Monday, May 5, 2014

Bibles For Catholics

Catholics should read their Bibles. Lectio Divina is a time-honored method of prayer that takes just a little time but bears great fruit. Prayerful daily reading of no more than a chapter a day is all it takes. The key is consistency. You can also find various Catholic Bible reading plans online, or make your own. But you have to have a Bible first. After consultation with the Bavarian Bible Bear, here is a two-part chat about how to choose a Bible.

A (Very) Brief History of the English Bible

In the beginning, there was the Vulgate. He was Roman to the bone. He kept himself fit, did our Mr. Vulgate, and is still alive today, although he lives in a Benedictine monastery where few visit.

About 400 years ago, at the height of Queen Elizabeth's bloody terror, the Vulgate had a son born into exile in France: the Douay Rheims, known to his many friends as DR. DR was a chip off the old block, being a translation into English of the Vulgate's Latin. But he was just as Roman, and equipped to meet new threats to the Faith.

About the same time (actually a little later) the Protestants published the Authorized Version of 1611, better known as the King James Bible, or KJV. The KJV translators thought it better to rely on Hebrew texts accepted by the Jews. There had been previous translations, but as long as the Church had a say in the matter, they were suppressed due to errors contained in them.

The KJV was the first non-Catholic best selling Bible. It had an enormous influence on subsequent translations, and was just "the Bible" for generations of English speakers.

In truth, the KJV translators cribbed from the Douay Rheims, and later, when Bishop Challoner updated the DR in the middle of the 18th century, he judiciously borrowed from the KJV.

The result was that for centuries, Protestants have had their KJV and Catholics their DR. Both were magnificent accomplishments, and the KJV's stately language made its imprint on the Anglosphere.

New Translations

Just as Challoner thought the DR needed an update to remain intelligible to people of the 1700s, when the 20th century rolled around, others felt the need for not only an update, but entirely new translations. Since then, there has been a mania for new Bible versions.

The Catholics ended up primarily with the Jerusalem Bible (Mother Angelica's favorite, if you've ever watched EWTN) and the New American Bible, but it was the latter that carried the day.

The Protestants, as might be expected of such ardent lovers of scripture (and as lucrative a publishing market) produced many, many more translations, from the sublime to the ridiculous. The Cotton Patch Gospel not only put the Bible into modern language, it brought scripture into the modern world. After the temptation in the desert, it says: "And then angels appeared with a sack of chili cheese dogs for him."

Most are descendants of the KJV, but Bibles like the New International Version, popular with Evangelicals, are new translations that depart from that tradition. The new English Standard Version, the latest in the noble KJV line, is trying to topple the NIV from the top of the Evangelical heap. A visit to a Protestant bookstore presents a bewildering array of Bibles, from serious to designer trendy. (And you can pick up a Duck Dynasty devotional, while you're at it.)

Among Protestant Bibles adapted for Catholic use, the New Revised Standard Version (NSRV) or older Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition (RSVCE) stand out.

Next: Choices for Catholics

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