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Why Can’t Catholics Speak English?

It is an odd thing to go to the Bible section of the few remaining big box booksellers. You can get Bibles in metallic covers with notes directed at randy teenagers. You can get your dispensationalist “Left Behind” style Bibles, with equally appalling notes. You can find Bibles for law enforcement officers, or for nationalists seeking prophecies about America in the book of Daniel.

More seriously you can lose yourself in debates about translation style. “Formal equivalence” seeks to translate the Scriptures word for word and gives you phrases that can seem obscure. What is it to “cover his nakedness?” On the other side “dynamic equivalence” tries to go thought for thought but will usually desecrate Genesis with Clintonian phrasings like “have sexual relations with.”

But if you are an earnest Protestant you can junk all the cruft and debates, buy unbotched versions of the New American Standard or the English Standard Version and encounter the word of God. And there is always the King James.

What you can’t find is a good Catholic Bible in English. Well, let me explain.

When it comes to novels, journalism, and apologetics, modern English-speaking Catholics really have fielded an A-team over the last century. Hilaire Belloc, Flannery O’Connor, Muriel Spark and many others you’d name; we’ve done well. But I’ve often wondered, centuries after Trent and decades after Vatican II, whether I’ve encountered the faith in the vernacular either in the liturgy or in Scripture. Let’s review the options.

There is the New American Bible. This is an insipid translation overseen by the bishops according to the same rules that govern modern liturgy. Usually it is accompanied by baldly heretical study notes. The NAB privileges clarity in the way police reports do: it gives you a vague idea about the dead described therein, while working hard to cover the ass of the writer. The modern euthanized liturgy deserves a Bible this Xanaxed.

My fellow Latin-chanting Traditionalists urge on me the Douay Rheims, an English translation that beat the King James to print by three years. The Douay is based on St. Jerome’s Vulgate which in turn, they presume, was based on better manuscripts than we have today. In truth the DR is a Latin text cross-dressing as English. And a bad English get-up at that. Look at Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage honourable in all, and the bed undefiled. For fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Couldn’t be bothered to work a verb in there, I guess.  These clangers, and much worse, run side-by-side with the Latin in the hand missals of traditionalist Catholics. They spoil our prayerbooks.

The mainstream option for believing Catholics is found in the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, which is descended from the King James, but adds a few Romish flourishes like “Hail Mary, full of grace” in Luke. Like the NAS and other “formal equivalence” translations it has a kind of dignity and is usefully accurate. But I find it unmemorable and unexciting. You wouldn’t read it but for an intense feeling of religious duty to do so.

Enter Baronius Press, an English publisher heretofore firmly in the Douay camp. They’ve just reprinted the Knox Version [1] of the 1940s, a “dynamic equivalence” translation produced by English Catholic litterateur and apologist Fr. Ronald Knox. This witty priest was asked to to complete the task that never was successfully forced on Cardinal Newman, though many tried.

Knox wanted his translation to be useful for approximately two centuries; it barely made it twenty years. Although it gained a wide readership and liturgical approval in the 1950s, the upheaval of the Church in the 1960s and 70s made Knox into a premature relic. But it is very useful for precisely this reason. He worked from the Vulgate but corrected with the Hebrew and Greek. He wanted a version that was 1) accurate 2) intelligible and 3) readable. And it was the last point that really exercised him.

In his series of short essays “On Englishing The Bible” helpfully packaged together with this edition, Knox explains, “We are in an odd situation. Nobody reads the Bible; popes and bishops are always telling us we ought to read the Bible and when you produce a translation of the Bible, the only thing people complain about is your rendering of the diminutive snippets that are read out in church on Sundays. ‘Of course,’ they add, ‘the book is all right for private reading’–in a tone which implies that such a practice is both rare and unimportant.”

Too right. Judging a Bible translation, particularly a “dynamic equivalence one,” the reader will jump immediately to their favorite passages and dismiss Knox instantly. In truth I’m a little uneasy with his Prologue to John’s Gospel, “He abode, at the beginning of time, with God.” But I adore Knox’s Psalms: “He gives me a resting-place where there is green pasture, leads me out to the cool water’s brink, refreshed and content.” Until finding Knox, I had assumed all dynamic translations of Scripture were semi-literate gimmicks, that they were necessarily unfaithful to text.

