The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Apr 28, 2022

Slandering the New King James Bible . . . with statistics!

Note: the screenshots are from Accordance version 11.2.4 (OakTree Software 2016), and I utilized Accordance for the data as well.

I have a fantastic group of students at the college where I teach, and we all have a very conservative and relatively traditional perspective on Scripture: strong on inerrancy, a preference for the more "traditional" Greek texts, Byzantine, Majority, and TR, plus a preference for a more "literal" style of translation (yes, yes, I know the term "literal" has been abused, but I would affirm that the term still has relevance in describing translation technique [pun intended, "let the reader understand"]).

Now, because of the broadly Independent Baptist circles my students and I belong to, "King James Onlyism" and related issues are occasionally discussed in class (though as a school we strongly discourage needlessly divisive theological dispute). A student recently brought to my attention something he had heard, namely that the New King James version omits "God" or a name of God some 100 times.

This accusation by some in the KJV-only crowd is a classic example of statistics manipulation mixed with flat-out untruth, as we shall demonstrate, with Accordance software version 11 (OakTree Software). I will stick simply with "God" here, but the same sort of investigation could be done with "Lord" or similar terms. I feel the data below will adequately demonstrate the problem with such claims.

For those short on time, I give my conclusion here in a nutshell. If one wishes to take the TR as manifested in Scrivner's edition as the best or perfect Greek text, the closest we can get to the words of the apostles, then, regarding when to translate and  when not to translate "God": The New King James has the superior reading in Acts 7:20 (the KJV inexplicably omits "God") and Third John 6 (the KJV has "a godly sort" when they should have had "of God"), plus Acts 19:20, where the NKJV "Lord" for Kurios is a more literal translation than the KJV's "God," plus all those places where the older King James has "God forbid" when the inspired apostolic writer most definitely did not write Theos ("God") or anything remotely similar. 

Acts 7:20 in Accordance Bible Software, NKJV in the middle:

On the other hand, the KJV has an advantage over the NKJV in First Peter 3:20 and First John 3:16. 

Before we begin running the data and investigating it, I will acknowledge that some have already adequately refuted this base canard, most notably Tim Branton's informed discussion here. Although the work below is mine own, I am grateful to Branton's work for pointing me in a couple directions (but I deliberately did not read Branton's post in its entirety [though I am sure it is well worth reading] to force myself to do my own work).

Step 1: Initial search

I have both the King James and the New King James downloaded on Accordance, as well as the Hebrew text and Stephanus' 1550 Textus Receptus. So I load up the KJV and the NKJV side-by-side, and perform the following search side-by-side (my apologies if the picture is too small):

command line--words: "God <OR> GOD <OR> god <OR> God's"

I have omitted "gods" for obvious reasons. Notice that instead of having the NKJV as a parallel text, I have created a new tab with NKJV, then detached the tab (right click will bring up that option) and resized it side-by-side with the KJV:

There we see that the KJV has 4,714 "flex hits" of any of these words in 4,062 verses, compared to the NKJV's 4,660 "flex hits" in 4,023 verses. "Aha!" one might declare! "Proof indeed that something liberal or communist or new age is going on!" Not so fast, my friend. Let's take a few minutes to see what exactly the differences are in those verses.

Step 2: Narrow the range.

Since 4,000+ references is a bit tough to work through, let's narrow it down to Genesis at first. By right clicking in the gray space next to "range," I can change the range to just Genesis and redo the search (note: you can establish custom ranges). The result is 238 KJV hits versus 235 NKJV hits, a difference of three, a more manageable number. By setting "Display: show text as: references only," I end up with the following:

Now, by scrolling through and comparing those two windows, I see that the three places that differ are Genesis 6:5, 44:7, and 44:17.

