The Catholic Bible

For five centuries, the Douay-Rheims Bible has remained one of the standard English Bible translations for Roman Catholics around the world. As the first and most enduring translation of the Latin Vulgate, the Douay-Rheims was translated at the end of the sixteenth century at the initiative of Gregory Martin. It quickly rose in popularity among English Catholics — becoming an essential part of Catholic identity during the English Counter-Reformation — and has been reprinted hundreds of times in the centuries that followed.

Here is a short study on how two of the most outstanding Catholic versions of the Bible, the Vulgata Latina and the Douay-Rheims compare with the King James Version of the Bible: [see KJV - Vulgata - Parallel display]

  • The most famous Latin translation, the Vulgata latina [Vulgate] was made by St Jerome, sponsored by Pope Damasus, with it's first edition in 383 AD. It was initially translated from the Septuagint Greek version of the Old Testament, but the revised version of 405 AD was:
  • OT [Old Testament] from the Hebrew (Jerome felt the Greek was inadequate so re-translated it), New Latin translations of the Psalms (the so-called Gallican Psalter),
  • The NT [New Testament] was compiled mainly from already existing Latin versions. The 80 book bible (39 OT, 14 A, 27 NT) was revised and corrected over the years, the first printed versions were the much respected University of Paris edition from the XIII C.
  • In 1546 the Council of Trent decreed that the Vulgate was the exclusive Latin authority for the Bible. It required its printing with as few errors as possible, resulting in the so-called (Pope) Clementine (VIII) Vulgate of 1592, with 80 Books. It became the authoritative biblical text of the Roman Catholic Church. From it the Confraternity Version was translated in 1941 and in 1965 the revised edition authorized by the second Vatican Council. In 1582 Rome surrendered it's "Latin only" edict, and the preamble to the greatest Bible of them all draws to a close. In 1609-10 the Douay-Rheims Bible was published. The first Catholic English translation (80 Books), translated from the Vulgate (a disadvantage) and became the seed bible for nearly all Catholic Bibles.
  • However this important event was overshadowed the following year. In 1611 the King put his name to the King James, the 3rd Authorized Version. Used by many to this day, and loathed by some as clinging onto the past. The work was a masterpiece, the culmination of the 16th century work. It took the best of what had gone before in style, prose, chapter & verse division, and translation accuracy. A literary and spiritual giant leap, which for it's day was breathtaking. It was based on the Great Bible and on various TRs with Vulgate influence. It reigned supreme until 1881. A substantial revision of the Douay-Rheims Bible and published in 1752, this Catholic Bible was translated by Richard Challoner. Challoner, an English Bishop who had converted from Protestantism, used the King James Version (KJV) extensively in his translation efforts. The Challoner revision of the Douay-Rheims Bible is still used today in many Catholic Churches. The Douay-Rheims currently on the market is also not the original, 1609 version. It is technically called the "Douay-Challoner" version because it is a revision of the Douay-Rheims done in the mid-eighteenth century by Bishop Richard Challoner. Bishop Challoner updated the Douay by removing numerous archaic spellings (for example, "blood" instead of "bloud"). He also consulted early Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, meaning that the Douay Bible currently on the market is not simply a translation of the Vulgate (Jerome) (which many of its advocates do not realize).
  • If you intend to do serious Bible study, a literal translation, like the KJV [Non-denominational or inter-denominational] or the DRC [Catholic], is what you want. This will enable you to catch more of the detailed implications of the text, but at the price of readability. You also have to worry less about the translators' views coloring the text. A second question you will need to ask yourself is whether you want an old or a modern translation. Older versions, such as the King James and the Douay-Rheims, sound more dignified, authoritative, and inspiring. But they are slightly harder to read and understand because English has changed in the almost four hundred years since they were done.
  • However, One down side to using certain modern translations is that they do not use the traditional renderings of certain passages and phrases, and the reader may find this annoying. For example, most people have heard a verse from Isaiah 9 that sounds like this: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6 KJV ). Here is how the New American Bible [a Catholic modern translation] renders it: "For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:5, NAB). This is actually a Catholic version that in itself varies from another Catholic English version, much older, the DR [Douay-Rheims] that reads: “For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace.” [Isaiah 9:6] Now let us imagine hearing Handell's Messiah, For unto us a Child is Born - which sings the KJV, being sung in the new NAB version 'God-Hero, Father-forever'... If you love Handell's Messiah, the Halleluya Chorus [sound], the lyrics thereof are pure Bible verses, like so many Catholics around the world, you know it is not possible to sing it in any other version but in the KJV. Except, maybe, the oldest version of the Catholic English Bible, the Douay-Rheims, which is pretty close to the KJV.
  • But other Catholic versions of the Bible are sometimes confusing when compared to each other: the Pastoral Bible, for example, gives a rendition of that same verse [Isaiah 9:6] that is altogether the same as the KJV, but places it as verse 5 [when it should be 6], making the layout completely different even from other Catholic Bibles. [?]
  • KJV: 'Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. [John 3:5]
  • Vulgata: respondit Iesus amen amen dico tibi nisi quis renatus fuerit ex aqua et Spiritu non potest introire in regnum Dei [John 3:5]
  • Douay-Rheims: Jesus answered: Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. [John 3:5]
  • The original in the Vulgata [the authorized Catholic version] does not say Spiritus Sanctus [for Holy Ghost] – as it would in John 14:26, but only Spiritus – which the KJV confirms.
  • The Douay-Rheims in this case added the word “Holy”.
  • The KJV was translated from the Greek and Hebrew originals, just like the Vulgata that preceded the DRC – [see the Greek [TR], Latin and English parallel HERE]
  • So, the KJV and Vulgata are basically from the same source. The similitude of the Vulgata with the KJV demonstrates that.
  • Judging from the above, one could imply that the KJV should be easier to accept by Catholics than other newer Catholic versions, this because the most authorized Catholic version, for many centuries, has been the Vulgata Latina, and the KJV is more aligned with the Vulgata Latina than modern Catholic versions. In his 1943 encyclical, Divino afflante Spiritu, Pope Pius XII stated that the Vulgate, having been used for so many centuries by the Catholic Church, has been shown to be free from doctrinal and moral error.
  • Some historical facts about the KJV of the Bible: King James Bible Turns 400.

    Apocrypha Books

  • The apocrypha is a selection of books which were published in the original 1611 King James Bible. These apocryphal books were positioned between the Old and New Testament (it also contained maps and geneologies). The apocrypha was a part of the KJV for 274 years until being removed in 1885 A.D. A portion of these books were called deuterocanonical books by some entities, such as the Catholic church. Many claim the apocrypha should never have been included in the first place, raising doubt about its validity and believing it was not God-inspired (for instance, a reference about magic seems inconsistent with the rest of the Bible: Tobit chapter 6, verses 5-8). Others believe it is valid and that it should never have been removed- that it was considered part of the Bible for nearly 2,000 years before it was recently removed a little more than 100 years ago. Some say it was removed because of not finding the books in the original Hebrew manuscripts. Others claim it wasn't removed by the church, but by printers to cut costs in distributing Bibles in the United States. Both sides tend to cite the same verses that warn against adding or subtracting from the Bible: Revelation 22:18. The word 'apocrypha' means 'hidden.' Fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls dating back to before 70 A.D. contained parts of the apocrypha books in Hebrew, including Sirach and Tobit [source]. Keep this in mind when reading apocryphal books. Martin Luther said, "Apocrypha--that is, books which are not regarded as equal to the holy Scriptures, and yet are profitable and good to read." (King James Version Defended page 98.)
  • Links to Apocrypha Books: