Why two Scripture translations? The short answer is that Second Exodus reminds its visitors that we read the Scriptures in translation. God inspired only the sacred original texts, not the translations. The Catholic Church is the new Israel. In Hebrew, Israel comes from Isra, struggle, and el, God. “Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed” Gen 32:28. God wants us to struggle toward understanding him, because in struggling we develop our strength and reveal our love.
Which Translation for Second Exodus
Second Exodus always quotes very extensively from the Catholic Bible. I was baptized in 1989 and began writing about the Catholic faith soon after that. I was greatly blessed to have among my mentors in the Faith Father William Most, a world class Scripture scholar and theologian. I asked Father Most which Bible translation he would recommend for me to use in my writing. He recommended what is now the Revised Standard Version Second Catholic Edition (RSV2CE), a generally formal-equivalent translation, for its overall accuracy and contemporary style.
Father Most said that Father John A. Hardon, SJ, my primary mentor, preferred the Challoner Douay-Rheims (DR) because it is a full formal-equivalent (literal, word-by-word) translation of St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate Bible which has been the Church’s reference standard for about 1,500 years. Father Most added, however, that the RSV2CE and all the other respected Bibles translate directly from the original Hebrew and Greek texts. He cited Pope Pius XII’s Divino Afflante Spiritu (DAS), 1943, § 2, the Church’s “supreme guide in biblical studies,” pointing out that the Church Fathers, especially St. Augustine, recommended translations from (DAS § 14) “the original texts” and citing Pius XII’s observation (DAS § 15), “It is the duty of the exegete to lay hold, so to speak, with the greatest care and reverence of the very least expressions which, under the inspiration of the Divine Spirit, have flowed from the pen of the sacred writer, so as to arrive at a deeper and fuller knowledge of his meaning.”
The Catholic Answers Bible Translations Guide has more information on finding a good Bible.
A Lively Difference of Opinion
Had been approved by its long-continued use for so many centuries in the Church. Hence this special authority or as they say, authenticity of the Vulgate was not affirmed by the Council particularly for critical reasons, but rather because of its legitimate use in the Churches throughout so many centuries; by which use indeed the same is shown, in the sense in which the Church has understood and understands it, to be free from any error whatsoever in matters of faith and morals; so that, as the Church herself testifies and affirms, it may be quoted safely and without fear of error in disputations, in lectures and in preaching; and so its authenticity is not specified primarily as critical, but rather as juridical.
Both priests agreed that I could use either the DR or the RSVCE in full obedience to the Church. Both are formal equivalence translations. It was a matter of prudent judgment § 1806. The decision was mine.
And a Prudent Compromise
I had initially been using the Father Most‘s originally recommended RSVCE, same Bible translation, first edition, and noticed that its style blended well with my writing style. When I tried replacing some of my quotations with their DR equivalents I discovered that the DR’s archaic style clashed with my contemporary writing style. I tried altering my writing to blend with the DR’s archaisms, but as I got closer to the DR style my own writing became increasingly strained. I returned to the RSVCE and immediately found my smooth transitions restored. I understood this to be Rabbi Yeshua’s gentle nudge toward the RSVCE so I continued to use it as the standard translation for my books and web site. When Ignatius published the RSV2CE I immediately began using it.
The original Douay-Rheims Version (NT 1582, OT 1609) was extremely difficult to read for 21st century Catholics. Try it: “For our wrestling is not against flesh and bloud: but against Princes and Potestats, against the rectors of the world of this dankness, against the spirituals of wickedness in the celestials” Eph 6:12.
I began with Bishop Challoner’s 1749-1752 edition, which was a great improvement over the original while still remaining extremely faithful to St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate Bible and made my compromise decision using the Challoner version. In 1899 the John Murphy Company of Baltimore further updated the Douay-Rheims Version, which it now called the DRA, to continue its slavish fidelity to St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate Bible while using a more contemporary English vocabulary. Second Exodus swiftly adopted the DRA when it became available.
The DR and DRA use notations slightly different from the standard notation that most Bibles use today. Some books have different titles; the RSV2CE books of 1 and 2 Samuel are the DRA books of 1 and 2 Kings. The RSV2CE books of 1 and 2 Kings are the DRA books of 3 and 4 Kings. The RSV2CE books of 1 and 2 Chronicles are the DRA books of 1 and 2 Paralipomenon. In some cases the chapter numbers in the DRA don’t match the RSV2CE chapter numbers; RSV2CE Psalm 23 is DRA Psalm 22. In other cases the verse notations are different; RSV2CE Num 13:32 corresponds to DRA Num 13:33. There are many such differences. In each case Second Exodus points the link to match the text, not the notation.
To maintain continuity with most Catholic and Protestant Bibles, and to salute Father Most, Second Exodus uses the RSV2CE for all Scripture chapter-and-verse references and quotations. However, in a salute to Father Hardon and many other Catholic faithful, the citation links always point to its DRA equivalent.
Formal and Dynamic Equivalence
The Catholic Answers Bible Translations Guide explains formal and dynamic equivalence. Briefly, formal equivalence translates word-by-word. This keeps it very close to the original source documents and brings in subtle Hebrew and Greek cues that provide insight into its meaning, but for that very reason it can be more difficult to read. Dynamic equivalence translates phrase-by-phrase, which loses some precision in the originals but is often easier to read.
Second Exodus is slowly converting its Douay-Rheims to the Catholic Bible.Online. Set up for parallel reading, it shows in the left column St. Jerome’s original Latin Vulgate Bible. In the center is the Douay-Rheims (DRA) full formal equivalent translation for maximum accuracy, and in the right column the Knox Bible dynamic equivalent translation for maximum ease of use.
Some Further Observations
St. John Paul II declared in Scripturarum Thesaurus that the Nova Vulgata (New Vulgate) is the Church’s “typical” (official) edition. Some Catholics expected that the DR would appear on the Vatican’s web site, but that honor went to the New American Bible (NAB). The USCCB holds the copyright for the NAB and the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE). United States Catholics read from the NABRE during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Second Exodus follows the Vatican at every opportunity. The Catechism, in its English language printed editions, states: “Scripture quotations contained herein are adapted from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, 1971, and the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1989, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.”
Second Exodus reveres the Hebrew Bible translations produced by Jewish scholars according to the Masoretic text, particularly the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) and Artscroll editions. They were translated by scholars whose native language is Hebrew. In many cases a native speaker will pick up subtle shades of meaning in a Hebrew text that other equally well educated Scripture scholars do not detect. However, for consistency, Second Exodus quotes from the RSV2CE in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.
Second Exodus also recommends the New Advent Bible for persons who need a fast comparison between the Greek, English and Latin texts. The Greek in the Old Testament is the Septuagint and the sacred authors’ original texts in the New Testament. The Latin is of course St. Jerome’s original Latin translated from the Hebrew in the Old Testament and the original texts of the New Testament.