Friday, December 7, 2012

Why Catholics Can't Speak English

I spotted this article, by Michael Brendan Dougherty, through another website. What are your thoughts? Is this just more complaining from the traditionalist crowd?  Are there legitimate points being argued here?

It is an odd thing to go to the Bible section of the few remaining big box booksellers. You can get Bibles in metallic covers with notes directed at randy teenagers. You can get your dispensationalist “Left Behind” style Bibles, with equally appalling notes. You can find Bibles for law enforcement officers, or for nationalists seeking prophecies about America in the book of Daniel. More seriously you can lose yourself in debates about translation style. “Formal equivalence” seeks to translate the Scriptures word for word and gives you phrases that can seem obscure. What is it to “cover his nakedness?” On the other side “dynamic equivalence” tries to go thought for thought but will usually desecrate Genesis with Clintonian phrasings like “have sexual relations with.” But if you are an earnest Protestant you can junk all the cruft and debates, buy unbotched versions of the New American Standard or the English Standard Version and encounter the word of God. And there is always the King James. What you can’t find is a good Catholic Bible in English. Well, let me explain.......

 You can read the whole article here.  Do treat yourself to the comments, which are always very colorful when discussion is about a topic like this.


Biblical Catholic said...

More NAB bashing without any real evidence to back it up. And with yet more outdated complaints about the rendering of Psalm 23......I don't want to hear any NAB critic make this complaint the 2011 Revised Old Testament...stop relying on the 1991 version.....Psalm 23 in the 2011 Revised Old Testament is everything the critics said it should be...and they still aren't willing to give it credit for that...I've come to the point where I'm starting to doubt that many NAB have ever even read it....and I'm starting to doubt that the people who complain the loudest about how 'awful' it supposedly are actually providing an objective opinion, I think for many they bash the NAB simply doing so is fashionable and trendy.

It's like the way that for years movie critics used to bash Alfred Hitchcock's 'Vertigo', 'oh it's a terrible movie, the worst thing ever, by far the worst thing Hitchcock ever made' etc etc etc

But today, 'Vertigo' is now often considered the best movie of Hitchcock's career...and often sits at or near the top of lists of the best movies ever made....

Somewhere along the line, critics just decided to not bother to actually watch the movie and just join in the chorus of bashing because that's what everyone else was doing...and then one day someone decided 'what the heck, I'll actually watch the movie' and discovered 'hey, this thing is actually pretty good!'

I'm not saying that the NAB is ever going to be considered 'one of the best translations ever done' but I think if the critics would just shut up and actually read the thing they'd find it's not as bad as they keep saying it is.

Michael Demers said...

The NABRE looks good to me but I'm not so sure that it's such a good idea to revise it all over again as the bishops promised at the last USCCB meeting. That just seems to me like a kiss of death. The 2011 edition is now, for all practical purposes, doomed. Talk about bad luck.

Timothy said...

Biblical Catholic,

I agree with you 100%. Most people who diss the NAB(RE) have likely never spent that much time with it. Or have the original 1970 version in their minds. Of course, as you know, debate about the translation itself often gets clouded by the notes.

We need to see how through the revision will be. I am sure we will be hearing something from the USCCB about the revision in 2013.

Timothy said...

I meant to say how 'thorough' the revision will be . Cardinal Weurl was a bit vague in the extent of the revision. The only the he wasn't vague about was that it would take some time to do it.

Biblical Catholic said...

". The 2011 edition is now, for all practical purposes, doomed."

Well...keep in mind that literally every edition of the NAB reached the market without plans to immediately revise it.

The NAB started in 1936 when the bishops decided to revise the 1899 Douay Rheims....the NT was completed and published in 1941 under the name 'Confraternity Edition'...then in 1944, the plans for the revision of the Douay Rheims were scrapped in favor of making a brand new translation, so the Confraternity New Testament had a lifespan of 3 years before it was effectively killed off.

Then, the new translation was published in 6 volumes beginning in 1952, the NT was published in 1969, and it was judged the first volume, Genesis-Ruth didn't work with the rest, so they revised the book of Genesis... with the new revised Genesis and the rest of the Old Testament and New Testament bound together in one volume in 1970 under the name 'New American Bible' and was almost immediately deemed inadequate and ordered to be revised.

The Revised New Testament was published in 1986, and then it was decided to revise the Psalms. Then when the Psalms were published in 1991, a mere 3 years later, it was decided to revise the entire Old Testament. The revised Old Testament was completed by 2008, and then they decided to revise the Psalms again. Then, the revised Old Testament was published in 2011, and it was decided a year later revise the New Testament again.

This thing has been in preparation since 1936, and has never been deemed complete, every time they publish a new edition, they seem to immediately make plans for further revision, yet, this hasn't prevented any of these provisional editions (and EVERY edition has been provisional) from being published or sold.

