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Scripture-Related Pages: Catholic Bibles: A Short History of the English Translations

Catholic Bibles: A Short History of the English Translations

What follows are brief summaries of the historical background information, general characteristics, and current availability status of the various translations of Sacred Scripture that have been used in English language Bibles produced for Catholics since the Protestant Reformation, preceded by a quick review of their ancient predecessors and typical source texts.

The review is divided into six parts:

  1. Ancient Translations & Medieval Manuscripts
  2. Early-Modern Catholic English Translations
  3. Modern Catholic English Translations
  4. The RSV Family of Translations
  5. Lesser-known Catholic English Translations
  6. Non-Catholic Translations published in “Catholic Editions”

 

Ancient Translations & Medieval Manuscripts

It is difficult to appreciate the history of English language Biblical translations without at least a cursory understanding of the history of their major source texts, which include both original language manuscripts, and those of the two most important ancient translations.

The Septuagint (LXX)

The early Church spoke Greek, and their “Bible” was a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (i.e. the Old Testament) produced about 200 years before Christ, called the Septuagint, often referenced in literature by the Roman numerals for seventy, LXX – an allusion to stories circulating among the Jews of the era claiming a miraculous divine guidance of the translation. It is noteworthy not only for its occasional distinctions from the corresponding Hebrew text, but also in that most copies of the LXX contained numerous sacred books that were later excluded from the (Hebrew) Jewish canon, most of which would later become known as the disputed “Deuterocanonical” books of the Christian canon.

The New Testament, of course, was likewise written in Greek. Thus, for the largely Greek-speaking early Church, their “Scriptures” consisted of the combination of the LXX and the various New Testament books. Such is still the case for the Greek-speaking Church to this day.

The Vulgate

Shortly before the fall of the city of Rome to Alaric the Visigoth in 410 A.D., Pope Damasus I instructed a Judean monk named Jerome to produce a consistent translation of the Scriptures into Latin, which was the common language of the Western Roman Empire. The translation of New Testament books was made from the best available Greek manuscripts. However, Jerome was a rarity among his peers in his knowledge of Hebrew, and he translated the Old Testament primarily from available Hebrew manuscripts – rather than from the venerated Greek LXX Old Testament, a decision which hindered early acceptance of his work.

Jerome’s translation is known as the Vulgate, so-called because it was a translation into the common (i.e. vulgar) language of the people. Completed in 404 A.D., the Vulgate would soon enough become the standard edition of the Scriptures in the West for many hundreds of years.

Following Reformation-era controversies over Biblical interpretation and translation, the Vulgate was accorded definitive status as “authentic” during the fourth session of the Council of Trent, in 1546. In 1592, Pope Clement VIII issued what was held to be a definitive Vulgate edition, and this Clementine Vulgate remained the official Latin edition for the Roman Catholic Church until the publication of the full Nova Vulgata, or Neo-Vulgate, in 1979.

The Greek New Testament

To summarize the relevance of Greek New Testament issues for English translation efforts, we should note that there are effectively two streams of source text development from which translators select the base text to translate from.

The older stream, dating from the Renaissance period, draws primarily from medieval (most late-medieval) manuscripts, obtained from the Greek-speaking Byzantine churches of the East, to create critical source texts, and are commonly referred to today using terms such as the Received Text (Latin: Textus Receptus), or the Majority Text. Texts within this tradition were used for all early English translations from the Greek, including the Authorized or King James Version. They continue to be preferred today by the Orthodox Church, a certain strand of traditionalist Protestant, and perhaps a few others.

The newer stream, developing since the latter part of the 19th century, draws primarily from much older, but far fewer and fragmentary manuscripts discovered in places like the Egyptian desert. Source texts based on these ancient witnesses are something of a pastiche, and are sometimes referred to as eclectic texts, or even simply as the critical texts, though that can misleadingly suggest that the Byzantine-based texts are not critical. Although there are important exceptions, the vast majority of English New Testaments translated from the Greek since the late 19th century are based on one or another of these constructed, eclectic texts.

The eclectic texts differ primarily from those of the Byzantine tradition in that they lack words or even entire verses at different points, which most scholars have concluded are thus emendations (intentional or accidental) in the later manuscripts introduced by copyists over the centuries. Doctrinally, the differences are insignificant, although some of the contested passages are well-revered (e.g. the story of the woman caught in adultery in Jn 8). Translators using eclectic texts not infrequently need to utilize other, more traditional, textual traditions at certain points to meet the demands of believers – versions that omit the story of the woman caught in adultery usually go into revision pretty quickly, although not all such omissions are as starkly obvious to the typical Bible reader.

