Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Douay-Rheims Bible

In an earlier post, James included a quote from Whitaker:

"Certain English popish divines, who have taken up their abode in the seminary of Rheims, some years since translated the new Testament into the English tongue, not from the Greek text, but from the old Latin Vulgate. In order to persuade us of the wisdom and prudence of this proceeding, they produce in their preface ten reasons to prove that this Latin Vulgate edition is to be followed in all things rather than the Greek (p.141)."

Here's a little background on the Douay-Rheims bible from Wiki:

The Douay–Rheims Bible...is a translation of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate into English undertaken by members of the English College, Douai in the service of the Catholic Church. The New Testament was published in Reims (France) in 1582, in one volume with extensive commentary and notes. The Old Testament, which was published by the University of Douai, followed nearly thirty years later in two volumes; the first volume (Genesis to Job) in 1609, the second (Psalms to 2 Machabees plus the apocrypha of the Clementine Vulgate) in 1610. Marginal notes took up the bulk of the volumes and had a strong polemical and patristic character. They also offered insights on issues of translation, and on the Hebrew and Greek source texts of the Vulgate. The purpose of the version, both the text and notes, was to uphold Catholic tradition in the face of the Protestant Reformation which up till then had ovewhelmingly dominated Elizabethan religion and academic debate. As such it was an impressive effort by English Catholics to support the Counter-Reformation.

While doing some research for my last post I came across the 1989 Preface to the Douay Rheims which quotes from the 1582 version:

Sometimes 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 barre better conserved from corruption." (Preface to the Douay Old Testament, 1609).

(I believe that last phrase is suppose to read "the same Latin hath been far better conserved from corruption" based on the source below.)

I also came across an older version of the Douay-Rheims which includes what seems to be the original preface. If you go to page iv you will find the "ten reasons" that Whitaker referred to in the quote above. The preface is actually an interesting read. In addition to the love professed for the Vulgate, the Rheims authors seem to be conflicted at producing a vernacular version which every layperson could read (pg. iv):

(click to enlarge)

Part of the Old Testament preface can be found in Documents of the English Reformation starting on page 401. It's an interesting read also.


James Swan said...

Facinating. Thanks.

Rhology said...

Genesis 3:14-15, Douay-Rheims: 14 And the Lord God said to the serpent: Because thou hast done this thing, thou art cursed among all cattle, and the beasts of the earth: upon thy breast shalt thou go, and earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.

15 I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: ***she*** shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for ***her*** heel.

James Swan said...


Are you disrespecting Mary again?

Shame, shame.

Rhology said...

I have not yet begun to do so.
Here's my preferred translation of Luke 2:

4Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5in order to register. 6While he and someone else were there, the days were completed for Jesus to come forth somehow. 7And so He came; and He was in cloths, and laid in a manger, because there was no room for Joseph or Jesus in the inn.

15When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16So they came in a hurry and found their way to Joseph and Jesus, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19But Joseph treasured all these things, pondering them in his heart.

PeaceByJesus said...

And as regards promoting Biblical literacy among the laity,

Which translation we do not for all that publish, upon erroneous opinion of necessity, that the Holy Scriptures should always be in our mother tongue, or that they ought, or were ordained by God, to be read impartially by all,..but upon special consideration of the present time, state, and condition of our country, unto which diverse things are either necessary or profitable and medicinable now that otherwise, in the peace of the Church, were neither much requisite, nor perchance wholly tolerable.

More excerpts:

In our own country, notwithstanding the Latin tongue was ever (to use Venerable Bede's words) common to all the provinces of the same for meditation or study of Scriptures, and no vulgar translation commonly used or employed by the multitude, yet they were extant in English even before the troubles that Wycliffe and his followers raised in our Church,..

Which causeth the Holy Church not to forbid utterly any Catholic translation, though she allow not the publishing or reading of any absolutely and without exception or limitation, knowing by her Divine and most sincere wisdom, how, where, when, and to whom these her Master's and Spouse's gifts are to be bestowed to the most good of the faithful.

(excerpts of long Introduction to (Douai-Rheims New Testament introduction)

RPV said...

If you ever get a chance, the Puritan Thomas Cartwright's Confutation of the Rhemist Translation of 1618 is the thing to get your hands on. Da Capo Press put out a facsimilie in 1971 which I got off AddAll.com

Bob S

PeaceByJesus said...

James, et all, you may be interested in this, Uncomfortable Facts About The Douay-Rheims: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=4300&CFID=45541857&CFTOKEN=30609021

Better late than never

RPV said...

After reading this,the saying "liars should have good memories" came to mind.
After reading PBJ's link on Douay Rheims, even more so.
The AV is largely the Tyndale by way of the Geneva, all vernacular versions that preceded the Douay by years, much more how many were persecuted unto death for translating or having a vernacular translation before the Roman church gave in and came up with their own vernacular version.
That never will be answered by Rome.