- Douay-Rheims Bible
The Douay-Rheims Bible, also known as the Rheims-Douai Bible or Douai Bible and abbreviated as D-R, is a translation of the
Biblefrom the Latin Vulgateinto English. The New Testamentwas published in one volume with extensive commentary and notes in 1582. The Old Testamentfollowed in 1609–10 in two volumes, also extensively annotated. The 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 Reformationwhich was heavily influencing England. As such it was an impressive effort by English Catholics to support the Counter-Reformation.
Jerusalem Bible, New American Bible(in the United States), the Revised Standard Version, the New Revised Standard Versionand the New Jerusalem Bibleare the most commonly used in English-speaking Catholic churches, the Challoner revision of the Douay-Rheims is still often the Bible of choice of English-speaking Traditionalist Catholics.
exiles for religious causes, or recusants, were not all Catholic. There were Catholic refugees on the European mainland as well as Puritan, and from the one, as from the other, there proceeded an English version of the Bible. The center of English Catholicism was the English College at Douaifounded (in 1568) by William Allen, formerly of Queen's College, Oxford, and Canon of York, and subsequently cardinal, for the purpose of training priests to convert the English again to Catholicism. And it was here where the Catholic translation of the Bible into English was produced.
A run of a few hundred or more of the New Testament, in
quartoform (not large folio), was published in the last months of 1582(Herbert #177), during a temporary migration of the college to Rheims; consequently, it has been commonly known as the Rheims New Testament. Though he died in the same year as its publication, this translation was principally the work of Gregory Martin, formerly Fellow of St. John's College, Oxford, close friend of Saint Edmund Campion. He was assisted by others at Douai, notably Cardinal Allen himself, Richard Bristow, and Thomas Worthington, who proofed and provided notes and annotations. The Old Testamentis stated to have been ready at the same time, but for want of funds it could not be printed until later, after the college had returned to Douai; it is commonly known as the Douay Old Testament. It was issued as two quartovolumes dated 1609and 1610(Herbert #300). Surprisingly these first New Testament and Old Testament editions followed the Geneva Biblenot only in their quarto format but also in the use of Roman type.
As an earlier translation, the Rheims New Testament had a minor influence on the translators of the King James Version (see below). Afterwards it ceased to be of interest in the Anglican church. The city is now spelled Douai, but the Bible continues to be published as the "Douay-Rheims Bible", and has formed the basis of some later Roman Catholic Bibles in English.
The title page runs: "The Holy Bible, faithfully translated into English out of the authentic Latin. Diligently conferred with the Hebrew, Greek and other Editions." The cause of the delay was "our poor state of banishment", but there was also the matter of reconciling the Latin to the other editions. William Allen went to Rome and worked, with others, on the revision of the Vulgate. The Sixtine edition was published in
1590. The definitive Clementine text followed in 1592. These revisions of the Vulgate allowed Dr Worthington, in the preface, to say: "we have again conferred this English translation and conformed it to the most perfect Latin Edition." [Bernard Orchard, "A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture", (Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1951). Page 36.]
The Douay-Rheims Bible is a translation of the
Latin Vulgate, which is itself a translation from Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts. The Vulgate was largely created due to the efforts of Saint Jerome( 345- 420), whose translation was declared to be the authentic Latin version of the Bible by the Council of Trent. While the Catholic scholars "conferred" with the Hebrew and Greek originals, as well as with "other editions in diuerse languages," [1582 Rheims New Testament, "Preface to the Reader."] their avowed purpose was to translate from the Latin Vulgate, for reasons of accuracy as stated in their Preface, but which also tended to produce, in places, stilted syntax and Latinisms. The following short passage (Ephesians 3:6-12), taken almost at random, is a fair example, admittedly without updating the spelling conventions then in use:
:"The Gentils to be coheires and concorporat and comparticipant of his promis in Christ JESUS by the Gospel: whereof I am made a minister according to the gift of the grace of God, which is given me according to the operation of his power. To me the least of al the sainctes is given this grace, among the Gentils to evangelize the unsearcheable riches of Christ, and to illuminate al men what is the dispensation of the sacrament hidden from worldes in God, who created al things: that the manifold wisedom of God, may be notified to the Princes and Potestats in the celestials by the Church, according to the prefinition of worldes, which he made in Christ JESUS our Lord. In whom we have affiance and accesse in confidence, by the faith of him."
Elsewhere, however, the English wording of the Rheims New Testament follows more or less closely the
Protestantversion first produced by William Tyndalein 1525; though the base text for the Rheims translators appears to be the revision of Tyndale found in an English and Latin diglot New Testament, published by Miles Coverdalein Paris in 1538. Furthermore, the translators are especially accurate in their rendition of the definite articlefrom Greek to English, and in their recognition of subtle distinctions of the Greek past tense, neither of which are well represented in the Vulgate Latin. Consequently, the Rheims New Testament is much less of a new version, and owes rather more to the original languages, than the translators admit in their preface.