Instead of finding English word equivalents Knox asks “How would an Englishman say this?” Unlike committees which often make silly pre-fab decisions to always translate Greek word with English word y, Knox transposes the idioms, the formality, and tone.  And while it may seem like a silly thing to say, Knox is actually fluent in English the way few other translators seem to be. He understands slang as well as poetry. This allows him to remain much more faithful to the original and to English simultaneously. The results can be sumptuous. Consider Lamentations 2:18 “Round those inviolable defenses, cry they upon the Lord in good earnest. Day and night, Sion, let thy tears stream down; never rest thou, never let that eye weary of its task.” Prophetic and ancient-sounding as the text demands, but also recognizably English.

With Knox translating, St. Paul is so much more fully alive: disputatious, cajoling, sarcastic, awed and bursting with enthusiasm and humor. In the RSV and so many others Paul sounds like a man reading a committee’s letter on topics of theological interest to Corinthians–with a knife pointed at his back.

Even if the hierarchy has dumped Knox, for his translations of St. Paul and for the essays on the project itself, Baronius has made something well worth the money. His essays can be hilariously defensive and endearing all at once,  “In a country with a totalitarian prose tradition, any rendering of a Bible phrase which is not looted bodily from the Authorized Version sounds like bad prose,” he writes at his critics.

But there are compromises in the Knox translation. And the most fatal one is the use of sacral English: thy, thee, and thou. In the essays that accompany this edition, Knox expresses his wish to defy the English public and drop them for “you” and “your.” If he felt this way in 1949, why in the world would we deny him this wish in 2012? To preserve the short-sightedness of the committee that bullied him into it? Helpfully, a digital native has done the work for us [2]–I think of this “Knox ‘You’ Translation” as the more fully realized version of the Knox Bible.

And there is something slightly “off” about this publication. So far Baronius has only issued a thick hardcover edition with gilded pages. Although it is beautiful and helpfully lays flat for study, Knox clearly intended this Bible to be read even by those who weren’t students. Where are the editions that could actually fit in a purse or in the flap of a computer bag? Knox wanted the Bible to be read in bed and on the subway.

Further, why can’t Catholics take a cue from the publishers of the ESV [3] and simultaneously publish a Knox “you” version as an App, and a searchable web page? Why not use his translation as a way of updating your Latin-English Missals, and the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary and put those in App form too. Knox, who was beloved for making the faith legible to British school-girls [4], clearly would want this for his work. Why be more faithful to the octogenarian’s remembered experience of Knox than to Knox himself? The modern Church may have put him in the trash, but that’s not a reason to pin him in a glass-case either.

Perhaps all this pleading is a way of making the point that the Knox translation of the Bible has whet my appetite for all of Catholicism to be translated into my language, combining the Church’s reservoir of scholarship with the daring and verve of its English literary heroes. There are good reasons to preserve Latin as the mother-tongue of the Church. But our prayerbooks, our missals, even our catechisms read as if they were written by an advanced but not fluent student of English. Mater, I love your Latin, restore it to the liturgy. Magister, grant us the English, you deserve to be understood.

[ed. — Read Alan Jacobs’ response here [5].]

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#1 Comment By sal magundi On November 20, 2012 @ 9:39 am

i grew up with a Douay-Rheims bible, still have it in fact (disintegrating covers and all), and yes, it’s atrocious.

#2 Comment By petebrown On November 20, 2012 @ 9:57 am

Nice piece Michael. I’ll definitely check it out…as well as Knox’s essays on “Englishing the Bible.”

I agree totally with your assessment of the Douay.

As someone in the BS field I agree that the NAB translation is a tad insipid at times. The study notes though, while sometimes reflecting dubious critical scholarship are hardly heretical.

Another bone to pick…committees aim for consistency in translation of words so people not versed in the Bible languages can study it more easily, noting basic things like repetition of words which are a clue to the inspired author’s points of emphasis. Not a bad idea overall, though one hard to pull off.

Basically the tradeoff in translation is whether to bring the reader closer to the original text or to bring the text closer to the reader.

