My Letter From Dr. James D. Price

by Gary R. Hudson

In July of 1989, I was invited to deliver a message at the annual meeting of the Dean Burgon Society in Grafton, Ill. The subject of my delivery was, “Can the King James Bible Correct the Inspired Originals?” The message was designed to expose Peter S. Ruckman’s error of making the KJV an “advanced revelation” over the Hebrew and Greek texts. Dr. D. A. Waite, President of the DBS, considers himself an opponent of Mr. Ruckman on this extreme view and welcomed my commentary. The message was well received by all who attended.

This conference not only addressed the subject of Ruckmanism, but several other topics, including the Majority Text of Hodges & Farstad and the New King James Version’s use by the AWANA Clubs. Dr. Waite led in the charges against these latter two, “exposing” the alleged “evils” of the NKJV and the “compromises” of those who use it. Anti-NKJV pamphlets were freely distributed. I knew at the time that the NKJV was based upon the same Textus Receptus Greek as the KJV. I also was aware of some differences I had with Dr. Waite on the NKJV’s accuracy. But, I trusted that Dr. Waite had done far more study into this matter than myself, and that I would do better to stay silent about a few differences we may have had and learn what I could from him about the NKJV.

In September of 1989, I began receiving bundles of Dr. Waite’s anti-NKJV
pamphlets in the mail. On two occasions (9/25/89; 10/23/89), he wrote letters urging me to join him in his anti-NKJV crusade against AWANA, and saying, “There will be CONFUSION ON TOP OF CONFUSION!” (emphasis his) -- all because of AWANA’s use of the NKJV. Dr. Waite also advised that I send for his $10.00 “full EXPOSURE” book on the NKJV, a 142-page “report” on its “dangerous defects.” I accepted his challenge and ordered his book, as well as determining to do my own evaluation of the NKJV.

Limiting my studies to the NKJV New Testament (since I am primarily a student of Greek), it astounded me to find so many places where it has superior accuracy to the KJV on the Textus Receptus. My approach was simple but time-consuming, involving every word and every verse of the underlying TR-Greek in comparison to every word and verse of the KJV and NKJV in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. I collated 280 instances of superior accuracy in the Synoptic Gospels alone (see article on this website, “The Superior Accuracy of the NKJV to the TR Greek”). My conclusion was that the NKJV is more accurate than the KJV to the very Textus Receptus Greek text which Dr. Waite and his organization claim to defend.

Upon reading Dr. Waite’s above mentioned book, I found that he had made many
weak accusations against the NKJV and misrepresented the facts. Following his
invitation of “welcoming any corrections,” I wrote Dr. Waite concerning some of his points which I believed to be erroneous. He responded to this criticism with a brief and blunt reply, attacking my motives and ignoring the documentation I had sent. On 11/26/89, I sent Dr. Waite a reply and raised a few more problems I had with his book. I have since only received one brief note from him suggesting that I telephone him at my expense to discuss our differences.

Dr. Waite’s next move was to assign one of his “hatchet-men” to correspond and attack Gary Hudson. I began receiving correspondence from Pastor Robert J. Barnett, an “Executive Committee Member” of the Dean Burgon Society. This
began a “letter-debate” between myself and Barnett which went on into the early part of 1990, and had almost nothing to do with the NKJV. Instead, I was forced in this correspondence to deal with Mr. Barnett’s Ruckmanite view that the KJV is an absolutely infallible and inspired translation -- a view that Dr. Waite himself says he rejects! One of the early letters Barnett sent me is now sold in Waite’s “BFT Order Catalog” as an article, titled, “BEWARE OF GARY HUDSON.” These were some of the most unethical and unfair tactics I have ever witnessed among those who claim to be such great orthodox "defenders of the truth.” I was led to conclude that the only use I had been to Waite and his “Society” was to help distance them from Ruckman’s teaching on the KJV, while they themselves continue to maintain some of its tenets. By the mercy and providence of God, their scheme has fallen out rather to the furtherance of the truth (see article on this website, “Why Dean Burgon Would Not Join The Dean Burgon Society”).

