Monday, September 15, 2008

Why I Preach and Teach from the NKJV

Sometimes within church life the bible translation that the pastor uses can be a big deal. In some situations, it even leads to problems. I'm thrilled that is not the case at Chevis Oaks Baptist.

As I have preached in several churches over the last 5 years or so, I have used various translations. Up until this year, I hadn't really decided on which version to use. Quite honestly, I'm not sure exactly why I used certain translations in the past. That changed this year as I began thinking about preaching consistently within one church family.

Since coming to Chevis Oaks, I have been preaching from the New King James Version of the Bible.

As I began to think about what version to use, I first made up my mind to choose one version and stick with it. I at least knew enough to know that the people listening would want consistency in version choice. Over time, some people tend to purchase bibles that are the same version their pastors use so that they can follow along more easily during the sermon. This has already happened here with several folks buying NKJVs.

As I was deciding on a version to use, I held one assumption: there are several good translations of the bible in English. Some people disagree with this and believe one version is simply the best, and should therefore be used due to its superiority. I have yet to be convinced of that. As I have looked at the original languages (I don't claim to be any sort of expert), and then looked at English translations, I have found the following to be good translations: the King James Version (KJV), the New King James Version (NKJV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the English Standard Version (ESV), the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), and the International Standard Version (ISV). All are basically word-for-word translations that do a good job of expressing the meaning of the original authors. To see a good comparison of several different versions, click here.

When I study, I don't stick with one version. I recommend to any bible teachers that you look at several versions when analyzing any passage. If you can afford it, purchase Bibleworks. It has helped me a great deal.

At a personal level, my favorite translation is the ESV. The reason is that it is a good translation that is also very readable. I don't struggle with any of the language and at the same time I know that it is an accurate translation. The HCSB is similar.

When I blog, I usually bounce back-and-forth between the ESV and NKJV depending on what I am writing about.

Now to preaching and teaching. Why do I use the NKJV? The reason is simple: it is what I think is best for this church family. Many of the members of Chevis Oaks enjoy the KJV. However, there are others who use a modern translation such as the NIV (New International Version). I have found the NKJV to be a good "middle-ground" between those two versions. A person can listen to a sermon from the NKJV and still follow along with either a KJV or an NIV. Since the goal of preaching is to teach people what the bible says in order to bring about a life-change, it makes obvious sense to use a bible that they can understand in the first place.

This is a very small sacrifice on my part. I do it because it is what I believe will most build up the body here at Chevis Oaks. So far it seems to be working well.

11 comments:

Les Puryear said...

Eric,

Good post. I also use the NKJV for preaching for many of the very same reasons you cited. Great minds think alike, eh?

BTW, your booklets will be in the mail on Tuesday, Sept. 16.

Les

Micah said...

Eric,

I'm with you on using both ESV and KJV. For the most part, I read the ESV but I often check it against the KJV. While I think the ESV is the best plain-English translation, I find that many times the KJV uses words and phrases that better reflect the original Hebrew or Greek manuscripts. Also, the ESV omits certains texts such as the Johannine comma in 1st John Chapter Five:

1 John 5:7-8 ESV
(7) For there are three that testify:
(8) the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

1 John 5:7-8 KJV
(7) For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
(8) And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

The ESV also omits Mark 9:44 and 9:46.

Also, you mentioned the Bibleworks software. Have you tried E-sword? It is a free download and has tons of available add-on features that are also free to download. It comes equipped with a KJV and an integrated Strong's Hebrew and Greek Concordance. The KJV that comes with it has the concordance incorporated into it with a little green number above and to the right of each word, representing Strong's word-numbering system. When you roll your mouse over the number or click on it, you can see the Greek or Hebrew word and its definition. You can also download for free a plethora of different versions of the Bible, full Bible commentaries such as John Gill's, Bible dictionaries, maps and graphics, devotions and even library collections such as the complete works of John Bunyan and John Newton. Some of my favorite features are the Strong's concordance and the embedded "compare" and "parallel" tools which allow you to simultaneouslty look at the same passage of scripture in different versions. This is really helpful when I'm comparing the ESV and KJV since I bounce back and forth between the two as well. You can check out E-sword at e-sword.net

Great post,

Micah

Alan said...

