or, Why This Blog Supports Douay Rheims-Onlyism
TL;DR: As of November 2019 I started doing all my writings in “Douay-Rheims Only,” meaning I quote the Douay-Challoner version of the Bible exclusively, unless otherwise mentioned. The following is a long, rambling, and not-exactly-coherent explanation why.
If you’ve paid attention to the last few blog entries, or even the last two books, you’ll notice a shift in my biblical quotations. While in The Magic of Catholicism I used the NRSV-CE in an effort to be irenic and in Magic of Effective Prayer I used the NIV to present as more ecumenical, the past two years I’ve been quoting the Douay-Rheims exclusively (actually the Douay-Challoner, but who’s keeping score?).
For readers with backgrounds in the Traditional Roman Catholic movement, this shouldn’t need explanation and may even come across like I’m “coming to my senses.” For other Catholic readers from an Indultarian background or cradle Catholics over the age of 65 or so, such a move may seem “comforting” to some and a “betrayal” to others (as there are many older Catholics with legitimate reasons to hate the pre-Vatican II way of doing things, mostly stemming from personal experiences). To full-fledged Novus Ordinarians, Protestants, and other readers, such a move may seem bewildering because, well, we’re breaking with 100+ years of the most recent Biblical scholarship, and the newer stuff’s got to be more accurate than the older stuff, right?
In this blog post, I make no attempt to “debunk” contemporary Bible scholarship, or the finding of new manuscripts, or so forth; I’m neither crackpot nor fundamentalist enough to go that route, and I find said scholarship useful in my own work. I will, however, demonstrate why much of said biblical scholarship is irrelevant to this blog’s choice of biblical version.
So why the Douay-Rheims? I’m pretty sure only three people on the planet would have any interest in that answer, but for all I know you might be one of those three people!
Source Texts: Old Testament
Before one can reasonably evaluate a Biblical translation for their own use (or any translation of any document whatsoever), the first question they have to ask is “What’s the original-language text behind this translation?”
Jews and Protestants: The Masoretic Text (MT)
For Judaism (and for Protestantism since its inception), the source-text behind the Bible (properly called the Tanakh) is the Masoretic Text which dates roughly to the 8th century A.D., with its oldest extant complete manuscript, the Codex Leningradensis, dating to about 1008. An older manuscript, the Aleppo Codex dating to around 920, also survives but is no longer complete owing to anti-Jewish riots burning down the synagogue where it was housed.
The Masoretic Text can be considered something of a “critical edition,” as the scholar-editors, collectively known as the Masoretes, worked to reconcile the many manuscript variants extant at the time and establish a “standard” Biblical text going forward.
Though a critical edition can be considered a new text, the Masoretic can be considered a new version of the Hebrew no more than Erasmus, Nestle-Aland, or the Patriarchal Text can be considered new versions of the Greek New Testament. The books found in the Masoretic Text are those established as canonical since the Council of Jamnia around 70 A.D. At the risk of over-simplification, it may instead be considered a harmonization of the texts already accepted by Jewish communities at the time the Masoretes were working, coupled with a concern that Hebrew had ceased to be a spoken language and so inserting vowel points to facilitate reading the consonant-only text.
[As a side note, the Masoretes also attempted to establish a standardized pronunciation of Hebrew based on their own Tiberian usage, but it didn’t catch on. That would have to wait another 900 or so years to gain traction.]
The modern standard edition of the Masoretic Text, also commonly known as the “MT,” is a scholarly edition known as Biblia Stuttgartensia Hebraica or “BHS.” According to the website I just linked, the BHS is not an attempt to reconstruct the original Old Testament:
Unlike the scholarly editions of the Greek New Testament, the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia does not set out to reconstruct the original text of the Hebrew Bible. This would not be possible on the basis of the manuscripts available: The oldest portions of the Old Testament date back to the time of the Kingdom of Israel (8th/9th centuries BC), from which period no manuscripts are extant today. The oldest direct textual witnesses are the manuscripts that were discovered from 1949 onwards in the Judean Desert in the caves of Qumran on the Dead Sea. Among these were the remains of some 200 transcripts of individual books of the Bible from the period between 150 BC and 70 AD. With the exception of one single transcript of the Book of Isaiah retained in its entirety, the biblical texts from Qumran exclusively comprise fragments on which in most cases only a few connected words, and often no more than individual letters, can be identified.
