6:13 Or from evil; some late manuscripts one, / for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen

Here we see a lack of consistency on the part of the translators. For a large section, like the ending of Mark, they don’t put it in the footnotes. They keep it up on the page in the body of the text and then go to great lengths to make sure the reader understands that they do not consider it to be authentic (a preface explanation and the text italicized). But with verses, phrases, and words which are absent from the Alexandrian texts, they relegate them to the footnotes. The only reason I can imagine that they have allowed this inconsistency is because your average Christian won’t even notice the absences of the words, phrases, and even, individual verses. But to remove an entire section would set off alarms.

An example of an entire verse being relegated to the footnotes is Acts 8, verse 37. The King James Version goes like this, starting with verse 36 and going through verse 38:

36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

And now, here is what it looks like in the English Standard Version:

36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”[e] 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.

There is no verse 37! It skips from verse 36 to verse 38. But perhaps you noticed the little letter “e” …which is telling you to go down to the bottom of the page and read the footnote:

  1. Acts 8:36 Some manuscripts add all or most of verse 37And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

Are you beginning to see why I consider the KJV and NKJV complete Bibles when compared to most other English translations?

But you might be thinking, “Well, I get your point, but no major doctrine is compromised, right?” True enough. But how about a minor one, like, say, the practice of fasting?

Here is Matthew 17:21 in the King James:

21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

Look up the same verse in the NIV or ESV. What do you find? That’s right…nothing but a number pointing to a footnote, telling you that this is probably not the authentic Word of God because it is based on supposedly later manuscripts.

But, you might be thinking, there was another place where Jesus emphasized the combination of prayer and fasting, right? Correct, the verse is Mark 9.29. Here it is in the KJV:

29 And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.

Here it is in the ESV:

29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”[e]

The footnote mentions the omission of the emphasis on fasting.

And here it is in the NIV:

29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.[a]

Again, the footnote mentions the omission of the emphasis on fasting.

And, finally, just to show how any translation that is based primarily on the Alexandrian texts will omit portions of the Bible previous generations considered to be God’s Word, here it is in the NLT:

29 Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.[g]

Like the NIV and ESV, the NLT points you to a footnote that explains how they chose to omit fasting, while the KJV and NKJV include it.

For a more comprehensive list of what Bible words, phrases, and verses most modern versions omit check out this helpful Wikipedia page.

Because I believe that the Byzantine family of texts are indeed reliable, I believe that Mark 16.9-20 is the Word of God. I also believe the story about the woman caught in adultery really happened, and is Scripture. And I believe Jesus said that certain kinds of demons are only driven out through prayer AND fasting.

For my primary Bible translation, I want these words in there, without having to look down into the footnotes.

18 thoughts on “Why I Have Come to Prefer the KJV and NKJV”

    1. I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, when it comes to enjoying the Word of God (KJV).

  1. hmm, I will have to ponder this a while. I occasionally ponder switching back to the NASB but have never had any desire to switch to the KJV. I have nothing against the KJV…it is just not my preference.

    1. I’d love to dialogue with you about it, Tom. Honestly, I never preferred it until recently. To me the advantages of the KJV outweigh the disadvantages. I like the NKJV also.

  2. I think I saw a while back that someone was working on a new translation based on the Byzantine texts. It will be interesting to see it when finished. I will be curious how the KJVOnly people will react to it.

  3. Have you read Burgon’s books “The Revision Revised” or “The Last Twelve Verses of Mark”? He wrote in the late 1800s and was, I believe, a contemporary of Westcott and Hort.

    1. Martin,

      No, I have not read those books but I have read summaries and arguments take from those books. I should probably read them in their entirety. Thanks for the recommendations.

      – Brett

  4. Brett,
    You are welcome to join the NT Textual Criticism group at Facebook. We explore questions about the rival readings in manuscripts, and related subjects.
    In the group’s files you may find resources about some of the passages you mentioned.

  5. Pastor Brett,
    Thank you for you keen observations on the kjv. I discovered the kjv again about 12 years ago during grad school. I was recovering from a head injury and reading anything was a chore. So, after reading a article on improving one’s reading comprehension using the kjv as an exercise to work the “knaugen “, I became a big fan . Thank you , yes it is the best English translation as a form of linguistic excellence.

  6. I too was a modern translation Christian for most of my Christian life. My main translation was the NIV and I also used the NASB. In the last 2 years I started reading the KJV and now I can’t go back to those other translations. But I agree with you on most of what you wrote Brett, but I don’t agree with the NKJV. They quietly change it. One example in the 1982 NKJV in Zech 13:6 it was wounds in your hands in later editions they changed it to wounds in your arms. Check it out.

    1. Robert,

      Thanks for the comment. In regard to the NKJV, you write, “They quietly change it.”

      I believe this statement is weak on two fronts.

      First, regarding your statement that they changed the KJV. The translators of the NKJV were not seeking to simply adjust the KJV to make it more modern. They were also seeking to employ the same translation philosophy as the original KJV translation scholars. Therefore, it they believed that a choice of the original translators was a weak choice, they made a better choice.

      Second, those changes were not made “quietly.” This suggests that the translators had devious or questionable motives, wanting to slip error into God’s Word without people noticing. I don’t believe that for a second If that was indeed the case then why did the executive editor of the NKJV translation team take the time to write a book telling the story of the NKJV and even explaining why there are deviations between the KJV and the NKJV?

      Furthermore, I personally knew one of the twelve men on the NKJV Translation Committee and can assure you that his motives were not suspect.

      1. I should have worded that better. The changes were done without fan fare or advertisements, that’s what I should have wrote istead of “quietly”. The changes to the KJV were grammatical and spellings. No changes in verses or words.

  7. Do you still feel this way several months later? I have been going back and forth about my main translation, especially as I am wanting to memorize and eventually recite large portions in public. One minute I feel the KJV is best, but then I read something like 1 Corinthians 6:9, and think another version is clearer. I have almost memorized the entire Sermon on the Mount in the KJV, but I am starting to question whether it would be more beneficial to others in a modern version. Even there, to say “a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit” could be misleading, as we normally do not apply “moral” or “ethical” terms to fruit, whereas the ESV says a “diseased tree bears bad fruit,” which seems clearer. Decisions, decisions!

  8. Martin, I feel your pain. I still prefer the KJV, but there is no doubt… there are some verses of Scripture that I would probably choose to use the NKJV or ESV to do memorization. Here’s an idea… memorize in the KJV unless you prefer another version for that particular verse or passage. For the times you don’t use the KJV in memorization, make sure to memorize the standard initials for that translation as well (NASB, ESV, etc.)

    1. I’m not sure if that would work for what I am doing. Most versions have specific requirements that you specify in public use which translation you are using. I am not memorizing verse numbers or anything, and I am not sure how I could best mix more than one version. I hate it seems like such an “all-or-nothing” situation, but it feels as if it is. LOL. I got the idea of memorizing and reciting after seeing Bruce Kuhn recite large amounts of Luke and Tom Meyer recite the entire book of Revelation and the first 11 chapters of Genesis from memory. You can find them on YouTube, and I would encourage you to check them out; you will be blessed.

  9. Brett – Praise God on the illumination of using the KJV/NKJV. I have taken a similar route in the past 40 years as a Bible Believing Christian. I just ran across your website while searching for “Byzantine/Alexandrian text or Majority Text”. Too many do nor fully evaluate both sides or understand the connections. It is a doctrine to understand but not have division over, which too many do. Be wise, patient, and prayerful. In His time all things are altogether lovely.

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