Eric,
We are just starting to study textual criticism in my exegesis class and as I started to read this post I thought "How could he pick the NKJV?" Now having finished reading the post I think your reasons are top-notch and show a true pastoral heart. Great post and thanks for the motivational look into your pastoral thinking, the folks at Chevis Oaks are truly blessed!

Eric said...

Les,

Thanks for the kind comment. I'm looking forward to passing out more of your small church booklets here at Chevis Oaks.

Eric said...

Micah,

Thanks for the info. about e-sword. I have been using it for several years. It is a nice compliment to Bibleworks.

I agree that the ESV and the KJV are beneficial to study together. It always seems wise to be looking at several different translations.

Eric said...

Alan,

Thank you for the encouragement. I hope my motivations are in the right place.

I'm interested to know if you have come to any conclusions, based on your text criticism class, about quality of translations. If you learn anything that really stands out (such as particular benefits or negatives about a certain translation), please let me know.

Thanks!

RHEA said...

Eric:

Just wanted to say that I really liked this post. It's obvious that you picked the NKJV for all the right reasons. You truly have the heart of a shepherd. The people at Chevis Oaks really are blessed to have you there.

Eric said...

Rhea,

Thank you!

I've found that several different translations are all good, so that gives options. Since NKJV works the best here, that is what I go with.

Richard said...

Hi Eric. I also preach from the NKJV because of it's readability/hearability, and I study from the KJV because I'm used to it.

My question is this:

What will you say when a user of the NA27 translations challenges the authenticity of the many, many, words and phrases not found in the textus receptus translations?

For that matter, what is your response to the "oldest mss are the best" argument?

I'm definitely not trying to stir up a stink here, but I'm on the fence when it comes to the superiority of the Byzantine mss over the Alexandrian mss. I'm content to ride the fence and preach what I'm used to, but eventually I'll have to determine for myself whether verses like Matthew 17:21 truly belong in Scripture.

Your thoughts?

Eric said...

Richard,

I'll give your questions my best shot.

Please let me first say that I do not think the NKJV is superior to the ESV, NASB, etc. I simply use it because it is a good translation and it is what fits the body of this church the best.

As for the NA27, I would say that the Greek text of the NA27 cannot be found anywhere. It is a conglomeration of what the publishers think is the best text for each verse. What I am saying is that there is no bible from antiquity that looks just like the NA27 text. Therefore, it probably is not entirely accurate. At least the Texus Reseptus exists (although I know it isn't perfect by any means.)

As for the argument that the "oldest mss are the best," that is a modern idea. People from antiquity cared much more about the accuracy of manuscripts than they did the age. Age does not necessarily equate with accuaracy (for example, and I realize I'm now dealing with the Hebrew, but it is just to make a point, the Dead Sea Scrolls are not as accurate as some Hebrew texts which are MUCH newer).

There are great minds on both sides of the mss debate. I probably won't ever make a big deal about it. When I get to a verse like Matt. 17:21, I'll simply tell the chuch folks that some ancient manuscripts differ. The good thing is that we don't lose any doctrine based on differing mss.

This is a difficult issue. Humility is a key through all of it. Getting very dogmatic on this issue usually doesn't produce much good.

We need to be dogmatic on the gospel. As for bible translation, I'm not going to spend too much energy on it.

Eric

couragehome said...

Thanks for your thoughts concerning Bible translations. It was very well said. I lean toward the NKJV, because of some of the verses other translations leave out, and am not convinced the supposedly "more reliable" or "more ancient" manuscripts are so. It saddens me to see in the latest NIV edition that "evil" spirits or demons or "unclean" spirits are now "impure". It also saddens me to see the Lord's Prayer gradually being butchered apart. I have conservative Baptist, Mennonite, and Amish friends who will not use anything but the KJV. But the KJV for me is painful to read and understand. The NIV flows the best for me, but as said, it very much concerns me. I haven't taken enough of a look at the ESV, but tend to think when it's all said and done that the NKJV is the safer way to go with the more commonly used translations, but at the same time easier to understand than the KJV.