This implies a reality that we lack sufficient evidence to reconstruct the original Hebrew texts, though fortunately the Masoretic Text is not our only textual witness.
Eastern Orthodoxy: The Septuagint (LXX)
While Jews and Protestants base their Bible on the Masoretic Text, the Eastern Orthodox base their Bible on the Septuagint or “LXX,” a Greek translation of the Scriptures made around 270 B.C.
The story behind the Septuagint is that with the advent of Hellenic Judaism and the loss of Hebrew among many Jews outside Palestine, it became necessary to translate the Scriptures into the language they were actually speaking, i.e. Koine Greek. This is the Bible that’s actually quoted in the New Testament, and what the Apostles are actually referring to when they say “The Scriptures.” This is also the Bible that was used in the Early Church, both because of the decline of Hebrew among diaspora Jewish communities, and because the first Gentile converts spoke Greek (it being the “Common Tongue” of the Eastern Roman Empire).
If we go back to that website to which I linked when speaking of the Masoretic text, we find the Septuagint represents an autonomous Hebrew-text tradition even older than the text of the Masoretic:
As a comparison of Greek and Hebrew textual recensions shows, the Septuagint is based on an autonomous, in part even older Hebrew text than that which was later to attain canonic validity among Jewry.
The differences between the LXX and MT are spelled out on various Eastern Orthodox websites, so here I’ll only comment that it seems especially prominent in the Psalms, with a different numbering scheme and some differences in the wording. The LXX also has a number of books known as the “Deuterocanonical Books” not present in the MT, which were included in the list of Canonical Books decreed at the Third Council of Carthage in 397 A.D.:
It was also determined that besides the Canonical Scriptures nothing be read in the Church under the title of divine Scriptures. The Canonical Scriptures are these: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Josue the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two books of Paralipomenon, Job, the Psalter, five books of Solomon, the books of the twelve prophets, Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, Daniel, Tobias, Judith, Esther, two books of Esdras, two books of the Maccabees. Of the New Testament: four books of the Gospels, one book of the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen Epistles of the Apostle Paul, one epistle of the same [writer] to the Hebrews, two Epistles of the Apostle Peter, three of John, one of James, one of Jude, one book of the Apocalypse of John. Let this be made known also to our brother and fellow-priest Boniface, or to other bishops of those parts, for the purpose of confirming that Canon. Because we have received from our fathers that those books must be read in the Church. Let it also be allowed that the Passions of Martyrs be read when their festivals are kept.
In fact, the Council of Carthage is a great bridge for transitioning to the subject of Catholic Bibles. Even better, an abridged quotation of this Council is found in Denzinger, section #92!
Catholicism: It’s Complicated
Amongst modern-day Catholics, Bible sourcing is a little complicated thanks to a certain Papal decree in the mid-20th century. We’ll talk about this in a moment.
Historically, Catholicism also used the Septuagint as her source text, though the spoken language of the Western Empire meant various attempts at translating the Greek texts into Latin prior to the late fourth century, collectively known as the Itala or the Vetus Latina translations.
What would be the mother of all later Latin versions came in the late fourth century, when St. Jerome gave us the Vulgate. Jerome’s original Vulgate is a weird mix of sources, with the Psalter translated from the Septuagint and much of the Old Testament translated from pre-Masoretic Hebrew texts, and in practice this forms something of a link between Greek and Hebrew source materials. To see how this “link between the versions” works in practice, this Orthodox article gives examples of Masoretic readings compared to the Vulgate and Septuagint.
What gets tricky, however, is that most of Catholic history did not have an “official” Bible, though Jerome’s Vulgate became something of a de-facto official Bible as it overtook the Vetus Itala translations over the following centuries. At the Council of Trent the Vulgate was made official, and then an “official” version of the Vulgate came into being: the Biblia Vulgata Clementina of 1592, which is the Bible version read during the Traditional Latin Mass. This “Clementine Vulgate” is what most people mean when they refer to the “Vulgate” nowadays, and it forms the basis for the English-language Catholic Bible translations up to the Confraternity New Testament of 1941.
