Having examined the translation histories and philosophies of the major KJV family translations, as well as noting their effectiveness, we now turn to a comparison of these versions in their translation of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 (comments about each translations are included in brackets).
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition
19 πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος, 20 διδάσκοντες αὐτοὺς τηρεῖν πάντα ὅσα ἐνετειλάμην ὑμῖν· καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ μεθ’ ὑμῶν εἰμι πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας ἕως τῆς συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος.
19 “Therefore having gone, make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit, 20 teaching them to guard all which I commanded to you; and behold I am with you all the days until the completion of the age.”
1611 King James Version
19 “Goe ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Sonne, and of the holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to obserue all things, whatsoeuer I haue commanded you: and loe, I am with you alway, euen vnto the end of the world. Amen.” [Comments] Aorist participle translated in simple present tense. Teaching aspects clearly emphasized as μαθητεύσατε is translated as teaching, as is διδάσκοντες. Rendering πάντα as “whatsoever” seems fairly archaic, as is the translating ἰδοὺ as “lo”. “Amen” and “even” have been added to last verse.
American Standard Version
19 “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” [Comments] Very similar to the 1611 KJV rendering, with the notable exception of rendering μαθητεύσατε as “making disciples” instead of teaching. Still continues relatively archaic language of “whosoever” and “lo”. Removes the “Amen” from the KJV.
Revised Standard Version
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” [Comments] Continues what will be the standard KJV family rendering of πορευθέντες while dropping the second plural “ye”. Updates “whosoever” to “all”, but leaves “lo” as translation of ἰδοὺ. Removes the “even” from the KJV and ASV.
New King James Version
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. [Comments] Very close to the KJV standard, with two major exceptions: like the RSV, “whosoever” has been changed to “all” and the added “even” is noted. Interestingly, the added “Amen” has not been noted with italics, though it is noticeably outside the quotation marks.
1985 King James Version
19 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” [Comments] An exact replica of the 1611 KJV save for spelling conventions, includes the “ye”, “teach”, “whatsoever”, “even”, and “Amen” modified in other translations.
New Revised Standard Version
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [Comments] Introduces the most different translation of ἰδοὺ to the KJV family, rendering it as “remember”. Additionally, translates τηρεῖν as “to obey”, instead of the KJV standard “to observe”, and πάντα as “everything”. Perhaps the most understandable translation of the Great Commission, this passage in the NRSV also contains the most unique of the KJV family.
English Standard Version
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [Comments] Maintains rendering τηρεῖν as “to observe” and follows the RSV in translating πάντα as “all”. Only translation in this family to render ἰδοὺ as “behold”, the translation that seems to be the most semantically appropriate and meaningful rendering of the Greek.
The KJV Family of Bible translations does a fine job of producing meaningful, readable, and generally accurate translations. In the brief examination of translation of Matthew 28:19-20 above, the NRSV and ESV seem to be both the most readable and effective, though the NKJV and RSV are also highly understandable and accurate. From a linguistic standpoint, the most interesting translation was the simple present tense rendering of πορευθέντες, as opposed to translations such as International Standard Version, Douay-Rheims, and Young’s Translations that indicate the aorist form of the participle. The “ye” of the KJV and ASV indicates the plural form of the command to make disciples, which has been lost to contemporary English. In this reader’s view, the NRSV seems to have the most understandable translation of these verses, the best dynamic equivalence, whilst the ESV contains the most accurate translation of the passage, the best static equivalence.
Overall, by virtue of their archaic language and structure, the 1611 King James Version and American Standard Version seem to be, for all their merits, the least effective for the 21st century American context. The 1985 King James Version, Revised Standard Version, and the New King James Version, while also effective in certain contexts, simply do not seem on par with more recent translations which have seemingly found a more holistically informed balance of literal and meaningful translation. Therefore, for their superior readability, attention to textual criticism, and effective translations of the Greek, the New Revised Standard Version and English Standard Version are, in this reader’s view, the most effective translations from the KJV Family for our modern context.
1611 King James Bible. www.kingjamesbibleonline.org Electronic.
Brake, Donald L. A Visual History of the English Bible. Baker Books: Grand Rapids, 2008. Print.
Bruce, F.F. History of the Bible in English: From the Earliest Versions. Oxford University Press: New York, 1978. Print.
Burgon, William. The Quarterly Review, Vol. 153, no. 306. April 1882. 313. Electronic.
English Standard Version Study Bible. Crossway Bibles: Wheaton, 2007. Print.
Kubo, Sakae and Walter Specht. So Many Versions? Twentieth Century English Versions of the Bible. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1975. Print.
Noll, Mark. “A World Without the King James Version.” Christianity Today. Volume 55, No. 5. May 2011. Electronic. 30ff.
Novum Testamentum Graece: 27th Edition. Edited by Aland et al. Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft: Stuttgart, 2001. Print.
The Harper Collins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version. HarperOne: San Francisco, 2006. Print.
The Holy Bible: American Revised Version. Cambridge University Press: New York, 1898. Print.
The Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nelson Bibles: London, 1982. Print.
The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition. Nelson: London, 1966. Print.
The King James Version. www.biblegateway.com Electronic.
The Oxford Annotated Bible: Revised Standard Version. Edited by May and Metzger. Oxford University Press: New York, 1962. Print.