The Masoretic Text

The Masoretes is a name (meaning Conveyers of Tradition) given to a group of Jewish scholars who, beginning around 600 AD, developed a method for identifying vowel sounds in the consonantal Hebrew text, which thus defined proper pronunciation, and therefore helped settle meaning. In producing their Bible, they also developed an apparatus of textual and orthographic annotations. Their work established a highly fixed Hebrew text.

The earliest extant fragment of this text dates from the late 9th century, and it has been in print steadily since the first printed edition in the late 15th century. It is the textual source for Jewish Bibles, and the primary source for almost all English Old Testaments, excepting only those translated from the Vulgate or the Septuagint.

 

Early-Modern Catholic English Translations

Douay-Rheims Version [D-R] (1582, 1609/1610)

Reformation-era English Catholics exiled in northern France published English translations of the Latin Vulgate New Testament (1582) and Old Testament (1609/1610), which collectively have come to be known as the Douay-Rheims (D-R) version. It was originally published in three volumes, containing extensive notes and commentary. This was the first authorized translation of the entire Bible into English. It is not currently in print, contrary to the impression left by certain modern naming practices.

Douay-Rheims-Challoner Version [DRC] (1749-1763)

In the mid-18th century, Bishop Richard Challoner of England produced a significant revision of the D-R text, a revision which  actually serves as the text of all the currently available editions of Bibles (print or electronic) which are commonly referred to as “Douay-Rheims” versions. It would be less confusing (and more historically accurate) if these current editions were referred to as the Challoner version, or perhaps the Douay-Rheims-Challoner (DRC). Most if not all of them appear to be reprints of an 1899 American edition of the Challoner version. The version is sometimes referenced as the DRA.

Besides making extensive textual revisions, Challoner eliminated much of the original notes and commentary, and an appendix containing three apocryphal books, and so was able to publish his version in a single volume.

This version, though of great value for some 200 years, is difficult to recommend to the typical Catholic reader today, mainly on account of archaic language. However, this version would be very useful as a supplementary text for the serious student, especially those lacking a strong grasp of Latin, as it provides a window into an important ancient textual tradition that parallels the more commonly represented Hebrew and Greek textual traditions. It is widely available in print or electronically.

 

Major Modern Catholic English Translations

The Confraternity Versions [CCD] (1941, 1952, 1955, 1961, 1969)

In 1893, Pope Leo XIII published the encyclical Providentissimus Deus, which called for the prudent appropriation of “scientific” methods of Biblical literary study that had emerged since the Enlightenment. By 1936, this invitation had prompted work on a revision of Bishop Challoner’s New Testament, using the Clementine Vulgate as a primarily translation source. In 1941, this revised New Testament was published with the Challoner Old Testament by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) in America. A corresponding revision of the Old Testament was permanently suspended, however, when Pope Pius XII issued his 1943 encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, which called for Catholic Biblical translations directly from the best original language manuscripts (rather than re-translating from the Latin Vulgate translation, as had been the case until then).

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, as the translation committee, the Catholic Biblical Association of America (CBA), completed translating sections of the Old Testament from original language texts, four transitional editions of the “Confraternity” Bible were published, containing the 1941 Confraternity New Testament, and an eclectic Old Testament text consisting of some books newly translated by the CBA, and other books belonging to the Challoner Vulgate translation. These new CBA translations of the Old Testament books from the original languages would, once completed, become re-branded as the Old Testament of the New American Bible, published in 1970.

None of the translation work produced under the auspices of the Confraternity over those 35 years between 1936 and 1970  is currently available in either print or electronic form, although plenty of printed Confraternity Bibles from the period are still floating around, as are the occasional copies of the original NAB.

The Knox Version (1945, 1950)

At about the same time the CCD in America was preparing its revision of the Challoner translation of the Vulgate New Testament, an Englishman and Anglican convert to Catholicism, Monsignor Ronald Knox, was producing a much more dynamic translation of the Vulgate, which would be very well-received. He released a New Testament translation in 1945; the entire Bible was released in 1950 as: The Holy Bible: A Translation From the Latin Vulgate in the Light of the Hebrew and Greek Originals.

Unfortunately for the fate of this work, it was while Knox was engaged in translating it that Pope Pius XII had urged Catholic scholars to produce translation from the original languages. Knox’s version would thus soon be overshadowed by those original language translations. The Knox translation received considerable exposure in America as the version preferred by Venerable Fulton Sheen during the time of his television presentation ministry. It is available again in print and on-line, but not as an ebook.