The Confraternity New Testament was the first part of a project intended to update the Douay-Rheims and bring its language into the twentieth century, and “Confraternity-Douay” Bibles can still be found on the internet and at thrift stores. But two years after the New Testament was completed, the Confraternity project got caught up in the winds of change which had just started to blow.
In 1943, Pope Pius XII promulgated Divino Afflante Spiritu, which opened the door to translating Scripture from the “original texts” instead of the Vulgate. While the Pope’s intention seems to have been a greater understanding of the text and permission for judicious use of critical methods, the result was that the Vulgate was swept away and the Masoretic Text was treated as “the original manuscript” for all intents and purposes. This was underscored by the so-called “Pian Psalter” commissioned by the Pontiff and overseen by Augustine Cardinal Bea, which was translated directly from the Masoretic Hebrew into Classical Latin (to my eyes it resembles Fascist Latin, a variant of the language that came about during the Mussolini regime and of which very few Latin students today seem to be aware).
The Pian Psalter was a rhythmically clunky effort which almost nobody liked; this New Liturgical Movement article says it “would be completely intelligible to Cicero, and completely unrecognizable to Saint Augustine.” This Psalter was never mandated and never saw wide use, yet it was found in Breviaries printed after that time, used as a base text some Bible translations printed for private reading (notably the Confraternity Psalter), and Fr. Weller used it in his translation of the Rituale Romanum. Its final fate was decided 20 years later, when the Second Vatican Council effectively discarded it by directing that the coming revision of the Psalter “is to take into account the style of Christian Latin, the liturgical use of psalms, also when sung, and the entire tradition of the Latin Church.” (SC, n. 91).
Of the changes discussed thus far, a lot of them ended up being represented in our friend, the Confraternity Bible. It is common to see these Bibles as “Confraternity New Testament with Douay Old Testament,” but there was a gradual translation process for the Confraternity Old Testament, with translations for some of the OT books included in “Confraternity Bibles” during the 1950s and 1960s, with the Psalms now being translated from the Pian Psalter. The tone and character of these Old Testament translations is markedly different from that of the 1941 New Testament, showing not just complete modernization of language (the New Testament retained “thee” and “thou”) but also some liberalization in style. The Confraternity Bible also suffered from bad timing: by the time the Old Testament was finished in 1969, it was never published but (with some revisions) recycled into the New American Bible of 1970.
This trend of seeing the Masoretic Text assumed as the “official original” can also be found in the publication of the Vatican’s current official Bible, the Nova Vulgata or “Neo-Vulgate” of 1979, which is directly translated from the Masoretic, right down to the Psalm numbering. (The Deuterocanonicals continue to be translated from Greek texts however, as the MT does not contain them.)
Source Texts: New Testament
While we see three different source texts seen as “authoritative” among Judaism/Protestantism, Orthodoxy, and Catholicism where the Old Testament or Tanakh is concerned, for the New Testament there’s broader agreement both on the list of books that belong there, and the manuscript sources for them.
Within the Greek Orthodox Church, the authoritative text is the Patriarchal Text, also known as the “PT.”
In the West, there’s a tendency to rely on critical editions. When a scholar or group of scholars sift(s) through various manuscripts and textual fragments in the attempt to figure out what the “original” manuscript would’ve looked like, the resulting text is referred to as a “critical edition.” The tradition of creating critical editions can be traced to Erasmus’ Textus Receptus of 1516 (best known for being the basis of the King James NT), with Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece as a modern example.
It may be seen that Protestants and post-Vatican II Catholics have a tendency to translate from critical editions (e.g., the New American Bible), while traditionally Catholics relied on the Vulgate before making “the switch” to critical editions sometime after 1943: a relatively early example after the switch would be the French translation La Bible de Jérusalem of 1956, later translated into English and published as The Jerusalem Bible a decade later. I mention this version because the translation was based on the Masoretic Text for its OT, and Nestle-Aland for its NT; it also had a “dynamic equivalence” style which would characterize Catholic liturgical translations for almost 50 years before being shut down by John Paul II in 2001.
