The New King James Version: In the Great Tradition. By Arthur L. Farstad. Foreword by G. Michael Cocoris. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990. 171 pp. Paper, $8.95.
The highly esteemed editor of the GES Journal, Dr. Arthur L. Farstad, has now written his first book. Those of us who have known him for years are delighted that the general public now has an opportunity to sample Farstad’s unique combination of wide erudition and personal humility. Both qualities are obvious in this volume.
Appropriately, Farstad’s initial book deals with a significant subject: the production and publication of the New King James Version (NKJV). The appearance of the complete NKJV in 1982 (the New Testament appeared in 1979) was a major publishing event. When one considers that the users of the King James Version itself normally have the revised edition of 1769, the need for a thorough and modernized revision of the KJV is obvious. The NKJV has met that need in an extremely satisfactory way.
Farstad’s book tells how this achievement was realized. The reader of this well-written little volume will get all the information he needs. With admirable thoroughness-but without being at all tedious-the author traces the history of the English Bible through the 1769 revision of the KJV and also explains the principles and procedures that went into the making of the NKJV. Farstad knows whereof he speaks. He served as the New Testament editor for this version and was later named Executive Editor for the entire Bible.
The presentation of the material in this book is organized well and carries some original touches. Fundamentally, there are three units in the volume focusing successively on three important considerations in translation: Accuracy (Part 1), Beauty (Part 2), and Completeness (Part 3). Each of these units contains four chapters, with the chapters under “Beauty” bearing titles that echo the famous refrain about bridal attire “Something Old,” “Something New,” “Something Borrowed,” “Something Blue.” Under the last of these chapters, the writer discusses the problem of “blue” or vulgar language which sometimes offends readers of the old KJV! Clearly this author is no stodgy scholar. Instead, as all who know him will attest, he is a scholar with a flair for art.
In a volume so interesting, but so packed with valuable information, there is little to find fault with. Here and there, however, there is a point or two that could stand further defense or clarification. For example, in Isaiah 53 (discussed on pp. 75–77), the NKJV does not adequately clarify the old KJV in v 9. The NKJV reads: “And they made His grave with the wicked-But with the rich in His death.” The English reader is likely to be puzzled by the last half of the verse and especially by the “but” which the NKJV has introduced. Farstad’s comment on this verse (p. 77) implies to this reviewer a meaning which would have been better communicated by introducing a “He was” into the text: “But He was with the rich in His death.” The King James Version’s commendable use of italics for supplied words, which the NKJV wisely retains, would have made clear that the expression “He was” had been furnished for clarification. But such problems as this are few and far between in Farstad’s book.
Finally, the reader should be encouraged to savor the many vivid expressions with which the author has enlivened his work. For instance, in one place he reminisces about a high school Latin play which “got a good laugh in the 1950’s” and “the gist” of which was “that Latin is alive and well in Washington, D.C., among other places”! He goes on to affirm that “Latin is also alive and well in a modified form in the English language.” Not bad as a far-from-stuffy introduction to the subject of Latin’s contribution to English and its influence on Bible translation. Elsewhere this creative writer can say: “We have no desire to pillory the seventeenth-century translators”! Since the pillory was an instrument of punishment well-known in the 17th century, this statement can be described as an historical “pun.” It is vintage Farstad for all who know him.
Naturally Dr. Farstad had to find a place in this volume for his “faithful canine companion, Mr. Chips,” and he has done so on p. 41. Visitors to the writer’s home can easily envision this loyal dog lying on the sofa or on the floor as his owner diligently produced the manuscript of this book. This reviewer can only say that if “Chippy” (as we usually call him) can be credited with any measure of inspiration for this fine little volume, he should be made available on loan to other aspiring authors as well!
Get this book. It’s well worth your time.
Zane C. Hodges
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society