History of the Douay Rheims Bible
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History of the Douay Rheims Bible
This section contains excerpts from well-known Catholic sources on the history of the Douay-Rheims Bible.
The Holy Bible text in this software has been converted from the 1899 edition of the John Murphy Company, Baltimore, Maryland.
Although "Challoner Revision" may be the most accurate title for this version of the Holy Bible (see below), it was called, and continues to be called, "The Douay-Rheims Version". This software will be faithful to the 1899 edition and retain the title "Douay-Rheims Version".
The following is an excerpt from the 1914 Edition of The Catholic Encyclopedia :
The original Douay Version, which is the foundation on which nearly all English Catholic versions are still based, owed its existence to the religious controversies of the sixteenth century. Many Protestant versions of the Scriptures had been issued and were used largely by the Reformers for polemical purposes. The rendering of some of the texts showed evident signs of controversial bias, and it became of the first importance for the English Catholics of the day to be furnished with a translation of their own, on the accuracy of which they could depend and to which they could appeal in the course of argument. The work of preparing such a version was undertaken by the members of the English College at Douai, in Flanders, founded by William Allen (afterwards cardinal) in 1568. The chief share of the translating was borne by Dr. Gregory Martin, formerly of St. John's College, Oxford. His text was revised by Thomas Worthington, Richard Bristowe, John Reynolds, and Allen himself - all of them Oxford men. A series of notes was added, designed to answer the theological arguments of the Reformers; these were prepared by Allen, assisted by Bristowe and Worthington.
The object of the work was, of course, not limited to controversial purposes; in the case of the New Testament, especially, it was meant for pious use among Catholics. The fact, however, that the primary end was controversial explains the course adopted by the translators. In the first place they translated directly, not from the original Hebrew or Greek, but from the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome. This had been declared authoritative for Catholics by the Council of Trent; but it was also commonly admitted that the text was purer than in any manuscripts at that time extant in the original languages. Then, also, in the translation, many technical words were retained bodily, such as pasch, parasceve, azymes, etc. In some instances, also, where it was found difficult or impossible to find a suitable English equivalent for a Latin word, the latter was retained in an anglicized form. Thus in Phil., ii, 8, we get "He exinanited himself", and in Heb., ix, 28, "Christ was offered once to exhaust the sins of many". It was considered that an ordinary reader, finding the word unintelligible, would pause and inquire its meaning, and that this was preferable to satisfying him with an inadequate rendering. In other cases latinisms seem to have crept in unawares, as in Luke, x, 1, "Our Lord designed also other seventy-two"; or in Phil., ii, 10, "In the name of Jesus, every knee bow of the celestials, terrestrials and infernals". The proper names are usually (though not always) taken from the Vulgate; but the word Dominus is rendered throughout Our Lord. The general result was a version in cumbersome English, so full of latinisms as to be in places hardly readable, but withal scholarly and accurate.
In the year 1578, owing to political troubles, the college was temporarily transferred from Douai (which was then in the dominions of the King of Spain) to Reims, and during its sojourn there, in 1582, the New Testament was published, and became consequently known as the "Rheims Testament". It contained no episcopal imprimatur, but a recommendation was appended signed by four divines of the University of Reims. The Old Testament was delayed by want of means, until the whole Bible was eventually published in two quarto volumes, in 1609 and 1610, by which time the college had returned to Douai, and the recommendation was signed by three doctors of that university. Thus the New Testament appeared nearly thirty years before the Anglican "Authorized Version", and although not officially mentioned as one of the versions to be consulted, it is now commonly recognized to have had a large influence on the King James Version (see Preface to Revised Version, i, 2; also, Carleton, "Rheims and the English Bible"). The Reims Testament was reprinted twice at Antwerp - in 1600 and 1621 - and a fourth edition was issued at Rouen in 1633. Then it was allowed to rest for over a century before a fifth edition appeared, with some slight changes, dated 1728, but without any place of publication stated. It is believed to have been printed in London and was edited by Dr. Challoner (afterwards bishop), and Father Blyth, a Carmelite. The Douay Bible was never after this printed abroad. A sixth edition of the Reims Testament was printed at Liverpool in 1788, and a seventh dated Dublin, 1803, which was the last Catholic edition. Several Protestant editions have appeared, the best known being a curious work by Rev. William Fulke, first published in 1589, with the Reims text and that of the Bishops' Bible in parallel columns. A Protestant edition of the Reims Testament was also brought out by Leavitt of New York, in 1834.
Although the Bibles in use at the present day by the Catholics of England and Ireland are popularly styled the Douay Version, they are most improperly so called; they are founded, with more or less alteration, on a series of revisions undertaken by Bishop Challoner in 1749-52. His object was to meet the practical want felt by the Catholics of his day of a Bible moderate in size and price, in readable English, and with notes more suitable to the time. He brought out three editions of the New Testament, in 1749, 1750, and 1752 respectively, and one of the Old Testament in 1750. The changes introduced by him were so considerable that, according to Cardinal Newman, they "almost amounted to a new translation". So also, Cardinal Wiseman wrote, "To call it any longer the Douay or Rheimish Version is an abuse of terms. It has been altered and modified until scarcely any verse remains as it was originally published." In nearly every case Challoner's changes took the form of approximating to the Authorized Version, though his three editions of the New Testament differ from one another in numerous passages.
The following two excerpts are from The Jerome Biblical Commentary :
DOUAY-RHEIMS (1582-1609). This was done by Gregory Martin, an Oxford-trained scholar, working in the circle of English Catholic exiles on the Continent, under the sponsorship of William (later Cardinal) Allen. The NT appeared at Rheims in 1582; the OT at Douay in 1609. The translation, although competent, exhibited a taste for Latinisms that was not uncommon in English writing of the time but has seemed excessive in the eyes of later generations. The NT influenced the AV.
CHALLONER REVISION (1749-63). The official Catholic version underwent revision a century earlier than its Protestant counterpart, the AV. Bishop Richard Challoner, coadjutor to the Vicar Apostolic of the London district, revised the NT in 1749 and 1752, and the OT in 1750 and 1763. This was a considerable revision, markedly modernizing the style. For two centuries the Challoner revision remained in almost universal use among English-speaking Catholics.
 The Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. "Douay Bible", 5:140.
 Raymond Brown et al., eds., The Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968), 69:168-169.
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