Catholic Scripture Translations

Dear Friends:


Not long ago, I promised an article on which translations of Sacred Scripture I recommend for serious, in-depth study of the Sacred Scriptures. These are the three translations of the Bible I am going to recommend to everyone, as I find them to be the most accurate and faithful translations of the Bible, and the ones most faithful to Catholic doctrine:

The Duoay-Rheims Bible:

This is a translation produced in England from 1582-1609/10. In the 4th century, Pope Damasus I asked St. Jerome to translate the Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew texts into the Latin tongue, at that time the common language of the Roman Empire. This translation, known as the Latin Vulgate, to our day remains the official biblical translation of the Roman Catholic Church. From this translation, all translations of the Bible were made into the vernacular, until Pius XII published in 1943 his encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, where he not only called for and encouraged biblical studies among Catholics (like his predecessors, Leo XIII and Benedict XV), but also asked Catholic biblical scholars to translate the biblical text from the original languages or from the oldest extant manuscripts available, rather than translating directly from the Latin Vulgate. From the Latin Vulgate, we receive the English translation of the Douay Rheims Bible, so termed because it was begun and completed in two cities by those names in England. After the Protestant Reformation, the Church of England produced a religious persecution of Catholics and produced biblical translations not faithful to the original manuscripts, and certainly not to Catholic doctrine. Hence the production of a faithful and accurate translation of the Bible was sought for Catholics, resulting in the Duoay Rheims Bible.

The Confraternity Version:

So termed because it was sponsored by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, and translated by members of the Catholic Biblical Association, it was meant not to replace but merely to revise the Duoay Rheims Bible. The language of the English Bible had become somewhat archaic due to the developments of the English language, and Bishop Challoner in 1750 produced a revision of the English Bible, resulting in the text we currently have of the Douay Version, properly termed the Challoner Douay-Rheims Bible. Yet the English language since 1750 into the beginning of the 20th century had developed to the point that biblical scholars sought a truly accurate translation of Scripture to fit the needs of contemporary biblical scholarship. This resulted in the revision of the New Testament entitled The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, a revision of the Challoner-Rheims Version. Commonly addressed as the Confraternity Version, the revision of the Old Testament was never completed due to the publication of Pius XII’s encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu. Thus, the project resulted in the contemporary Catholic translation used for biblical studies and Liturgy in the United States, the New American Bible, first published in 1970, with the revised New Testament in 1986 and the revised Book of the Psalms in 1991, and a complete revision of the Old Testament still pending publication. While the N.A.B. does hold many good factors to its advantage, it equally if not more so holds several serious defects that fail to make it worthy of recommendation (the key defects are a flawed translation, flawed commentary at times bordering on heresy, and inclusive language; yet this issue shall be discussed in a future article). For these reasons, the Vatican required certain emendations to the text of the N.A.B. prior to being approved for liturgical use.

The Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition:

Among the recent revisions of the King James Version, it is found to be the most faithful and accurate translation of the Bible by Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant scholars alike, and has attained great popularity. It is the first Protestant translation to seriously challenge the popularity and prestige of the King James Version. A Catholic Edition has been produced since the 1960’s, and a Second Catholic Edition has recently been produced in accordance with Liturgicam Authenticam. Both are published by Ignatius Press. There is also a revision of this translation, not recommended for the same reasons of the N.A.B., entitled the New Revised Standard Version.


Thus are the histories of the three translations of the Bible I recommend. They all hold traditional, non-inclusive language (a rare feature in contemporary biblical exceptions, with the one exception of The Jerusalem Bible, which I also recommend), the language is formal, reverent, and dignified, and the English found in these translations is undoubtedly unique, for the aforementioned reasons. For further detailed information on these translations, a good Yahoo! search will give you greater historical details as to the history of these translations, as well as websites where they can be purchased. These are the translations I recommend to all for serious, in-depth study of Sacred Scripture.




Miguel Agustín Livas

One Comment

  1. Posted 03/01/2009 at 12:30 PM | Permalink

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