I am seriously starting to wonder whether the NAB will ever truly be 'complete'....maybe it is a good thing if it never is...76 years in the making and still not done, maybe it should never be 'done'.

It's a little too early to declare the 2011 NAB 'dead' because it will likely be a long time before the new revisions become available. They are planning to revise the New Testament, and I've heard they may be revising parts of the Old Testament too, and most importantly, they are going to completely revise the notes. They haven't even started yet, haven't even formed their committee to do the work, it will take a long time to do this, perhaps 20 years or more. This 'provisional' 2011 NAB is going to be in publication for a long time.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I think he protests to much in the first case and praises to much in the second case. All of those translations have their strengths and their weaknesses. And it will ever be thus. 

I'd much rather read the RSV-CE or NABRE over Knox's translation. I read the Bible every year and over time I've run the gamut [ Navarre, NAB(RE), RSV-CE, NJSB, NIV, NASB, (N)KJV ]. Not to mention a few.

The only Bible I ever gave away because I didn't like the translation, was Knox's.

Each to their own.

Instead of nitpicking translations, we should be thankful we have so many to choose from.


losabio said...

Thank you for the great post, Biblical Catholic. I had no idea that the NAB had been through so many different revisions.

I like the NABRE, and like being able to utilize the translation with the Catholic Lectionary.

Anonymous said...

I read from Mark Hart (a youth minister who many know) the best Bible version is the one you'll actually read.


Leonardo said...


I see that the author of that article refers as heretical some comment of the NAB.

But sincerely, I disagree with the Knox style of writing things, because in search of eloquent, literary way of telling things, He puts himself above the scripture.

For me, the Knox version is a little heretical.

best regards.

Anonymous said...

If they do revise the NAB NT hopefully they get rid of the footnote that, without evidence, says Mary never spoke the Mangificat even though scripture says "And Mary said: my soul magnifies the Lord..."


Javier said...


that is precisely what worries me about the notes of most catholic bibles today. They point what part of the New Testament is true, and what is a latter adition, or, to speak plainly, a downright lie that never took place. On what grounds can they say that?. On the basis of the textual analysis of a german professor from the 19th century?. Did he have all the evidence?. And, suppossing the german professor was right, and part of the Gospel is a lie, how on earth can we be certain the rest is not?. How on earth can we be certain Jesus walked the earth at all?. The only direct witness we have is the Gospels. If we are so uncertain about is realiability, it might be much more healthy to treat the whole thing as the pious legend of a jewish sect.


Biblical Catholic said...

The word 'heretical' is a strong word to use, to make that accusation, you'd have to prove that the NAB notes either deny a defined dogma, or affirm a position which has been condemned or declared 'anathema'.......and one would have a hard time proving that because as much as we might dislike the way that it mindlessly regurgitates every conclusion of historical critical scholarship without question, things like the dates of composition of the books of the Bible, or assertions that the books weren't written by the purported authors, or that large portions of the narrative might have been invented by the author, these things are not areas where defined dogma exists.

You'd be a little closer to the mark in the way that the notes consistently deny that the Biblical authors intended to teach Catholic doctrines, such as the repeated denials that various passages could possibly refer to purgatory, but even then the authors usually avoid coming right out and saying that the teaching is false or can't be found in the Bible, but rather they use equivocal 'weasel words' to avoid a flat out denial.....and as such, it would really hard to convict the authors of 'heresy'.

What would be better is to say that the notes are 'skeptical' and often seem to be intended to undermine traditional doctrine.

CJA Mayo said...

Knox is not heretical - I implied his renderings were unorthodox in places and caught flak for it. But he's not heretical by a long shot, at least not knowingly - even if he misrendered some passages, one would have to assert that he did it knowingly with the intent of denying a dogma.

On the other hand, the notes in the NAB, and the authors who wrote them, fulfill every criteria possible for both formal and material heresy to overflowing: they deny dogmata (wherever the magisterium can be contradicted, the NAB does), and they do it with such brazenness, and with reference to the orthodox belief, phrased as "traditionally believed X... but modern scholarship shows this false" in some cases (most prevalent in the Confraternity and 1970 NAB: later editions drop the whole "traditionally believed" part and just insert the heretical theories), that it is impossible to assert that the authors were not fully acquainted with both 1) the traditional and orthodox Catholic teaching, and 2) the fact that they were denying dogma in a heretical manner.

This is evident no place more than in the annotation on the infancy narratives, which should be enough to have the Bible banned by bishops even though it received imprimatur (the right to ban books that have received imprimatur is given to all ordinaries in St Pius X's encyclical Pascendi Domini Gregis) and have the imprimatur revoked.

