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The Douai Bible, also known as the Rheims-Douai Bible or Douay-Rheims Bible and abbreviated as D-R, is a Catholic translation of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate into English. The New Testament was published in one large volume with extensive commentary and notes in 1582. The Old Testament followed in 1609 in two large 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 Reformation which was heavily influencing religion in England. As such it was an impressive effort by English Catholics to support the Catholic Reformation.
The English exiles for religious causes, or recusants, were not all Catholic. There were Catholic refugees on the Continent 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 Douai, in France, founded (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 officially authorized Catholic translation of the Bible into English was produced.
A run of a few hundred or more of the New Testament, in book form (not large folio), was published in the last months of 1582, 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 the brilliant scholar, Father 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 Testament is stated to have been ready at the same time, but for want of funds it could not be printed until 1609, after the college had returned to Douai; it is commonly known as the Douay Old Testament. The complete Rheims New Testament appeared just in time to be of some use to the preparers of King James' version. While the city is now spelled Douai, the Bible continues to be published as the Douay-Rheims Bible.
Although the New Testament was published in 1582, the Old Testament did not appear until 1609. 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
The Douai Bible is based on the work of Saint Jerome (345-420) who translated the Septuagint (the LXX) and Hebrew texts into a Latin version of the Bible which is known as the Vulgate, the official Bible of the Catholic Church. While the Catholic scholars "conferred" with the Hebrew and Greek originals, as well as with "other editions in diuerse languages," 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.
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 Testament passages, 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 why the Douai 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. Jerome had 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 were necessarily deemed controversial by Protestants. Also controversial was the Biblical canon, the fact that the Deuterocanonical books were found in the Douai-Rheims Old Testament, rather than placed in the Apocrypha section as in sixteenth century Protestant bibles.
The Douai 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 Rheims Bible was ironically popularized by the action of a vehement adversary, William Fulke, who, in order to expose its perceived errors, in 1589 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.
Regarded from the point of view of scholarship, the Rheims-Douai 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 Version is indeed distinguished by the strongly English (as distinct from Latin) character of its prose, some of the Latin vocabulary it used (and used effectively: propitiation Romans 3:25, concupiscence Romans 7:8, emulation Romans 11:14) was derived from the Rheims-Douai. Other words adopted from Latin were introduced into the English language directly by the Douai-Rheims Bible (not through the intermediary of the Authorised Version), and eventually became commonplace in both ecclesiastical and secular vocabularies: "acquisition," "adulterate," "advent," "allegory," "verity," "calumniate," "character," "cooperate," "prescience," "resuscitate," "victim," and "evangelise."
 Challoner Revision
The Douai-Rheims Bible, however, achieved little currency even among English speaking Catholics until it was substantially revised between 1749 and 1752 by 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, again, had borrowed terms from the original Rheims NT of 1582. Challoner not only addressed the odd prose, at points, and the latinisms, but produced a version which while still called the Douai-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 fellowheirs, 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, still reprinted as the "Douai-Rheims", and officially approved by the Church, remained the Bible of the majority of English-speaking Catholics well into the 20th century. In 1941 the Douay Bible was again heavily revised to produce the Confraternity Bible. This has been its last revision. Today it has been supplanted by new translations from modern Greek and Hebrew critical editions.
Although the New American Bible is most commonly used in American Catholic Churches, the Challoner revision of the Douai-Rheims (or perhaps RSV-CE) is still often the Bible of choice of traditional Catholics today.
 Names of Books
The names, numbers, and chapters of the Douai 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 KJB are called 1 and 2 Esdras in the Douai Bible. The apocryphal books called 1 and 2 Esdras in the KJB are called 3 and 4 Esdras in the Douai. A table illustrating the differences can be found here.
The names, numbers, and order of the books in the Douai Bible follow those of the Vulgate except that the three apocryphal books are placed after the Old Testament in the Douai 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 Douai Bible follow the numbering of the Vulgate and the Septuagint, whereas those in the KJB follow that of Masoretic Text. For details of the differences see the article on the Psalms.
- ↑ 1951 Bernard Orchard A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture Thomas Nelson & Sons, page 36
- Much of the above text was taken from the article "English Versions" by Sir Frederic G. Kenyon in the Dictionary of the Bible edited by James Hastings (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1909).
- The quotes regarding the sources of the Douai Bible (i.e. "conferred" and "diuerse languages") were taken from "THE NEVV TESTAMENT OF IESVS CHRIST" printed at Rhemes in 1582, from "THE PREFACE TO THE READER TREATING OF THESE THREE POINTS: OF THE TRANSLATION OF HOLY SCRIPTVRES INTO THE vulgar tongues, and namely into English: of the causes vvhy this nevv Testament is translated according to the aucient vulgar Latin text: & of the maner of translating the same."
- The most available reprinting of the original Rheims New Testament (minus its marginal notes) can be found in the fifth column of the New Testament Octapla edited by Luther Weigle, chairman of the translation committee that produced the Revised Standard Version. (Luther A. Weigle, ed., The New Testament Octapla: Eight English Versions of the New Testament in the Tyndale-King James Tradition. NY: Thomas Nelson, n.d. . No ISBN; Library of Congress catalog number 62-10331.) The 1846 English Hexapla, of Samuel Bagster, provided parallel columns of numerous editions, with a Greek version at the top (incl. notes of other Greek versions), one of these being the Rheims, with updated spelling, which was termed there the - Anglo-Rhemish. Both this and Fulke's similar presentation, noted above, are generally available in university microfilm collections, or online as facsimiles to university subscribers. But, importantly, the same is true for the original text itself (just for ex., in one univ. library system, the Rheims NT is found on microfilm as MFILM 015:3). And the now defunct, Scolar Press, had reprinted both Douai and Rheims, as well, as part of their English Resucant Literature series, and which volumes are generally available at lending libraries (e.g. The Douai OT, in 2 vols, vol 1 shows ISBN #0859672611).
- Douay-Rheims Bible ISBN 0-9545631-0-7. This is the 2006 edition of Challoner's revision. Completely retypeset, leather edition. Available from Baronius Press 
- Douay-Rhemes Holy Bible ISBN 0-00-508868-2. This is a 1995 printing of Challoner's revision from Tan Books & Publishers.
- The Original and True Douay Rheims Bible claims to be transliterated from early D-R copies (not Challoner or later). This appears to be a personal project of Dr. William G. von Peters, an alternative medicine specialist.
 External links
- Parallel Latin Vulgate - Douay Rheims - King James
- The Douai-Rheims-Challoner Bible
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Douay Bible
- Douay Rheims Version from DRBO
- The Douay-Rheims and the King James Bible compared
- Baronius Press - Publisher of the largest range of Douay-Rheims Bibles
- 2-volume Haydock Douay Rheims Bible
- Holy Bible, The Douay-Rheims Version, Both Testaments, available freely at Project Gutenberg. Entire Challoner Bible, including from the original Douay-Rhemes version as appendices: Prayer of Manasses, Third Booke of Esdras, Fourth Booke of Esdras, Prophecie of Abdias, Epistle of Iude the Apostle, Preface to the Reader, and Hard Vvordes Explicated.
- The Project Gutenberg Bible, Douay-Rheims Version, available freely at Project Gutenberg. HTML edition of the 73 books, no appendicies.
- http://www.douaybible.com/DouayHistory/douayhistory.html History of the Douay Bible