(Actually no, I shouldn’t make that comparison. The Jerusalem Bible may be a dynamic translation, but its style of English was much prettier than Catholic liturgical English of the 60s, 70s or 80s. Or even now, for that matter. But that’s a rant for another time!)
Translation Styles and Principles
In the last section, I mentioned the phrase “dynamic equivalence” without explaining it. Time to fix that oversight.
In translation theory, “equivalence” refers to how closely one adheres to the text, and can be said to run on a spectrum.
On one end of the spectrum is formal equivalence, which refers to word-for-word translation regardless of whether it makes any sense. At the other end is dynamic equivalence, also called “thought-for-thought,” in which the translator doesn’t give the words themselves but rather paraphrases with what they think is the gist of what the text is saying.
To see one example of formal versus dynamic equivalence, we can look at the liturgy. When the priest says “Dominus vobiscum” and the response is “Et cum spiritu tuo,” a formal equivalence translation would be:
And with thy spirit.
In fact, this was the translation found in all Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant English-language materials up until the transitional missals of 1964. After a brief period of being modernized to “And with thy spirit,” translators quickly decided that “Hold on a sec, this whole ‘and with your spirit’ is actually a Semitic figure of speech meaning ‘Hey, and you too, dude!’ So let’s translate it to reflect that!” This resulted in “Et cum spiritu tuo” being retranslated as:
And also with you.
The logic behind this change isn’t exactly correct, anymore than the hierarchy’s current stance that “thy spirit” refers to the character a priest receives at his ordination (they’re taking a passing comment from Chrysostom’s De Sancta Pentecoste 1.4 and running away with it; he doesn’t say the phrase “and with thy spirit” – in Greek «Καὶ τῷ πνεύματί σου» – refers to the character of ordination, he says the celebrant does nothing of his own power to offer the gifts, but that it’s strictly the Holy Ghost who prepares the sacrifice!).
Anyway, that falls under “Why I can’t stand people making stuff up,” and also a rant for another time. Back to equivalence and translation.
Our Et cum spiritu tuo example showed the two extremes of formal versus dynamic equivalence. Most translations, however, tend to fall somewhere between the two extremes as it’s sometimes impossible for one language to translate word-for-word into another (some words in one language don’t have a suitable translation, for example), and it’s likewise impossible to give the “thought” behind a sentence without translating at least some of the actual words.
This creates something of a dilemma for any would-be translator, and he or she needs to find some kind of balance between the literal and the paraphrase if the final product is to match the words, the emotion, and the level of eloquence (or lack thereof) found in the original text, not to mention making a translation “sound natural.” This sense of balance varies from translator to translator, and can make or break a translation.
For an idea of making or breaking translations, we can again look at the Novus Ordo Missae. The 1974 and 1985 Sacramentaries had a “natural-ness” to their style of English even if the content was devoid of any real feeling and too shallow to foster devotion (the unpublished 1998 Sacramentary even more so), but the translation was so dynamic as to constitute an intentional mistranslation. On the other hand, the 2011 Sacramentary does a somewhat better job of literal translation, yet the style lacks that “natural-ness” and clunks so hard I can’t imagine how anybody can find themselves in a devotional mood no matter what the content!
That’s why balance is important and necessary, and why Rome should’ve just signed off on the Cranmer translations that were in ecumenical use by all magisterial Protestant denominations at the time. Actually anyone who actually studies pre-Vatican II Anglican and Lutheran liturgies will know the “ecumenical” justifications behind the Novus Ordo and the new lectionary were a clear and obvious lie, but again that’s a rant for another time.
Beside fidelity, natural-ness, and balance, the fact remains that a translator’s belief system can also influence the final product of a translation. In fact this is why we find Mary saluted as “full of grace” in Catholic Bibles and “highly favored” in Protestant versions, both of which are translating κεχαριτωμένη in Luke 1:28.
