Tell It Like It Is

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

NKJV 1982 vs 1984/85

For the odd person in the same boat as us :

A group of us are memorising whole books of the Bible using the NKJV translation.

Unfortunately, we were finding minor variations of wording between our different copies of the Bible. (Two printed copies, one iPhone copy, one Android copy, and

Imagine how difficult it is to get word-perfect recital when different copies of the text are worded slightly differently! The meaning didn't change, but it was impeding our memorisation efforts.

We examined the copyright notices and other info but found no indication of different editions/revisions - yet the wording clearly did differ.

Scouring the web found no info, except one passing comment in one article claiming (without reference) that the NKJV has been tweaked multiple times as a commercial decision to make it more like the NIV. Plausible, but without any further evidence offered and no other websites even mentioning that there are different revisions at all, Thomas Nelson is owed the benefit of any doubt as to motives for the changes.

I searched high and low on the Thomas Nelson website, to no avail.

I rang Thomas Nelson, and they said that my particular query would be best emailed to a particular department.

I emailed, shortly before new year, hoping they would answer quickly (because our memorisation was largely on-hold until this was resolved) but knowing that new year and other factors could cause delays.

So I was pleased this morning to note they have replied, and their reply was very helpful.

I don't know if I should reproduce exactly what they sent me, but the short of it is this :
  • The NKJV has two editions/versions. The original 1982 version, and a revision made in 1984 and typeset in 1985.
  • Thomas Nelson claims the 1984 amendments improved the "accuracy, clarity, and consistency" of the translation. Again, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, Thomas Nelson is owed the benefit of any doubt here as to motives.
  • My childhood Bible, given to me in 1988, was, by the sound of things, probably old shelf stock of the original (i.e. 1982) version.
  • All confusion could have been avoided if for example the revision had a copyright 1984 notice, but unfortunately both original and revised versions carry a copyright 1982 notice and there are no apparent distinguishing features other than looking at particular verses where wording was altered.
  • Thomas Nelson said that no list of changes between the original and revised NKJV editions is available. (I'm sure it exists somewhere, but nearly 30 years on, that "somewhere" might be very hard to find.)
  • Thomas Nelson said that all electronic copies of the NKJV, and all paper copies using the 1985 typesetting (i.e. all but the oldest copies), are all the 1984 revision.
Many thanks to Thomas Nelson for answering my questions and providing clarity on the matter. This means :
  • We can use iPhone, Android and online versions of the NKJV with confidence that the text across these platforms will be identical now and in the future.
  • We can compare printed copies to the electronic copies to determine whether the printed copy is the original or the revised/amended text, and for copies that are the original, avoid them for memorisation purposes.
It also explains why the spoken copy of the NKJV I have seemed to have misreadings throughout - the reader was probably using the revised (i.e. 1984) NKJV when I had memorised using the original (i.e. 1982).

How to check your NKJV revision in a single verse

Matthew 2:3a : in the 1984 revision (i.e. all electronic NKJVs, and most printed ones), it says "When Herod the king heard this", whereas in the original 1982 version (i.e. just the oldest printed copies), it says "When Herod the king heard these things".

Again, these are trivial differences with no effect on the meaning - which is perhaps why Thomas Nelson didn't see fit to advertise it as a new revision or update the copyright notice - but it makes a difference when memorising.

(Note also that at least in the Matthew 2:3a exhibit, both "this" and "these things" are italicised, meaning they are implied by the Greek, not directly present in it, so there is no question of variation in literality here.)

So to the rare person out there stumbling on this particular problem, there's the answer, and hopefully I've saved you the hassle of going through this research process yourself.

Thanks again to Thomas Nelson for promptly answering my detailed questions.