Friday, May 16, 2014

The NKJV—Just “Easier to Read,” or an Inferior Translation that, Among other Problems, is Weaker on Sodomy?

Is the NKJV simply an easier-to-read update of the King James Version, or does it alter—for the worse—the sense of the KJV?  Consider, as a representative example, the following passages from the KJV:

Deut. 23:17 There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.
1Kings 14:24 And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.
1Kings 15:12 And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.
1Kings 22:46 And the remnant of the sodomites, which remained in the days of his father Asa, he took out of the land.
2Kings 23:7 And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove.

These passages are rendered as follows in the NKJV:

Deut. 23:17 “There shall be no ritual harlot of the daughters of Israel, or a perverted one of the sons of Israel.
1Kings 14:24 And there were also perverted persons in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.
1Kings 15:12 And he banished the perverted persons from the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.
1Kings 22:46 And the rest of the perverted persons, who remained in the days of his father Asa, he banished from the land.
2Kings 23:7 Then he tore down the ritual booths of the perverted persons that were in the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the wooden image.

Do you notice something that is missing? Yes, every reference to the abomination of homosexuality is gone in these passages. In fact, the word “sodomite” is entirely absent from the NKJV. The NKJV is weaker on homosexuality than the KJV.

While it is outside the scope of this post to examine this question in detail, the translation “sodomite” is correct and indubitably superior to the translation found in the NKJV in these texts.  In the words of a non-KJVO and modern-version supporting scholar:

[H]omosexual connotations belong to the Hebrew. . . . Rather, the terms of both the Hebrew text and the LXX suggest cultic prostitution and homosexual practice. . . . [H]omosexual practice cannot be eliminated from the range of meaning in light of the linguistic and cultural contexts.
            The Hebrew texts and their Greek renderings have much to contribute to modern discussions of the Biblical teaching regarding sodomy. The Scriptures address sodomy in Gentile (universal) contexts (Gen 18:25; 19:1–8; Judges 19), in everyday Jewish legal settings (Leviticus 18; 20), and in religious worship (uses of qades in Deuteronomy and Kings). The sense is always condemning. Indeed the divine judgment exercised on Sodom is intended to be a perpetual warning to Gentile nations as well as to Israel (Luke 17:26–37). Homosexual conduct validated Sodom’s evil (Gen 13:13; 18:17–21). It was culpable before the “judge of all the earth” (18:25).
            The passages make a significant contribution to ethics and civil law (cf. Rom 1:26–27; 1 Tim 1:8–11). Western society should heed this revelation in the formulation of its ethics and laws. There is Biblical and historical precedent for the criminalization of homosexual practice. . . .
            It is important to point out that the KJV . . . [is] not in error when [it] use[s] “sodomite” in the places discussed above. . . . If terms such as “male cult prostitute” or the collective “cult prostitute” are used, marginal references should make it clear that sodomy is at least included in these terms.
            Critics of the usage of the LXX and of the KJV have simply not considered the total linguistic and cultural settings. The LXX translators seem to have exercised deliberation and concern to reproduce appropriately the impact of the Hebrew to their contemporaries centuries after the Hebrew was written. While they use terms more explicit and contemporary than the Hebrew, they have not distorted or contradicted the meaning of the Hebrew, for a homosexual idea was there already. The reinterpretation of modern critics has strayed too far and is fairly termed revolutionary and revisionist. (pgs. 176-177, “The Contributions Of The Septuagint To  Biblical Sanctions Against Homosexuality,” James B. De Young. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 34:2 (June 1991) 157–177).

The weakness of the NKJV—and the vast majority of other modern Bible versions—on sodomy in the texts above is another of the many reasons why the NKJV and other modern Bible versions should be rejected and English-speaking Christians and churches should use only the Authorized, King James Bible.



Ryan Hayden said...

I use only the KJV, and I preach against homosexuality, but as a rule, I don't refer to homosexuals as sodomites.
My reasoning for this is, from my understanding, the word sodomite refers to male prostitutes. I'm certainly no Hebrew scholar, bus is not the word from which "sodomite" is translated the male variant of the hebrew word translated "whore?" Certainly, homosexuality is a part of being a male temple prostitute, but that's not exclusively what it means. Maybe you could enumerate on the Hebrew for me.
In my experience, people kind of hide behind the "sodomite" word so that they can have a hateful attitude towards homosexuals. I'm not saying anybody should call sin right, it just seems like "sodomite" goes more with "hunt a homo week" and "God hates fags" than "Neither do I condemn you" and "such were some of you."