Doctrinal beliefs are also behind the use of certain verses as “lithmus tests” for a given translation, a good example being Isaias 7:14: “Behold a virgin shall conceive,” while later translations starting with the Revised Standard Version of 1952 render it “Behold a young woman…” The Hebrew word used here for “virgin” is עַלְמָה, which can refer either to a young woman who has never had sex, or simply a young woman (the Hebrew for a virgin as we normally use the term is בְּתוּלָה).
When a word has more than one possible meaning, at some point a translator just has to make a judgment call, and personal, group, or denominational beliefs are often what informs that call.
My Philosophy of Translation
Let’s use myself as an example, since I regularly translate texts for this blog, for my books, and on random social media posts.
My starting point is that I strongly prefer formal equivalence, as in very strongly. I’m a strong believer that “the reader may not understand what the text means, but the reader has a right to see what the text is actually saying.” I also believe that a reader is placing their trust in me to give them the actual text; therefore if I alter the text beyond what’s necessary for a natural-sounding translation, I’m guilty of betraying the reader’s trust.
In essence, my readers are grown-ups, and have the right to be treated as grown-ups. Full stop.
However, that doesn’t always work out in the “real world.” For example Church Latin has a fondness for using passive voice, while English style-guides tell writers to avoid passive voice at any cost, as if their life depended on it. This is what accounts for passive-voice constructions being used a lot in our grandparents’ hand missals, while the first two editions translations of the Novus Ordo go so far out of their way to avoid passive voice that that their “translations” may as well be considered entirely different prayers.
My own resolution to this is to start by translating the text as literally as possible. If the text isn’t offered for devotional or ritual use, I’ll tweak it a bit to fit the natural sense of the English language (which is sometimes difficult as I tend to speak and think in a strange hybrid of casual and formal registers), and may leave it at that.
If a text is intended for devotional or ritual use, then I’ll take it a few steps further by reading it out loud three times. I want it to be literal, but I also want it to sound pretty. Not necessarily King James-level pretty, but it has to keep a flow that doesn’t kick the reader out from a devotional headspace.
(Speaking of which, I’d like to take this moment to apologize for that Wednesday prayer in Magic of Effective Prayer and the Everyday Prayer Book series. That “fellow human beings” clunks hard, and speaks to the aesthetic challenges surrounding inclusive language in the way we word our prayers.)
If the prayer works linguistically, then it works and we’re good to go. If it doesn’t work, then I’ll tweak a few things to fix what went wrong, and then try it again. The trick is to stay as literal as possible, allowing only the minimum changes necessary for the flow and sound to “work,” while providing a finished product that would still be recognizable to somebody who was only familiar with the original.
Let’s Move on to Bible Versions
Okay, I think we now have enough information to talk about the Bible again.
Christianity is not Judaism, nor can it ever be (Judaism takes great exception to the Trinity, that’s why). As the two mutually see each other as different religions, it is thus neither derogatory nor controversial to point out the fact Christianity’s Bible derives from a textual tradition (LXX) separate from that of modern Judaism (MT). While dialogue and cooperation should be encouraged in areas where neither group compromises their faith or morals, it is likewise true that both must stand their ground on the things that make their respective traditions, well, their respective traditions.
Now when determining which Biblical source-text is proper for a Catholic, Catholicism traditionally applies the Vincentian Canon, which looks to historical consistency as its primary metric, stating explicitly: “That which is Catholic is that which has been believed in all places, in all times, and by all.” Historical consistency shows that Christianity’s original scriptures were the Septuagint, therefore an LXX-based version becomes a non-negotiable requirement.
[Notice that I am placing the Vincentian Canon above the level of Papal Decrees, because the Pope does not have the authority to supercede big-T Tradition; in fact the Vincentian Canon is Catholicism’s limiting principle. Put more plainly, this is to say the current “maximalist” and “regulative principle” readings of papal authority found among “conservative” post-Vatican II Catholics is at best a grave error.]
That said, one should likewise encourage footnote references to the MT and/or pre-MT Hebrew manuscripts, however, because these can help to bring greater clarity to a given passage under discussion.
