03 September 2009

When the Catholic Hierarchy of England and Wales Knox on the Door

It was first published in one volume in 1955, and it was selected by the National Book League as one of the 100 best-produced books of that year. The Daily Telegraph wrote: “The most considerable and perhaps the most literary version of modern times.” Spectator joined in on the praises: “It is brilliant… the finest modern translation yet to appear in the English language.”

The literary achievement which received so many accolades was The Holy Bible, translated from the Latin Vulgate in the light of the Hebrew and Greek by Ronald Knox.

Monsignor Ronald Knox (1888-1957) was a convert to the Catholic faith from the Anglican Church. He was a theologian and writer born in Leicestershire, England. Many eloquent writings and novels, notwithstanding, the Catholic hierarchy of England and Wales asked him to translate anew into English, the Vulgate bible while also remaining faithful to the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. The New Testament was published first in 1945 and then the Old Testament followed in 1949.

The Knox translation found its way into the Catholic liturgy between the years 1965 and 1970.

Baronius Press is currently undertaking reprinting the Knox Bible which is expected to be ready in 2010. I have a 1965 fifth edition and my own opinion is that it is a very readable English translation without sacrificing majestic words like “thee” and “thou.” The translation also has a way of teaching the reader the meaning of the texts. Here’s an example text from the beginning of Saint John’s Gospel:

At the beginning of time the Word already was; and God had the Word abiding with him, and the Word was God.
He abode, at the beginning of time, with God.
It was through him that all things came into being, and without him came nothing that has come to be.

Perhaps the best known psalm is Psalm 23. Monsignor Knox, however, kept the Vulgate numbering of the Book of Psalms which in this case would be Psalm 22. Here is his rendition:

The Lord is my shepherd; how can I lack anything?
He gives me a resting-place where there is green pasture,
leads me out to the cool water’s brink, refreshed and content.
As in honour pledged, by sure paths he leads me;
dark be the valley about my path, hurt I fear none while he is with me;
thy rod, thy crook are my comfort.
Envious my foes watch, while thou dost spread a banquet for me;
richly thou dost anoint my head with oil, well filled my cup.
All my life thy loving favour pursues me;
through the long years the Lord’s house shall be my dwelling-place.