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Ryan,

Thanks for commenting. I didn't write this. Thomas Ross writes on Fridays and this is his, but I see softening in the Christian approach to this particular sin.

I don't think saying "sodomite" is easier in this culture, but harder. Sodomy historically refers to a particular perverted practice that I can't describe in public. Sodomites are those who engage in that practice. It happens to come from the word Sodom and Gommorah. What happened to Sodom? Do we want the same thing to happen to the modern iteration as happened to Sodom? God was the one that did that. That was harder than calling it sodomy, that is, raining fire and brimstone down on it and then turning Lot's wife into a pillar of salt because she didn't take it seriously. She wasn't even there.

How bad will a sodomite need to think of his sodomy to repent of it? Many evangelicals today don't think they need to repent of it. It's a non-essential not related to salvation by grace through faith.

I evangelized a sodomite two days ago. Long conversation. I read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 towards the end. That's pretty strong language there. Abusers of themselves with mankind. Effeminate. Will not inherit the kingdom of God. He was not willing to turn from his sin -- he loved it too much. Essentially his words.

He thanked me for talking to him. Do you think we help them more by softening the language that describes an act that I can't describe in public. It's not just "homosexual." It's not just that. Did you know that?

Ryan Hayden said...

I don't think we help homosexuals by softening the language. I think we help Christians.
In other words, I think when it comes to the particular sin of sodomy, most fundamental and even evangelical Christians don't see sodomites as a mission field, they see them as the enemy worthy of their hate. There is an older man in our church whose son is gay and he hasn't spoken to him in decades. I know more than one pastor who thinks that gay people cannot be saved. The way I look at it is this: we have been miraculously cured of a disease that was killing us, and we still struggle with it's symptoms. It's not our place to put down and make fun of others who are struggling with the same disease. We don't glorify the disease. We tell them it's going to kill them. But we do it in love. In my experience, the use of the term "sodomite" tends to not go with trying to love sinners to the savior.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Sodomy is a very technical term, actually one we can use to describe what two same sex individuals do with their anus to gratify themselves. They do that in rebellion against God's design. You seem to be intimating that using a very technical term is making fun of these people. I don't know one Christian personally who hates them. Show the pastors 1 Cor 6:9-12 and if they deny that, that's the problem. If you preach the gospel to every creature, you preach it to every creature. I saw the rainbow flag on this guy's porch. That didn't void preach the gospel to every creature.

Your approach does soften. You take freedom with the disease metaphor. The Bible doesn't follow how you explain it. You make it sound like they caught something and need an inoculation. They have to repent of willful rebellion against God, which is how Romans 1 describes it. They choose the anus against what God has said, which is several steps from the right choice.

Often in Bible interpretation I've noticed metaphors taken further than scripture. I could give some other examples, but on this one, there is healing and a physician and willingness to admit the sickness. Those are biblical, but they are not all that is said about sin. We know it isn't like catching something that will kill you if you don't get the inoculation. This is where the softening occurs in your presentation.

On top of this is the stand against the same sex activity in our culture. We want to keep it very bad, not turn it innocuous and less embarrassing. Shame is a God-desired effect. The less shame the more behavior. My generation did shame it. This one doesn't. The shame now is on the one who says it's shameful.

I think the new approach is part of church growth strategy. Millennials are repulsed by shame-inducing language. We shouldn't redefine "love" to "love them to the Savior." How does someone love someone else to Jesus? It's not biblical language, but to warn people about wrath to come is loving. To call sin what it is is loving. Preaching the gospel is loving.

I don't look down upon you for discussing this. I'm open to this being a blind spot for me. But living where I do for 27 years of my adult life, I've had plenty of time to think about it.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Ryan,

I am glad that you preach against sodomy and use only the KJV.

I would suggest that "sodomy" does not refer only to male prostitutes, based on an examination of a standard English dictionary.

I would commend the article by De Young above to you for a detailed study of the Hebrew terms and their translation in Greek.

The people the KJV refers to as sodomites were involved in homosexuality. I do not wish to exclude temple prostitution by any means, but a translation, such as the NKJV's "perverted persons" loses the fact entirely that at least one of the abominations being committed was homosexual acts.

God does love all men, John 3:16, although "love the sinner, hate the sin" does not fully meet the teaching of Scripture, Ps 11:5.

I believe that using the KJV term "sodomite," which ties the sin back to the events in Sodom in Genesis (which was not, by the way, simply temple prostitution, obviously), both glorifies God and helps contribute to the conversion of more sodomites by helping them see the wickedness of their sin.

Obviously someone who thinks sodomites cannot be saved is not paying any attention to passages such as 1 Cor 6:9-11.

Thanks for the comment.