But your piece does serve to remind me that there is a market for “sacral” language translations as well, which have been absent for a time from Catholic Churches.

#3 Pingback By Against the RSV » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog On November 20, 2012 @ 10:03 am

[…] if he had the authority, “everyone would use the Revised Standard Version.” Over at The American Conservative, Michael Brendan Dougherty fires off a volley against the venerable translation: The mainstream […]

#4 Comment By Robert Pinkerton On November 20, 2012 @ 10:07 am

In this day and age, our English dispenses with formality. “Thou” is the familial/intimate form of the second-person pronoun, like “tu” in French or Spanish, “Du” in German, or “ti” in the Slavic languages. “You” is the formal form of the second-person pronoun, like “Vous” in French, “Usted” in Spanish, “Sie” in German, etcetera by logical extension. One uses the familial/intimate form for persons familially or otherwise intimately close, and the formal form for strangers on the street, persons with whom one deals on other than a basis of familial intimacy.

Now as it was handed down to me in high school so many decades ago, using the familial/intimate form with someone for whom it is inappropriate, is gravely rude. For example, adults might address all children in the familial form, but a child must address most adults in the formal form. One could go on, but the short answer is that this is a verbal way of establishing social distance.

#5 Comment By Patrick Moore On November 20, 2012 @ 10:28 am

Well thought and well said — and so is the comment by P Brown.

Minor nitpick (and it is minor compared to the essay): “Lay” is transitive: the phrase should read “helpfully lies flat for study, …” unless you intended to mean that this should have happened yesterday, in which case you misspelled it.

#6 Comment By Wick Allison On November 20, 2012 @ 10:29 am

The New American Bible is a standing sin against the English language. To hear it read from the pulpit on Sundays is like hearing chalk screeching on a blackboard. The New International Version — financed and promoted by evangelists — is so much bettter and so much richer. Those translators had the good sense to retain the majestic and culturally significant language of the KJV when appropriate, as in the 23rd Psalm. Catholic translators, on the other hand, display an unjustified pride in their scholarship — but that’s what it says! — to the detriment of any sense of literary worth, not to mention cultural continuity and comprehension. The bishops who approve the resulting mess can only be categorized as tin-eared .

#7 Comment By CDK On November 20, 2012 @ 10:31 am

I don’t know…the Knox translation (or at least the quotes provided here) sounds oddly flat and unmusical; the words seem clipped and dropped off, like the mail. After all, if an Englishman did not write the Bible, there’s no reason to expect that it actually can be translated into such an idiom without marring what it means to convey. And given the effect of the KJV on what “English” has come to mean in the modern era, one does not necessarily escape the problem merely by referencing a hypothetical Englishman of the mid-20th century as one’s standard.

Translations can be idiomatic or literal, and both have their weaknesses; but in the end I prefer something like formal equivalence precisely because, to me, they are more readable. After all, most idiomatic renderings come off as a gloss or, worse, a pander, so the sense of flowing, unproblematic language in our debased tongue makes me instantly suspicious. I doubt this circle can be escaped except by learning the original Greek and Hebrew. We should go back to the Bible, not vainly try to tether it to wherever we happen to be at the time.

#8 Comment By Patrick Moore On November 20, 2012 @ 10:33 am

To R Pinkerton: Thee and so on were not, originally, principally to distinguish or express social relations, as in modern French, but simply inflections to convey the between singular in the second person. To say “you” to God in the early 17th century would have been to address God as a committee.

#9 Comment By Michael Brendan Dougherty On November 20, 2012 @ 10:34 am

Petebrown, Yes, the included essays are really delightfully insightful.

But on the NAB Study Notes, the one given to me when I returned to the Catholic Church had notes denying any historical value to the infancy narratives, and denying Christ’s foreknowledge of his suffering and death.

#10 Comment By RK On November 20, 2012 @ 11:06 am

I’m surprised you didn’t mention the Jerusalem Bible, which is used for the readings in England and Wales (as well as a number of other English-speaking jurisdictions). I think it’s mainly known in North America for its most famous contributor, J.R.R. Tolkien, who was in charge of translating Jonah, but it’s generally quite lucid and idiomatic if you leave aside its strange predeliction for rendering the tetragrammaton as “Yahweh.” The first edition of the New Vulgate occasionally does the same — funny how these things mark a translation out as a product of its times far more clearly than anything in the Knox Bible.