One individual who knows Dr. Waite and is far more qualified to answer him than me is Dr. James D. Price, Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Temple Baptist Theological Seminary in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Having consulted his expertise on English Bible versions, I wrote Dr. Price for information on the NKJV and sent him copies of Waite’s anti-NKJV materials. Not only did I receive a scholarly and detailed reply from Dr. Price, but I learned that he is the Executive Editor of the NKJV Old Testament. Dr. Price’s involvement with the NKJV would alone qualify him supremely to answer Waite’s anti-NKJV accusations. Below, the reader may read Dr. Price’s answer to Waite’s charges, which we have published for the past ten years. Dr. Waite, who is aware of the letter, has, to the best of our knowledge, made no reply whatsoever to the following. And, it would seem that Waite, who loves to pick on AWANA so harshly and “welcomes corrections” on his anti-NKJV “stand,” would jump at the opportunity to respond to the NKJV Editor himself. On this, however, Waite has refused any comment!

Dr. Price’s Letter: December 1, 1989

“Dear Gary:

“Thank you for your letter of November 17 containing copies of correspondence
with Dr. D. A. Waite and copies of his attacks on the NKJV. I am sorry that he feels that the NKJV must be suppressed and am particularly sorry over the manner in which he does it. Those of us who attempt to defend the truth should avoid offensive manners of speech. Such language tends to alienate even the reader who may be inclined to agree with the message, and it certainly does nothing to commend the character of the author. Waite’s articles betray a lack of knowledge of the version (KJV) he is trying to defend and of the version (NKJV) he is attacking.

“Yes, I am happy to give you help along these lines. I have not attempted to answer all his so-called “facts,” but have limited myself to those areas where he is most deficient. Silence about the other areas does not imply agreement with his statements or conclusions.

“(1) His so-called FACT/OPINION #4 -- This sophistic scare-tactic lacks anything factual. It is wild speculation with no basis in fact. No plans exist to revise the NKJV to conform to Hodges’ Majority Text. To do so would be to depart from the King James tradition and the original guidelines. This fact could have been ascertained by one telephone call or letter to the manager of the Bible Editorial Department of Thomas Nelson Publishers. I spoke with that department this week and confirmed that such an idea is entirely out of the question. It is a strange enigma that he would invent such an unfounded doomsday prediction against the only Modern English version that is committed to the very Greek text that he so recklessly defends.

“(2) His so-called FACT/OPINION #6 -- He attacks the integrity of the ‘translation team’ by finding fault with a few peripheral members. He accurately noted the basis on which the men were selected: (a) godliness, (b) academic background, and (c) commitment to the verbal inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture and to the cardinal doctrines. He then attacks the integrity of these men on the basis of their denominational and ecclesiastical associations. By his sophistic logic of ‘guilt by association’ he would lead his readers to believe that no one in a denomination affiliated with the National and World Councils of Churches or the Southern Baptist Convention (or who attended an ecumenical convention, or visited the Pope, or endorsed a ‘heretical’ book) could possibly be godly, scholarly, or believe in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. It makes no difference that they signed a statement declaring their belief in the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scripture -- a fact that Waite conveniently failed to report. Like Waite, I would not approve of these relationships and activities. But these things have no direct bearing on the man’s commitment to the integrity of the Scripture, nor his academic qualifications as a translator.

“It is regrettable that one or two were selected who have made statements contrary to their signed affirmation. But this must be blamed on less-than-perfect management and not on the clear intent of the guidelines and the general overall execution of their mandate. The vast majority of the men met the conditions set forth in the guidelines, and these few regrettable exceptions do not discredit the integrity of the team as a whole.

“Another fact Waite conveniently left unreported is that none of the men he
criticized had a significant contributing role in the project; they were merely evaluating readers, not translators or editors. I never saw one of the four at committee meetings nor read a single recommendation written by them. But Waite gives his readers the impression that they are characteristic of the whole team by his unfounded statement, ‘There are, without doubt, many more, were we to have all the evidence at our disposal.’ Such a statement is an admission that he made a faulty generalization without the facts -- a flaw in his reasoning that seems frequent in his articles.

