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.