Step 3: Compare the differences

At this point, I bring up another Accordance window, and this time I enable parallel texts, specifically the KJV, the NKJV, and the Hebrew Masoretic text, reflected in the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. This is what it looks like:

From there I can see that in the first line, the KJV has GOD (all-caps) and the NKJV has LORD (all-caps). They are both translating the divine name (second word from the right in the Hebrew). Repeating this process for Gen 44:7, we find the following:

A woodenly literal translation of the Hebrew, third line down from right to left, would be:     "[may] these things [be] far away [chalil with what looks like a directional heh] in regards to your servants." So the word "God" is not in the Hebrew. The KJV translators were not translating the word "God" but rather using a contemporary English expression. Most importantly, the NKJV is not omitting the name "God" or a name for God if in fact it was never there to begin with!! [This, of course, would not convince those who believe the King James should correct the Hebrew and Greek even of the Masoretic text and TR, but I consider such people so far gone into bibliological heresy that I have no interest in dialoging with them] The situation is exactly the same in Genesis 44:17, "God forbid" vs. "far be it from me."

In summary, we have examined an entire book of the Bible, comparing "God" [etc.] in the KJV vs. the NKJV and 3 verses where the KJV has "God" and the NKJV does not, but in fact one of those cases the NKJV justifiably has "LORD" (reflecting the divine name, which is usually what the KJV does, but not here), and in the other two places the KJV translator(s) has added "God" to form the English expression "God forbid," but that "God" (Elohim or anything else) was never there in the Hebrew.

Step 4: Check the New Testament

I have repeated the search for the entire New Testament now, to give us a bit more variety. There are 1,379 "flex hits" for that command line in the King James vs. 1,356 in the NKJV, so a difference of 23 instances in 17 verses, but this is actually net difference, because (shocking!) there are a couple places the NKJV has "God" where the King James does not (more on this later).

The first difference is fascinating. It is in Matthew 2:12, where the KJV has "being warned of God in a dream" vs. the NKJV's "being divinely warned in a dream." Here it is (with Stephanus' TR):

Now, you will see very clearly that "God," Theos, is lacking in the Greek. So, again, the NKJV is not omitting "God" or a name of God if the inspired apostolic writer did not actually write it to begin with (unless you believe an Anglican from the 1600s has the right to correct an Apostle supernaturally inspired by the Holy Spirit; if that's the case, nothing I say here will be relevant). The difference between the KJV and NKJV comes about from how they translate that interesting Greek word χρηματισθέντες (Aorist passive particle of χρηματίζω, chrēmatizō). The word has an interesting semantic range. By right-clicking on the Greek word I can perform a "lemma search" and see that it can refer to a warning given, often (if not always) supernaturally, in such passages as Matthew 2:22 and Luke 2:26, but that it can also refer to being given a label (not by God, but by humans) in such passages as Acts 11:26 and Rom 7:3. If somehow "God" were an inherently essential component of translating chrēmatizō, it is difficult to understand why the KJV did not translate Acts 11:26 as "called Christians by God first in Antioch" (which, of course, would not make sense).

Looking at almost all of the rest of the NT, I can categorize the differences thusly:

1. The KJV translator(s) wrote down "God forbid" for mē genoito ("may it not be"), where the word "God" is absent. Again, it is slander to accuse the NKJV of "omitting" God if in fact "God" (Theos) was not a word that the Spirit-inspired apostle wrote down in the first place. Luke 20:16, Romans 3:31, 6:2, 6:15, 7:7, 7:13, 11:11, First Corinthians 6:15, Galatians 2:17.

2. The Greek is opheilō, "I wish" or "I desire," and the KJV translated it "I would to God." First Corinthians 4:8, Second Corinthians 11:1.

3. In both Second John 10 and 11, the Greek has legō plus charein plus the dative pronoun ("says a greeting to him"), which the KJV renders "bid him God speed" and "biddeth him God speed" while the NKJV has "greet him" and "greets him."

4. The Greek is Kurios, so the NKJV translated it as "Lord" instead of "God." Acts 19:20. Thus the NKJV is more literal  here than the KJV. 

