Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Douay-Rheims Bible and Conversion

I am happy to present Jonny's conversion story into the Catholic Church and the role the Douay-Rheims Bible played in it. Jonny is a frequent commentator on this blog, as well as a regular guest blogger.

I wanted to share my story about the Catholic Holy Bible and my conversion. I was raised an evangelical Protestant Christian and mostly read the New International Version. My family bounced around to various denominations through the years, but two things remained fairly consistent: the NIV Bible, and the one-time salvation prayer. I admit, I did hear sermons regarding repentance and recommitment to varying degrees depending on the denomination, but there were never clear distinctions to me regarding morality, and if I was actually “saved” or holy enough to “go to Heaven if I died today” as I was frequently reminded. My overall impression ended up being that those who were supposedly most zealous about my salvation were very self-righteous and judgmental. I know this is a stereotype, but it was my feeling at the time, and I had no solid doctrinal foundation to check myself against.

Years had gone by, and I was out of church for some time and on my own. I was seeking a deeper truth, and I found that when I re-read the Holy Bible. The words of Christ were simply so profound to me. I was reading them without pre-conceived notions like “A-B-C” salvation, a second baptism only evidenced by “tongues,” tithe-conditional holiness, and others! But yet as I read the Scriptures, I desired to worship God in the Church with other believers. This led me on my spiritual journey that in retrospect went back in time to the roots of the Protestant Reformation. I will spare all the details here, but I will mention that along the way I was involved in a pacifist/feminist church that denied the inspiration of certain Scriptures and also left me with a great distaste for gender-inclusive Bible translations for a long time. But ultimately I ended up in the grandfather denomination of the Protestant Reformation: The Lutheran Church. I really liked the conservative doctrines of the Missouri Synod, and especially the beautiful ritual of the divine service, and the absence of the ridiculous and complex “left behind” rapture/millennium doctrines. I ended up being such a big Luther fan that when I saw a picture of him holding his precious copy of the Psalms in Latin, I just had to have an English translation of the Psalms in Latin! This brings me to the point of my story.

I don’t know if I would ever have even heard of the Douay-Rheims Bible if I did not have a Catholic grandfather who died before I was born. I saw the copy of the Douay-Confraternity Bible at my grandmother’s house when I was a child, which was given to her at my grandfather’s funeral. Remembering this, I looked up the nearest Catholic bookstore and forthwith drove 45 minutes to get there that day after work on the assumption that I would find a copy waiting for me. There was actually a copy there (but only one), and despite a nearly 70 dollar price sticker I happily purchased the book after just glancing through it in the few minutes before the store closed.

My Douay-Rheims Bible soon became dearly treasured amongst my collection. Not only did it have the majestic language of my King James Version that I had grown accustomed to in the past few years, I also found there were less archaisms therein (as being a revision from the 1750’s compared to the pre-1600’s language of the KJV.) I approached the D-R with a greater reverence due to its ancient connections to the Latin translations of the earliest centuries of Christianity. I felt that it had, therefore, a unique devotional quality, and also as a literal translation, one that demanded to be read slowly and reverently. But even beyond these things, the D-R had an extra super-power that really helped to change my life!

Part of what I am referring to here is the genius of the Christ’s Church expressed in the translation itself. I found that very common Biblical words such as “repent” and “righteousness” were instead translated as “do penance” and “justice.” My very first reading of the D-R brought me closer to the mind of Christ and the teaching of the Church! When I began to second guess my convictions, I turned to the major objector verses in Romans. I was pleasantly shocked to find in the footnotes the Church’s teachings about justification and what it really means to believe in Christ, and many references where Jesus himself explicitly explains over, and over, and over, that we are not justified by faith alone! Then I found other Biblical references in the notes about Mary’s perpetual virginity, and the fact that Jesus did not have any biological brothers and sisters is not disproved by scripture as I was formerly led to believe. All of my inhibitions against the Catholic Church and even my very self was crumbling underneath the rock of apostolic truth revealed by Christ, as the Scripture saith, “upon whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Luke 20.18.)