Not that there aren’t outmoded phrases in the Knox version, though — the flipside of its familiar language. “Væ pastoribus Israël!” for example, is rendered “Out upon Israel’s shepherds.” I’m sure that must have sounded delightfully contemporary in the 40’s.

Speaking of electronic versions, it should be quite easy to modify [6] to use the Knox translation in lieu of the Challoner; a couple of French translations are already available. Incidentally, do check out the text of the Clementine Vulgate that’s included with VulSearch at that link — it seems to have been largely the work of a single dedicated mathematician who transcribed and proofread the entire text (multiple times).

#11 Comment By Ethan C. On November 20, 2012 @ 11:10 am

If you’ll permit a naive Protestant question: why don’t you just use the ESV?

#12 Comment By Joe On November 20, 2012 @ 11:18 am

Knox is in some cases more “formally equivalent” precisely because he doesn’t privilege word to word correspondence. In the Prologue to John’s Gospel he manages to convey the difference in gender in “ta idia” and “hoi idioi” which usually gets obscured since both are translated as “his own.” Knox uses relative clauses so he can preserve the distinction. All of which is to say that accuracy is not an afterthought for Knox.

#13 Comment By Karl Keating On November 20, 2012 @ 11:23 am

Good timing: I plan to push the revived Knox Bible on today’s installment of the “Catholic Answers Live” radio program.

For years the Knox version has been the one I’ve used for devotional reading, though I prefer the RSV-CE for study purposes, since Knox’s dynamic equivalence sometimes is too dynamic.

The new Baronius press edition is handsome, though I prefer the multiple as-new copies I have of leather-bound editions printed fifty years ago: limp covers, real Bible paper, gilding that flashes from across the room.

“On Englishing the Bible” (also printed as “Trials of a Translator”) is one of Knox’s most delightful and insightful works, well worth getting on its own. Catholic Traditionalists ought to read it to understand why the Douay-Rheims isn’t the literary marvel they imagine it to be, and other Catholics should read it to appreciate what it means to be a truly conscientious translator.

#14 Comment By JonF On November 20, 2012 @ 11:50 am

Re: To say “you” to God in the early 17th century would have been to address God as a committee.

By the early 1600s the formal-familiar distinction was in full flower in just about all European languages. It dates to the late medieval era when monarchs and bishops starting using “we” rather than “I” when speaking in the first person (hence the use of the second person plural in addressing them). In English the formal form “you” drove the familiar “thou” into disuse and with no replacement, which (as far as I know) has not not happened in any other language*. This process was well advanced by the time the Quakers came on the scene as witness the fact that they deliberately sought to be familiar with everyone as a matter of moral principle, but got in wrong: using “thee” for both subject and object (it’s the object form, equivalent to “me”). By the beginning of the 18th century “thou” lived on only in religious texts.

* In Dutch “jij” (more or less pronounced “yey”) also became the singular pronoun, but the Dutch developed a new plural form, “jullie” and also a new formal form, “U”.

#15 Comment By Ben On November 20, 2012 @ 11:52 am

If you’ll permit a naive Protestant question: why don’t you just use the ESV?

Speaking as a Lutheran, I enjoy the ESV. It’s better than other editions at keeping the traditional language familiar from the AV. I think the continuity of English-language scripture is important, and that redeeming feature covers a lot of sins.

But the ESV has its own idiosyncrasies that stop it from being a truly ecumenical translation. Most notable is the omission of the Apocrypha (Oxford has independently published an ESV with a lightly-polished version of the RSV Apocrypha in the back). It also makes “low-church” translation decisions, rendering the traditional “bishop” (episkopos) as “overseer”, for example, and removes various scholarly footnotes from the RSV (I do prefer “virgin” in Isaiah 7, but shouldn’t it at least be footnoted?).

