Many Catholics are once more discovering the richness of the Church's traditional versions of the Sacred Scriptures.
The Clementine Vulgate was proclaimed the official Latin Bible of the Church after the
Reformation. From St. Jerome's time, through the Middle Ages, until vernacular editions were introduced, educated Catholics throughout the world were familiar with the Vulgate.
Those familiar with the Douay Rheims Bible will know that it is one of the most beautiful and accurate Bible translations available today – a word for word translation of the
Having both Bibles side by side allows us to see exactly where the vernacular translation came from. Even those with limited Latin skills will be able to follow along, using the Douay Rheims translation as an aid. You'll see how the Douay Rheims is a literal translation of the classic Vulgate.
It is a beautiful, captivating read. The Biblia Sacra is not difficult to understand and it doesn't take much study of Latin to be able to get through the texts passably.
Included in this Bible are Challoner's notes, and the texts found in the appendix to the Vulgate, namely 3 and 4 Esdras and the prayer of Manasses (in Latin with an English
translation). This makes the Bible totally comprehensive and ideal for theology students.
Owning one of these beautiful Bibles will give you great pleasure each time you read it, and ensure that your family is familiar with sacred scripture in Latin as well as English.
Bound in leather with ornate gold blocked cover and spine. Gilded page edges,
head and tail bands and two satin ribbons.
- The Douay-Rheims Bible is an English translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible, a version universally used in the Church for over 1500 years, itself meticulously translated from the original Hebrew and Greek by St. Jerome (A.D. 340-420).
- In 1546, the Council of Trent declared the Vulgate Bible as authentic, and declared that "No one (may) dare or presume under any pretext whatsoever to reject it" (4th Session, April 8, 1546).
- In 1943, Pope Pius XII stated that the continuous use of the Vulgate Bible in the Church for many centuries showed that it was "free from any error whatsoever in matters of faith and morals" (Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943), paragraph 21).
Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ. (St. Jerome)
At the heart of the Christian faith stands the “Word made flesh”, the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ. In both the New Testament, which relates to us his words and life, and the Old Testament which prepared the nations for the coming of Christ through prophesy, and through types of the messiah that was to come to bestow grace and blessing on the whole world (Luke 24:44; John 5:39; 1 Peter 1:10). For “All sacred Scripture is but one book, and that one book is Christ, because divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and all divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ.” Because of this the Church has always commended its children to read the Bible; it has instructed them through the saturation of the Mass with Scripture, not only during the readings, but in the Introit, Offertory, and other parts of the service; it has set the psalms to be prayed in the Divine Office, particularly setting a deeper knowledge of Scripture before us in Matins when it presents to us longer readings from the Bible, and commentaries by the Saints on the Word of God. Through all of this we are drawn to ever know the person of Jesus Christ more clearly.
The Church has always endeavoured to make the treasures of the scriptures available to its children. The Septuagint Old Testament and Koine Greek versions of the New Testament books served Greek-speaking Christians, but a Latin readership needed the sacred books in their own tongue. So various individual books of the Bible were translated into Latin at the end of the second century, as well as a complete version of the scriptures – the Vetus Itala, or Old Latin Bible.
The history of the Vulgate begins with Pope Damasus I (d. 384) in the fourth century. Damasus was a great reforming Pope who, amongst other issues was concerned with the important place the Scriptures held in the life of the Church. He fixed the canon of Scripture in the Catholic Church by decree, and he also commissioned Saint Jerome to undertake his famous revision of the Old Latin Bible in order to produce the Vulgate. Whereas the Old Testament of the Old Latin Bible was a direct translation of the Septuagint, Jerome also drew on the Hebrew manuscripts and the Greek version of Symmachus. The Vulgate became the standard Latin text of the Scriptures, and has had an unrivalled impact on western thought and culture. Such was its significance that it was the first book to be printed on the Gutenberg Press in 1454.
The scholarship of the great age of the fathers in the fourth century was reaffirmed in the sixteenth by the Council of Trent during the turbulence of the Reformation, when the council solemnly decreed that:
the venerable Latin Vulgate edition, which, in use for so many hundreds of years, has been approved by the Church, be in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions held as authentic, and that no one dare or presume under any pretext whatsoever to reject it.