Other notes in the OT deny over and over again the historicity of just about everything, which contradicts Dei Verbum, Divino Afflante Spiritu, and just about every dogmatic pronunciation on inerrancy and inspiration ever made, including those of the "old" Pontifical Biblical Commission when it was an organ of the magisterium (the modern PBC is not, despite the name), and are more or less unorthodox to heretical.

Then you come to the least-heterodox annotations in the Bible, which deal with the anonymous authorship of the two-source Gospels and the documentary hypothesis; and these are not shining beacons of orthodoxy by any means, which says something about the orthodoxy of the remainder of the annotation.

I can not recall one note in the entire Bible that touches on any dogma or doctrine of any sort that is actually fully orthodox: they range from novel to liberal modernist to unorthodox to heterodox and heretical. Notes that touch on no dogma or doctrine of any sort may or may not be orthodox, but they will not be traditional, and often seem intended to directly undermine faith in the Scriptures, and pave the way for acceptance of the other notes.

As I've said on this blog before, but not for a while, I use, generally, the NKJV, NASB or ESV for apologetics and preaching to the unconverted, and a KJV if the audience can understand it. I will hand out any of the above Bibles to a heathen, but I would not hand a New American Bible to either a heathen or a Protestant.

I did several times, and, luckily, early on - although not lucky for the soul who was on the end of my clumsy proselytization with a tool most ill-fitted to the job - I was caught out by a call by the heathen proselyte, his voice dripping with sarcasm and incredulity: "Your church admits all of the Bible is fiction: talk about blind faith, we atheists are right even by your own lights" (paraphrase). A Protestant would be confirmed in his belief of the apostasy of Roman Catholicism, rampant liberalism, and, additionally, the fact that Roman Catholic distinctives have "no Biblical basis", if he were to go on the information in the NAB alone.

CJA Mayo said...

In that case, the two heresies would be denying the Virgin Birth and Perpetual Virginity. The first is an "ultimate dogma", like the Trinity, part of an ecumenical creed: "...was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and was made man."

Denying a Biblical basis to Catholic dogmata that the Church believes are taught in the Bible (such as purgatory) is also heresy, if I recall correctly, according to the decrees of Trent.

Denying full inerrancy and plenary inspiration could be argued to be merely unorthodox or fully heretical depending on where one considers the weight of the magisterium of Popes Leo XII, Pius X, and Pius XII to have fallen in a series of encyclicals: I personally believe that an encyclical letter, especially repeated statements over several encyclicals, is enough to close debate on an issue and to either confirm the infallible ordinary magisterium or to close debate on any other issue, such as has been done recently with encyclicals on simulated ordination of women and contraception/abortion.

Leaving aside the solemn definitions of doctrines at both Trent and Vatican I on Scripture and many other areas that the NAB denies and contradicts, let's travel to encyclical letters: just as Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae (to James Cardinal Gibbons) was obviously intended to teach doctrine, and to present truths to which the faithful must assent, it seems equally obvious that Divino Afflante Spiritu, Providentissimus Deus, and, touching lesser on the doctrines of Scripture, Pascendi Domini Gregis and the Syllabus of Errors, were equally meant to teach doctrine, and to confirm the infallible ordinary magisterium of the Church; especially here, where Divino Afflante Spiritu confirms a doctrine taught in Providentissimus Deus (issued by Pius XII and Leo XIII respectively):

"In our own time the Vatican Council, with the object of condemning false doctrines regarding inspiration, declared that these same books were to be regarded by the Church as sacred and canonical "not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority, nor merely because they contain revelation without error, but because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God for their author, and as such were handed down to the Church herself."[3] When, subsequently, some Catholic writers, in spite of this solemn definition of Catholic doctrine, by which such divine authority is claimed for the "entire books with all their parts" as to secure freedom from any error whatsoever, ventured to restrict the truth of Sacred Scripture solely to matters of faith and morals, and to regard other matters, whether in the domain of physical science or history, as "obiter dicta" and - as they contended - in no wise connected with faith, Our Predecessor of immortal memory, Leo XIII in the Encyclical Letter Providentissimus Deus, published on November 18 in the year 1893, justly and rightly condemned these errors and safe-guarded the studies of the Divine Books by most wise precepts and rules."

If I am correct and this confirms as a doctrine an infallible teaching of the ordinary magisterium, the majority of notes in the NAB become materially, if not formally, heretical (not formal if the authors did not believe the above to be a definition of doctrine), at least without more rhetorical legerdemain than a debate between a Jehovah's Witness and a Mormon in an attempt to redefine every single theological word that deals with the Scriptures (such as "inspiration", "infallibility", "plenary", "inerrancy", "without error", "canon", etc.).

Victor said...