Nevertheless, it was a translation of a translation of the Bible. Many highly-regarded translations of the Bible still use the Vulgate for consultation, especially in certain difficult
Old Testamentpassages, but nearly all modern Bible versions go directly to the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Biblical texts for translation and not to a secondary version like the Vulgate. (The reason that the translators preferred the Vulgate, in many cases, was explained in their Preface, pointing to assorted corruptions of various 'original' texts available in that era, to assertions that St. Jeromehad access to manuscripts that were later destroyed, and to the Council of Trent’s decree that the Vulgate was free of doctrinal error.)
The translation was prepared with a definite
polemical purpose in opposition to Protestant translations (which also had polemical motives). The notes and annotations reflected Catholic positions. The Catholic Biblical canonwas naturally used, with the Deuterocanonical booksin the Douay-Rheims Old Testament, rather than in the Apocrypha section as in Protestant Bibles.
The Douay Old Testament was reprinted once in the course of a century, and the Rheims New Testament a few times in the next century. In England, the Douay-Rheims Bible was ironically popularized by the action of a vehement adversary,
William Fulke, who, in order to expose its perceived errors, in 1589(Herbert #202) printed the Rheims New Testament in parallel columns with the Protestant Bishops' version of 1572, and the Rheims annotations with his own refutations of them; and this work had a considerable vogue among Protestant Reformers. Further editions of Fulke's work continued until 1633(Herbert #480).
Regarded from the point of view of scholarship, the Douay-Rheims Bible is seen, despite its stilted prose, as a particularly accurate version of the Bible; which was just what Catholicism preferred in a time of various and specific religious disputes. It deserves mention in the history of the English Bible because it was one of the versions consulted by the translators of the
King James Version(the Authorized Version), especially for the New Testament. Though the Authorized Versionis indeed distinguished by the strongly English (as distinct from Latin) character of its prose, some of the Latin vocabulary it used (for example: "emulation" Romans 11:14) was derived from the Rheims-Douay.
The Douay-Rheims Bible, however, achieved little currency, even among English-speaking Catholics, until it was substantially revised between
1749and 1752by Richard Challoner, an English bishop, formally appointed to the deserted see of Debra. Challoner's revisions borrowed heavily from the King James Version(himself being a convert from Protestantism, and thus familiar with its style) whose translators had borrowed a few terms from the original Rheims NT of 1582. The use of the Rheims New Testamnet by the translators of the King James Bible is discussed below. Challoner not only addressed the odd prose and the Latinisms, but produced a version which, while still called the Douay-Rheims, was little like it.
The same passage of Ephesians in Challoner's revision gives a hint of the thorough stylistic editing he did of the text:
:"That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs and of the same body: and copartners of his promise in Christ Jesus, by the gospel, of which I am made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God, which is given to me according to the operation of his power. To me, the least of all the saints, is given this grace, to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ: and to enlighten all men, that they may see what is the dispensation of the mystery which hath been hidden from eternity in God who created all things: that the manifold wisdom of God may be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places through the church, according to the eternal purpose which he made in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him."
For comparison, the same passage of Ephesians in the King James Bible:
:"That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him."
The extensive notes and commentary of the original were drastically reduced, resulting in a compact one-volume edition of the Bible, which contributed greatly to its popularity. Gone also was the longer paragraph formatting of the text; instead, the text was broken up so that each verse was its own paragraph. The three apocrypha, which had been placed in an appendix to the second volume of the
Old Testament, were dropped. This Challoner version, officially approved by the Church, remained the Bible of the majority of English-speaking Catholics well into the 20th century. It was first published in America in 1790 by Mathew Carey of Philadelphia. Several American editions followed in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, prominently among them an edition published in 1899 by the John Murphy Company of Baltimore. In 1941the New Testament and Psalms of the Douay-Rheims Bible were again heavily revised to produce the New Testament (and in some editions, the Psalms) of the Confraternity Bible, however so extensive were these changes, that it was no longer identified as the Douay-Rheims.
Names of Books
The names, numbers, and chapters of the Douay-Rheims Bible and the Challoner revision follow that of the Vulgate and therefore differ from those of the King James Bible and its modern successors, making direct comparison of versions tricky in some places. For instance, the books called Ezra and Nehemiah in the King James Bible are called 1 and 2 Esdras in the Douay-Rheims Bible. The apocryphal books called 1 and
2 Esdrasin the KJB are called 3 and 4 Esdras in the Douay. A table illustrating the differences can be found here.
The names, numbers, and order of the books in the Douay-Rheims Bible follow those of the Vulgate except that the three apocryphal books are placed after the
Old Testamentin the Douay-Rheims Bible; in the Clementine Vulgate they come after the New Testament. These three apocrypha are omitted entirely in the Challoner revision.