“Were Waite to apply his faulty method of evaluation to the translators of the KJV 1611, he would equally have to disqualify that translation team. He would not like their Anglican denomination, their ecclesiastical ties with the state, their doctrines of eschatology and soteriology, their approval of a ‘heretical’ book (The Apocrypha), and their separation from worldliness. He would disqualify the team because one had as alcohol problem, one had his wife to run away with another man, and yet another committed involuntary manslaughter.

“(3) His so-called FACT/OPINION #7 -- ‘THE NEW KJV ADMITTED IT DID NOT USE THE SAME OLD TESTAMENT TEXT USED FOR THE KING JAMES BIBLE.’ This is an erroneous twisting of a perfectly clear statement in the preface of the 1982 edition, and it is evidence that Waite either is ignorant of the text used by the KJV translators or he failed to do his homework before making such an unfounded accusation. The statement says that we ‘consulted and/or made use of’ various other textual authorities, but it does not say that we used as the standard for translation a different Hebrew text than the Hebrew text used by the KJV translators in 1611. In fact, we used exactly the same text as they did. This too could have been confirmed by one telephone call or letter. Our practice was in perfect harmony with the practice of the 1611 translators. With regard to the textual sources used by the 1611 translators, Miles Smith wrote in the preface to the 1611 edition entitled, ‘The Translators To The Readers:’

‘If you ask what they had before them, truly it was the Hebrew of the Old
Testament and the Greek of the New....These tongues therefore, we should say the Scriptures in these tongues, we set before us to translate, being the tongues in which God was pleased to speak to his Church by his Prophets and Apostles....Neither did we think lightly of consulting the translators or commentators, Chaldee, Hebrew, Syrian, Greek, or Latin, no nor the Spanish, French, Italian, or Dutch.’

“Obviously they felt free to consult and/or use various other sources of authority. Our consulting and/or use of other authorities was of the same kind and purpose as theirs -- for the purpose of clarification, illumination, and possible alternate readings.

“Regarding alternate readings on the margin, Miles Smith wrote in his ‘The
Translators To The Reader:’

'Some perhaps would have no variety of senses to be set in the margin, lest the authority of the Scriptures for deciding controversies, by that show of uncertainty, should somewhat be shaken. But we do not hold their judgment to be so sound in this point....Now in such a case, does not a margin do well to admonish the reader to seek further, and not to conclude or dogmatize upon this or that without investigation?...So diversity of significance and sense in the margin, where the text is not clear, must needs do good, indeed, it is necessary, as we are persuaded.’

“Now Waite seems to have missed such statements in his KJV 1611, and the fact
that the 1611 edition had 2,156 marginal notes listing alternate readings in the Old Testament and 582 in the New Testament (Scrivener, xxv, xxx). The notes occasionally made reference to the reading of the Greek Septuagint (cf. Gen. 5:12, 21; 10:10), but the alternate renderings frequently reflect the influence of the Septuagint, Latin, Syriac, or Targums without direct mention of such a source in the note; yet Waite criticizes the NKJV for its similar marginal notes which acknowledge the sources rather than conceal them. He speaks of modern Bible readers as though they were naive ignoramuses who would be deceived by such honest contemporary notation. Unsophisticated readers do not notice marginal notes nor understand them.  Shame on the foolish pastor or teacher who plants seeds of doubt in the minds of simple believers regarding notes that they themselves do not understand.

“But he reveals greater lack of care in stating that our notes indicate changes from the Masoretic Text (i.e., what he regards as the text used by the KJV translators).  The KJV 1611 translators had two basic Hebrew editions before them: the second edition of the Bomberg Rabbinic Bible edited by Ben Chayyim (abbreviated as ‘Bg’ in our notes), and the Complutensian Polyglot.

“Modern Hebrew scholars regard Kittel’s Biblia Hebraica (BHK) and Biblia
Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS) to be the best critical authorities for the Masoretic Text; the difference between BHK and BHS is microscopic. But in those few places where Bg (the TR text of the KJV) differs from BHK/BHS (the modern critical editions of the MT), the NKJV follows Bg with a marginal note listing the reading of MT (=BHK/BHS). Such notes do not indicate a departure from the TR (=Bg) of the KJV Hebrew Text, but rather a careful adherence to the KJV Hebrew TR against the modern critical edition of the MT.

