Those of you who have known me, or read my writing, especially over the last year or so, may find this a little surprising: I think I’ve come home to the NKJV!
I was thinking about writing a post about how my thinking has changed over the past couple months, as I have no longer been researching and trying to find the best Bible translation, and instead I have relaxed a bit and looked for the best translation for me. I had settled in pretty well with the Holman CSB for a while, but it wasn’t long before I became uncomfortable with the frequent unusual renderings that I was being confronted with. So I moved back in with the NASB, and was very comfortable.
Now, this class I’m involved in on evangelism in the mainline churches caused me to start wrestling with translations again, because the translation which is most widely accepted in mainline churches, among liberal scholars, and in my own local church, is the NRSV. I had come to the conclusion that if I am to have fellowship with these people, I need to use the NRSV, to carry it and teach from it. But I was frustrated by the lack of satisfactory NRSV Bibles that are available on the market today. Besides, I have an aversion to the NRSV and liberal scholarship, and using the NRSV would be a bitter pill for me to swallow.
So I started looking at the other more literal translations. While I like the NASB, it is closely tied to conservative scholarship; and it doesn’t read as smoothly as I’d like, particularly out loud. When I told people the bible I was carrying was the NASB, I’d get puzzled looks and “Huh?” Mainliners don’t know the NASB. Conservative scholars love it, but liberal scholars grudgingly reject it, and evangelicals think it’s too hard to understand. It’s not likely to ever make much inroads beyond conservative scholars. And that’s sad, in my humble opinion.
But anyway, I turned to the NIV, and the TNIV. The NIV is the Bible of the evangelical movement. While quite accurate, it is still to close to being a paraphrase for most scholars, and is usually rejected by the mainliners and liberal scholars. The TNIV, while more accurate than the NIV, is hung with the unfortunate reputation of being an “inclusive” Bible, and I’m afraid it will never be well accepted even by the evangelicals it was targeted for. That is also sad.
So I picked up the ESV, a conservative revision of the old Revised Standard Version. I found the language to be beautiful and lofty, if slightly archaic in many places. It’s a smoother reading Bible than the NASB, and it’s reasonably accurate. It has become the Bible of conservative scholarship, and will probably replace the NASB in that role over the next few years. That’s good for the ESV, sad for the NASB, and I’m a little uncomfortable with it.
As I was reading along in the ESV last night, something kept saying to me, “Read that passage in the NKJV! Read that passage in the NKJV!” So I went and found my old, beat-up NKJV, and started reading. And it was like I had come home! I could hardly put it down! My mind relaxed, and I could understand it all! It was the Word as I remembered it! It was the Word as I had learned it and as I had heard it preached so many times for so many years! I couldn’t believe I was reading the NKJV and enjoying it! Even the rhythms are there, just like in the old KJV.
So now I’m looking at replacing that beat-up old NKJV Bible. And while it’s not the NRSV, what it is, is immediately recognizable and acceptable to nearly all circles of Christians. It can be my Bible! I can carry it, and teach from it, and everybody will know it is the Word of God. I don’t have to recommend it to people; it will just be what I carry and use.
I feel like I have come home.