My church uses the NRSV, which is also an excellent translation with its own set of shortcomings. If you want a modern translation in the Geneva-KJV tradition, ESV, RSV, or NRSV are your best bets. They have a lot more in common with each other than any of them do with the various NIV/NLT/REB traditions.

#16 Comment By Arturo Ortiz On November 20, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

As a Catholic I love reading the bible and for this I have a couple of different versions of it. I have a Douay- Rheims, an NAB, a Jerusalem bible reader’s Edition, an NIV, and a New King James Version. I love them all and I think they all have their pros and cons.

The NAB is an easier read when it comes to English, as it is more modern, however as you have stated the footnotes do tend to fall short of Orthodox Catholic belief. They try to appeal to Catholics and Non-Catholics that the footnotes tend to lose a lot of it’s Orthodoxy.

The Douay Rheim has a way more literal style to it, and thus is more orthodox than the NAB. It however is a harder read than other bibles.

Although I don’t own a RSV-CE I have heard that it has a very good balance in the terms of having an orthodox literal interpretation of the bible, while having modern English.

#17 Comment By James Kabala On November 20, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

I saw someone (I think it was even you) recommend the Knox translation before, so I went to the nearest university library, where I could only find it in The Comparative Apocrypha [sic]. (It was a companion volume to The Comparative Old Testament, but some of the ones in that volume did not translate the deuterocanonicals, so Knox and others had been called upon as replacements.) I don’t know – it seemed to try to hard to be hyper-English. I opened to a random page, and every other translation had the elders accuse Susanna of having a “young man” with her in the garden – a timeless phrase appropriate to any age from thousands of years in the past to thousands of years in the future. In Knox it was a “gallant” – suddenly we are in the world of Tom Jones, not a timeless world or even the actual world of Babylon in the sixth century B.C. That is just one example, but from a quick flip-through, it seemed typical.

#18 Comment By James Kabala On November 20, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

P.S. If any old-timers should be reading – I always wondered about the use of Greek and Roman spellings in the Douay-Rheims for the Old Testament names as opposed to the Hebrew or Anglicized Hebrew of the KJV. Did Catholics actually refer to “Noe” and “Josue” and “Elias” and “Isaias” and “Nabuchodonosor” in daily conversation and writing? (Fortunately, most of the major figures, such as Adam and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses and David and Solomon, were the same in both the DR and the KJV, but some major figures and practically all the minor figures (or so it seems) were different.)

#19 Comment By David J. White On November 20, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

After all, most idiomatic renderings come off as a gloss or, worse, a pander

Add to that the fact that idioms can have a short shelf-life, so such a translation can come to seem dated much more quickly.

When I was in Catholic grade school in the early 70s (in the Slough of the immediate post-Conciliar Despond), they gave each of us a copy of that awful “Good News” translation. ((Shudder!))

I think the problem of an Catholic Bible in English is related to the problem of Catholic hymns in English: Protestants were producing Bible translations, and writing hymns, in the 16th-19th centuries, which were generally good artistic periods in Western literature and music. Catholics were trying to do this during the 1970s, which were manifestly *NOT* a good artistic period for producing these sorts of things. There is also the effect of the passage of time in weeding out the chaff. In another few hundred years, English-speaking Catholics will probably have a good vernacular hymnal, and possibly a good vernacular Bible translation as well.

#20 Comment By Traddy Catholic in Cleveland On November 20, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

Thank you Michael.

I had been wondering whether to purchase Knox’s translation, but honest, reliable reviews of it were hard to come by. Now you have convinced me to drop serious money on another Bible translation. Thanks TAC… this time, my wife will know who to blame.

BTW, I love that this magazine is not just Right, but sometimes even Extraordinarily Rite.

A point about the Douay-Rheims. The version most of us have was not written before the original King James. It is the substantially revised version undertaken by Fr. Richard Challoner between 1749 and 1752. Fr. Challoner was a convert who tried to mimic the cadences of the original King James while minimizing its theological problems (for Catholics, anyways). It is interesting that aspects of the Geneva Bible previously questioned by Roman traditionalists in the time of St. Thomas More, reentered the Douay through Challoner.