For the New Testament, I’m not enough of an expert to determine the merits of one critical text over another, or to determine whether the Patriarchal Text is the best way to go. This is where I go with the Vulgate, both because Jerome lived in a time when Koine Greek was still actually spoken, and the fact he had access to manuscripts lost to us today.
First, you know I prefer formal equivalence as much as possible. The general rule of thumb to note here is “Older Bibles are formal, newer Bibles are dynamic,” a trend we’ve seen in Bible translation since the 1960s and perhaps currently best represented by Eugene H. Peterson’s The Message, a loose paraphrase of the Bible published in 2002 with the stated goal of capturing the “conversational feel…in contemporary English.”
There’s nothing wrong with dynamic equivalence translations in and of themselves, so long as they’re recognized for what they are. They’re not recommended for serious in-depth study, but make for easier reading to get the “gist” of what a passage is trying to say. This is taken for granted within the world of mainstream Protestantism, and it’s not uncommon for someone to have a preferred version for deep study and another preferred version for devotional use, or another for “just plain reading.”
Catholics, on the other hand, tend to be very firmly on one or other side of the fence, largely because the hierarchy attempted forcing dynamic translations down the faithful’s throats before the Second Vatican Council had even ended. The laity were exposed to the Kleist-Lilly New Testament beginning with the 1964 transitional missal, for example, and in fact while the transitional missals’ Ordo is mostly formal-translation, the propers were more or less dynamic in nature. Between the horrible mistranslation in the 1974 Sacramentary and the over-reaction leading to the 2011 version, we all know the rest of the story.
Some Catholics found themselves on Team Formal as a reaction to the literary products of those years, while others signed up for Team Dynamic. This is also what soured me on dynamic translations in general, because the “official” translation being forced from the top-down with ICEL intentionally obscuring references to spiritual or mystical elements, or the individual’s own responsibility for personal beliefs or personal sin. Again, this is more noticeable in the propers than in the Ordo. (One of the biggest exceptions may be the reference to “spiritual drink,” because the phrase potus spiritalis didn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle-room.)
So with this said, I strongly prefer formal equivalence while being open to dynamism when a text is not being used for research and not being presented as an “official-this-is-all-that’s-allowed” kind of deal. The more honesty and transparency, the more open my mind will be about something even if I don’t like it.
After equivalence, the next criterion has to be beauty, as in “Does this text sing?”
Hands down, the most beautiful Bible in the English language is the King James Version. It’s the one we all consider to sound like THE BIBLE (reverb – reverb – reverb!). We love its rhythms and cadences, its depiction of the Lord as our Shepherd, and its rendering of the Our Father; all these are imprinted into the minds of every English-speaking Christian. The King James Bible is the masterwork of 47 scholars who made a beautiful and accurate translation of the documents they were actually translating (it’s the reliability of those documents that brings the questions to our time), and the lasting nature of their accomplishment is probably the highest praise we can give their work.
However for our purposes, the King James just isn’t workable because its source-text is the MT. It also has passages that don’t belong in the text, such as the “Protestant ending” to the Our Father in Matthew 6:13 (I’ve heard various stories about how it got there; for our purposes it’ll suffice to point out the oldest extant manuscripts don’t contain it). Lastly – and this is one point even conservative Protestants have been grappling with for decades – there are some word-choices in the King James which would baffle a reader unfamiliar with Jacobean English.
I don’t write this to criticize, but to lament. Attempts at adapting the King James along Septuagint or Vulgate lines have been ongoing – Challoner’s work on the Douay loosely counting as one of them – but so far none have managed to reach the loftiness and euphony of the “King Jim 1611.”
[I once actually attempted to reconcile the Douay-Challoner with the King James, using the Pian and Neo Vulgate Psalters as a sort of go-between Latin text. Ultimately I had to abandon the project because the base-texts were too different from one another. Just compare Psalm 22, for example: KJV “The Lord is my shepherd” versus DRV “The Lord ruleth me.”]
Traditional versus Modern Versions
Somewhat related with beauty is the question of traditional versus modern English, as this is ultimately a matter of individual preference and opinion. And it should be a matter of opinion, if all things were equal.