The Psalms of the Douay-Rheims Bible follow the numbering of the
Vulgateand the Septuagint, whereas those in the KJB follow that of Masoretic Text. For details of the differences see the article on the Psalms. A summary list is shown below:
The Douay Rheims’ Version’s influence on the King James Bible
The Old Testament “Douay” translation of the Latin Vulgate arrived too late on the scene to have played any part in influencing the King James Bible [(as noted in Pollard, Dr Alfred W. Records of the English Bible: The Documents Relating to the Translation and Publication of the Bible in English, 1525-1611, London, Oxford University Press, 1911)] .
However Dr James G Carleton in his book “The Part of the Rheims in the making of the English Bible” [Clarendon Press, Oxford 1902] argues for the influence of the Rheims New Testament, and states that it was mentioned in the “Translators to the Reader” preface of the King James Bible. On an examination of the preface there is no mention by name, but two comments which are not complementary and may refer to the translation; “Yea, so unwilling they are to communicate the Scriptures to the people's understanding in any sort, that they are not ashamed to confess, that we forced them to translate it into English against their wills” and in a jibe against those preferring a Roman Catholic Translation - “Nay, if it must be translated into English, Catholics are fittest to do it. They have learning, and they know when a thing is well, they can manum de tabula.” [The latter phrase is from Cicero, Epistulae ad familiares – [Remove] your hand from the board!]
In Chapter two his analytical method is described and Carleton admits on page 28 of his book “We have do with presumptions not certainties”. Also it must be remembered that the translators at Rheims also had the benefit of at least nine different English translation of the complete Bible before them, along with a few New Testaments, most of which had an influence of the King James Bible. What has not been examined in detail is the influence of these on the Rheims translation. Yet even when factoring the two points of question, the thesis that the Rheims New Testament influence the King James Bible is demonstrated by Carleton’s work. Carleton thesis was to set out to prove that the Translators of the King James Bible were influenced by the Rheims translation.
However the question can be asked, in relation to the earlier versions, how much influence did the Rheims New Testament have in comparison to the other earlier versions on the King James Bible?
Charles C Butterworth in “The Literary Lineage of the King James. Bible 1340-1611” [Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 1941] unlike Carleton’s treatise set out to look not at the influence of an individual predecessor, but to examine and measure all the influences on the King James Bible. His results are as follows; Wycliff versions, including English Sermons 4%; Tyndale’s work, including the Matthew Bible 18%; Coverdale’s work, including Great Bibles 13%; Geneva Bible and Geneva New Testament 19%; Bishop’s Bible and its revision 4%; all other versions before 1611 3 %; King James Bible new material 39%; making 100% in total.
This means the influence of the Rheims Version on the King James Bible is within the 3%, along with such as Richard Tavener’s revision of the Matthew Bible.
Thus whilst Carleton’s thesis is correct and the translators of the King James Bible were influenced by the Rheims New Testament, according to the work of Butterworth, the extent of that influence was not significant.
* Much of the above text was taken from the article "English Versions" by Sir
* A. S. Herbert, "Historical Catalogue of Printed Editions of the English Bible 1525–1961", London: British and Foreign Bible Society; New York: American Bible Society, 1968. SBN 564-00130-9.
* Online and print editions of the 16th/17th century Douay-Rheims Bible:
** Original Rheims New Testament of 1582: [http://books.google.com/books?id=D_U2AAAAMAAJ Google Books] ; [http://gallica.bnf.fr/document?O=N053352 facsimile] from
** Original Douay Old Testament of 1609/1610: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/11387735@N02/1424529493/sizes/o/ sample page] (Leviticus 2:5-3:17 in the 1793 Manchester edition, with the misprint "bees" for "beeves" in 3:1)
** Digital facsimiles of both the 1582 Rheims New Testament and 1609 Douay Old Testament via [http://eebo.chadwyck.com/ EEBO] under the author "Martin, Gregory" (accessible from computers at subscribing university libraries)
** Editions in print: [http://www.churchlatin.com/DouayRheims.aspx facsimile] , [http://www.realdouayrheims.com/ modern-spelling]
* Online texts of the Challoner revision:
** [http://www.drbo.org/ Douay Rheims Bible Online] , All 73 books, complete text with Challoner footnotes and fast Bible search.
** [http://www.latinvulgate.com Parallel Latin Vulgate - Douay Rheims - King James]
** " [http://www.ccel.org/c/challoner/douayrheims/dr.html The Douai-Rheims-Challoner Bible] "
* [http://oce.catholic.com/index.php?title=Douay_Bible Catholic Encyclopedia: Douay Bible]
* [http://www.newmanreader.org/works/tracts/douayrheims.html The History of the Text of the Rheims and Douay Version of Holy Scripture (1859)] , by
* [http://www.douaybible.com/DouayHistory/douayhistory.html History of the Douay Bible]
* [http://bibles.wikidot.com/douayrheims Title Pages of Early Editions]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.