Romans 7:6 KJB - “But now we are delivered from the law, THAT BEING DEAD wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”
NKJV (ESV, NIV, NASB) - "But now we have been delivered from the law, HAVING DIED to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter."
Holman Standard - "But now we have been released from the law, since WE HAVE DIED to what held us, so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old letter of the law."
Jehovah Witness New World Translation - "...because WE HAVE DIED to that by which we were being held fast"
Catholic St. Joseph New American Bible 1970 - "...for WE HAVE DIED to what bound us"
Some criticize the King James Bible as being in error by translating the Greek text as “that being dead”, which, in the context, refers to the law of Moses. However, the fact is there are literally thousands of Greek variants in the remaining Greek manuscripts that we have access to, and not all bible versions follow any particular Greek text all the way through. In fact, NONE of the multitude of conflicting modern bible versions always follows the same Greek texts as any other.
The Westcott-Hort (Nestle-Aland, UBS) Greek text has a different reading in it than does the Textus Receptus text that underlies the King James Bible. Unfortunately, the NKJV editors chose to alter the underlying Greek text that the King James Bible translators used, and opted instead to follow the reading found in the UBS 4th edition.
Versions like the NASB, NIV, RSV, ESV and NKJV follow different Greek texts which end up reading: “But now we have been delivered from the law, HAVING DIED (apothanontES) to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.” (NKJV)
The verb in this different Greek text is a PLURAL verb, whereas the verb in the texts used by the KJB is SINGULAR, and can only refer to the law that has died to us.
The difference is only one letter. The word is αποθανοντος.
But the word used in the Westcott-Hort text is plural and refers to US as having died, rather than the law. In the Critical text the word is αποθανοντες and it is this reading that the NKJV has followed.
The NKJV doesn't always follow the same Greek Textus Receptus readings that underlie the King James Bible. Most are minor variations, but I have found about 40 examples where the NKJV departs from the TR and follows the Westcott-Hort, Critical Text readings. You can see them here
This rendering of a different Greek text ends up teaching here that it is WE who died instead of the law that died. It is true that other verses teach that we have died to the law, but this particular verse in the King James Bible is teaching that it is the law that has died to us. This is the consistent teaching of the parallel illustration the apostle Paul is teaching in this same section of Romans chapter seven. It is the former husband that died so that the wife can be married to another.
He begins by using the example of the husband who dies and the wife is then free to remarry. In the same way, we were bound by the law, but now it has died and we are free to be married to another. This analogy is consistent only by following the Greek texts employed by the King James transaltors. “but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband...but if the husband be dead, she is free from that law.” (Romans 7:2-3)
The same truth that Christ, through His substitutionary death in our behalf, put to death the law of ordinances that was against us is found in such passages as Colossians 2:14 and Ephesians 2:15.
“Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.” (Ephesians 2:15)
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” (Colossians 2:14)
2 Corinthians 3:7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was TO BE DONE AWAY:
2 Corinthians 3:11 For if that which IS DONE AWAY was glorious, much more THAT WHICH REMAINETH is glorious.
2 Corinthians 3:14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail IS DONE AWAY in Christ.
Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
Hebrews 7:18 For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.
Hebrews 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
Hebrews 10:9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.
The Greek texts followed by the King James Bible translators read: “that being dead” (apothanontOS - αποθανοντος), and this verb is clearly singular and not plural. This is also the Greek reading found in the Trinitarian Bible Society Greek text by Scrivener 1894, Beza 1598, Elzevir's Textus Receptus 1624 and that of the Modern Greek text used by the Greek Orthodox churches all over the world today.
You can see Elzevir's 1624 text of Romans 7:6 here -
The Modern Greek Bible reads that it was the law that died, just like the King James Bible. It reads: τωρα ομως απηλλαχθημεν απο του νομου, αποθανοντος εκεινου, υπο του οποιου εκρατουμεθα, δια να δουλευωμεν κατα το νεον πνευμα και ουχι κατα το παλαιον γραμμα.
Agreeing with the reading found in the King James Bible are the following English Bible versions: The Beza New Testament 1599 - "but now we are delivered from the law, HE BEING DEAD IN WHOM WE WERE HOLDEN", the Geneva Bible 1587 (“he being dead” - referring to the previous “husband” of the law, according to the analogy being followed). “That being dead” is also the reading of The Bill Bible 1671, Mace’s 1729 translation, the Worsley Version of 1770 - "Thomas Haweis New Testament translation of 1795 "Webster’s 1833 translation, The Hammond N.T. 1845, The Revised N.T. 1862, The Dillard N.T. 1885, Young’s literal translation of 1898 - ", the KJV 21st Century Version 1994, the Lawrie Translation 1998 - "but now we’ve been cleared from the law, THAT BY WHICH WE WERE HELD HAVING DIED, in order that we should serve in newness of spirit and not in the oldness of the letter!" and the Third Millennium Bible 1998.
Also reading "THAT BEING DEAD" are The Word of Yah 1993, The Revised Webster Bible 1995, The Evidence Bible 2003, the Bond Slave Version 2009 - "THAT BEING DEAD wherein we were held", Online Interlinear 2010 - αποθανοντος - "THAT dying" (André de Mol) and the Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010.
Jay P. Green’s 1985 Interlinear Greek-English translation is interesting in that in his Greek text he retains the reading of the King James Bible - “that being dead” (apothanontOS), but in his translation he sides with the Westcott-Hort text and has: “we have been set free from the law, HAVING DIED to that in which we were held”.
Mace's New Testament 1729 actually translated the verse like this: "but now we are delivered BY THE DEATH OF THE LAW, which held us in bondage: that we might serve according to the living spirit, and not in the dead letter of the law.