“(4) In his so-called FACT/OPINION #8 and #9, Waite indicts the NKJV with ‘a
serious defect’ for containing marginal textual notes. But this was in keeping with the practice and purpose of the KJV 1611 translators. In addition to the quotation from Miles Smith given above regarding marginal notes, I have enclosed copies of pages from F. H. A. Scrivener’s Introduction to the Cambridge Paragraph Bible of the Authorized English Version (1873). These pages include his discussion of the marginal notes in the KJV 1611 and their use of italics. He indicates that there are 67 notes in the OT listing variant Hebrew readings. He also indicates that italics were sometimes used to represent questionable Hebrew and Greek readings.

“(5) In his lengthy FACT/OPINION #9, Waite erroneously accuses the NKJV of
assuring the reader of the truth of variants supported by the NU text rather than those supported by the TR text. He implies that the very listing of the variants assures their truth. Waite then lists 29 examples in which he interprets the NU reading to be declaring false doctrine, and then accuses the NKJV of assuring the readers of such false doctrine. None of these NU readings necessarily must be translated or interpreted in the heretical manner he implies.

“Such accusations are inexcusable. The NKJV and KJV imply assurance of the
truths expressed in the main body of the English text. The marginal notes merely inform the reader of the existence of variations of the Greek or Hebrew texts, with no indication of assurance of any kind. Nowhere in the marginal notes or anywhere else within the binding of any NKJV is there a statement that the NU variants are superior to the TR text. This has all the appearance of another unfounded sophistic scare-tactic.

“If Waite wants to be meticulous about doctrinal details in the NKJV, let him also be meticulous about the KJV 1611. Let him explain the orthodoxy of including the Apocryphal Books (books not just readings!) in the 1611 edition and all other subsequent editions. Let him explain why the KJV 1611 (and subsequent editions) contains no disclaimer to the canonicity of the Apocrypha as do earlier English Versions. Let him explain why the liturgical calendar in the front of the 1611 edition assigns portions of the Apocrypha to be read in the churches. Let him explain the orthodoxy of the marginal notes in the KJV 1611 (and subsequent editions) that cross reference to the Apocrypha (cf. Gen. 1:20, 27, 31; 2:11 -- four on page 2 alone), many of which are still in the current Oxford and Cambridge editions! None of these things is found in the NKJV.

“(6) His so-called FACT/OPINION #10 reflects a complete lack of understanding of 'dynamic equivalence.’ All his examples may be matched by similar practices in the KJV. They amount to providing a degree of clarification to texts that are difficult if translated word-for-word. We must agree that the KJV translators followed the ‘exact equivalent’ method of translation, but this did not bar them from flexibility of expression and variation of phrasing that would enhance clarity and literary beauty.  Regarding this issue, Miles Smith stated in his ‘Translators To The Reader:’

‘Another thing we thought good to advice you of, gentile reader, that we have not tied ourselves to uniformity of phrasing, or to an identity of words, as some perhaps would wish we had done, because they observe, that some learned men somewhere, have been as exact as they could that way. Truly, that we might not vary from the sense of that which we had translated before, if the word signified the same thing in both places (for there are some words that are not of the sense everywhere) we were especially careful, and were conscientious, according to our duty. But, that we should express the same notion in the same particular words as for example, if we translate the Hebrew or Greek word once by purpose, never to call it intent; if in one place journeying, never traveling; if in one place think, never suppose; if in one place joy, never gladness, etc. thus to mince the matter, we thought to favor mor curiosity than wisdom, and that rather it would breed scorn in the atheist, than bring profit to the godly reader....Also that we cannot follow a better pattern for elocution than God himself; therefore he, using different words in his Holy Writ, and indifferently for one thing in nature, we, if we will not be superstitious, may use the same liberty in our English version out of Hebrew and Greek, for that copy or story he has given us.’

“This is not to say that complete equivalence admits the free use of paraphrase. It obviously does not. But on the other hand paraphrase is necessary in the more difficult idioms. I challenge anyone (including Waite) to produce a ‘literal’ translation of Ezekiel 41:6-7 that makes architectural sense and also has decent literary style. It would be senseless to debate over Waite’s trivial examples. All fall within the range of complete equivalence, and none are cases of dynamic equivalence. The same may be said about most of the material in his separate mimeographed pages listed by categories. I need only discuss his Category #7.