Some Bible scholars will probably know more about this than I do, but wasn’t the King James substantially revised at the end of the 19th century? I know that no equivalent project was undertaken for the Douay. A Dublin revision finished at the turn of the 19th-century never really caught on in other parts of the English-speaking world. Perhaps it is this lack of freshening up that is what we find objectionable.

One last caveat: The New American Bible Revised Edition may be as dull as dishwater, but it has the merit of conforming to contemporary historical-critical readings of the Hebrew and Greek. Thus, it does a decent job of showing the Catholicity of the Greek in particular, without any great stretches in language. What it gains in scholarly acumen, it loses in passion and cadence. Also, the lame gender-neutral language (especially in the Psalter)—reflecting the noxious political sensibilities of the 1970s academy—was mostly removed in the revised edition.

Here’s a recommendation for friends of the Latin Mass. There is a new publication that provides for the Extraordinary Form the same kinds of meditations that Magnificat offers for the Novus Ordo. It is called Laudamus Te, and it is available here: [7].

I just got the first copy, and it is very fine. It includes the 1962 Ordinary of the Mass and every day in Advent is dated and includes the proper prefaces, thus taking the place of the rather cumbersome missal. There are also meditations by Newman, Knox, the Church Fathers, the Church Doctors, and the traditional lives of the saints. It would be really great if this project got off the ground.

#21 Comment By Paul Emmons On November 20, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

I’ll second the motion for the Jerusalem Bible, which I have and sometimes use even though I am an Anglican.

Revised Standard Version or New English Bible suit me fine, and in some ways I wish people still read the King James Version because of its great influence on English language and usage. A major problem with having so many new and different translations is that the influence of Biblical quotes or phrasing on the wider world has been frittered away to zero. There is something pathetically solipsistic about our each looking for a translation of scripture that suits our personal style. Why O why do we keep getting new ones? Do the editors have axes to grind, or do they just need to get a life?

#22 Comment By PJ On November 20, 2012 @ 3:20 pm

The NAB Study Bible is a handbook to heresy. It is almost impossible to understand how it has become the liturgical translation.

Interestingly, if I recall correctly, Christopher Hitchens enjoyed Tyndale’s translation — insofar as he enjoyed any Bible.

#23 Comment By Manny On November 20, 2012 @ 3:33 pm

I must be the only person who prefers the NAB. Clarity is first priority. Second would be if the translation emulated the writing style of the original authors. That’s a hard thing to know for one not literate in the original languages, but not every original writer was a beautiful stylist. We know St. Mark had poor writing skills and we know that St. Paul had a very mundane, non-lyrical style. So if the Knox translation captures all that, then let’s go with that. But I’m suspicious of lyrical translations because they may not refelct the original writing. Otherwise NAB is satisfactory for me.

#24 Comment By Manny On November 20, 2012 @ 3:35 pm

By the way, I do agree the NAB notes and commentary undermine faith at times. The answer there is not to change the translation but to revise the notes and comments.

#25 Comment By Kenneth J. Wolfe On November 20, 2012 @ 5:05 pm

Thy, thee and thou ought to always be in any Catholic version of a bible. It is the singular. “You” and “your” respresent the plural.

The same goes with a handmissal translation of the Mass.

The Lord be with you.
And with thy spirit.

Moreover, dropping thy, thee and thou diminishes respect. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you? Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name?

Will “y’all” be next to make “you” plural?

#26 Comment By Bill Logan On November 20, 2012 @ 5:37 pm

Knox’s translation of the New Testament has long been available as a trade paperback from Templegate Publishers. It’s readily available on Amazon. It would partly meet your desire for a smaller, more easily transported version.

If you’re looking for a contemporary, literary translation, why not try the Revised English Bible?

#27 Comment By Michael Brendan Dougherty On November 20, 2012 @ 7:26 pm

Great responses, everyone.

I didn’t include the Jerusalem Bible (the original version) because it is usually not on the shelves. In fact one can usually only find an enormous hardcover “readers” edition of it. I think it is one of the better ones, I agree.

My friend Kenneth insists that “thy, thee, and thou” should remain in all Catholic Bibles. He insists that it instills respect. Others have argued to me on Twitter that it suggests intimacy. And still others above refer to the meaning of “you” in the 16th century as being inherently plural.