With the increase of scriptural studies in the Renaissance several new Latin versions had been produced, partly because new manuscripts were available to scholars but also because copyists’ errors had crept into the texts of the Vulgate over the course of a millennium. The Council therefore not only reaffirmed the authority of the traditional Latin text, but also ordered a new edition of Jerome’s work. Pope Sixtus V’s patronage in the area of scriptural studies bore fruit and the first revision of the Latin Vulgate was produced in 1590. Following its publication, further revision was carried out under the direction of the Jesuit Father Franciscus Toletus, which was published in 1598 during the pontificate of Clement VIII, hence the revised text is referred to as the Clementine Vulgate.
There was also concern at the Council that proper translations should be prepared for the faithful to read. Many European countries already had vernacular editions of the complete Bible. A German edition was printed as early as 1466 (by the time Luther’s New Testament appeared in 1522 there had been at least 16 editions of the Bible in German), followed by an Italian Bible in 1471, and a Spanish one in 1478 - the same year the New Testament was published in French, although France would have to wait until 1487 for the entire Bible. Complete manuscripts of the scriptures were also produced in languages as diverse as Hungarian and Welsh.
However the association of English Scriptures with the Lollards in the fifteenth century made the ecclesiastics in England very wary of permitting a vernacular Bible. Although the Church did approve vernacular translations she was extremely concerned that such editions should accurately reflect the text of the Vulgate and have proper notes to help readers understand what they read. Yet, there had been earlier English translations of, at least, parts of the Bible. The Protestant divine Thomas Cranmer, admitted in the preface of the Great Bible that the Scriptures were
translated and read in the Saxon tongue, which at that time was the mother tongue, whereof there remaineth yet divers copies […] and when this language waxed old and out of common use, it was translated into the [English] language, whereof yet also many copies remain and be daily found.
And similarly the preface of King James’ Authorized Version of 1611 says:
[...] even in our King Richard the second’s days , John Trevisa translated them into English, and many English Bibles in written hand are yet to be seen with divers, translated as it is very probable, in that age.
In 1578 a group of Seminary Priests in exile at Rheims began the task of adding English to those tongues which had a full translation of the Vulgate available to them.
The Douai-Rheims Bible marked a major landmark in Catholic translations in English. The task was undertaken by a group of Oxford educated scholars, who had fled to the continent to avoid the prosecution of Catholic priests that occurred in Elizabeth I’s reign. The scholars were Dr. (later Cardinal) William Allen, Dr. Gregory Martin, Dr. Richard Bristow, William (or John) Reynolds, and Thomas Worthington. Martin was the main translator of the text, with the rest providing revision; the voluminous annotations which accompanied the text were written principally by Allen and Bristow.
The Rheims New Testament was published in 1582, but due to financial constraints the Old Testament had to wait until 1609-10 before it could be put to press. Although not one of the Bibles its translators were supposed to have drawn on, it is now widely known that the translators of the Authorised (King James) Version used the Rheims New Testament of 1582, and many words came into common usage in the English language this way. Best known is the adoption of “charity” in 1 Corinthians 13, where all previous Protestant translations had used “love”, but other examples of the Rheims’ linguistic influence include “advent”, “evangelize”, and “victim”. This enrichment of the English language came about because the Rheims New Testament employed transliterations of Latin words in order to retain the precise meanings contained in Jerome’s text.
The original Douai-Rheims endured until the middle of the eighteenth century, by which time the language was too obscure and archaic for many readers and revision was required. Several scholars independently undertook this task, but the most enduring is the work of Bishop Richard Challoner, which is the English version given in this volume. Dr Challoner undertook four revisions: a New Testament published in 1749; a complete Bible in 1750; a third edition of the New Testament in 1752, and another revision of the complete Bible in 1763-64. In both the 1750 and 1763-64 editions the New Testament was also further revised. Cardinal Newman commented that the alterations to the original Douai-Rheims were “very considerable”, while Cardinal Wiseman described it as “little short of a new translation”. Certainly it was a significant feat of scholarship on the part of Challoner.
Since work on the Douai-Rheims commenced before the revision of Saint Jerome’s masterpiece was completed, Bishop Challoner was in a better position to reflect the text of the Vulgate revised by the command of the Council, and in this edition one is able to compare the great English Catholic Bible with the Clementine text. Challoner’s revised edition of the Scriptures has endured and continues to be read by Christians in the twenty first century. Like the Authorized Version its language is acknowledged as possessing a dignity of phrase and diction which make it superior to many contemporary translations; and in this edition the reader will find the entirety of Challoner’s fine translation side by side with the timeless phrases of Jerome’s text. Through the beauty of this Bible the faithful may continue to know the Scriptures, and to know Jesus Christ, who stands at the centre of all that is written here. “Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today; and the same for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8)