A New Pulpit Bible: Transitioning from NKJV to NASB

"...last fall I taught a Sunday evening series, 'How We Got Our Bible' in part to prepare us for a change.... The final lesson was entitled, 'Choosing a Translation.'" - Kit Johnson

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T Howard's picture

Kit Johnson wrote:
 I have been preaching from the NKJV for the past 6 years. I have been mostly pleased with the translation. It’s faithful to the original languages, and it’s fairly readable. My only significant complaint is that the NKJV is based off the Textus Receptus....These discoveries do not affect the overall message of the New Testament or any major doctrines, but they do occasionally affect the finer nuances of the text, and they slightly affect the meaning of some of them.

As I'm understanding what Kit is saying, he's no longer preaching from the NKJV because of "finer nuances" and "slight" changes of meaning, none of which affects its overall faithfulness or readability. That seems like an odd reason to not use an English translation, especially because there are also "finer nuances" and "slight" changes of meaning between English translations that use the same underlying Greek text.

Kit Johnson wrote:
When you preach expositionally as we do, it’s hard to ignore these nuances, and I have become increasingly frustrated by the need to spend precious time on Sundays talking about textual variants.

Just because you preach from an English translation that uses the NA27 or NA28 Greek text doesn't mean you eliminate the need to address textual variants. A preacher should always consider the textual variants in his passage and understand their importance and viability. So saying you're switching from the NKJV to another English translation to avoid dealing with textual variants in your sermons is also a bit odd.

Kit Johnson wrote:
Some translations are more literal, while others are more readable. Both issues are important.... For example, we shouldn’t expect a Ph.D. student who is doing detailed exegetical work to use the same translation as someone reading the Bible for the first time or a child learning to read. The Ph.D. student needs a more precise, literal translation; whereas, a new believer or a child will benefit from a more readable translation, what is called functional equivalency.

I know several Greek professors who prefer the NIV over the NASB. Why? They feel the NASB translates the text like a first-year Greek student. These same professors will tell you that when using English translations, you should not rely on just one, but look at multiple translations because they all can be helpful. Furthermore, the assertion that a Ph.D. student needs a different English translation than a new believer is both ridiculous and damaging. First, a Ph.D. student doing detailed exegetical work should be using the original languages and not relying on one "more precise, literal translation". Second, this assertion leads people to believe that only the most literal translation (interlinear anyone?) is the real Word of God because that is the only translation that Bible scholars use.  Come on now.

Kit Johnson wrote:
However, as the individual matures, he or she will increasingly benefit from a more literal translation. This is because the further a translation moves toward functional equivalence, the more the translators’ theological and exegetical assumptions will necessarily influence the translation.

If we're talking about moving from the Message (i.e. a paraphrase) to an actual translation, then I might actually buy this argument. But moving from the NKJV to the NASB? I don't think so.

Craig Toliver's picture

He took the right approach:

  • He did not make an immediate change
  • Informed the PC going in
  • Educated the church
  • Not NASB only
  • Picked his favored choice

Good job

[I'm ESVOnly ... ha ha]

T Howard's picture

Craig Toliver wrote:

He took the right approach:

  • He did not make an immediate change
  • Informed the PC going in
  • Educated the church
  • Not NASB only
  • Picked his favored choice

Good job

[I'm ESVOnly ... ha ha]

I agree with his approach. I disagree with his stated reasoning.

T Howard's picture

Helpful reminders from Mounce when it comes to English translations of the Bible

The Myth of "Literal Translations"

Is Dynamic Equivalent a Dirty Word?

Literal Translations and Paraphrases

Literally, There is No Such Thing as Literal

Rodney Decker also published several articles about this topic in Themelios, the Baptist Bulletin, and the Journal of Ministry and Theology. I think one of his articles on the NIV 2011 was even published on Sharper Iron.

David Alan Black occasionally blogs about this topic as well. More recently, see here and here.

Paul Henebury's picture

I am a Majority Text guy and I prefer the NKJV.  However, the NASB is an excellent translation of the eclectic text and I would be fine using it.  More important in my view is translation policy.    

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.