The choice of a bible is a very personal thing for any Christian. I grew up reading the King James Version. This was partially a linguistic choice. Few would dispute the majesty of its language. But it was also a choice rooted in tradition; although I had access to other versions including the Revised Standard Version, the New English Bible and the New King James Version I never quite found that these sounded ‘right’ to me. Although I would, from time to time, consult the NKJV when the phrasing in the KJV was too obscure for me to understand, I always felt most at home with the KJV.
Now that I am a little older but not necessarily more mature, I’ve not lost my love for the King James Version. However, I am finding that its phrasing can be quite confusing and it is difficult to use to discuss the Bible with others. Fellow Christians in Australia are using it less and less and thus are not used to some of its idiosyncrasies, especially the distinction between the various tenses. Worse, I have experienced some non-believers claiming to win some argument by erroneously calling my views ‘archaic’ and ‘old-fashioned’. I might concede that some of my views fall into one or both of these categories but it’s not because of the Bible that I read.
As a simple example, let’s look at Matthew 5:15. The KJV has:
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. (Matthew 5:15, KJV)
I have always understood a bushel as a weight for grain: a bushel of corn, a bushel of wheat. Or that it could stand for the actual grain. Clearly I would not put a candle underneath some dried out wheat or it will probably catch alight!
Here is what the NKJV has:
Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand [sic], and it gives light to all who are in the house. (Matthew 5:15, NKJV)
Rendered this way is somewhat more understandable. Whilst I may not picture the right type of basket at least I know what object is talking about.
So, seeing that I have quoted from the NKJV you would be forgiven for assuming that I chose the NKJV as my current ‘favourite’ Bible. I did for a number of years use this version as my chosen Bible. It is, really, a laudable piece of work and I find nothing in particular wrong with it or inconsistent with the KJV. However, that also brought its downfall for me.
I found that the NKJV was too much like the KJV. When reading it I always have this niggling voice in my mind saying, “That’s not quite right. It should read like this.” Therefore after many, many years of faithful use I’ve decided to read another translation.
My current choice of Bible to read and study from is the New American Standard Bible, also known as the NASB. It is commonly touted to be the most literal translation to the extent where its first revision does sound a little stilted - the 1995 revision has, for me, cleared up the English enough to make it an easy enough Bible for me to read.
That said, for reading out aloud, the NKJV sounds less stilted or at least more familiar to my ears than the NASB and it is certainly my Bible of choice for doing so.