I have been using the NAB from the time of the year of my Confirmation. Because of this I have never grown accustomed to disliking the translation whatsoever. In fact, when a time came in my life that I needed to defend my was the NAB that I had from when I was a teenager that I used to show forth that the Catholic Church is indeed "Biblical." Now some time has passed since that and being interested in Theology and going to school for it...I have learned quite a bit more now. I am at the point in my life where I respect not only the NABRE...but also I came to respect the RSV-(2)CE...and after reading another blog by someone who is a fan of the Douay-Rheims...I purchased that version...after all it is where our Catholic English Bible heritage comes from. I think all of these translations has their strong points along with their weak points. "Hail, Full of Grace" is a major factor that I think is first and foremost distinctively Catholic...but I don't fault the NABRE for not having it...I hope they do put it in there eventually...but I am not going to stop consulting the NABRE because of this missing it. The Douay Rheims does have its many faults too..languange hard to understand at times..but the traditional "Do Penance" is the phrase that Jesus and the Baptist truly mean when they say "Repent..." anyone who denies this...than why does the Baptist take great lengths to "exteriorly" show forth his "repentance?" And of course the RSV Catholic editions I think are very scholarly, not saying the NABRE is obviously is, but I like the idea of how it is translated from the tradition the translation comes from. With all this being said...I try not to have a bias to any translation because I think they all have their strong points.

Again with all this being said..I also think the NABRE being a better translation from the Old NAB(Old Testament), does indeed need to fix their commentary for a lot of passages. Yes..some of the NAB(RE) commentary has helped me quite a bit...and some have even helped me understand a passage of Scripture even better...but some really make me wonder why the Bishops even allowed this commentary to get in there...did they just not notice it?...I am not saying that the notes are heretical either...just makes me question what were they thinking? For instance in the new NABRE a new footnote was added to Ben Sira(Sirach) 42:14
"Better a man’s harshness than a woman’s indulgence, a frightened daughter than any disgrace."

The commentary goes on to say:
The concluding statements (vv. 13–14) show the limitations of Ben Sira’s perspective in the male-oriented society of his day.

Really?...So did the Holy Spirit help in this verse at all? or was Ben Sira just limited on his view of women? So should we take this verse as a grain of salt...or should we believe the Holy Spirit inspired him to write because it has meaning? Which one is it?

The one thing is I am hopeful they will correct these issues!

Biblical Catholic said...

Being able to appreciate the translation for what it is without having to endure the notes is one of the main reasons why I favor audio Bibles...

There is an excellent audio version of the 1986 NAB NT by Buck Ford at there is a full audio NAB done by Stephen Johnston...but it is not very well edited, there are several places where there is silence for as long as 5-10 minutes for no apparent is really shocking how badly edited it is......But even that is better than reading the notes....even though Johnston does read the introductions. But at least the introductions can occasionally be useful by placing the book in a historical context so you know what the author is talking about. That is especially helpful with the prophets.

Leonardo said...


Maybe there is a large discussion between the readers of the catholic Bibles that I am incapable of comprehend. I want to say only that I prefer a version of the Bible that tries to translate what it is written, and not written as it should be said.

If think that the Catholic Church suffers from the insidious voices of the traditional groups, persons with the lack of recognizing what it is written, but at the same time, not wanting to deal with the rest, because some type of humility and charity is needed.

Javier said...

The problem with the notes is not particular to the NABRE. I haven’t read the NABRE, as I prefer to read the Bible in my native tongue –spanish-. I have read or examined some of the Bibles edited in spanish in the last thirty years. The only one with orthodox notes was the Navarre Bible (but it is probably not the best translation). For the rest the quality of the notes varies, but they usually attack the reliability of the Gospels’ witness.
Take for example the “Biblia del Peregrino” (The Pilgrim’s Bible) translated by the late Fr. Alonso Schokel, S.J. (who was no less than a Professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome) and his team. In a passage where Jesus furiously attacks the Pharisees (probably Mathew 23, but I don’t have that Bible with me), the corresponding note states: “Bear in mind that Jesus never said this. This passage against the Pharisees was added by the community much later, when the Christians had become an entity distinctly separated from Judaism, and they inserted this passage in the context of this confrontation”.
Wait a second here!. Professor Fr. Schokel is telling us that the “community” who authored the Gospels, took their own pedestrian opinions and disguised them as the “Ipsissima verba Christi” just to further their agendas??. So that we, Christians, are making life or death decisions based on texts that are no better than a forgery. And whose authors didn’t stop at putting their worldly words in the mouth of someone who supposedly is the Son of God. This is beyond awful. These “authors” of the Gospels have to have been remorseless cynics. If Fr. Schokel is right, the only honest thing to do would be to dissolve the Roman Catholic Church.
On the other hand, Professor Fr. Schokel fails to give any hint of how he arrived to such momentous conclusion. It just seems that he didn’t think that attacking the Pharisees was a very Jesus-like thing to do.
(He doesn’t say if he had done any previous research on, for instance, the transmission of information in oral cultures, as investigated by the late Fr. Marcel Jousse, S.J..)
I can’t see how the Bishop who gave this particular Bible his Imprimatur failed to follow the implications of the notes. Do bishops read the books they give their Imprimaturs to at all?.


