Monday, April 22, 2024

Introducing the Douay-Rheims Bible

Here's a Bible translation you may not have ever heard of. It's called the Douay-Rheims Bible. Check it out on the Bible Gateway website! It's a translation of the Latin Vulgate into English for service in the Catholic Church. It is a formal equivalence translation produced by members of the English college in Douai (Douay), France. The New Testament portion was completed in the city of Reims (Rheims). The Douay-Rheims translation is one of several Bibles used by Roman Catholics in addition to the New American Bible (NAB) and the RSV Catholic Edition. It usually presents what has traditionally been called the Western text. Here are 2 examples:

1. In Rom. 7:25, most English translations read "I thank God/Thanks be to God" (essentially meaning the same thing). But here the DR reads "The grace of God." This is the reading of the Latin-speaking church of the earliest centuries of Christianity (D, it, vg, Jerome, Pelagius, Augustine). 

2. A more well-known example is 1 Tim. 3:16. Here there are three different readings. 

Once again, we see these differences in our modern English Bibles. 

  • The ESV follows the Alexandrian text: "He was manifested in the flesh."
  • The DR follows the Western text: "which was manifested in the flesh." 
  • And the NKJV follows the Byzantine text: "God was manifested in the flesh."

What, you ask, are the "Alexandrian," Western," and "Byzantine" texts? These terms refer to three families or streams of witnesses originating mainly in:

  • Alexandria, Egypt (hence "Alexandrian" text).
  • Greece and Asia Minor, which later became known as the Byzantine Empire (hence "Byzantine" text).
  • The Latin-speaking world of the day, including North Africa, Spain, Gaul (France), and Italy (hence "Western" text).

In places of textual variation, each of these families is represented by modern English translations, as in:

  • Alexandrian = ESV, CSB, NASB, etc.
  • Western = DR, NAB, etc.
  • Byzantine = KJV, NKJV, etc.

Which Bible is the best? Should I use the ESV? Should I use the NAB? Should I use the NKJV? The answer is "Yes!" Use any you want or all of them together. Where there are variant readings in the Greek text, these will be noted in the footnotes. 

The NKJV has the best notes, though!