New American Bible [NAB] (1970)

By 1970, the Catholic Biblical Association of America (CBA) had completed their original language translations of the Old Testament books, which had been being released in stages within “Confraternity” Bibles since 1952. The books of the Jewish canon were translated primarily from the Masoretic text, except for Psalms, which was translated from the then-current edition of the Latin Psalter. The books of the Deuterocanon were mostly translated from ancient Greek manuscripts, but Sirach was translated in large part from Hebrew fragments.

The CBA had also completed a brand new translation of the New Testament, directly from Greek manuscripts – primarily relying on the 25th edition of the Nestle-Aland critical text.

This work was collectively re-branded and released in 1970 as the New American Bible (NAB). In terms of translational approach, the NAB seems to split the difference between an exacting, formal equivalence approach, and a more dynamic, easy-to-follow approach, with a stated aim to “convey as directly as possible the thought and individual style of the inspired writers.” It was published with extensive explanatory notes and cross-references, although the notes often wade into academic theories concerning matters of so-called higher criticism, which are of dubious value to the common Catholic reader, and for which the CBA has taken some criticism.

This translation became the basis for the liturgical readings in the US published in the Lectionary revision of 1970, as well as for the English edition of the Liturgy of the Hours (excluding the psalms) published in the US in 1975. Electronic editions containing any part of the 1970 translation disappeared from the market after the release of the NABRE version.

New American Bible Revised Edition [NABRE] (1986, 1991, 2011)

A revision of the NAB New Testament was begun in 1978, quite soon after the 1970 publication date of the original edition. Translated from the 3rd edition of the UBS critical Greek text, the revision would be somewhat less creative and more “formal” in its translation approach, less colloquial in its vocabulary, and better suited for public proclamation in the liturgy. It was published in 1986 as the New American Bible with Revised New Testament. Although more formal, this revision also somewhat adopted the “inclusive language” trend gaining popularity at the time, as did a subsequent revision of the NAB Psalms released in 1991.

This 1991 New American Bible with revised New Testament and Psalms was the basis for the liturgical readings submitted for approval in a proposed revised Lectionary during the 1990s, a text which met with resistance from the Roman Congregation for Divine Worship, owing primarily to concerns over the obscurities and inaccuracies introduced by adopting “inclusive language” prejudices. This conflict resulted in some re-working of the English text for the eventual 1998/2002 Lectionary.

The CBA began revising the rest of the Old Testament in 1994, using a source text strategy similar to the one used for the 1970 edition. The initial translation work was completed in 2002. Between 2002 and 2008, the CBA and oversight bodies within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops exchanged drafts of the work. The CBA was concurrently attempting to produce a revision of the 1991 Psalter suitable for liturgical use, but by the end of 2008, the bishops had instead elected to adopt a revision of the Grail Psalter for future liturgical use. With the 1991 Psalter likewise being considered unacceptable for incorporation into the new translation, a third edition of the Psalms  was undertaken during 2009-2010, and incorporated into the Old Testament that had otherwise been ready for publication since 2008. The New American Bible, Revised Old Testament was approved for private use and study on the Feast of St. Jerome (September 30), 2010.

Like the 1986 revised New Testament, the revised Old Testament is somewhat more formal in translation than the text it replaced, and, if some questionable decisions were taken, it is, overall, an improvement over the 1970 text. The improvement over the anemic 1991 Psalter is substantial.

The now entirely revised NAB (1986 NT, 2010 OT), was released on Ash Wednesday of 2011 (March 9th) as the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). At this point, the publically available NAB Biblical text and the various liturgical texts based on the NAB, have become significantly un-aligned with each other, but a version re-convergence is happily targeted for 2025.

An important advance in the NABRE’s usability for serious Scripture study was made recently in the Logos/Verbum edition of the NABRE, which now has embedded reverse interlinear functionality in certain configurations.

Jerusalem Bible [JB] (1966)

Following Pope Pius XII’s call for original language translations of the Bible in 1943, French Dominicans at the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem produced the well-received La Bible de Jerusalem, published in whole in 1956. The British Catholic Biblical Association, under General Editor Alexander Jones (1906-1970) of Christ’s College (Liverpool), produced a derivative edition in English, published in 1966 as the Jerusalem Bible (JB). The JB was the first complete Catholic Bible published that had been translated from the original languages.

While the text is mostly a fresh translation of the Biblical text into English from original language manuscripts using a dynamic equivalence approach, it was compared to the French, and follows it closely. The extensive annotations and introductions were translated directly from the French edition. The “dynamic” approach placed a priority on the work’s readability in English, and little concern was given to maintaining “traditional” Biblical language – preferring to appeal to modern prejudices. The work famously employed contributions from such literary luminaries as J. R. R. Tolkien. It was published (by Doubleday in the US) in a single-column format, with verse numbering relegated to the gutter, and ample cross-references populating the outside margins, aligned to the relevant referent.

