Is it time to return to an older translation of the Bible? Is it time for us to retreat into ourselves and guard ourselves like a village knowing that it’s under siege retreating into the walls of the fortress? It appears that the time has come. We can no longer stay in the broad proximity to Christ’s voice like sheep grazing on newer grass. We have found ourselves in grave danger where we stand and to do nothing about this would be, quite frankly, folly. The enemy looks different this time. The jaws are the same as any wolf that lives in the forest outside, but this time the jaws take on the form of the sheep around us, disguised from us. The sheep should be shepherds and they are not. They are wolves who put on shepherds clothing, then disguised as sheep, coming at us from all angles. Return to the pen. We need to return to the close proximity of Christ’s voice, close proximity to the song that Mary sings inside of the cottage.
Now, what does this have to do with going back to an older translation of the Bible? Simple, Christ’s voice is on the pages of the Bible, it is where we hear Christ most clearly. Now, there have been many translations of the Bible into English, and any translation is subject to error. The point of the Bible, though, is faith and morals as revealed through God’s Covenant story with man. It is not history, science, culture, archaeology, or anything else that doesn’t have to do with faith and morals. Those subjects can shed light upon the life of God, absolutely. But they are not an end in themselves. When a scholar or theologian finds themselves too wrapped up in anything outside of faith and morals they need to reassess what they are doing. I feel that in the modern day even the most orthodox Catholic scholar gets overly excited at the discovery of every new scroll, every new piece of archaeological evidence, and each bit of profound linguistic textual criticism. These are indeed exciting times for discovery given the technology that we have today. But I repeat, the point is faith and morals, the narrative of God’s relationship with the Jews and the Christians.
Translations can be wrong about details like the color of the fruit, red or green, and not be wrong details of faith and morals. Thus, any authorized translation of the Bible is something that we can use because it has been authorized for use, it has been found to be free of moral and theological errors. So, we must go outside of the content itself within the realm of Catholic Bible translations because they’re all gonna get you there (though not necessarily in the best way). Yet, the other stuff, such as footnotes, commentary, and word choices, can make a difference in the perception of a passage. These seemingly small things can add up to create a negative effect upon the reader. Therefore, even though I am not a Douay-Rheims onlyist, I do recommend at this point for people looking for faithful translation to go to the Douay-Rheims. Now, the Knox translation is also a faithful translation, but due to its unusual styling particularly of the Psalms, it can be little more difficult to read (the Psalms are written in prose as opposed to poetry).
Faithful to what you may ask? Faithfully Catholic. Take for example the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE) put out by the USCCB. Given the revelation of homosexual and socialist conspiracy within that organization (wolf-shepherds), it is safe to assume that for the time being it might be safer to stay away from the translation that they authorized. Before we the faithful even knew that this was happening, the footnotes to this translation were questionable at best. And given the fact that the USCCB made it mandatory to include these footnotes in any reproduction, we already had grounds for doubt. The Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSV-CE) and the Revised Standard Version 2nd Catholic Edition (RSV-2CE) are both generally well received in the Catholic community, even though they are Protestant translations that were examined and redone in accordance with Catholic norms. Prominent Catholic scholars such as Scott Hahn use the RSV in their writings and in their studies, as do traditional Catholic colleges such as Christendom College and Steubenville. It is a fine translation that I myself have used and continue to use in my graduate studies. Yet, the fact remains that is a Protestant translation, possibly bent in a Protestant direction, as opposed to a Catholic work entirely. There are other translations in English that could be considered here, but they all have similar difficulties.
What remains is the Douay-Rheims which was redone in the 18th century by Bishop Challoner, primarily using the Latin Vulgate but supplemented by modern Greek and Hebrew sources available at the time. Bishop Challoner also saw fit to use some King James language in his version, but for the sake of style. And King James Bible is stylish indeed. So, no, the modern Douay-Rheims is not the original 16th and 17th century Douay-Rheims, but the translation of it utilizing sources that were not available at the time. Yet, as Catholic English Bible translations go Challoner’s Douay-Rheims is the most Catholic Bible that we have, free from errors in faith and morals just like all the rest. It is a faithful telling of God’s story with us and it is our translation as English-speaking Catholics. This is why, in light of all that is happening in the world today, we retreat to our pen clutching the Douay-Rheims in our arms because from that we can most clearly hear the voice of Christ and Mary. As always, a Cruce salus!