Biblical Catholic said...

Of course the problem with claiming that Jesus never attacked the Pharisees and never said anything that anyone would regard as offensive is that it becomes very difficult to understand why anyone would want to crucify him. Or does he deny the crucifixion as well?

Javier said...

He doesn't deny the crucifixion -that I remember. Still, once the idea that the text has been tampered with has been introduced, how can you be sure about anything the Gospels say?. If the words of Christ are completely uncertain, how can we have any certainty about anything so unlikely as, say, a resurrection?.
A late argentinian jesuit priest, Fr. Castellani, speaking of Renan, Loisy, and the german exegetes, said that once you start denying the reliability of parts of the Gospels, there is nothing to stop you from denying the whole thing, and doing away with christianity.

Javier said...

In my previous answer, Biblical Catholic, I didn't specifically adress you question, of how do these exegetes explain the crucifixion, in the abscence of an attack on the pharisees. Your question is a very good one. Right now I don't remember how Schokel specifically deals with it.
But what I gather is that most modern exegetes tend to hush the fact that some jews had anything to do with it, as it is an extreme of
political incorrectness. I think they tend to favor the view that the roman authorities crucified Jesus because he was some sort of social agitator that was rousing the masses. Of course, there is no basis for this in the Gospels. But as they had previously shown that the Gospels are worthless as historical documents, they couldn't care less.

Leonardo said...


a comment for Javier.

That uncertainty of the meaning of the Bible can give us more respect of other beliefs, and maybe more faith in the Church, which is guided by the Holy Spirit.

Best regards.

Javier said...


I don't think the big issue here is about the meaning. The big issue is that if some of the notes are right, then what is implied is that the text has been tampered with, that the thing is a forgery. And then, who cares about the meaning of a forgery?.



CJA Mayo said...

\\A late argentinian jesuit priest, Fr. Castellani, speaking of Renan, Loisy, and the german exegetes, said that once you start denying the reliability of parts of the Gospels, there is nothing to stop you from denying the whole thing, and doing away with christianity.\\

This, above all, is the quintessential reason that after much discernment, if that is the correct word, or introspection, or research, or exegesis, or systematization, that I decided to take my stand on literal creationism: in the words of Marcus Dods (who nevertheless denied creation) in the Expositor's Bible volume on Genesis (available on Project Gutenberg): "If the word ‘day’ in this chapter does not mean a period of 24 hours, the interpretation of Scripture is hopeless".

When one begins denying the foundational (historico-grammatical in the words of Protestant exegetes) sense of any passage, one can deny any sense of any passage, much as Godel proved could be done with any formal system that had even the seemingly-slightest inconsistency in it (for a simple and glaring example, if "1 = 0", it is possible to prove absolutely anything, including 3 = 0 and 16 = 8, the first by multiplying both sides by 3, the second by multiplying both sides by 8 and adding 8).

The same holds true in Biblical exegesis, for, if the "literal" sense is false, what possible warrant is there for a allegorical sense? (Beyond destroying inspiration and making God a liar, as Victor pointed out in the feminist note on Sirach.)

That is the kernel of the conclusion the heathen I attempted to witness to with the NAB drew: the entire book is a fairy tale, and the Church admits it, from which it necessarily follows that a Christian has no more sense than an atheist, and his system is no better, on the level of the truth contained therein.

Some exegetes would like to say, "Well, just because one part of it is a myth, doesn't mean that it all is": then the question be, "How do we tell true from false?", and the answer is, "There is no way, except to choose what we like and discard what we don't", setting up human reason, sentiment, emotion, and science over the Scriptures (which ends up looking for a "burning in the bosom" to confirm the truth-value of a statement).

The slippery-slope argument may or may not be overused, but, either way, that does not change the fact that some things are indeed slippery slopes, and once the first step is taken upon them, of logical necessity, one must fall down to the very bottom. For a while this may not happen, as men are able to handle the cognitive dissonance evoked: but, eventually, their disciples will notice, and do away with what causes the contradiction.

In exegesis, in the words of Jesus, this is the result of denying one jot or tittle of the Bible, because "heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away....for I tell you that I am not come to abolish the law and the prophets....but amen I say unto you, 'til heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle will pass away, until all be fulfilled".

I think I hit the main points I wanted to, but don't have room to generalize them enough; but, I believe the principles therein can be generalized to all of Christianity, leading to the correct conclusion above: if we believe part of the Bible to be false, or some of the words of eternal life to be lies, the honourable thing to do is to admit it and dissolve Christianity.

