King James Bible for Catholics

IMG_20191119_112258241John Covert, who created the Morning and Evening Prayer site, is working on publishing The King James Bible for Catholics.  He brought a prototype in two volumes with him to Toronto to the Anglican Tradition in the Catholic Church conference.  I sent him some questions about the project and here are his responses.

What is the King James Version for Catholics?
The King James Version for Catholics is a new printing of the 1611
KJV Bible with the 1769 orthographic changes and with the
Deuterocanonical books placed among the other books of the Old
Testament in the order expected by Catholics.  Like the 1610 Douay,
the three non-Canonical books will be placed in an appendix to the
Old Testament.
As published in England in 1611, the KJV included 80 books, which
correspond to, but are organized differently than the 76 books of the
1610 Douay.
The King James Version for Catholics will have all of these.
Anglicans have always used all of the books, but other Protestants
began printing editions of the KJV with only 66 books, omitting the
14 books in the KJV Apocrypha.  With the transition to newer
translations in the 1950s and 1960s by Catholics and Anglicans, it
became more difficult to obtain complete versions of the KJV.
In a full, standard edition of the King James Bible there are 80
books: 39 Old Testament books accepted by Jews and Protestants, four
books that are deuterocanonical portions of Esther and Daniel, 7
deuterocanonical books, three books considered non-canonical but
published in the KJV and early editions of the Douay, and the 27
books of the New Testament.
The three non-canonical books are The Prayer of Manasses, and 2
additional books of Esdras.  Though non-canonical, the Second Book of
Esdras (called the Fourth Book of Esdras in the pre-Tridentine
Vulgate) is heavily used in liturgical propers within the Church, and
the Prayer of Manasses has been used in the Liturgy of the Hours.
Why is this a King James Version for Catholics, and not a King James
Version – Catholic Edition, as with the RSV?
I am calling this the King James Version for Catholics rather than
the King James Version Catholic Edition because any attempt to make
significant modifications to the KJV would make it something
different and inauthentic.
The only changes other than placing the books in the familiar order
which I am planning are to follow the 2008 letter from the CDW,
written at Pope Benedict’s request, that asks that the Holy Name of
God, the Tetragrammaton, be rendered in English as “The Lord” rather
than “Jehovah”.  Jews stopped pronouncing the Tetragrammaton during
the Second Temple Era, and early Christians also never attempted to
prounounce the Holy Name.  This will only affect eight verses in the
entire KJV, and in each case a footnote will indicate the original
text.
In addition, there will be some small number of footnotes where the
text differs significantly from current understanding of the original
languages.  But one of the features of the original KJV that made it
different from other translations being produced at the time was the
lack of marginal notes, which tended to being polemical attacks on
other translations.
So while an imprimatur might be nice, I will be happy if I am only
able to find an author more learned than myself to write a preface
discussing the proper place of the KJV in the life of the Ordinariate.
What prompted you to put the KJV for Catholics together?
Many people have asked for it.  It is certainly an important part of
the patrimony.  The King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer,
more than any other literary works, have formed the culture and the
consciences of the English speaking people for over 400 years.
What difficulties are there, if any, in working on any Scriptural
text in terms of Catholic approvals?
Approvals are not required for bibles.  Only lectionaries, that is,
books containing the individual readings for use in the mass or at
the daily office, must be approved, and must follow the directives in
Liturgiam Authenticam.  Catholics are free to read any translation of
the bible.
Many portions of the KJV have already received specific approval from
the CDF/CDW and are incorporated in “Divine Worship: The Missal.”
For example, the Last Gospel must be read from the Missal, and the
text is the KJV. Many of the minor propers and other scriptural texts
in the Missal are from the KJV.
What response have you had to the project so far?
Many members of the Ordinariate coming from the Anglican tradition
are enthusiastic.  Others, who do not appreciate the more poetic
nature of the KJV, don’t understand why the Douay isn’t good enough.
There are also detractors who believe that the KJV is heretical or
claim that it is a polemic against the Church, but no one has yet
identified any passage that is in contradiction to Catholic doctrine.
One person adamantly claimed that the KJV translation of John 3:16 is
heretical, but that is one of the verses which has already received
official approval for use at mass, as one of the “Comfortable Words.”
When will the two-volume set be available for order?
Sooner, rather than later.  I initially promised it by next summer,
but I hope to actually be able to release it in the Spring, or
earlier.
Do you have a website for it yet?
http://www.walsinghampublishing.com will refer you to Amazon where it will
be available with free Prime shipping.  I expect the final price for
the two volumes purchased together to be under $39.99.

15 thoughts on “King James Bible for Catholics

    • For better or worse, the latter seems to be more faithful to the original text — and it is not limited to Protestant translations. Catholic translations intended for liturgical use also use it.