“(7) In Waite’s ‘Category #7’ he charges that ‘THE NEW KING JAMES VERSION QUOTES NON-MASORETIC TEXTS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT,’ and he makes allusion to 47 illustrations. Let me explain what most (if not all) of these would be:

“(a) There are eight places where Bg (=the TR of the KJV) differs from BHK/BHS (=MT in our notes). In these places the note explains that the NKJV is following the Hebrew used by the KJV 1611 translators rather than the modern critical editions of the MT. The agreement or disagreement of the ancient versions is also indicated in these places. (See Prov. 8:16; Isa. 10:16; 27:2; 38:14; Exek. 30:18; Zeph. 3:15; and Mal. 1:12; also Jer. 34:1 without a note.)

“(b) Sometimes the KJV 1611 translators rightly deviated from the Hebrew text (Bg, BHK, BHS) in favor of a reading supported by strong non-Masoretic authority.  When they were justified in doing so, we followed their decision and indicated so in a marginal note when it seemed helpful to the reader. In those cases where a note seemed appropriate, the note indicates non-Masoretic authority supporting the wording of the NKJV (and KJV), and the MT (including Bg) supporting an alternate reading. (This occurs with a marginal note in Gen. 30:11; 36:26; 37:36; Num. 26:23, 39; 33:8; Josh. 5:1; 21:36-37; Judg. 5:15; Ruth 3:15; 4:4; 1 Sam. 5:4; 16:7, 11; 2 Sam. 3:18; 12:24; 16:12; 22:33, 34, 46; 1 Kings 10:26; 2 Kings 23:19; 1 Chr. 9:41; 11:11; 24:23 (twice); 2 Chr. 3:1; 8:16; 10:14; 32:28; 36:2, 4; Ezra 8:17; Job 17:10; 29:6; 31:32; Psa. 8:5; 22:16; 23:6; 30:3; 59:10, 15; 68:4; 89:19; 100:3; Prov. 18:24; Eccl. 12:6; Isa. 18:7; 38:11; Jer. 18:17; 50:9, 29; Ezek. 16:43; 17:7; Dan. 9:24; Hos. 10:9; Amos 8:8; Hab. 3:19 -- a total of 58 times. It also occurs without marginal note indicating the non-Masoretic source in Gen. 41:56; Ex. 8:23; 23:17; 31:10; 34:19; 35:19; 39:1, 41; Josh. 9:7 (twice); 1 Sam. 2:16; 15:9; 16:4; 25:8; 2 Sam. 16:22; 21:19; 1 Kings 6:5, 34; 8:31; 21:10, 13; 2 Kings 3:24; 14:1; 16:6; 1 Chr. 6:57, 67; 26:19; 2 Chr. 26:2; 35:11; Ezra 2:55; Neh. 7:48 (twice); Job 1:5, 11; 2:5; 12:19; Psa. 24:4; Isa. 13:22; 15:5; 24:6; Jer. 23:17; 47:7; 48:5; Ezek. 37:16; 40:6; Zech. 12:10 -- a total of 46 times.)