The JB is notable for the use of “Yahweh” as an attempted transliteration of the Divine Name as recorded in the Hebrew (which, traditionally, is rendered “the Lord”). This renders the work unsuitable for liturgical use, according to current norms. Excepting the Psalms, for which the Grail Psalms were substituted, the JB  was adopted vernacular liturgical text for the Mass in Great Britain and Australia following the Second Vatican Council. In light of that, England’s Catholic Truth Society publishes a print Bible containing the JB with the Grail Psalms, and since 2007, these editions have replaced the word “Yahweh” with “the Lord”, in compliance with new liturgical norms. Electronic editions of the JB are lacking.

New Jerusalem Bible [NJB] (1985)

A thorough revision of the French Bible de Jerusalem was published in 1973, prompting a revision of its English cousin, the Jerusalem Bible. Led by English Benedictine Fr. Henry Wansbrough, the New Jerusalem Bible was published in 1985. As with its predecessor, the annotations and introductions were generally taken directly from the French edition. The translation is less reliant linguistically on the French edition than the JB had been, but it continues to be interpretively guided by the French.

This more “formal” revision was less paraphrastic and colloquial than the JB, and more attentive to linguistic consistency, so as to better reflect and illuminate the underlying texts. That being said, it incorporated genderless or gender-neutral terms rather liberally, as was the fashion of the day.

The NJB retains the use of “Yahweh” for the Divine Name, making it unsuitable for liturgical use. The format follows that of the JB, using a single column presentation, with verse numbering in the gutter, cross-references placed tactically in the margins, and ample footnotes presented in two columns at the bottoms of each right-hand page. Besides the Standard Edition, the publisher (Doubleday in the US, Darton, Longman & Todd in the UK) also publishes a Reader’s Edition, which strips out most annotations. The NJB is also widely available electronically.

Grail Psalter (1963)

In 1963, an English lay women’s community, called The Ladies of the Grail, published a dynamic translation of the Psalms for chanting to the music of French liturgical composer Joseph Gelineau. This work became very widely used in other settings, as it was incorporated into the Lectionaries of Great Britain and Australia, and also into the English edition of the Liturgy of the Hours adopted worldwide, where it continues to be used to this day.

Revisions of the Grail Psalter (1984, 1993, 2008)

An initial attempt at revision of the Grail Psalms was rejected for liturgical use by the US Bishops in 1984. In 1993, a second attempted revision, called The Grail Psalter (Inclusive Language Version) was likewise rejected for liturgical use. However, that 1993 edition, published by GIA, is listed by the USCCB as being approved for personal use.

In 2008, Benedictine Abbot Gregory Polan of Conception Abbey (Missouri) produced The Revised Grail Psalter. This version conforms to the translational requirements of Liturgiam Authenticam, and is expected to be widely adopted as a liturgical psalter, for both the Lectionary and the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as for other liturgical texts incorporating the Psalms. It is published by GIA in editions for either recitation or singing.

The RSV Family of Translations

Pre-history of Revised Standard Version

The most well-known and influential of English-language Bible translations is the Authorized Version (AV), in America more commonly called the King James Version (KJV). It was published by Anglican Protestants in 1611, the product of over eight decades of sometimes contentious translation development dating back to the work of William Tyndale during the reign of England’s King Henry VIII. A major revision of the AV, called the Revised Version (RV), was published in England between 1881-1885.

An Americanized version of the RV, known as the American Standard Version (ASV), was published in the US in 1901, but it lacked the “Apocrypha” section of its immediate predecessors, which had contained the disputed “Deuterocanonical” books, as well as several other works that had historically been included in an appendix to the Latin Vulgate.

The ASV was a very formal but somewhat wooden translation, and a revision of it, the Revised Standard Version (RSV), was soon published through an ecumenical consortium of mainstream American Protestant churches: the New Testament in 1946, and the Old Testament in 1952. Eventually, the RSV editors decided to produce an RSV translation of the Apocrypha, which was published in 1957, and was available as a third, concluding, section of the RSV Bible in several editions.

Oxford Annotated RSV (1962, 1965, 1977)

Beginning in 1962, Oxford University Press produced study editions of the RSV, notably one including the Apocrypha which was granted an imprimatur by Boston’s Richard Cardinal Cushing in 1965. This is not a true “Catholic edition” of the Bible, but an ecumenical edition, which incorporates several books within the Apocrypha section which are not in the Catholic canon, and likewise segregates the Deuterocanonical books from the rest of the Old Testament. Nonetheless, this work represents an important and influential event in the world of Catholic Biblical study. An updated “New Oxford Annotated Bible” was published in 1977, containing a second (1971) edition of the RSV NT, and an “expanded” Apocrypha, which contained books found in the canons of the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches which were not part of the historical “Apocrypha” in the West. While the New Oxford Annotated Bible would be republished in 1991 using the newer NRSV Biblical text, the RSV edition also continues to be commercially available due to popularity.