I know that many Catholics have heard the arguments pro and con the Douay-Rheims, although I believe it is frivolous to argue about translations of texts whose original autographs do not exist, and even the original understanding of the languages may have changed since they were written. Nor do I fault the D-R for being first translated from Latin (for in doing so I would also condemn our current Catechism which was first written in French before being translated into Latin, then into other languages.) I can argue, however, for the beauty of the Douay-Rheims Bible, and the effectiveness of its light but powerful annotations in blasting through the foundations of Sola Fide based theologies, which are as relevant and important today as the day they were written. I thank God for one, authoritative, interpretation of Scripture through the Church, and the Douay-Rheims Bible that helped me break the bondage of doctrines that only led me to many grey areas of uncertainty.


Pomeranian Catholic said...


Victor said...

Wow!...I recently purchased the Douay-Rheims Bible...and I love it too!...and I am the type who is all for newer the sense of getting closer to the original texts. For instance I am actually starting to appreciate the NABRE after being much disgusted with the NAB. But, the Douay-Rheims needs to be rediscovered also by many Catholics. No bible out there right now preserves the words Catholics are used to hearing. These words include concupiscence, penance, etc. For instance, "Do Penance for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" is honestly the better understanding of repentance.

Llanbedr said...

I honestly believe that - as we are seeing with the proliferation of Masses in the Extraordinary form (Tridentine) - people are now coming to these treasures of the Church and re-discovering them anew.

I hear an awful lot of liberal Catholics claim that those who attend the Tridentine Mass, read the D-R translation, and have anything at all to do with Latin, are just old, pre-Vatican II throwbacks. I, like many of you, I'm sure, wasn't even born when Vatican II took place, but have discovered these magnificent heirlooms of ours and received them for what they are, un-tinted by any notion of 1960's/70's liberal, erroneous 'spirit of Vatican II'/hermeneutic of rupture nonsense.

We are hugely blessed right now with a Pope who is a world class Scripture scholar, and a Church becoming more and more focused on The Word in all its dimensions; with an increasing number of excellent Bible translations/editions and exegetical study aids, and with more to come - not to mention a wonderful new, more faithful, translation of the Holy Mass. The mere existence of this very blog and the electric, many-sided, international dialogue that goes on here, white-hot for the Word of God bears ample testimony to this.

I'm sure that a re-discovery of the majesty of the Douay-Rheims translation, by so many of us, as attested to by Jonny, is well underway, keeping pace with the general awakening of what Blessed Pope John Paul II described as 'conscious Catholicism', and the veritable explosion of blessings we are experiencing in these wonderful, wonderful days.

Great time to be alive and Catholic, don't you think?
Deo Gratias!

O, and a very blessed St David's day to you all from the green valleys of Wales!

Chrysostom said...

Deo gloria!

I still have a distaste (if I can be permitted to put it that mildly) for gender-inclusive Bibles that's not quite equal to my distaste for those of the secular bent. And then Bibles without the full canon. And then Bibles with an NT that has "elder" and "overseer" without footnotes, and translates the tradition and energy words poorly.

Praise God that those two usually go together. Double damn that they usually go together in Catholic Bibles.

And Protestant Bibles rarely have the full canon. Except for the very secular ones, where none of the Bible is viewed as inspired (instead of 66 inspired, 7 not): just check out ANY commentary on the deuterocanon. Not one is written as if it were inspired scripture.

So I'm stuck with the Douay-Rheims-Challoner, the New Cambridge KJV, and the ESV with Apocrypha, with "begotten" pencilled in over Jn 3:16 and "a" pencilled out over 1 Tim 3:15. (For the NT the RSV-2/CE are nice.)

Chrysostom said...

Llanbedr (and Tim):

Do you think this blog has a predominance of traditional Catholics compared to most? And, if so, doesn't it seem odd that traditional Catholics read the Bible more than modern ones? (Not to say that we're more pious altogether, as that goes without mentioning,) As, traditionally speaking, Catholics didn't read very much of the Bible.

Or is it with the Holy Father's directives the Latin Mass really is proliferating, and more Catholics are going back to their conservative and dignified liturgical and social roots?

Chrysostom said...

I also was not born until more than two decades after the close of Vatican II.

Tim: this new layout for comments is awkward and hard on the eyes, especially with the VERY HARD captchas. I'm good at captchas and I fail these two or three times before getting them:

Is it "acherigh" or "delierigli"? "esonsus" or "esamsiis"? So on...

