Monday, July 14, 2008

tradidi vobis praecepta

(Bear with me, read the different translations)

1 Corinthians 11:2

Challoner-Rheims Version (

2 Now I praise you, brethren, that in all things you are mindful of me: and keep my ordinances as I have delivered them to you.


2Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.

From that That Newer Americanized Bible Version:

2 I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them on to you.


2 I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.

The Ronald Knox translation from the Vulgate also says “traditions”, not ordinances. The Confraternity 1941 version says “precepts”. The reason I bring this up is because I was watching Ft. Pacwa last night on DVRd show “The Footsteps of St. Paul” when he quoted this verse. This verse is used time and again by Catholic apologists to defend “tradition”. Even my NIV, which uses the word “teachings” , has a note at the bottom which says the Greek version reads “traditions”.

So what is going on here? Take a look at the Vulgate.

Clementine Vulgate

2 laudo autem vos fratres quod omnia mei memores estis et sicut tradidi vobis praecepta mea tenetis

Nova Vulgata (1979)

2 Laudo autem vos quod omnia mei memores estis et, sicut tradidi vobis, traditiones meas tenetis.

Could a verse such as this possible put a kink in the Douay-Rheims Onlyisms? I’m not fluent but I do know the root of tradidi means to hand down something. It seems to me that at least in this case the 1941 Confraternity version more accurately translates from the Latin. Further, the word “ordinances”, as used in the Challoner and KJ Versions when applied by say…Baptists…has a completely different connotation and actually adds weight to their arguments against the Sacraments.

So I started looking into this last night and began searching for the text of the original Douay-Rheims Bible to see how we get from “praecepta” to the lacking “ordinances”, especially when the Greek says “traditions”. That text is only available online in photocopy/PDF format. I haven’t had a chance to go through it yet because you can’t search it and flipping the pages takes FOREVER. But you can buy it either in CD, download, or Print.

Then I found this site: . Which has (in part) this to say:

“The changes introduced by him were so considerable that, according to Cardinal Newman, they almost amounted to a new translation. So, also, Cardinal Wiseman wrote, 'To call it any longer the Douay or Rheimish Version is an abuse of terms. It has been altered and modified until scarcely any verse remains as it was originally published.' In nearly every case Challoner's changes took the form of approximating to the Authorized Version [King James]. . ."

So is this an example? Since the KJV and the Challoner-Rheims match at least in that term? I don’t know. But clearly on face value it appears to be that the newer translations are (and this could be scandalous to some…hold on tight…) more Catholic in their interpretation of that particular verse.

As for the Vulgate itself, I don’t know why translator (St. Jerome?) decided to use preacepta. I can’t read Greek. But there is at least in modern English a big difference between the acceptable “precepts I have handed down to you” and “ordinances as I have given them to you.” I don't mean to say that "ordinance" is wrong but the connotation is certainly sketchy would you say?

In any case, the “Real Douay Rheims bible” people also say the following, which REALLY piqued my interested. Not so much for the “our Bible is better than your Bible” argument but because they fill a need which simply is not being met in other places:

However, the major reason (other than the obvious efforts of the enemies of Christ to suppress it) is because it has never been retyped

from the Old English script into modern English text to make it accessible to modern readers. Thus, it is extremely hard and tedious to read and understand.

In an effort spanning over eleven years, and as a corporal and spiritual work of mercy, Dr. William von Peters has prepared the Douay Rheims for modern readers. First hand retyping the REAL Rheims New Testament in its entirety, with all the notes and annotations, into modern English text for easy reading. Then continuing on with the REAL Douay Old Testament, also with notes and annotations.

It is to be emphasized that nothing in the text has been changed or modified. It has only been transliterated into modern English text, with archaic spellings updated to modern spellings. Where possible the archaic spelling has been left intact to preserve the "flavor" of this historic text.”

(!!!) The Douay-Rheims in modernized English? How fantastic is that? Guess what book just got on my short list?


Moonshadow said...

Curiously, the KJV translates that same word "tradition(s)" in twelve other occurrences:

The KJV's choice in 1 Cor. 11:2 may signal something significant ...

Webster's: (3) a prescribed usage, practice, or ceremony

This smacks of superstition: "Christ was also systematically removed from these so-called Douay-Rheims Bibles ..."

And to complain about replacing "Christ" with "anointed" ... have they read Isaiah 45:1?! (I was going to say that those verse references are off, but 1 Kings is 1 Samuel ... duh, how I do forget?!).

I like the Middle English script featured in that snippet. And a modern reader is likely familiar enough with the text to muddle through alright.

"which brings the Bible directly from the time of St. Jerome's Vulgate of A.D. 385 to you today in the 21st Century."

Nice idea, but eh, I'm skeptical. 'Course their sensational offer merely confirms my opinion that we don't today have Jerome's Vulgate ...

Matt said...

I agree the removing Christ from the Old Testament thing is kind of weird. Putting Christ's name in place of "the anointed one" does make it easier for uneducated Bible people to see what is going on in some places however. And since Christ means "anointed one" (doesn't it?) it would make sense that the Latin would be rendered Christos and then the English would be rendered Christ. Right?

But using "anointed one" properly it reveals a different theological point. When we read the Old Testament we should read it with an eye to Jesus' coming. I think complaining about this is just a way to push the buttons of traditionalists who are easily swayed by "no, THIS is the true one" arguments.

I don't understand how it is superstitious. Could you explain?

I however, do find it to be a good thing that they have brought the Douay-Rheims bible up to modern English spellings. There are a few passages in the Challoner-Rheims that are archaic. And it sometimes it is nearly impossible to read aloud.

There is another reason why I want to get this edition...the commentary. In the back there is a section regarding "Controversies". Apparently the foot notes are copious too. I think this is a good resource to understanding the use and nature of the Bible throughout a tumultuous time in Church history. And now its even more readable.

Moonshadow said...

I don't understand how it is superstitious. Could you explain?

This idea that there's value in the sum total of occurrences of a divine title in a sacred text strikes me as superstitious. As if it makes the book more holy.

it would make sense that the Latin would be rendered Christos and then the English would be rendered Christ.

It's anachronistic, isn't it?

From Thayer's Lexicon:

"the name ὁ χριστός is not found in the O.T. but is first used of him in the Book of Enoch 48:10, 52:4."

"Anointed (one)" is someone other than Jesus - it's Saul in 1 Sam. 12:3.

(The KJV is interesting on this score: only two instances - both in Daniel 9 - are rendered "Messiah." Fr. Boadt would tell you it's a reference to the high priest Onias.)

However, I am in danger here of neglecting the "four senses of Scripture" by insisting on only the historical-critical. I'm just no good at OT "types"!

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton