Thursday, January 19, 2012


Msgr.Cormac Burke has posted the entire Holy Bible - as translated by Msgr.Ronald Knox - online. But here's the twist: he has carefully changed 'Thou' and 'Thine' to 'You' and 'Yours'.
Msgr. Burke explains: "The past 40 years have seen a welter of English translations of the Bible. One appears to have been quite lost in this biblical multiplication: that of Ronald Knox which was so immensely popular from its publication in 1944 to the mid-1960s. My own reaction to it had been enthusiastic, yet maybe somewhat ambivalent: I found it very readable, very inspiring, and at times a bit debatable...
In any case it descended into practical oblivion after Vatican II. It might - and perhaps should - have survived if Knox had not made the mistake, as I now see it, of sticking to the "thou" forms throughout.
Some time back, seeing the very varied quality of the new versions, I began to wonder if Knox, in "you" form, might not be of interest and help to some people. So I began to while away odd moments by "you-ing" his New Testament (I have a good program for such a task). With "you" etc. throughout, many passages seemed to take on a new freshness and interest.
Now, more than a year after its first appearance on my website, I find that the 'you' version has drawn more interest than I ever anticipated. One reader makes a comment worth transcribing. For him, the Ronald Knox translations, "somehow combine clarity with mystery: I mean they are easy enough to understand and they still have that majesty of language which constantly reminds the reader that these words concern much more than the everyday".
It is an opinion that may have particular application to the pauline epistles. Regarding these I do recall some early critic who, while conceding that Msgr. Knox had certainly made St. Paul intelligible (he was at times barely so in the old Douai-Rheims version), still doubted whether Knox's version really makes Paul say what he actually wanted to say... I am not scripture scholar enough to resolve the question; but am sure that the same doubt can be made extensive to quite a few more recent versions.
In consequence, the more the present spare-time activity progresses, the greater my impression that something old has in a small but important way become new again. If so, the endeavor is not totally useless.
In any case, may "Ronnie" forgive me from his heavenly abode, if he does not approve of my efforts. But I would not like to see any of his masterly and inspiring prose being thrust aside because of a few pronouns or adjectives here and there."

Msgr. Cormac Burke