Revised Standard Version—Catholic Edition [RSV-CE] (1966)

A “Catholic Edition” of the RSV New Testament was published in 1965 by the Catholic Biblical Association of Great Britain. Differences in the Catholic edition largely consisted of swapping primary and marginal readings in the original RSV NT text, which had relegated to the margins a number of words or verses considered of questionable authenticity by many textual scholars of the day, but which were accepted as genuine by the Catholic tradition. When the New Testament of the RSV itself was shortly thereafter revised in 1971, it would incorporate many of the corrections made by the Catholic revisers in 1965. In 1966, a “Catholic edition” of the RSV Old Testament was prepared, which simply placed the Deuterocanonical books within the Old Testament in canonical order, and eliminated the rest of the Apocrypha.

A full “Catholic” RSV Bible was thus published in 1966 as the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSV-CE), with imprimaturs from Archbishop Gordon Joseph Gray of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, and Bishop Peter W. Bartholome of Saint Cloud Minnesota. Out of print for several years, it was re-published in 1994 by Ignatius Press, and has since been released by several other publishers as well. Logos publishes an electronic edition, which they are in the process of embedding with reverse interlinear functionality. This version remains very popular among serious Catholic students of the Bible.

Revised Standard Version—Second Catholic Edition [RSV2CE] (2006)

A “Second Catholic Edition” of the RSV, released in 2006, was undertaken by Ignatius Press, primarily to eliminate archaic pronouns referring to God (Thee, Thou, etc.), but also with an eye toward tweaking the text for possible use in the liturgy. To that end, the revision was submitted to Rome for editing guidance in light of Liturgiam Authenticam. It is published in print in limited formats. It is also available digitally in Logos format, but without any tagging. It is the underlying text for the Ignatius Version of the Didache Study Bible, as well as for the in-progress Ignatius Catholic Study Bible.

Many conservative Catholics in America have been holding out hope over the past decade that this version will become a standard Biblical text in English, particularly in the liturgy. While I appreciate the sentiment, I’m not expecting the USCCB to adopt this translation.

New Revised Standard Version–Catholic Edition [NRSV-CE] (1990)

The “Catholic Edition” NRSV-CE appears to contain the identical text as the standard “common” edition of the NRSV, only rearranged so that the Deuterocanonical books are placed within their canonical order (also: the books of the Apocrypha which are not in the Catholic canon are eliminated). Published in 1989, the original New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is an “ecumenical” successor to and revision of the RSV, updating the text in light of advances in textual criticism and studies (such as the availability of much of the Dead Sea Scrolls, among others). It eliminates archaic pronouns, and introduces “gender-neutral language” on a scale that has made it something of a poster child for that movement. Excepting the inaccuracies and circumlocutions inevitably produced by the gender-policing, this is a largely formal equivalence translation that has managed to smooth out the English nicely.

Widely accepted within academia, it has not found the same welcome in ecclesial circles. The NRSV was rejected for liturgical use by the Orthodox Church in America in 1990. The “New Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition” was prepared and submitted to the American and Canadian Catholic bishops’ conferences, but it was likewise rejected for liturgical use in 1994 – by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith! – although the Canadian bishops (CCCB) continue to use an approved modified version of it in their Lectionary, and the USCCB has approved the NRSV-CE for personal use.

Print editions of the NRSV-CE exist in both standard (American) and Anglicized editions, and several nice Study Bible editions of the “common” NRSV are available in print. The standard NRSV with Apocrypha is also widely available electronically, although only Logos appears to also offer it in an NRSV-CE arrangement. The Logos editions of the NRSV and NRSV-CE include a wonderful reverse interlinear layer (dependent upon purchased functional ability in the program itself), tagging the English text with analytical information from the corresponding original language source text, including the manuscript and lemma forms of the words, their morphology, transliteration, original word order indicators, links to corresponding lexical entries, etc. These are among the most useful editions for Catholics looking to do serious Bible study, despite the clumsy and annoying gender-silliness of the translation.