If these principles of translation were followed in the 17th century, then the King James and the Douay would have been composed in the same style as the original Beowulf.

I agree that the habit of our prayers should be factored in. But the results can be ridiculous. In the Knox version, our cajoling, pleading St. Paul addresses the audience, “Dost thou, friend…?” This doesn’t teach us to respect God, it just makes us exhausted of the Scriptures, our missals, and other books.

#28 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 20, 2012 @ 7:37 pm

Michael Brendan Dougherty,

It isn’t a ‘Catholic’ version per se, but there’s a version of the King James Version (with slightly updated language, dropping obsolete words, etc.) that includes the Deuterocanonical books. It’s called the Third Millenium Bible (it’s more or less the same as the 21st Century King James, with the addition of the Deuterocanon) and it explicitly bills itself as a nonsectarian version targeted towards Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox. You may want to check it out.

#29 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 20, 2012 @ 7:43 pm

For the record, the KJV and its ‘updated’ forms (NKJV, KJ21, Third Millenium) differ from the NRSV and some other modern translations in terms of the source texts, as well as the language used

#30 Comment By tz On November 20, 2012 @ 9:49 pm

The school of hard Knox.

Get a Vines, and/or an interlinear and a vulgate, or olive tree App. You won’t see bits of Tobit otherwise.

Modern Copyright (wasn’t that a recent GOP paper?) has chained the bible more surely than physical chains did the expensive works of monks working in their scriptorium for years.

But reading scripture is no substitute for holiness. There are no loopholes in the most obvious passages. Looking in the dark corners isn’t productive

#31 Comment By Dan On November 21, 2012 @ 1:47 am

“your Latin-English Missals, and the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary”

Do they even have Latin-English Missals anymore? I’ve never seen them or had/used one, always thought the bishops translated everything out, and most of us just know the responses by now and don’t read anything. Never heard of the “Office” of the Blessed Virgin Mary, what’s that?

A little harsh tone against Catholicism in this article but I do agree the NAB reads like a hack job. When I read the Bible, I do prefer King James or Douay Rheims with the original pre-feminist GNB if I need some help. I usually read Thomas Nelson’s KJV Study Bible.

#32 Comment By Traddy Catholic in Cleveland On November 21, 2012 @ 7:26 am


The Latin-English missals are for the traditional Latin Mass aka Tridentine Rite Mass (1962 revision) aka the “Extraordinary Form.” Since Pope Benedict XVI issued the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum in 2007, a lot more Catholics (including many younger Catholics) have been rediscovering the Mass of Trent. Thus, the old Latin-English missals are being reprinted. To my knowledge, there is no equivalent for the Novus Ordo Mass.

Persons interested in attending a Latin Mass can look here for times and locations: [8].

The Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary (aka Little Office of Our Lady) is a Marian devotion modeled on the Divine Office. It was a component of the traditional book of hours. The Second Vatican Counsel treated this office as a minor devotion and did not revise it along with the Divine Office. In Ecclesia sanctae, Pope Paul VI urged Catholics to use the revised Divine Office to promote “intimate participation” (i.e., conformity to the counciliar revisions).

Probably in part because it was not revised, some traditionalists have continued to recite the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Carmelites in particular maintained it in their devotions through the post-conciliar period.

I hope this helps.

#33 Pingback By TAC Digest: November 20 | The American Conservative On November 22, 2012 @ 10:58 am

[…] and revealed some recent changes of heart on the Left. Michael Brendan Dougherty examined Catholic English language aptitude, while Scott Galupo revisited conservative healthcare reform proposals. […]

#34 Comment By Vicki McCaffrey On November 22, 2012 @ 11:49 am

What an interesting article and discussion! It is true that Knox did not solve, once for all, the problems of Scripture translation for devotional, study and liturgical uses. Some passages rise to the heights, some clarify, some simply make us want to scratch our heads.

One of the sillier Douay readings is coming up soon, on the First Sunday in Advent, wherein St. Paul admonishes us to quit “chambering”. OK, so perhaps it doesn’t leave much to the imagination but, really, “chambering”?