Likewise the Sawyer New Testament 1858 says: "THE LAW BY WHICH WE WERE HELD HAVING DIED"
The Lawrie Translation 1998 says: "but now we’ve been cleared from the law, THAT BY WHICH WE WERE HELD HAVING DIED, in order that we should serve in newness of spirit and not in the oldness of the letter!"
The Last Days Bible 1999 reads: "But now we've been set free from the law, because that which once controlled our lives IS NOW DEAD."
The Tomson New Testament of 2002 says: "But now we are delivered from the Law, HE BEING DEAD IN WHOM WE WERE HOLDEN, that we should serve in newness of Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter."
The Modern Young's Literal Translation 2005 has: "and now we have ceased from the law, THAT BEING DEAD in which we were held, so that we may serve in newness of spirit, and not in oldness of letter."
Foreign Language Bibles that read like the King James Bible.
Romans 7:6 French Martin 1744 - "Mais maintenant nous sommes délivrés de la Loi, [la Loi] par laquelle nous étions retenus étant morte; afin que nous servions [Dieu] en nouveauté d'esprit, et non point en vieillesse de Lettre." =
But now we are delivered from the law, [THE LAW] BY WHICH WE WERE HELD HAVING DIED; That we should [God] in newness of spirit, and not in the old letter.
Romanian Fidela Bible 2014 - “Dar acum, suntem dezlegaţi de lege, fiind moartă legea în care eram ţinuţi; ca să servim în înnoirea duhului şi nu în vechimea literei. “- “ fiind moartă legea în care eram ţinuţi” = “THE LAW HAVING DIED IN WHICH WE WERE HELD."
The word “legea” here means “the law”. They added it in italics to make it very clear that it was the law that died (as it the analogy of the husband who dies) so that the wife can be married to another.
Some Commentators -
The Geneva Study Bible Notes - Verse 6 But now we are delivered from the law, THAT (i) BEING DEAD WHEREIN WE WERE HELD; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not [in] the oldness of the letter.
(i) As if he said, "THE BOND WHICH HELD US IS DEAD, AND HAS DISAPPEARED, in as much that the sin which held us does not have anything to hold us with now."
John Gill - “THAT BEING DEAD; NOT SIN, BUT THE LAW: in what sense believers are dead to the law, and that to them; see Gill on Romans 7:4 Wherein we were held: as a woman is by the law to her husband, or as persons guilty, who are detained prisoners; so we were "kept under the law, shut up unto the faith", as in a prison, Now the saints deliverance from the law through the abrogation of it, that losing its former life, vigour, power, and dominion, is not that they may live a loose licentious life and conversation, but that they should serve the Lord their God without slavish fear, and with a godly one, acceptably, in righteousness and holiness, all the days of their lives.”
Robert Hawker’s Poor Man’s Commentary - “By the coming of Christ, the Church's lawful husband, he demands his lawful wife. And, by the work of God the Spirit in her heart in regeneration, WE ARE NOW DELIVERED FROM THE LAW, THAT BEING DEAD WHEREIN WE WERE HELD; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. Sweet and precious thought! All the rigor of the law, all the threatenings of the law, its curse and condemnation, as the ministration of death; all are done away in Christ. Christ, as the Church's husband, surety, and head, hath redeemed her from the curse of the law, being made a curse for her. And the Church, brought by sovereign grace to the knowledge and enjoyment of her high privileges in Christ, saith: I will go and return to my first husband, for then was it better with me than now, Galatians 3:13; Hosea 2:7.”
Adam Clarke Commentary - “THAT BEING DEAD WHEREIN WE WERE HELD - To us believers in Christ this commandment is abrogated; we are transferred to another constitution; that law which kills ceases to bind us; IT IS DEAD TO US WHO HAVE BELIEVED in Christ Jesus, who is the end of the law for justification and salvation to every one that believes.”
C.H. Surgeon - “Romans 7:6 But now we are delivered from the law, THAT BEING DEAD WHEREIN WE WERE HELD; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
No longer is the message to us, “This do, and thou shalt live.” No more are we slaves under bondage; but we have come into a new state, we are free, rejoicing in the glorious liberty of the children of God; and what we now do is done out of a spirit of love, and not of fear. We are not seeking after holiness in order to be saved by it, neither do we seek to escape from sin because we are under any fear of being cast into hell. We have another spirit altogether within us.”
Robert Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans. Here he offers both views, but uses the KJB text: - “THAT BEING DEAD WHEREIN WE WERE HELD. — BY DEATH, WHETHER IT BE CONSIDERED OF THE LAW TO BELIEVERS, or of believers to the law, the connection in which they stood to it, and in which they were held in bondage under its curse, is dissolved. All men, Jews and Gentiles, are by nature bound to the moral law, under its condemning power and curse, from which nothing but Christ can to all eternity deliver them.”
Charles Hodge’s Commentary on Romans - "But now, we were freed from the law; How were we thus freed from the law? By death. If ἀποθανόντος, found in the common text, is the true reading, (that having died,) THEN IT IS BY THE DEATH (i.e., the abrogation or satisfaction) OF THE LAW THAT WE ARE THUS FREED, EVEN AS THE WOMAN IS FREED BY THE DEATH OF HER HUSBAND.”
The King James Bible is not at all in error in Romans 7:6. It is just following a different Greek text than that of the Westcott-Hort text which continues to change every few years. It is the NKJV that is in error. It has rejected (as it does in several other places as well) the Textus Receptus reading in this verse that underlies the King James Bible.
The King James Bible is always right. Accept no inferior substitutes. All of grace, believing The Book.