The DOUAY-RHEIMS BIBLE is a scrupulously faithful translation into English of
the Latin Vulgate Bible which St. Jerome (342-420) translated into Latin from
the original languages. The Vulgate quickly became the Bible universally used
in the Latin Rite (by far the largest rite of the Catholic Church).
who was one of the four great Western Fathers of the Church, was a man
raised up by God to translate the Holy Bible into the common Latin tongue of
his day. He knew Latin and Greek perfectly. He was 1500 years closer to the
original languages than any scholar today, which would make him a better judge
of the exact meaning of any Greek or Hebrew word in the Scriptures. Besides
being a towering linguistic genius, he was also a great saint, and he had access
to ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the 2nd and 3rd centuries which have
since perished and are no longer available to scholars today. St. Jerome's
translation, moreover, was a careful, word-for-word rendering of the original
texts into Latin.
Latin Vulgate Bible has been read and honored by the Western Church for 1500
years! It was declared by the Council of Trent to be the official Latin version
of the original. Hear what the Sacred Council decreed: "Moreover, the same Holy
Council ... ordains and declares that the old Latin Vulgate Edition, which,
in use for so many hundred years, has been approved by the Church, be in public
lectures, disputatious, sermons and expositions held as authentic, and so no
one dare or presume under any pretext whatsoever to reject it." (Fourth Session,
April 8, 1546). As Pope Pius XII stated in his 1943 encyclical letter Divino
Afflante Spiritu, this means the Vulgate is "free from any error whatsoever
in matters of faith and morals." And the Douay-Rheims bible is a faithful,
word-for-word translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible of St. Jerome.
their translation, the Douay-Rheims translators took great pains to translate
exactly. Contrary to the procedure of the modern Bible translators, when a passage
seemed strange and unintelligible they left it alone, even if obscure, and "let
the chips fall as they may." The modern Bible translators, on the other hand,
will often look at an obscure passage, decide what they think it means, then
translate into words that bring out that meaning. The result is that the English
is usually (not always!) easier to understand, but it is not necessarily what
the Bible says; rather, it is their interpretation and understanding of what
the Bible says. Moreover, the Holy Ghost may have hidden several additional
meanings in the passage. Those meanings may well be completely translated out!
the question is raised: Why translate from a translation (the Latin Vulgate)
rather than from the original Greek and Hebrew? This question was also raised
in the 16th century when the Douay-Rheims translators (Fr. Gregory Martin and
his assistants) first published the Rheims New Testament. They gave ten reasons,
ending up by stating that the Latin Vulgate "is not only better than all other
Latin translations, but than the Greek text itself, in those places where they
disagree." (Preface to the Rheims New Testament, 1582). They state that the
Vulgate is "more pure than the Hebrew or Greek now extant" and that "the same
Latin hath bene farre better conserved from corruption." (Preface to the Douay
Old Testament, 1609).
present Bible is the Challoner revision (1749-1752) of the Douay-Rheims Bible.
Catholics owe the saintly Bishop Richard Challoner (1691-1781) a great debt
of gratitude for undertaking this work. Challoner was one of those courageous
priests who traveled around offering Mass secretly for small groups during the
religious persecutions in England. Such Catholics needed a Bible, and had needed
one for 100 years. The Douay-Rheims Bible had been printed a few times on the
Continent but had never really spread to England. Some Catholics in England
were even reading the King James version -- a situation which Bishop Challoner
knew had to be rectified.
of the passages in the original Douay-Rheims Bible were needlessly obscure.
As an extreme example, Ephesians 6:12 read, "For our wrestling is not against
flesh and bloud: but against Princes and Potestats, against the rectors of the
world of this dankness, against the spirituals of wickedness in the celestials."
The spellings were archaic, and the verses were not set off by new lines for
clarity. Challoner rectified these problems, checking carefully against the
Clementine Vulgate and the original-language texts. On the whole, Bishop Challoner's
revisions were minor. He replaced certain anglicized Latin words and archaic
words and expressions, rearranged the word order of the sentences, and yet maintained
the overall word-for-word accuracy of the 16th/17th-century Douay-Rheims Bible.
Challoner revision of the Douay-Rheims Bible was a godsend. It became the standard
Catholic Bible in English until the mid-20th century (when the Confraternity
Bible was published). It continued to be called the "Douay-Rheims" because of
its similarity to the original Douay-Rheims Bible. The great work English Versions
of the Bible, by Frs. Pope and Bullough, states that English-speaking Catholics
the world over owe Dr. Challoner an immense debt of gratitude, for he provided
them for the first time in history with a portable, cheap and readable version
of the Bible, which has stood the test of 200 years of use. Moreover, it is
more accurate than any modern Bible because it is based on ancient texts, no
longer extant, which were "captured" and "frozen," so to speak, by St. Jerome
(342-420) in his Latin Vulgate. The Douay-Rheims is thus the most reliable
English-language Bible there is. We look forward to the day when the Christian
world will rediscover this fact and come to a renewed appreciation of the monumental
work of St. Jerome, of the Douay-Rheims translators and of Bishop Richard Challoner
-- men who were raised up by God to make the Bible available to the English-speaking
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