Lesser-Known Modern Catholic English Translations

Kenrick’s Challoner Revision (1849-1862)

Francis Patrick Kenrick (1797-1863), was an Irish-born priest, skilled in Greek and Hebrew, who was assigned to the Diocese of Bardstown, Kentucky, where he taught theology, history, and Greek at both Bardstown Seminary and the College of St. Joseph, until being called to become  Bishop of Philadelphia in 1830. While in Philadelphia, in the 1840s, Bishop Kenrick undertook a revision of the Challoner version, which, along with extensive textual and interpretive commentary, was published in six volumes (4000+ pages) between 1849 and 1862 by Kelly, Hedian & Piet (Baltimore). Unfortunately, the translation met significant opposition within the episcopacy for some unusual renderings of familiar passages, and the version saw little use. Kenrick died as Archbishop of Baltimore on July 8, 1863. Logos is currently trying to secure sufficient interest in the six-volume work to fund development of an electronic edition.

Spencer New Testament (1897-1937)

American Dominican Fr. Francis Aloysius Spencer began his translation work with a well-received translation of the Gospels from the Vulgate, initiated in 1894 and published in 1897. The following year, he published an equally well-received translation of the Gospels from the Greek, which was followed by translations of the rest of the New Testament books from the Greek, a work he finished shortly before his death in 1913. Spencer generally used Hebrew transliteration forms to spell Hebrew proper names, rather than the Greek forms typical in Catholic Bibles at the time. He also italicized the spoken words of Jesus, and used small caps to identify Old Testament quotations or allusions in the New Testament.

This work represented the first translation, by a Catholic, of the entire New Testament into English from the Greek. The work was later edited by fellow Dominican Frs. Charles J. Callan and John A. McHugh, and published in a single, annotated edition by Macmillan in 1937 as: The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ Translated into English from the Original Greek.

Westminster Version of the Sacred Scriptures (1913-1949)

The Westminster Version was a British effort led by Jesuit Fr. Cuthbert Lattey (1977-1954), which, if completed, would have been the first complete Catholic Bible in English translated from the original languages. The New Testament was released in fascicles, from 1913 through 1935. A complete New Testament was published in 1948. All of the New Testament releases were published in London by Longmans, Green and Co.

Fascicles of Old Testament books began appearing in 1934, with continued periodic releases until 1953, after which the death of Fr. Lattey effectively brought the project to a close. During that period, several publishers were engaged to publish Westminster translations of twelve of the forty-six Old Testament books: nine of the twelve Minor Prophets (excluding Hosea, Joel, Amos), Daniel, Ruth, and Psalms. In 1958, Hawthorne Book Publishers (Caxton Publishing in the US) released a single-volume “Family Bible” which contained the Westminster translations of the New Testament and Psalms, and used the Challoner version for the remainder of the Old Testament. Overall, the Westminster translation is considered competent but stylistically overly archaic.

Kleist–Lilly New Testament (1954)

Published posthumously by Bruce Publishing, this edition was a collaboration between two American priests: the German-born James Aloysius Kleist, SJ (1873-1949), and Joseph L. Lilly, CM (1893-1952). Kleist produced the Gospels, generally considered the better part of the work, and Lilly produced the remainder of the NT, although parts of Acts appear to have been taken from the Confraternity New Testament, suggesting that Lilly may not have completed the work before his death. The aim of the translation was to produce a modern language version for Catholics, using dynamic equivalence and “common language” techniques. The work was not widely adopted.

Books of the New Testament (1994)

A solo translation by Mark Wauck, published originally by Alba House; the complete New Testament was published in 1994. This work is listed on the USCCB website among “Approved Translations of the Sacred Scriptures for Private Use and Study by Catholics”. It was republished in 2000 by Pauline Books and Media as New Testament: St. Paul Catholic Edition.

At least in the Pauline edition, it offers a unique presentation, with single-column text framed on heavy, colorful pastel pages sporting abundant photos and other graphics. It has verse numbering relegated to the center gutter, bold red heading text, and Old Testament quotations highlighted in a heavy black bold. The translation leans toward a formal equivalence for accuracy, yet is very direct, and noticeably conversational in tone, for example in its liberal use of contractions. This is an odd stylistic juxtaposition, but it works overall to produce a warm yet impressive edition.

Very useful as a secondary translation of the NT, it appears to be out of print, and no electronic editions of this version exist.

Christian Community Bible [CCB] (1988-2015)

The CCB is the English language entry in a network of simplified translations, used in the Catholic missions, which are all linked to the work of Bernando Hurault (1924-2004), a French Claretian missionary who was stationed in Chile in the 1960s. Hurault developed his own Spanish language translation to assist the poor he served, using a loose translation approach that simplified the text. This he published in 1971 as La Biblia Latinoamericana, heavily annotating the text with a pastoral commentary drawing on his homilies and on the life situation of the oppressed poor he lived among, informed by the “theology of liberation” that was in ascendency at the time in European universities and in third-world slums and pueblos.