      The translation to “full of grace” seems to be limited to translations of the Vulgate (Latin) text, like the Rheims New Testament, and does not appear in any translations of the original (Greek) text of the Luke’s gospel.

      Norm.

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    • My KJV says “full of grace”. I imagine this KJV will say that too. It’s surprisingly more “Catholic” than most modern translations, even if less strictly accurate in a few places. It’s not my choice for a study Bible, but you simply cannot beat the KJV for liturgical use.

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  1. I think that it would be worth pursuing a formal imprimatur for this. The process obviously will take a while, and it probably would require some additional footnotes to explain language that’s susceptible to misunderstanding in the present age, but the result would be a more useful volume.

    Norm.

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  2. Pingback: FRIDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  3. Being a convert that loves the language of the KJV, and thinks it is far a better translation than most modern Catholic ones (I’m looking at you, NAB), I am all for this in spirit.

    I won’t get into the question of Catholics reading a non-approved translation, the canon law on _publishing_ a Bible is very clear:

    ————————-

    Can. 825 §1. Books of the sacred scriptures cannot be published unless the Apostolic See or the conference of bishops has approved them. For the publication of their translations into the vernacular, it is also required that they be approved by the same authority and provided with necessary and sufficient annotations.

    §2. With the permission of the conference of bishops, Catholic members of the Christian faithful in collaboration with separated brothers and sisters can prepare and publish translations of the sacred scriptures provided with appropriate annotations.

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    • The painful reality is that no translation is ever perfect because the source language inevitably are words that don’t have direct equivalents in the target language, resulting in distortion of the meaning. There’s a legend in the Artificial Intelligence community about early attempts to automate translation. One year at a conference, one team demonstrated a program that would do literal translation from English to Russian, and another team demonstrated a program that would do literal translation from Russian to English. Not knowing Russian, some attendees fed the scriptural passage “The Spirit is willing, but the Flesh is weak.” into the first, then passed the output from the first into the second. The output from the second: “The wine is good, but the meat has spoiled.”

      And that’s just two translations!

      Norm.

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      • That might perhaps be interesting, but it has zero to do with whether the publication of books of the Scriptures requires the prior approval of the Holy See or a bishop’s conference, which they clearly do under Canon Law.

        That was my point, however much I sympathize with the idea.

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      • No, I was speaking to your first point about quality of translations.

        But to address the second point of your earlier post, the evolution — and, often, corrupted in support of a political agenda — of language often causes the meaning of words to change significantly, and words often fall into disuse. Modern readers miss the gist when Hamlet tells Ophelia to “get thee to a nunnery” because it seems to mean a convent but, in Shakespeare’s day, “nunnery” was slang for a brothel — and that’s not even the whole tip of the proverbial iceberg. For study purposes, one can circumvent this by using a bible that’s annotated by linguistic scholars whose comments explain what the text meant to the translators — but that’s not at all practicable for liturgical use.

        As to the current edition of the New American Bible approved for use here in the States, there’s actually quite a history behind it. The Vatican rejected the text initially proposed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, setting up an impasse that was resolved by a bunch of scripture scholars and translators sitting down at a table with their marked-up copies and copies of the original text and going through each passage asking the question, “What is the best way to translate this passage?” The final text that emerged from that process probably is about the most rigorous translation of the whole of scripture into contemporary English that’s available to us today.

        The ordinariates have faculty to use the Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) in their liturgy. I have some reservation about this because the RSV is a century old, so the problems of corruption of language probably are getting to be significant.

        The take-away from all of this is that translations of scripture — and also liturgical rites — need to be updated with some frequency to ensure that their language continues to conform to contemporary use. In my childhood, I experienced the consequence of 1500 years of failure to do this — everything was in a language (Latin) that nobody understood, rendering it completely inaccessible to the faithful (and also to most of the clergy!).

        Norm.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. None of my southern Baptist neighbors are aware of this. Nor were most of my former Anglican parishioners. The Authorized Version (a.k.a., King James Bible), however, was originally published with the deuterocanonical books set apart at the Apocrypha. English law prohibited it being published without these books until the 19th century when the Bible Society, seeking to save money on printing and shipping of Bibles to the increasingly widespread British colonies requested a change in the law allowing them to print the AV with only the 66 books of the Protestant canon.

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    • The publication of the “apocrypha” as a separate section at the end of the old testament actually follows the practice of St. Jerome in the Vulgate. Jerome could not obtain Hebrew manuscripts for those books, so he had to translate them from Greek — a practice that he recognized as inherently deficient. Thus he labeled them “apocrypha” — literally, “hidden writings,” meaning that the original (Hebrew) text was not extant.

      Norm.

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