Even though there is much work still to be done before we have a great English translation, Msgr. Knox did more than his fair share of it. There are some great ideas here, in the article and comments, but – sooner or later – it comes down to the Hierarchy and those willing to do the tremendously arduous work involved.

So, in the meantime, Baronius Press’ new edition will serve to edify many.

#35 Comment By dcs On November 23, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

In truth the DR is a Latin text cross-dressing as English.

That may have been true of the original Douay-Rheims but the one currently in print was revised by Bishop Challoner and it heavily influenced by the KJV.

#36 Comment By dcs On November 23, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

Should be “it was heavily influenced by the KJV”

#37 Comment By Dimitry Aleksandrovich On November 24, 2012 @ 1:15 am

I have a King James Version, Orthodox study Bible.

#38 Comment By Keith J. Kelly On November 24, 2012 @ 9:06 am

‘ Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage honourable in all, and the bed undefiled. For fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” ‘

Sounds like Yoda.

#39 Comment By Julian Malcolm On November 24, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

Navarre Bible deserves attention in this discussion. Has both the RSV and the Latin Vulgate, with commentary underneath from the Fathers, Doctors, the Magisterium.

#40 Comment By Paul Streitz On November 25, 2012 @ 10:28 am

For those who might be interested in the subject, the King James Bible was created by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford between 1604 and the end of 1608. Oxford is also the author known as William Shakespeare.

The established story is that the KJV was created by a group of scholars, but no records can be found of their ever meeting or exchanging views. Additionally, the KJV is written in one clear hand, not a collection of different authors as would be expected had this been a collaborative work.

Oxford was exiled to the Isle of Mersea when in disappeared in 1604 and while there till his death wrote Shake-Speares Sonnets, The Tempest (describing his exile to an island and the island is that of Volcano north of Sicily. Oxford visited the island on his tour of Italy in the 1570’s.) and the KJV. It was published in 1613 by unknown sources. But clearly not any group associated with King James.

The comments have always been that the KJV is the second most important literary work compared to the works of Shakespeare. In fact, they are by the same man, Oxford.

There is an annotated Bible in the Folger Museum in Washington, DC and the annotations are of the passages most referred to in the works of Shakespeare.

Paul Streitz
Oxford: Son of Queen Elizabeth I

#41 Comment By Peter On November 25, 2012 @ 12:43 pm

I recommend the Geneva Bible, 1560 ed, as a valuable companion to whatever modern English translation Bible you may like to read. The translation is sometimes inaccurate, in light of modern scholarship, but the GB’s greatest value for me is being able to read the same words and commentary that the Genevan reformers and, later, the Puritan setters in the New World were reading.

#42 Comment By Bill On November 25, 2012 @ 11:37 pm

What is it to “cover his nakedness? -MBD

As far as I can tell his nakedness refers to Noahs wife and not actually Noahs nakedness.

Thru translation, and lack of being present during the time period, we likely will never know what was truly meant by the words and phrases found in the bible being absent of a time machine.

#43 Pingback By Why Can't Catholics Speak English? | The American Conservative | Worship Leaders On November 27, 2012 @ 12:52 am

[…] From Google Blogs Search- Worship Music I think the problem of an Catholic Bible in English is related to the problem of Catholic hymns in English: Protestants were producing Bible translations, and writing hymns, in the 16th-19th centuries, which were generally good … […]

#44 Comment By Timothy On November 30, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

The Knox Bible is now available at Bible Gateway:

I do agree, however, an Knox Bible app would be fantastic.

#45 Pingback By Letting the Bible elevate your mind On December 1, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

[…] republication of the Knox Bible, a mid-twentieth century translation, Michael Brendan Dougherty mentions one “fatal” flaw, the use of sacral language, such as thee‘s and thou‘s. […]

#46 Pingback By Around the Web « Baker Book House Church Connection On December 8, 2012 @ 7:37 am

[…] we’re on the topic of Catholics here’s an interesting post on Catholic Bibles called “Why Can’t Catholics Speak English?”  (HT: Timothy from Catholic Bibles) See the response also by Alan Jacobs – “Why […]

#47 Comment By david brainerd On February 15, 2014 @ 12:10 am

KJV is still the best.