I wrote a post some time ago about my struggle with the NKJV. I mentioned the archaic language and the lesser manuscripts that were used. In the end I set the NKJV aside and went back to my NASB and the new NIV.
Yet the NKJV continued to gnaw at me. I kept cross-checking in the NKJV when I studied from the other two, and finally a couple weeks I did a much more comprehensive side-by-side comparison between those three and several other translations. I came away impressed with both the accuracy of the NKJV, but also surprisingly its overall lack of archaic English. Sure, it has a “behold” or two thrown in here and there, but overall it’s really a relatively clear English translation.
But this isn’t so much about that as my own sense that there was something wrong with my own choices of translations. Not to take anything away from any of the other translations I like and recommend, but they were all so NEW, so contemporary, and if there’s anything I’m not it’s NEW. I was feeling a need for something…OLD. Not too old, mind you. I didn’t want anything with thee and thou and thine and dost and all those olde Englische words that nobody every uses anymore (except for the KJV people). That was my biggest problem in reading the 1977 NASB I bought a few months ago, too. The archaic language really grates on me.
So I continued with my comparisons, looking carefully at how the NKJV translated key words and phrases, but also looking at the overall translation and trying to sense the overall “feel” of it. Sure, there are other, more contemporary translations that have that older feel to them, the ESV and the NRSV, as well as the NASB, but something just isn’t quite right with them. The NRSV has so much contemporary phrasing and inclusive language; the NASB has the odd word order and stiffness, and for some reason the ESV leaves me with a sense that it’s a newer translation trying to be an older translation, like there’s some fakery going on here and there. Of course, I’m overemphasizing their faults just to make a point; in reality I think they’re all better than what I just said.
But I have found in the NKJV a version that hearkens back to my youth, back when I was a toddler learning to walk with the Lord. It feels so right, because it feels so comfortable. It retains the cadences and poetic feel of the KJV which I heard in the old Methodist Church of my childhood. Indeed, it uses the same manuscripts. Yet it uses English I can understand, for the most part. It’s not perfect – no translation is. (Bet you never heard that before!)
As an “old guy”, I really like the feel of a physical Bible in my hands. I use the different translations online and downloaded on my computer in my own Bible study, and that works. But I’m not yet to the point where I want to invest money in a small electronic device to carry along with me wherever I go, particularly to church. That day may come, but for now I am in love with paper and leather. And while I had a bonded leather NKJV to start with, it was too big and uncomfortable to carry and use, and so I neglected it. But as I told my co-worker the other day, I think if I had a NKJV in the smaller “personal size”, i.e., 5 1/2″ by 8 1/2″ or so, with large print…10-12 pt…just a reference Bible in that form, I would probably use it. In fact I would probably wear it out! I have already worn out two such Bibles over the past 15 years or so, first a NKJV and then a NASB.
Well, I was right! A little over a week ago I went into our local Christian bookstore and discovered they were selling a personal size giant print NKJV reference Bible in bonded leather for about $26. It was precious little over the price of ordering the very same Bible through CBD and paying shipping, so I picked out the one I wanted, paid for it, and walked out with my new NKJV. Since then I have been …uh, you might say…POWER-reading it. It’s been almost my constant companion. And I have found it to be a very comfortable Bible for me. And I’m sure I’ll be wearing it out some day, and maybe going back for another.
Yes, we all need to be open to something new. But still, there’s something to be said for comfort.