CJA Mayo said...

Javier, the answer to the question is in the words of Christ himself (assuming they're historical, of course, and not the "process of pure introspection", as one exegete who I can not recall said of John's - excuse me, "the fourth" - Gospel):

"If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?"

Leonardo said...


If what you say it is because of you, and that expresses your beliefs, it is fine. I understand your point.

Best regards.

CJA Mayo said...

If the Holy Spirit couldn't get the Scriptures right, and/or if the Holy Spirit has obviously misled the Church in discerning which ones are authentic, and guided the Fathers who transmitted tradition incorrectly, there's no reason to listen to any of them: I think that's Javier's point, that if the Holy Spirit led the Church in to error regarding the Scriptures, there's no reason to believe he's less fallible on any other topic at any other time.

The "slippery slope" argument works against any authority claimed for any form of sacred/revealed religion (Christianity), whether in tradition or the Church, once it's admitted the Scriptures are fallible. The sword cuts every way, like the one outside the Garden of Eden.

And respect for other beliefs has nothing to do with it; if our Scriptures are incorrect, our beliefs are false; if they are correct, other beliefs are false, and I will by no means respect a false belief, although we are bound - if our belief is correct - to respect those who hold to false beliefs and attempt to get them to see their folly.

Biblical Catholic said...

It has never the custom or tradition of the Catholic Church to regard the 'days' in Genesis as literal 24 hour periods, the Fathers didn't interpret it that way, and if you're going to be strictly literal, the sun isn't even created until the fourth day, so how could the previous three be 'days' in any literal sense?

That interpretation did not become common until the rise of fundamentalism in the 19th century.

Jonny said...

It is sad when fans of the Latin Mass do not appreciate the Douay-Rheims Bible for what it is. No, it is not always an easy read. The D-R is a literal translation of the hyper-literally translated Latin Vulgate originating from Saint Jerome. Yes, there are textual variations and synoptic additions resulting from centuries of copying, but by and large the Latin text preserves the ancient Catholic understanding of Sacred Scripture, translated from ancient texts that are no longer available today. Of course, anyone who has read anything about the Douay-Rheims Bible probably already knows this! This is the selling point for many who claim the Vulgate is superior to any other translation available.

Now, on to the Knox Bible. It also claims to be a translation of the Vulgate, and that it is to a great extent. The difference between the Knox and the D-R is that Knox has taken a much greater liberty in interpretation, influenced by current form of the Hebrew and Greek texts (in his day.) To me, the point of reading the D-R is to ignore the current form of the Hebrew and Greek texts in favor of what has been handed down by tradition! I can’t say that I totally blame Msgr. Knox for his methodology when I consider how he was trying to make his translation from a translation without having access to the source texts that St. Jerome used. Obviously, having the current Hebrew and Greek texts can be of some use, but there are other places where they simply differ from the Vulgate, and then the translator is faced with a difficult decision (as if the task of choosing the “right” english words wasn’t hard enough!) Bottom line is, for me, the only acceptable translation of the Vulgate is one that is literal and faithful to the Latin. I do appreciate the Knox Bible as an alternate translation, but it is hardly a replacement for the Challoner D-R, with which I do most of my devotional reading.

I also wanted to point out the text from the D-R cited in the article: Hebrews 13:4. “Marriage honorable in all, and the bed undefiled.” No, someone did not overlook the absence of a verb here! This is, as typical in the Douay-Rheims, a literal translation in favor of an interpretation. I think it is quite silly to hen-peck a peculiar verse and use it to accuse Catholics of being dumb. I sometimes compare the KJV to the D-R and find them to be very similar if not verbatim in many places. Msgr. Knox was obviously familiar with the KJV when he stated that “it remains true that the Authorized Version is essentially a word-for-word translation, no less than the Septuagint, no less than the Vulgate.” (From “On Englishing the Bible” chapter 2.) By the way, the KJV inserted the word “is” in italics in Heb. 13:4. I really wonder how many pre-Vatican II Catholics were familiar with the KJV as an alternate translation, just as many Catholics today read the ESV, and etc.

So anyway, my conclusion is, that Catholics today who cannot “speak english” cannot do so because they were poorly catechized, which has nothing to do with the Douay Rheims! It is my experience that the average semi-connected Catholic’s personal devotion consists mainly of reading the NAB (because that is the “official” one.) Poor catechesis + 40 years of Americans reading NAB notes = Catholics who don’t have an understanding of their faith!

Leonardo said...


I think that the origin of this post was in some way critic in a bad way about the NAB. Then, maybe, some of the persons who added comments, we did it using other maybe derogatory expressions. Then, the comment 29 ends saying that there is not an understanding of the faith, leaving the idea that maybe all is wrong or mediocre.

