Tuesday, October 30, 2012


It is a great joy to see the entire Knox Bible back in print.  After more than fifty years during which this treasure lay hidden in the field of second-hand bookstores, Baronius Press has made this, the only English translation of the Vulgate Bible apart from the Douay-Rheims, available once again.  The edition itself is of the highest quality, as befits the word of God, and Knox’s Bible is accompanied by a collection of essays in which he describes his approach to translation, and some of the difficulties he faced – both from the text itself, and from his intended public. 

            Today we are awash in translations of the Bible, good, bad, and indifferent, but to appreciate the boldness of Ronald Knox’s endeavor, we must recall that until the mid-twentieth century there were, for all intents and purposes, two principal English versions: the Protestant Authorized Version and the Catholic Douay-Rheims.  While it may seem tame today, Knox’s translation was a pioneering effort.  Even apart from its intrinsic worth, this translation deserves to see the light of day again because it represents a milestone in Catholic biblical scholarship.

            But what of its intrinsic worth? I would underscore three characteristics of this Bible which should make it a welcome addition both to your bookshelf and to your prie-dieu

1.      It is a translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible.  Within a few years of the completion of the Knox Bible, Rome gave permission for translations to be made from the original languages of Scripture. While encouraging this, the fathers of the Second Vatican Council spoke of the “place of honor” enjoyed by the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) and the Vulgate (Dei Verbum, #22).  The Vulgate has nourished Christian piety for over fifteen centuries; it has enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with the Church’s worship and remains a touchstone for biblical texts used in the liturgy; it bears witness to how the Church has traditionally interpreted the word of God.  There can be no doubt that modern translations from the original languages are a great blessing, but certainly there should be a place among these for a modern translation of the Vulgate.   

2.      It is a translation of the entire Bible by one man, who was a master of the English language.  We know that the Bible consists of many writings composed over hundreds of years in diverse circumstances.  But we also recognize that the Holy Spirit has inspired the entire canon of Scripture, and there is a unity to the Bible as a whole for this reason.  When the work of translation is done by a committee (as most translations are) that organic unity can be obscured; to have one translator carry out the entire project emphasizes the integral unity of Scripture.  And in Ronald Knox we have a translator who was a master of English prose.  When you read any of his writings, you encounter a very careful writer indeed, who always sought the apt word, the elegant turn of phrase that would best convey his thought.  Knox brought that lifetime’s experience to the work of translation, and the result is a version of the Bible that is marked by freshness, imagination, and a profound sense of the beauty of the English language.  His translation is modern, but never pedestrian.

3.      It is a translation shaped by faith.  This is a challenging attribute to capture in words, but the way I would express it is this: most modern translations aim at conveying as accurately as possible the meaning of the texts in their original languages.  This is noble ideal, and Knox himself consulted many biblical scholars in crafting his translation.  But the Bible is more than a collection of ancient documents: it is the inspired word of God, and Knox approached his effort as a work of devotion.  When we read Knox’s sermons, we hear a preacher who was deeply immersed in Scripture; when we read his translation of the Bible, it reflects a lifetime of prayer and preaching on the word of God.  It is this, even more than his mastery of style, which imparts to the Knox Bible an atmosphere of serene majesty, and an occasional turn of phrase that goes right to the heart.

You may already have a favorite translation of the Bible that you read for spiritual nourishment; if so, I urge you to dip occasionally into Knox’s translation to gain fresh insight into familiar texts.  You may be preparing a homily or engaging in Bible study; the Vulgate translation, in this modern translation, will enrich your scholarly endeavors.  Or, you may be looking for a translation that is both accurate and original; look no further than the Knox Bible.

                                                            Milton Walsh, author of Ronald Knox as Apologist and
Second Friends: C. S. Lewis and Ronald Knox in Conversation, both published by Ignatius Press.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Book lovers such as me relish the prospect of spending hours in musty used-book stores and browsing online. I've done quite a bit of both over the years. But there’s always been one volume which I've dreaded searching for and that’s been Msgr. Knox’s Bible. I've dreaded it because, until now, my only options were to find an extremely rare soft-leather covered edition and pay hundreds of dollars for it, or settle for the [always dirty] cloth-bound 3 volume set, or parts thereof. So I was delighted to receive my copy of this new edition of such an important book. Others will tell you about the virtues of the text and its translator; I’ll just say that this edition is physically beautiful. The cover, the pages, the type … all make for an impressive whole. It will undoubtedly become many people’s “go to” gift book. First Communions, Confirmations, Marriages, Ordinations, Christmas, Easter … as Catholics we have so many wonderful occasions for giving beautiful things to those we love! And it’s my fervent wish that every priest should have one, especially in this Year of Faith.