The work was outlawed as Marxist agitprop by some of the repressive right-wing regimes in the Spanish-speaking south, and by the mid-1980s, Hurault was living in the Philippines, where a fellow Claretian missionary, Argentinian-born Alberto Rossa, convinced Hurault (who did not know English) to produce an English-language version of his Bible, which would incorporate his commentary. After spending four months learning English, Hurault at least symbolically oversaw an 18-month effort to produce the Christian Community Bible, published in 1988 by the Rossa-managed Claretian Publications. The primary editor of the work has been identified as Sr. Patricia Grogan, an Australian Sister of the Faithful Companions of Jesus, who had otherwise published a couple histories of her order, and who had served as principal of the order’s teacher training school, the Sedgley Park College of Education in Manchester, England.

The resulting work was, not surprisingly, uneven at best as Biblical translation, but did succeed in promulgating Hurault’s teachings to millions of its target audience: poorly educated, third-world Catholics who speak English as a second language.

The publisher, currently known as the Pastoral Bible Foundation, claims that edits and corrections are on-going (e.g. a 60th edition was published in 2015); a version history is not readily available. Mostly distributed in so-called mission lands, and not widely available in print in the USA, the CCB is available online from http://bibleclaret.org/bibles/ or http://ccbpastoralbible.wordpress.com.

New Community Bible: Catholic Edition (2008-2012)

The NCB is a version created by missionaries of the Society of Saint Paul in India. It is a revision of the Christian Community Bible, and is likewise targeted at a readership in missionary lands who speak English as a second language. The English of the CCB was improved upon for this revision, but this remains very much a simplified language Bible, subject to all the criticisms that implies. It is heavily annotated like its predecessor, but for this revision, Bernando Hurault’s commentary was re-written, resulting in annotations that are more academic and somewhat less “pastoral”. It nonetheless created considerable controversy in India upon publication in 2008.

Some of the annotations tried to relate the Biblical story to the life situation and traditions of the Indian population it was written for, which offended both some Indian Catholics critical of what they saw as the new commentary’s syncretized appropriation of Hindu and other “world” religions, as well as nationalistic Hindus who viewed the work as culturally aggressive. The Indian Bishops’ Conference withdrew the work from publication, and then re-issued a lightly revised version in 2011. The work was subsequently released in 2012 in an “International Edition” by the Society of Saint Paul in Australia, where it is gaining readership. It is being sold in the USA by Alba House and the Daughters of St Paul. The work is not available in any electronic format I am aware of.

Catholic Public Domain Version [CPDV] (2009)

Translated solo by Ronald L. Conte, Jr., the CPDV is a modern translation of Clementine Vulgate, using the Challoner revision of the Douay-Rheims as a literary guide. The translator calls it a “fairly literal” translation of the Vulgate, somewhat less literal than the Challoner revision had been. It was consciously translated in the light of Catholic teaching (i.e. the analogy of faith, cf. CCC #114), and with a view toward illuminating the Christological elements of the Old Testament texts (cf. CCC #112). This stands in contrast to the tendency within many modern versions to translate the Old Testament as if it were not in relation to the New Testament. The obfuscations of “inclusive language” were “carefully avoid[ed]” in translating the text.

Conte sought to provide an up-to-date English version in the Latin textual tradition, which he correctly views as a perfectly relevant companion stream to those of the other ancient languages (Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic/Syriac). It was published in full, without copyright, in 2009, and is available for some freeware Bible Study apps, in Kindle & ePub formats, in paperback, and online in both English-only and English-Latin formats at Conte’s website: http://www.sacredbible.org/catholic/.

Nicolas King Bible (2004-2013)

Jesuit Fr. Nicholas King has recently completed a fresh, annotated, literal translation of the entire Bible from Greek. This entailed a translation of the Greek New Testament (published in 2004) followed by a translation of  the Septuagint Greek Old Testament, released in four volumes over the intervening years, until completion of the entire work in 2013. It is published in England by Kevin Mayhew in five volumes, or as a single volume marketed simply as The Bible.

Since this is a (Roman) Catholic Bible, and not a pure translation of the Septuagint, there are several books normally found in the LXX which are not found here. Unfortunately, that apparently includes the sixth and final chapter of the book of Baruch. In the LXX, Baruch contains only five chapters; the content of what Catholic Bibles identify as the sixth chapter of Baruch is, in the LXX, a single-chapter book called The Letter of Jeremiah. The translator appears to have forgotten to attach that text as the final chapter of Baruch.

