The New King James Version: a new face for an old friend
The Holy Bible, New King James Version
Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982. Various editions and prices. Reviewed by Timothy Manning, pastor, Long Memorial SDA church, Lima, Ohio.
The New King James Version of the Bible claims to be the first major revision of the K.J.V. since the 1769 edition, which is the "current" K.J.V. (Revision of the 1611 edition began almost immediately upon its publication.)
The N.K.J.V. claims to be "the same" as the "1611 world's favorite." Its purpose is "to preserve the 1611 King James for twentieth-century readers without violating the theological integrity, the majestic grandeur, and the lyrical cadence of the original." Several basic principles were adopted to achieve this goal.
1. Archaic verbs and pronouns were updated. Sheweth changed to shows, hath to has, et cetera. Thee, thou, and thy became you or your. But theological terms such as atonement, justification, and sanctification, which have special meaning for many Christians, have remained intact. (A notable exception is Romans 5:11. What atonement meant in 1611 is now best rendered by the word reconciliation.)
2. Punctuation was updated in accordance with today's accepted usage without changing the beauty or meaning of the text.
3. All pronouns referring to God were capitalized to show reverence for the Deity, even when the speaker may not have intended reverence—as in John 8:52.
4. The covenant name of God in the old K.J.V., usually translated "LORD" (using capital letters), is a "maintained tradition."
5. The true meanings of words were preserved according to "commonly understood usage."
6. A modern format was used: quotation marks added to make dialogue easier to follow, beginning-of-paragraph verse numbers printed in bold, subject heads inserted for topical units, and poetic structure used for lyrical passages. Some features of an old format remain: Christ's words are printed in red, oblique type in the New Testament indicates Old Testament quotations, and italics are used to indicate editor-supplied words.
7. Each phrase, verse, and chapter of the 1611 K.J.V. is retained with no deletions regardless of the textual evidence of older or better manuscripts. Footnotes contain the most common variant readings. Some notes read, "NU-Text omits. . ." or "M-Text omits ..." NU-Text refers to the Critical Text published in Nestle-Aland and the United Bible Societies Text. M-Text refers to the Majority Text. The N.K.J.V. favors the M-Text, but will retain a reading of Stephanus or the Textus Receptus opposed by both the M-Text and the NU-Text. The reason, according to Robert L. Sanford, manager of Nelson's Bible editorial department, is not "a belief [that] the Textus Receptus is the preferred text, nor . . . that recent discoveries in manuscript evidence are not worthy of attention. The Textus Receptus was chosen as the textual base for the New Testament for the sole reason that to have adopted another Greek base would have produced some thing other than a revision of the King James Bible." The Old Testament Text used is that of the 1967-1977 Stuttgart edition of Biblia Hebraica, with frequent comparisons being made with the Bomberg edition of 1524-1525. The Septuagint and Vulgate were also consulted. The extensive footnotes indicate textual variants in both the M-Text and NUText traditions. These should be useful to those who have few Greek or Hebrew language skills and who wish to compare the witness of the major textual variants. However, the footnotes make no evaluation of the readings, although they do clearly identify the source of readings that diverge from the traditional text. This last principle is no doubt the most controversial.
If Miles Smith and the other K.J.V. translators and editors of 1611 were preparing a version of the Bible today they might reject some of Nelson's operating principles. For they were not convinced that their text was absolutely correct. They recognized variant readings and included them in the marginal notes in thirteen places. But, then, this is basically what the editors and translators have done in the N.K.J.V., although more frequently.
The question still arises, How many changes can be made in a version and still have the edition carry the favored name King James? Though some will fault Nelson for its operating principles in the production of this version-edition, few will fault the execution of those principles. Nelson has done an excellent job in delivering what it promised.
Those of us who still memorize Bible texts in English and are imprinted with the K.J.V. will find an old friend in the N.K.J.V., familiar to the ear, while fresher to the eye.
Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925
George M. Marsden, Oxford University Press, 1980, 320 pages, $19.95/$6.95. Reviewed by Ron Graybill, Ph.D. candidate, Johns Hopkins University.
George Marsden, a church historian at Calvin College in Michigan, has written a book that has established itself as the standard text on fundamentalism. The volume has been called "marvelous" and "superb" by reviewers, and deservedly so.
A major thesis in Marsden's book is that fundamentalism, which became an identifiable movement in the 1920s, is really much broader in its origins and concerns than had previously been thought. It was primarily a Northern phenomena based in the cities rather than a rural Southern one. Conservative Baptists and traditionalists among Presbyterians made the most obvious contributions to its leadership, but they were loosely allied with those who were battling "modernism" in many denominations. Unlike earlier students of fundamentalism who saw dispensational premillennialism as its taproot, Marsden points to fundamentalists who were not dispensationalists, and to roots nourished in nineteenth-century revivalism and the holiness movement.
What was most common among fundamentalists was a certain under standing of what truth was and how it was to be discovered. The philosophy they clung to is known as common-sense realism. Very popular in the nineteenth century, this school of thought teaches that truth is objective and fixed: it is out there (not in one's mind), it is real, and it can be known by common sense. Most twentieth-century philosophies have tended to be more subjective. It is not that ultimate reality necessarily resides in our minds, it is that it can only be known from our point of view.
These two conflicting ways of looking at truth come to blows over the Bible. Fundamentalists believe the Bible is free from whatever subjectivism most men suffer, because God overruled the human element almost totally in the process of inspiration. Fundamentalists repeatedly denied that they held to a citational view of inspiration, but for practical purposes it made little difference, since their view insisted on an inerrancy so absolute that the Bible might as well have been dictated word for word by God.
This book is challenging reading, but it pours such a flood of light on current controversies in almost all conservative churches that all who will open its covers will be rewarded.
Speaking of Jesus: Finding the Words for Witness
Richard Lischer, Fortress Press, 1982, 144 pages, $6.95. Reviewed by William S. Bossert, pastor, Silverton, Oregon.
What makes this little book of such value is the rediscovery of what it is that the evangelist (lay or cleric) is called to expound. We may gloss over this by simply saying "share the gospel," and, of course, that's true. But the message of the book leads right to the gospel of Jesus that the Scriptures contain in narrative form, It is the story of God, immersed in the Scriptures, replayed and revitalized in the changed lives of real people today. The story is to be a giving of one's experience tailored to fit the needs of each person he encounters. Here is where the beauty and simplicity of the gospel transcends human need. It is on this point that Lischer pulls aside the curtain of misunderstanding and misguided methods. As a result, this book may realign your priorities and unsettle your operational platform.
Using Personal Computers in the Church
Kenneth Bedell, Judson Press, 1982, 109 pages, $6.95. Reviewed by Mic Thurber, pastor, San Diego, California.
The title of this book is misleading. The specific uses of the computer were generally mentioned in passing as illustrations on how they might be used. The book's focus seemed to be more a primer on what a computer can do in general, and in some cases, what it cannot do. Instead of case studies, there should have been examples of actual programs avail able to handle various needs such as finances, budgets, and membership data. Although practical ideas were not broached in a specific manner, this book will serve as a good primer to under standing a computer system.
The People of God in Ministry
William K. McElvaney, Abingdon, 1981, 176 pages, $6.95. Reviewed by David L. Anderson, pastor, Takoma Park, Maryland.
McElvaney gives a healthy and much-needed look at the relationship between the ordained minister and the laity. He also deals with the minister as a professional, with special emphasis on the "professional model." He looks at the ministry of all Christians and breaks it down into the following categories: listening, learning, loving, liberating, and leavening. These chapters will encourage church members in relation to their growth in the body of Christ, the church.