21 March 2022

Translations of dead languages

If one does not read Latin, Greek, or Hebrew, how is one to handle the task, encouraged by Holy Mother Church, of getting immersed in the Scriptures?

Is an Anglophone able to access the Douay Rheims translation of the Bible? I doubt it. Offers of this version usually seem to turn out to be copies of Dr Challoner's revised version.

In 1954, Cardinal Griffin very warmly encouraged use of the translation by Mgr R A Knox; New Testament 1945; Old Testament 1949. I would commend it to those who can benefit from such a thing. It is in a dignified, 'timeless' register of English ... which has the advantage of not sounding Elizabethan. So one feels one is reading something fresh.

And, believe me, Knox's erudition was profound. As a Biblicist, he was not one of those callow youths or youthesses chasing after a DPhil who pontificate iconoclastically about the Bible while they themselves are a bit vague about the more exciting recesses of such Greek verbs as histemi

Knox knew his stuff. And his translation was more reliable than those of lesser beings. One example. 

In both the Usus Authenticus and the Usus Deterior of the Roman Rite, the Mass of a Doctor starts with the Introit In medio Ecclesiae aperuit os eius, et implevit eum Dominus spiritu sapientiae ... In the current English translation, that is given as In the midst of the Church he opened his mouth, and the Lord filled him with the spirit of wisdom ...

This makes it sound as if the Saint opened his mouth; and then the Lord filled him with the spirit of wisdom. But this is a false rendering of the Latin; which means that In the midst of the Church the Lord opened his mouth and filled him with the spirit of wisdom ... 

In 1949, Burns Oates and Washbourne published The Missal in Latin and English. If you notice a copy going cheap in a second hand book shop, I would advise you to snaffle it up. It is a class product. And the English translations of Scripture are from Knox.

So here is Knox's version of that same Introit; more free in word-order but without howlers in the  understanding of the Latin:

The Lord moved him to speak before the assembled people, filling him with the spirit of wisdom ... 

In a couple of days, I'll weave Benedict XVI and Knox together with interesting results.



Duarte Valério said...

It is true that the Challoner revision seems to be ubiquitous. Some years ago I went looking for the original version of the Douay-Rheims Bible, and it took me a long time to find it online. Furthermore, the text seems to be available only in the form of PDF files with scans of the original volumes, which I really enjoy leafing through; but I am aware that the orthography, the fonts, etc. of books typeset a couple of centuries ago are an obstacle for many people, who find such files unreadable.
1582.New.Testament.Rhemes.pdf: https://archive.org/details/nevvtestamentofi00mart
1609.Old.Testament.1.of.2.Doway.pdf: https://archive.org/details/holiebiblefaithf01engl https://archive.org/details/holiebiblefaithf00mart_0
1610.Old.Testament.2.of.2.Doway.pdf: https://archive.org/details/holiebiblefaithf00mart

Evangeline said...

This type of thing held me up for quite a while when trying to purchase a "best translation" of the bible. I kept asking others and reading reviews and it was hard to finally settle on one. I did purchase Knox's version and liked it, but gave it away to a niece who had turned away from lots of dodgy stuff back to Christianity, or maybe she was seeing it for the first time. Her name is Isabelle, and if you would say a prayer that she experience God's grace, I would so appreciate it. She is trying, and in this world, it is so hard for young people. She is in a liberal college, even worse.

Anyway, I did finally purchase the Douay-Rheims, not the Challoner version (did you disagree with that version?) and I do love it. I hear once in a while that people find it confusing, but, for the most part I don't find it confusing. Once in a while no matter what version you read something is hard to understand, and then I cross-check it with another version. I sound like I read it regularly, don't I. Well I don't, not nearly as much as I should. But it's God's Words, and so I do love it. That translation you describe is really funny. You must see that type of thing, often.
Have a Blessed Lent, Fr. Hunwicke!

Venite Adoremus said...

I must admit I am simply flabbergasted. I did not realise until now, and it took me a minute to figure it out. Does it hinge on the possessive pronoun used? Would the more modern translations be right if it was "suum" in place of "eius"?

Wynn said...

Venite Adoremus: Yes, that’s exactly the issue. Suum, being reflexive, would indicate that the “owner” of the os is the same as the subject of the verb (aperuit), which is how the English “translation” renders it. The fact that it is instead the non-reflexive eius means that the subject must be someone else, the only option available being Dominus.

Patrick said...

Duarte, the typesetting is quite pretty IMO but the 'f' for 's' gets me. Is there something wrong with the Challoner version? I also bought a "Douay-Rheims" that is actually Challoner.

rick allen said...

I was curious about how the 1611 English translation rendered Sirach 15:5, and I found "...in the midst of the congregation she shall open his mouth." This certainly agrees with your contention that the doctor is not doing the opening here. But "she"?

I had thought that the answer to your original question, does the Lord or the doctor do the opening?, would be answered by going back and finding a named subject of the verb. Am I correct that the 1611 translators settled on "sapientia," "Wisdom," as the feminine "she," (looking to begin the passage at verse 20 of the previous passage), or were they looking back to the simile, "quasi mater," "as a mother," a little closer in?

So maybe "In the midst of the congregation Wisdom shall open his mouth"? That would make the next phrase a little redundant--but then it seems to be missing in the 1611 version, and also in my copy of the Septuagint, which is presumably what the 1611 translators were following.

Prayerful said...

ChurchLatin.com has a good reprint of the original. It is quite impressive.

The Missal in Latin and English is not larded with illustrations, but is well designed, including two ordinaries for the Mass covering Low and High Mass rubrics. The Knox texts are excellent obviously

Augustine Pinnock said...

Copies of the authentic Douay-Rheims can be obtained from 'lulu' which have been retypset with modern English spelling. More information can be found at: https://www.realdouayrheims.com/