Thadeus said...


Well said!!

I also agree with Chrysostom on the VERY HARD captchas. :)

Llanbedr said...

Hi Chrysostom,

You pose some interesting questions there.

Tim - hope you'll forgive me if I'm rather long-winded in response, and Chrysostom, I hope you'll bear with me!

Here in the UK, I know quite a few 'high church' Anglicans who use the Roman Missal etc, but remain Anglican, although they describe themselves as 'very Catholic'.

This is literally nonesense - it would be like describing 'Lassie' as 'very dog'. You're either Catholic, or you're not, and for this very reason I really regret having to use terms like 'liberal Catholic', as there should be no need to delineate between the two poles of 'liberal' and 'traditional'. That there should be 'degrees' of Catholic is almost a violation of the name itself, on a par with 'very'.

I think that here at Tim's blog, we are blessed with a space in which many faithful sons and daughters of our holy mother, the Church are drawn to commune with one another, feasting on God's Word, and everything that facilitates that. We come here by the grace of God to ponder that Word in our small hearts, beating in unison, as one, at and with the mighty heart of the Church.

(To be continued)

Llanbedr said...


When you make the distinction between 'traditional' and 'modern', I presume you are using the terms 'modern' and 'liberal' interchangeably, which, I think in reality is not quite accurate. After all, Chrysostom, you, Tim, and all of the fine company of people who interact here at Catholic Bibles Blog, are what I regard as todays modern Catholics - young (and not quite so young), loyal, informed, committed, intelligent, conscious Catholics - like the reserve division of the Swiss Guard! Most unlike the modern(ist) Catholics of yesteryear, who questioned every form of fixed truth, and who wished to subject all authority to their own. No, these are the real, contemporary 'throwbacks'.

When you think about it in these terms, although it's a really interesting question, it doesn't seem odd at all that faithful Catholics would be reading the Scriptures more than 'liberals', as, in my opinion, 'reading' was not what they were/are actually doing with the Scriptures. Perhaps I should clarify what I mean by that, and also precisely what I mean by 'liberal'.

Martin Buber believed that indecision was the first step on the road to evil, and was very fond (after Hugo Bergman had used it in a description of Buber's stance) of employing the metaphor used by Elijah in 1 Kings 18:21 of, literally, 'hopping on two twigs'. In the RSV2CE it is translated, 'limping with two different opinions', which tallies with Buber's contention regarding evil, as indecision implies both a 'yes'and 'no' simultaneously.

This, for me, sums up the essence of 'liberal Catholicism' - they want to be Catholic, but they don't give their assent to Catholicism. And this applies to all who fall under that definition, from 'Catholics for Choice' to the SSPX.

Another Scriptural analogy that comes to mind is Deuteronomy 20:2-7, where, as Maimonides points out in his 'Sefer Hamitzvot' that the people who must not proceed to the battlefield due to distraction are: a) One who has built a home but not dedicated it. b) One who has planted a vineyard and not yet enjoyed its fruits. c) One who has become betrothed to a woman, but has not married her. The 'liberal' lacks the commitment to attain any form of subtsantial, meaningful or sustained unity or wholeness.

This blog is one that demands respect for the integrity of the Sacred Text, and those who hold back assent, as it were; those who do not (as the Scriptures would say) have a 'single heart', lack the commitment to Scripture as much as they do to everything else. They misuse the Word in prooftexting with the intention of contradicting the Church to support their own preferences, if anything, and violate that sacred unity of a single utterance with a single purpose. Now who's going to get away with that here with the Swiss Guard Reserve on duty? Would you mess with Theophrastus - I sure wouldn't!

To cut a long story longer; yes, I think that the ratio of faithful Catholics here at Catholic Bibles is very high in comparison to many other blogs.

Also, regarding your question about the wide availability of the Tridentine Mass etc: yes, that's bound to have had, and be having an effect, as the chances of exposure to it have been increased massively. But I think the main reason that Catholics are re-discovering their immensely rich patrimony right now, is due to the fact that our Holy Father is making absolutely sure that we do!

Chrysostom said...

*claps slowly, almost stands*

"Hermit"? "heivlret"? "hervinct"? "liverel"? At least "frosu" is apparently obvious this time.