New Catholic Version [NCV] (2002-2015)

The NCV is a high-quality, thoroughly annotated, formal equivalence translation from Catholic Book Publishing, marketed under their Saint Joseph Edition moniker. The Psalms were published in 2002, followed by the New Testament in 2015. It is a new, independent translation, not beholden to older traditions, and willing to go against the grain at times, but eschewing the vulgarizing tendencies of many modern translations to flatten the rich vocabulary of Biblical tradition into pedestrian and vague dullness, or to surrender literary precision and clarity to identity politics. Fidelity to the revealed Word was clearly a translational priority.

Public background information on the effort is sparse, other than that the translation team was led by Conventual Franciscan Fr. Jude Winkler, who has authored other works for CBP. It is not clear if the publisher intends to produce an accompanying translation of the rest of the Old Testament.

Ironically, this New Jersey publishing house received its ecclesial permission to publish from the Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines. The Psalms are listed among the approved translations on the USCCB website (the New Testament is likely too new to have been considered). Currently each of the two works is published in vest pocket and standard format editions, and no electronic editions exist.

Other Versions Issued in “Catholic Editions”

The Living Bible [TLB] (1976)

The Living Bible is not a translation, but a paraphrase of an older English translation (the ASV), written by a Baptist layman, Kenneth Taylor. It originated in paraphrasing Taylor prepared to help teach his children the Bible. Sensing the publishing potential of the paraphrases, he founded Tyndale House to publish his work, culminating in the complete “Living Bible” in 1971, which sold very well. By 1976, Our Sunday Visitor had produced similar paraphrases of the deuterocanonical books, which were combined with Taylor’s work in a “Complete Catholic Edition” of an illustrated edition called The Way, which appended the Deuterocanonicals after the New Testament. Editions containing only the Protestant canon are still available in print and electronically, but I don’t believe the “Catholic” edition is still published. This work was more widely criticized even than most of the other “easy-to-read” versions for the liberties taken in presenting the meaning of the sacred text.

Today’s English Version/Good News Translation [TEV/GNT] (1979, 1992)

This rather loosely-translated, multi-named Bible, published by the American Bible Society (ABS), first appeared as a New Testament in 1966 called Good News for Modern Man. The (Protestant) Old Testament was added in 1976, after which it was mostly known as the Good News Bible, and/or Today’s English Version (TEV). Since 1979, it has also been published with an Apocrypha section, sometimes in so-called “Catholic Editions”, but that designation has typically meant only that the edition contained the full complement of books. Footnotes and cross-references are sparse.

Beyond being a paraphrastic translation, the TEV abandons traditional Biblical vocabulary in favor of what the editors deem “everyday” English, language common to both native speakers and those for whom English is an adopted tongue. Essentially, it is geared toward those with middle school level reading skills and vocabulary. This makes for easy reading, but it tends to flatten Biblical doctrines, and can be quite pedestrian as literature.

The work seems more focused on re-telling the religious stories than re-presenting the sacred word. In the view of some, this approach makes the Bible seem more accessible, especially to the less educated, although one hopes that those folks will eventually educate themselves through exposure to translations both more rigorous and more informed by an understanding of the Scriptures as verbally inspired revelation. The lead translator, Robert G. Brachter, made numerous public statements over the years dismissive of both the doctrines of Biblical inerrancy and orthodox Christology, causing the American Bible Society to lose financial support.

Republished in a second edition in 1992 with revisions adopting the de-gendered language tendency in academic ascendency at the time, that edition was ultimately re-branded as the “Good News Translation” (GNT) to battle the perception that it was more a paraphrase than a translation. Widely available electronically, sometimes containing the “Apocrypha”. The second edition has been approved for personal use by the USCCB.

Contemporary English Version [CEV] (1995)

The Contemporary English Version is another loosely translated, limited vocabulary, “common language” translation from the American Bible Society, this one aiming at an even lower level of language skills than the TEV/GNT. Published in the 1995, the effort was led by Barclay M. Newman, who has made no secret of his view that when modern notions of correctness conflict with a literal reading of Scripture, the modern view should prevail – and this approach is not limited to the now almost ubiquitous genderless terminology. The translation eliminates words like covenant, salvation, grace, justification, and other fundamental Biblical ideas. Addressing what the editors saw as widespread literacy challenges, the translation approach paid particular attention to how the text would be experienced by hearers, not just readers.

Several CEV editions containing the Apocrypha are available in print, and sometimes bear the label “Catholic”. Somehow, the CEV New Testament and Psalms have been approved by the US Catholic Bishops for personal use. It was also the textual basis for the Lectionary for Masses with Children that was in use on a “trial” basis in many parishes for several years. Often packaged as youth or children’s Bibles, I find this translation difficult to recommend for any purpose.