I want to say, for my self, that in the last week I am a little frustrated about some things, and then, when reading some strong comments against the NAB, then I added some acidity to the blog.

But I like to participate an express my ideas. For example, today I read the introductory comments to the book of Joshua in the NABRE, and in my point of view, they were by mo means lacking of something.

Best regards.

Javier said...


my point is not exactly that. The difference might be subtle, but I think it is important. Even when we all agree that the Bible is a text inspired by God, there is room for interpretation. And that interpretation might or might not be literal. Let's take Matthew 5: 29, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna”. We might be completely certain that these are the very words of Christ -the “ipsissima verba Christi”-, and still there would be room left to interpret if He meant that we should tear our eyes physically from its sockets, or if He was trying to convey to us something different. And I think this kind of analysis is licit and necessary.
But, if the note in the Bible to this passage reads: “Bear in mind Christ never pronounced these words. These words are very unlike him. These words were added by the “community of Matthew” at a later stage, and they put their idea on Jesus lips for marketing reasons”. Well, in this case we are not trying to find out if Jesus meant it literally or otherwise. In this case we are being told the document is a fake, edited by people with no scruples. And that we have no scientific way to asses the extent of that editing. And that, therefore, that document (the Gospels) are useless as a witness to anything, and as a moral guide.
That was my point.


Leonardo said...


the NABRE, kindle version, in Mathew 5, 29-30 has a comment: No sacrifice is too great to avoid total destruction in Gehenna.

Javier said...


that is a great note.

CJA Mayo said...

\\It has never the custom...of the Catholic Church...\\

This is incorrect; except for Augustine (who believed the universe was created instantaneously, but wrote a chapter refuting "The Foolishness of Those Who Believe Many Thousands of Years of History have Passed"), Origen, and Clement of Alexandria (all of which were young-earth in any case) of the Alexandrian school, there was unanimous consent on a young-earth creation in six literal twenty-four hour days, as is demanded by the Biblical text itself ("day" is even defined in v.3, "evening and morning, [this defines] /one day/", then "a second" through "a fifth" day, and "the" sixth and seventh days), less than 10k years ago.

Augustine himself used the "sun" argument and then rejected it; we do not know what the light was, but I imagine it was like the New Jerusalem, where there is no need for sun or stars: the Light of the World, Christ. But, the fact that twenty-four hour days are marked out is absolutely indisputable, as has been the common consensus of all exegetes, ancient and modern, who did not feel a need to reconcile Genesis with the science of their day (this includes modern liberal and young-earth exegetes, who both let the text speak for itself, the latter disbelieving it, and excluding many conservative exegetes, who attempt to reconcile the Genesis creation account with popular interpretations of modern science: see my quote of Marcus Dods above).

But all of these believed the days were shorter than 24 hours, not longer, and the earth was still young, less than 6,000 years old (at their own time: according to the inflated chronology of the LXX they used). Augustine had a very Neoplatonic vision of creation, with all things created instantly as "ideas" of a sort in the mind of God - his cosmogony is at variance with the Patristic consensus, but it is still too complex and, frankly, awesome, to get in to here; I recommend /De Genesi ad Litteram/ for an exposition of his most-developed views on Genesis.

St Basil's Hexahemeron is a good place to start looking at the general Patristic view. Augustine was at odds with pretty much all the other Fathers - which doesn't mean he was incorrect, as he was at odds with them about sin and grace as well, and it's why the East rejects his views on sin and grace - but his three Commentaries on Genesis are still useful.

CJA Mayo said...

On the contrary, long-age interpretations of Genesis were /never once conceived/ before long-age uniformitarian geology became popular in the early 19th century. Indeed, if it is the case, it would be impossible for any man to have ever read Genesis correctly before "modern science" had told us how to - putting one in the same position as a man who claims that we could never interpret Paul's claims about women or homosexuals correctly until modern science "proved" they were born that way, and setting up a second magisterium in contradiction to the first.

Granted, many of the Fathers didn't talk about creation at all, or, if they did, they didn't talk much about it. But, for those that did, there is consensus on this issue like on /none other/ in the early Church, that what today is known as "literal creationism" was accepted. (The only way to come to an opposite conclusion is to accept Hugh Ross's bald-faced lie about how many Fathers believed in an old earth at face value.) The Fathers fought against the evolutionary views of their own days (which have existed since at least Epicurus, if not earlier), and the old-age (eternally-old world) views of their own day as well, such as in the natural philosophy of Aristotle.

Compromise in one place, and you have created, in theology, what Godel would have called an "inconsistent formal system" in mathematics: any proposition can be proven, and you have exposed yourself to checkmate from all sides, including your own - as contradiction never will last long in the heart of regenerate man.

I apologize for the length of this post, and its egregiously off-topic nature; but I was unable to do justice to the subject in fewer words, even if a better writer, and a more acute thinker, could have done it justice with half as many.