5. The Greek is chrēmatizō (as in the example above). Matthew 2:12, Romans 11:4, Hebrews 8:5, 11:7.

6. Cases where the King James adds "God" in italics for clarity, when it was not in the original Greek For example, in 1 Corinthians 16:2, the KJV has "as God hath prospered him," with "God" in italics, indicating it is added for clarity and not in the original Greek. The New King James has "as he may prosper." Similarly, Second Timothy 4:16, Hebrews 9:6, and First Peter 5:3

7. A unique case, 1 Peter 3:20. Here the KJV has "the longsuffering of God" while the NKJV has "Divine longsuffering" ("Divine" with a capital "D"). The Greek is hē tou Theou makrothumia, so, quite frankly, I prefer the King James translation here as more literal. However, is it accurate to say that the NKJV removes "God" or "a name of God" from the text? That depends on how we take "Divine." If the NKJV  translation had used "divine" with a lower-case "D" I would be very uncomfortable with that, since even an unbeliever can use the term in a casual sense (though, to be fair, the same could be said about "god"). By capitalizing "D" the NKJV translators make clear it clear they are referring to an attribute of the one true God, though I still prefer the KJV rendering. Having said that, if this alone were enough to torpedo the NKJV, then, as we will see below, the KJV omission of "to God" in Acts 7:20 would be, by the same logic, enough to demonstrate the inferiority of the KJV.

8. Another unique case: First John 3:16. Here the KJV has "the love of God," with "of God" in italics, indicating the translators were supplying it even though it was not in the text they were using. The NKJV has "love." The oddity, however, is that tou Theou ("of God") is in Stephanus' TR as well as the Trinitarian Bible Society's TR (Scrivner's). So did the KJV make a mistake by putting it in italics? And why did the NKJV not include it?

Fascinatingly, there are few couples places where the NKJV has "God" and the KJV does not. For example, Matthew 15:5 and its parallel Mark 7:11, as well as Acts 7:5 (since Theos is not in the Greek, the NKJV has italics here). Yet even more puzzling, in Acts 7:20 the NKJV states that Moses "was well-pleasing to God" and the KJV states that Moses "was exceeding fair" but omits "to God"! You can see it for yourself below:

Since Stephanus' TR has "to God" (to Theō, τῷ Θεῷ), it's a bit puzzling why the King James does not. Looking at the Trinitarian Bible Society TR (Scrivner's), I find that it also has tō Theō. So I am honestly puzzled why the King James omitted "to God."

Similarly, 3 John 6. The NKJV has "in a manner worthy of God" whereas the KJV has "after a godly sort." Since the Greek is ἀξίως τοῦ Θεοῦ (axiōs tou Theou), with Theos clearly as a noun, I favor the NKJV here just as I favored the  KJV in 1 Peter 3:20.

So using KJV-only logic (according to some), we could actually accuse the KJV of "omitting" God in a couple places. That would not be fair, of course, but that's precisely how the KJV-only logic of some works (exemplified by KJV-only accusations against the critical text for "omitting" God or Jesus, etc. but failing to adequately grapple with places where the critical text actually includes a member of the Trinity and the KJV does not: compare the KJV with the ESV in Acts 4:25 and Jude 25). 

Now, even using a sophisticated program like Accordance, the data is a bit incomplete, because although the verse difference between the KJV and NKJV is 17, the actual "flex hit" difference is 23, so there's six occurrences of "God" unaccounted for, I think. [Please somebody correct me if I'm misunderstanding the data!] But I'm worn out, and I think I've made my point. The NKJV actually has an edge over the KJV because in two places (Acts 7:20 and Third John 6) it has "God" where the KJV does not but should have while in multiple places the KJV carelessly and casually says "God forbid," an English expression that we should not be using casually, when Theos is not what the Apostle wrote; conversely there are only two places (not a hundred, and not dozens) where, if we stick to the TR, the NKJV should have had "God" and did not (1 Peter 3:20 and First John 3:16), and in the first one the NKJV translators at least had "Divine" with a capital "D" while in the second instance even the KJV translators put it in italics (so did the KJV translators make a mistake by putting  it in italics?). Bottom line: if we truly believe that the Spirit-inspired Apostles wrote in Greek and not English, the NKJV is slightly superior (at least in the NT) to the KJV as to when it does and does not have "God" in English.

1 comment:

  1. Regarding Ac 7:5, the KJV translators seem to have regarded "to God" as a superlative. They do the same thing in Jonah 3:3. To be clear, I'm not defending the continuing use of the KJV, just commenting on a specific instance.