“(c) Sometimes the KJV 1611 translators wrongly deviated from the Hebrew text
(Bg, BHK, BHS) in favor of a reading supported by weak non-Masoretic authority.  When they were not justified in doing so, we corrected the KJV to bring it in line with the MT (Bg, BHK, BHS) and indicated so in a marginal note when it seemed helpful to the reader. In those case where a note seemed appropriate, the notes shows that the NKJV reading is supported by the MT and the KJV reading is supported by the non-Masoretic authority. (This occurs with a marginal note in Gen. 6:5; 7:22; 36:24; Num. 10:29; 11:25; 13:8, 16; 14:33; 21:14; Deut. 1:1; Judg. 3:19, 26; 1 Sam. 2:25; 5:9; 2 Sam. 7:22; 12:22; 1 Kings 22:38; 2 Kings 16:6; 23:10; 1 Chr. 7:27; 24:15; 2 Chr. 17:4; 33:19; Job 1:19; 16:14; 19:3; 21:24, 28; 22:20, 25; 31:32; 32:4; Psa. 68:23; 139:11; 143:9; Prov. 8:30; 18:8; 19:18, 24; 24:28; 26:22; 30:31; Eccl. 9:14; 10:1; Song 1:7; Isa. 1:17; 9:3; 49:5; Lam. 1:7, 8; 2:20; 3:65; 4:16; Ezek. 19:7; Hos. 4:18; 13:16; Joel 1:18; 2:6; Amos 5:26; 9:12; Mic. 2:6; 6:14; Nah. 1:5; 2:1; 3:8; Hab. 2:6; Mal. 2:12 -- a total of 67 times. It also occurs with a marginal note in Gen. 49:6; Ex. 34:23; Lev. 9:10; Num. 13:24; Deut. 2:27; 28:27; Josh. 15:40; Judg. 20:33; 1 Sam. 5:12; 6:4, 5; 2 Sam. 5:21; 2 Kings 17:13; 22:5, 12, 14; 1 Chr. 1:41; 2:47; 3:24; 4:7, 19; 7:31; 8:22; 11:11, 44; 15:24; Ezra 8:17, 27; 10:6; Neh. 3:15; 6:18; 7:31; Esth. 9:3; Job 5:5; 14:2; 15:11; 18:16; 24:24; 40:23; Psa. 39:13; 132:3; Prov. 12:26; 21:9; 25:24; Song 4:1, 5; 6:5; 7:3; Isa. 13:15; 19:10; 37:18; 43:14; 44:8; 57:8; Jer. 46:25; 48:12 (twice); 50:11; 51:3; 52:12, 15; Ezek. 1:24; 5:6; 16:12; 21:16; 29:7; 36:5; 37:17; 39:2; 46:18; Hos. 13:9; Amos 4:3, 10; 5:8; Mic. 1:12; Hab. 1:12; Mal. 3:16 -- a total of 77 times.)

“(d) The rest merely list variant readings as discussed in (4) above.

“The data for situations (b) and (c) are contained in the paper I shared with you on ‘Textual Emendations in the Authorized Version.’ Waite should have known these things and should have been glad. He should be glad for (a) and (c) because the NKJV is supporting the KJV 1611, his favorite (and exclusive) version. He should be glad in general because the NKJV is much closer to the TR used by the 1611 translators than the KJV itself.

“Regarding English grammar and style, Waite must be ignorant of the fact that the NKJV team included a full-time English stylist who was present in every committee meeting and worked meticulously on every detail of Modern English orthography, grammar, syntax, semantics, and style. Waite’s faulty comments about Modern English suggest that it will take someone far superior to him to critique the English of the NKJV.

“Regarding the use of the word ‘people,’ sometimes ‘people’ is used as a synonym of ‘nation,’ and it needs to have a plural form when ‘nation’ would be plural in the context. For example: ‘Many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings’ (Rev. 10:11); ‘To all peoples, nations, and languages’ (Dan. 4:1). My Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language lists a plural form for that usage, giving as an example ‘the peoples of the world.’ Regarding the adherence of the NKJV to the TR in the New Testament, I doubt that one clear departure can be documented. If one is found, it would be due to oversight and not to deliberate choice on the part of the translators. The instance you noted at Mark 10:19 is an example of the translator’s attempt to match the NT quotation from the OT as closely as possible with the OT text without doing violence to the Greek text. This was a common practice in every case of such quotations. The purpose was to minimize the confusion that could occur when people compare the NT with the OT in such places. In Mark 10:19, the word ‘your’ in ‘your mother’ should be italicized, but italic script does not harmonize with the slanted font used to identify quotations from the OT. There was no convenient mechanism to do both at the same time. If you find any clear departure from the TR, please let me know. I assure you that Thomas Nelson Publishers will correct the text in future editions.

“Thank you again for sending me a copy of Waite’s material. If you have extra
copies left over, would you kindly send me a couple more? May the Lord bless your ministry there in Jacksonville.

“Yours in Christ’s Service,

“James D. Price, Executive Editor, NKJV Old Testament.”