Why do we use the New King James Version? Is that the version we recommend for your study?
When Pearl Hamilton began writing Disciplers Bible Studies many years ago, she used the New King James Version because it is closest to the King James, which she loved and respected. The King James Version is the oldest English version and one of the most literal translations. The use of rich and ancient language gives it a beautiful poetic flow, making it a joy to read and memorize. Pearl often taught from the King James Version, but she understood that many people benefit more from the simpler and updated language of the New King James. Furthermore, as you will notice in reading her lesson commentaries, Pearl consulted many other Bible versions in her studies.
So which version do we recommend to you? That is an easy question to answer. Use the version that you will read and which will draw you back for more. There is no such thing as a “perfect” translation. All translations are by imperfect human beings, and even the most perfect translation will do you no good if you don’t enjoy reading it. Nearly every Bible version carries the same truth of salvation and deliverance through our Lord Jesus Christ. The translations differ in the way the translators have chosen to express that truth in the English language.
As you do your Disciplers lessons, it may be helpful to have a New King James Version on hand, but it need not be the Bible you use every day. When looking for a Bible to use for study, we suggest a Bible with footnotes and scripture references in the side margins or at the bottom of the page. These will be a help as you do your lesson. We do not encourage use of study Bibles with excessive commentary on every page. In fact, it is better not to have another person’s commentary in the Bible you use for study (1 John 2:27). The purpose of Disciplers studies is to allow God to teach you through His Holy Spirit. If you begin your study time with prayer and ask God to open His word to you, He will bless you with gratifying insights and useful applications for your everyday life. Many men, women, and children have found this to be true. Once you begin to study in this way, you will keep coming back for more. Besides, wouldn’t you rather share with your discussion group something you have learned from the awesome God of the universe rather than something you learned from another human being?
If you are presently looking for a study Bible and are perplexed as to where to begin, let me give you a few tips on choosing a translation. I think that one of the first things to remember is that what is popular is not always right and what is right is not always popular. So go ahead and ask others what version they use and why, but in the end, you should choose what is right for you. Hopefully, what I tell you next will make your choice simple. Ask yourself two questions. 1.) Are you a student of the Bible who likes something that sticks as close as possible to the oldest manuscripts and gives the most literal possible translation or 2.) are you a student who prefers easier readability. If you answered “yes” to question 1, you should look for a translation which is a “literal or formal equivalency”. If your “yes” was to question 2, you will want to look for a translation that is a “dynamic equivalency”.
So, what do those words mean, and what is the difference? Formal equivalence means that the translator has attempted to give a word-for-word translation from the original language into English and also keep the grammatical structure of the original language. Sometimes the result can seem stilted and artificial, but the work is presented as faithfully as the English language allows. By contrast, in dynamic equivalence the translators' priority was to capture the intended meaning behind the original language as well as possible. Maintaining the original terms and structure were not their primary concern. Most Bible versions fall somewhere between these two extremes. Anyone who speaks more than one language knows that it is impossible to give a completely literal translation all the time and still make it understandable. On the other hand, if a “translation” is nothing more than trying to give the meaning in ones own words, it would not be a translation at all but a paraphrase.
The most used formal equivalencies are the New American Standard, King James, New King James, and Amplified Bible. The most popular dynamic equivalencies are the New International Version, and New English Bible. For those who are interested in delving into this subject further, below is a webpage with a translation comparison chart. In the end, if you can’t decide which Bible to get, it doesn’t hurt to have more than one. When I write and edit lessons, I use several different versions.
I hope this rather lengthy discussion has been helpful. Remember that in the long run, the important thing is not so much which version you use for study, but the fact that you do read the Bible and study it so you may grow in your knowledge and love of God, which means you will be more serious about obeying Him.
May God bless you as you study, implanting in your heart a deep love and longing for His word and His will.