I’m also delighted to see that Baronius Press is including a very nice paperback copy of “On Englishing the Bible” with every order. It contains several essays by Msgr. Knox in which he explains all the trials and tribulations of undertaking such a mammoth work. It includes: 1. Thoughts on Bible Translation 2. Some New Testament Problems 3. Justice and Scandal in the Gospels 4.Challoner and the Douay Version 5. Some Reasons Why 6. Nine Years' Hard 7. Morsu Amarissimo 8. Farewell to Machabees and a Preface by Knox written in 1949. This volume is very dear to me personally because it was in reading an excerpt from one of these essays that I first discovered Msgr. Knox over 25 years ago. I was so impressed with his intelligence, his knowledge, his insight and, of course, his wit. It was love at first read!

So, go to the Baronius Press website where they have all kinds of great information on this new edition and Msgr. Knox, and then spread the word!

Vicki McCaffrey
President, The Ronald Knox Society of North America

Monday, October 15, 2012


Available for the first time in more than fifty years
Msgr. Knox's translation of the Latin Vulgate into elegant, timeless English is one of the greatest treasures of the 20th century Church. His translation is spiritual and literary, graceful and lyrical, making it one of the most beautiful vernacular versions of the Holy Bible.
"Mgr. Knox's version continues to merit attention, and I welcome the publication of this new edition, as his remarkable work is likely to continue to be of interest for many years to come. I sincerely hope that many will read and profit from this new edition."
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
"Msgr. Knox had a profound love for Sacred Scripture, a passion was to make the Bible accessible to as many people as possible … In the Knox translation, clarity is paramount."
Dr. Scott Hahn
"A masterful translation of the Bible"
Time Magazine
Monsignor Ronald Knox was commissioned in 1939 by the Bishops of England and Wales to produce a fresh translation of the Holy Scripture and, for the next nine years, he worked alone to achieve this task. He used Pope Clement VIII's edition of the Latin Vulgate as a base for his translation, diligently comparing it to Greek, Hebrew, Syriac and Chaldean manuscripts to determine the meaning of ambiguous passages.
He aimed at a Bible that was understandable to modern audiences and yet rooted in Catholic tradition and "written in timeless English". He wanted a Bible that did not merely translate the original but made it read as if an Englishman had written it.
Knox's Bible received great acclaim when it was first published. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury of the time recommended it, and it became the preferred translation of Fulton Sheen. The Bishops were so pleased with the completed version that it was authorized for liturgical use, and the Knox translation of the Bible was used as the official version in the churches of Great Britain, Ireland and Australia for the decade leading up to Vatican II – and the first version sanctioned for liturgical use in England and Wales.

For more information or to order please visit our website at 

Saturday, October 6, 2012


by Fr. George W. Rutler
   Monsignor Ronald Knox, probably the most inspired preacher and apologist of the twentieth century, wrote an essay satirizing some skeptical Biblical literary critics, in which he used their methods to “prove” that the real author of Tennyson's In Memoriam was Queen Victoria.
   Many who doubt the plausibility of the Scriptures are gullible about hoaxes. I don't just mean the rabbit with antelope horns called a “jackalope.” There was the Cardiff Giant of 1869 promoted by P.T. Barnum, and John Payne Collier's forgery of Shakespeare’s letters. Some pretended to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia, and far earlier was the hoax of a lady pontiff named Pope Joan. The New York Zoo hoax of 1874 convinced many that animals had escaped. In 1912 there was the Piltdown Man. Henry Ford promoted the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” There were the aliens landing in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, and the Balloon Boy hoax in 2009. The Da Vinci Code claimed an albino monk hid corpses nearby on 34th Street. I confess that I keep a warm spot in my heart for the Loch Ness Monster, which also intrigued Pope Pius XII who discussed it with the above-mentioned Monsignor Ronald Knox. Unfortunately, Nessie's primary witness was an English vicar, and such testimony is not potent in courts of law.
   Hoaxes gain credibility when they use respected sources. In 1938, Orson Welles’ adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds convinced thousands because it was broadcast on radio. Monsignor Knox did something similar on the BBC. People today are inclined to believe hoaxes because they are mentioned witlessly in the mainstream media.
   Five years ago The New York Times spent a lot of printer’s ink on a bogus ossuary reputed to be that of a “brother” of Christ. Recently the same journal announced on its front page the discovery of a parchment claiming that there was a Mrs. Jesus. Shortly thereafter the parchment was adjudged a forgery. If a correction ever appears, it will be in fine print back in the shipping news section.
   Since journalists often invoke pretentious scholarship to question the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin and the Tilma of Guadalupe, the question begged is: “Why do these people suddenly become naive about phenomena that contradict Christian inspiration?” The answer speaks for itself. The New York Times would be delighted to find that Christ did not radically contradict the norms of His age by forsaking all else and calling others to do the same as a proclamation of the Mystical Union between Christ as Bridegroom and the Church as Bride.
   The media should take the counsel of St. Paul, who probably would be fired after his first day at work as an editor of The New York Times: “I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema” (Galatians 1:9).
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