Friday, July 18, 2014

Thought on the Douay-Rheims Translation

Mr. Livingston asked for an opinion on some of the Latinism and the extreme literalism of the Douay-Rheims translation. I like the Douay translation and find it both accurate and pleasing to read. It may not have the literary value of the James version, but much of it is very similar. Indeed, I wonder if in parts—particularly the first two chapters of Luke—the James version is just an Anglicanization/protestantization of the Douay translation (the first two chapters of Luke are word for word the same despite the older Douay being translated from Latin and the later James version supposedly being translated from Greek).

Mr. Livingston inquired specifically about Luke 1:78 "Through the bowels of mercy of our God," bowels commonly translated today as "heart." The bowels were not seen as glamorous or tender parts of the body by ancient people, but rather the deepest parts of the body, so far removed from the surface as to be inaccessible. The bowels of mercy means the deepest kind of mercy, not mere forgiveness, but a restoration of one's self in God's eyes.

Some other Latinisms in the Douay which might be more useful to use today, who have had to deal with the occasionally dreadful New American Bible given to us by the USCCB. I cannot remember where it is in Acts of the Apostles, but I do know that the Douay/Vulgate version translates the sending of the Apostles as "sprinkling" whereas the common translations use "spread" or "sent." The Greek original favors the Douay/Vulgate and recalls that the Apostles were sent by Christ with the Holy Spirit to Baptize all nations. It also recalls that water is a symbol of creation and that a new sprinkling necessarily means a new creation or a restored creation. 

Now Mr. Livingston has also asked what to make of psalm 18:6: "He hath rejoiced as a giant to run the way." Any ideas, dear readers?"


  1. Try the Knox translation. It has accuracy without some of the Latin oddities.

    Luke 1:28
    And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

    Into her presence the angel came, and said, Hail, you who are full of grace, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women.

    New American:
    And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings,favored one! The Lord is with you.”

    The Knox (translated in the 1800's) flows smoothly, is very dynamic, and still reflects the true meaning. Its a good version. Unfortunately, traditionalists stick to Douay-Rheims and ignore Knox, while modern Catholics almost universally use the NAB. Knox, being a good balance of accuracy and accessibility, is left as the odd man out.

    I honestly find the King James Version better at parts than the NAB (see below).

    And the Angel came in unto her, and said, Haile thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: Blessed art thou among women.
    - King James Version (1611) - View 1611 Bible Scan

    And coming in, he said to her, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord {is} with you."
    - New American Standard Version (1995)

    And he came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord `is' with thee.
    - American Standard Version (1901)

    And the angel came in to her and said, Peace be with you, to whom special grace has been given; the Lord is with you.
    - Basic English Bible

    And the angel came in to her, and said, Hail, [thou] favoured one! the Lord [is] with thee: [blessed art *thou* amongst women].
    - Darby Bible

    And the angel came to her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
    - Webster's Bible

    So Gabriel went into the house and said to her, "Joy be to you, favoured one! the Lord is with you."
    - Weymouth Bible

    Having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, you highly favored one! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women!"
    - World English Bible

    And the aungel entride to hir, and seide, Heil, ful of grace; the Lord be with thee; blessid be thou among wymmen.
    - Wycliffe Bible (written in the 1400's by an English heretic, this one is not used often for obvious reasons)

    And the messenger having come in unto her, said, `Hail, favoured one, the Lord [is] with thee; blessed [art] thou among women;'
    - Youngs Literal Bible

    And then there's my personal favorite....

    Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her: Good morning! You're beautiful with God's beauty, Beautiful inside and out! God be with you.
    THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson.


    1. Good morning, Mary! You're beautiful with God's beauty, beautiful inside and out, and beautiful is your son Jesus! Beautiful Mary, Mother of Jesus, send flowers to us bad people, now and when we fall down go boom.

      21st century Ave Maria according to Eugene Peterson.

      lol :)

  2. Thank you very much for the post Rad Trad! It is deeply appreciated.

    The reason I ask is because I'm stuck in the almost-eternal pit of finding a Bible translation to stick with. My first instinct is the Douay-Rheims/Challoner, because it's the greatest treasure of English-speaking Catholic patrimony, and it's very useful as a direct translation of the Clementine Vulgate. It's usually quite beautiful, and even in some parts better than the King James Version:

    Ecclesiastes 1:10 (DR/C): Nothing under the sun is new, neither is any man able to say: Behold this is new: for it hath already gone before in the ages that were before us.