Unfortunately, though, all things are not equal as most modern Bible translations are exclusively MT-based (except the Orthodox Study Bible which adapts the NKJV), which puts them beyond the pale for a Traditional Catholic who wants to stay within the same textual tradition as his ancestors (that “he” would be me!).
Most modern editions also tend to skew too far on the dynamic side of the spectrum for my taste, or are incomplete (they don’t include the Deuterocanonicals), or are linguistically ugly, or are under copyrights that prevent quoting long sections (most publishers are pretty generous about this, but it can become a massive problem for authors, bloggers, and so on should a given company decide to change its mind).
For these reasons, the majority of modern versions are pretty much out of the question, with the exceptions of the Confraternity New Testament which is perfectly acceptable, and the Psalter in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which is essentially a modernized version of the Coverdale Psalter. I may have talked smack about Anglicanism in the past for starting out Calvinist and then going non-confessional (and may do it in the future), but they deserve a lot of praise for the beauty of the Prayer Book’s language, for very wisely implementing a Rite 1/Rite 2 option, and for fixing the one perceived criticism in the 1979 Book’s formula for consecrating Bishops before Traditional Catholics even started articulating that criticism! (The form in question is on page 521 and is a corrected version of that used in the Novus Ordo’s ordinal; the Prayer Book brings it in line with the specifications in Sacramentum Ordinis and Apostolicae Curae, thus I readily recognize it as a valid formulary.)
For me personally – and your mileage is welcome to vary, but for me personally – this takes nearly every modern-English Bible off the table with the possible exceptions of the World English Bible, the Work of God’s Children Bible, and the Catholic Public Domain Version (the former of which is a modernization of the American Standard Version of 1901, and the two latter are modernizations of the Douay-Challoner).
And the Winner Is . . .
Well if you’ve been reading for this long, then you already know my answer. The winner is the Douay-Challoner Bible!
On the one hand, I’m a formal-equivalence guy and prefer traditional English when I’m doing religion (there are some exceptions to this, but they don’t include devotional reading!). I’m also a stickler for the LXX textual tradition, as that was the original Bible used by the Early Church with later reference made to pre-Masoretic Hebrew texts thanks to St. Jerome. This and the Western Church has historically used the Vulgate as the standard text in official pronouncements and in the Sacred Liturgy. The only English version that meets these specifications is the Douay-Rheims, with the text being spruced up and made more accessible in the Douay-Challoner Version.
Now that said, I already anticipate the reaction from those concerned that the Douay-Rheims doesn’t lean on the most recent scholarship or scholarly texts, or that the translation is different from what’s found in modern Bibles like the New American Version.
I respond that Catholicism is a religion that prides historicity, and that those modern critical texts weren’t known to the Early Church, the Medieval Church, the Renaissance Church, or the Early Modern Church; hence these texts would be unknown and unfamiliar to the vast majority of Catholics throughout history.
I prefer a Bible that is based on texts that have been known to the vast majority of Catholics throughout history, because again, Catholicism is a religion that prizes consistency and historicity.
Likewise for those concerned that the Douay isn’t the best translation, I respond that it occupies the same place as the King James: it is an excellent translation of the texts the translators were actually translating. Most people concerned about “translation accuracy” are coming from a place of unrealistic expectations, first in expecting a Masoretic base text which the Early Church neither knew nor used (not least because it didn’t exist yet!), and modern critical editions of a Greek New Testament that were likewise unknown to the Early Church because the first modern critical edition didn’t come into existence until the 1840s!
All that said, I have nothing against critical editions and use them in my own research as the occasion warrants. Likewise I’ve nothing against ongoing Bible scholarship and find it useful, especially when I had to preach a sermon on a Biblical text every Sunday. It is also a good idea to have a preferred Bible version for prayer/devotional purposes while referring to multiple other versions for the purpose of study. It’s just that in terms of my blog, my books, and devotional usage, the “latest and greatest scholarship” isn’t a part of my day-to-day criteria.
Besides, isn’t it fun to confuse your Protestant friends by referring to “4 Kings,” “Sophonias,” and “Paralipomenon?”