CJA Mayo said...

\\[M]y point is not exactly that. The difference might be subtle, but I think it is important....\\

I believe this is a merely a difference in language. I noted the "historico-grammatical method" and put "literal" in scare quotes as well as "historico-grammatical method".

The definition of the "historico-grammatical method" is essentially a "plain reading" of Scripture, not a hyper-literalism; it is a reading that is aware of the grammatical, contextual, and literary (i.e. narrative, metaphor, parable, poetry) form of the text.

From En-Wiki:

"The process for determining the original meaning of the text is through examination of the grammatical and syntactical aspects, the historical background, the literary genre as well as theological (canonical) considerations.[4] The historical-grammatical method distinguishes between the one original meaning of the text and its significance. The significance of the text is essentially the application or contextualization of the principles from text....The original passage is seen as having only a single meaning or sense."

Of course, as Catholics who believe in sensus plenior and the four senses of Scripture, we disagree with the last sentence, that each passage can only have one meaning: we believe that there are layers of meaning, but they are based on the literal or historical (e.g. Noah's ark can be an image of the Church only if Noah was actually saved in the ark, and the rest of the world was flooded and judged by water, as Peter says in 2 Pet 3:3-7). This is one reason why Catholic exegesis is unique, and, as, in all other things, is the "royal road", as Counter-Reformation theologians were wont to say; it is in-between the dry historico-grammatical "only one sense" literalism of some Protestants and the Antiochene School, and the extreme, "make the entire thing a myth and allegory" allegorizing of some Orthodox and the Alexandrian School.

Of course hyper-literalism - reading everything literally with no regard to literary form or genre, such as parable, metaphor, or poem - is an incorrect reading; how ironic that Origen, who allegorized away every single verse in the entire Bible, came to the one that said "make themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven" and took it literally.

CJA Mayo said...

\\the NABRE, kindle version, in Mathew 5, 29-30 has a comment: No sacrifice is too great to avoid total destruction in Gehenna.\\

I'm on a roll today. Too many comments, sorry for blog-hogging:

Isn't the obvious interpretation of that note one of annihilationism, not everlasting punishment?

Leonardo said...

CJA Mayo

thanks for your comments. They gave me the idea of the extension of topics in the study of the Bible. One subject that I want to learn is the story of the early Church.

Best regards.

CJA Mayo said...

In the mansion of the early Church, there are many rooms...

What do you want to learn about? Doctrinal development? At what time? "Earliest", "early", "late antiquity"?

If so, and "early" is the answer, there's no better place to start than Jaroslav Pelikan's "The Christian Tradition" (five volumes, but only 1-2 deal with the "early Church", volume 3 is mediaeval, volume 4 reformation, volume 5 modern; each volume has a bibliography long enough to keep you busy for a lifetime, even a lifetime devoted to scholarship) and Leo Donald Davis' "The Seven Ecumenical Councils: Their History and Theology" (just disregard his more moon-batty statements and his disdain for the other 14 councils).

I would also recommend, although less stridently, Schurer's "History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ", NT Wright's "Christian Origins and the Question of God" (three volumes out of a projected five are complete, and they deal less with the early church qua early church than the others).

For doctrinal development, copies of Denzinger and Ott's Fundamentals are nearly mandatory. "The Christian Faith: In the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church" by Dupuis is also good, and much cheaper than the aforementioned three (which run from around $75 a piece).

You can always go to the fountainhead itself and read the writings of the Fathers, available gratis online at the "Christian Classics Ethereal Library" (they have the full ANF and NPNF1,2, which are English translations unlike Migne). These writings can be intimidating - often in the sheer volume of them, not to mention the prose which is, to put it mildly, bad by today's standards - but going to the source - the Fathers - comes with my highest recommendation. By reading a book about the ecumenical councils, supplemented with the writings controversial at the councils and those of the Fathers who participated in them, can often give a deep view of ecclesiastical history. (To understand any of the Fathers, especially the Greeks, it's often wise to read at least a few dialogues of Plato, an abridged version of the Enneads of Plotinus, and some of Proclus's work first.)

"Earliest Christianity" (often used as a shibboleth meaning "heresy and blasphemous revisionism starts here", a la Walter Bauer's "Heresy and Orthodoxy in Earliest Christianity" and the Jesus Seminar) and ante-Nicene Christianity is not my area of expertise in Church history; I am more comfortable in late antiquity through the high middle ages, from Origen, Augustine, and the Ecumenical Councils through Thomas Aquinas.

A lot of it depends on what you consider "early".

Leonardo said...

CJA Mayo

I will try the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.


Leonardo said...

CJA Mayo

What a great site, CCEL!

best regards.

Russ said...

After scrolling through all of that, all I can say!

Timothy said...