    Ecclesiastes 1:10 (KJV): Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

    My difficulty, as I have inquired about, is that many times the DR/C translates the Latin so literally that it's difficult to comprehend and comes off very inelegant. As I asked about Psalm 18:6 -- what does it mean to run like a giant? This verse is only rendered as such because the Clementine Vulgate has the noun "gigas". (For comparison the Protestant Stuttgart Vulgate has "fortis", which makes a bit more sense to me; all apologies to Pope Clement.)

    My next choice would be the King James Version with the deuterocanon, since it's used by many Eastern Orthodox for English liturgies. (Though oftentimes it's a KJV adjusted according to the Septuagint.) However I have something of an allergic reaction to using a Bible translation developed by Protestants that persecuted the Catholic Church and held beliefs about Scripture incompatible with the Catholic tradition.

    Lord of Bollocks mentions the Knox translation. In many places the Knox translation is even more elegant, beautiful, and faithful to the Vulgate than the D-R/C is. But try reading it cover-to-cover; there's a huge amount of awkward and bizarre renderings. Let's look at my favorite Psalm in the whole Psalter, Super flumina babylonis (Ps 136), as Knox has it:

    "1 We sat down by the streams of Babylon and wept there, remembering Sion. 2 Willow-trees grow there, and on these we hung up our harps 3 when the men who took us prisoner cried out for a song. We must make sport for our enemies; A stave, there, from the music they sing at Sion! 4 What, should we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? ..."

    'Willow-trees grow there'? 'We must make sport for our enemies'? To me this is unavoidably jarring, and were I to try and meditate on it as a prayer, I would be awfully distracted.

    And I don't even consider modern Bible translations like the RSV:CE, NAB, JB, etc. to even be Catholic because they rely on the tampered Hebrew more than the Septuagint and Vulgate, which the Church believes to be the true Sacred Scripture.

    1. Have you ever tried the Confraternity version? It is essentially a cleaned up version of the Douay with an eye and an ear for readability rather than poeticness and archaism.

      The RSV second Catholic edition, I am told, it good but I have no experience using it. I also hear good thing about the Orthodox RSV, but it will also have the short comings you mentioned. The Jerusalem Bible has very good footnotes and book introductions written by Catholics; the downside of that version is that the actual translation itself is in places more an interpretation. The only Catholic Bible I avoid entirely is the New American Bible, which aside from some untraditional renderings, often has heretical introductions or footnotes. I remember reading an introduction to one of the Synoptic Gospels and it said explicitly Christ did not know He was going to suffer on the Cross. I also recall the footnote for 1 Corinthians 3:15 saying that Paul was not talking about Purgatory while the C.C.C. says the Apostle was.

      There is no perfect translation or Bible version. I tend to use a two or three different source and consult commentaries and sermons by the Fathers.

  3. It's baffling to me that the Church has permitted Bible translations that depart from the LXX and Vulgate in favor of the Hebrew MT. Some places in Scripture, particularly the Book of Jeremiah, are almost completely different depending on the source text. Essentially the Church has surrendered scriptural interpretation to squabbling professors, many of whom are not even Christian.

  4. His Traddiness is correct in saying that there is no one perfect translation. Most have their own strengths and weakness and tend to vary in how that quality is reflected throughout the entireity of the translation; a good example of that, as you already provided, is Knox's translation. In some places, he writes gold, in others chaff. Though the Confranternity is pretty good. I reccommend that you check it if you have not done so already.

    Anyway, may I ask his Traddiness, if it so pleases him, to write something on the merits of the gallican psalter? Although I prefer it over the Bea psalter, I think that the usual polemics surrounding the debate tend to rend an intelligent discussion regarding the psalters difficult.

    Also, I am looking forward to your upcoming series on the early figures in the Traditionalist movement.

  5. The mere mention of the Nova Vulgata might send shivers down the spine of most courtiers of His Traddiness; yet, I would be curious to know what people think about it. What with the recent events at Convocations, or whatever they're now called, I might be looking for preferment in the Church of Rome sooner than Mrs Proudie thinks.

  6. "he first two chapters of Luke are word for word the same despite the older Douay being translated from Latin and the later James version supposedly being translated from Greek"

    vulgate is a direct, word for word translation from greek. i checked Mark's gospel.

  7. For Mr. Livingston: maybe it's not extremely helpful, but St. Thomas Aquinas expounds on this verse ("Like a giant," etc.) saying that among other things Christ's greatness is being commended, i.e. that among all particular material things, He (as regards His Sacred Humanity) is the greatest, hence "like a giant."