A reader shared this news with me by email a few months ago. MB’s recent two-part post on the Coverdale Psalter reminded me of it. Last fall, Walsingham Publishing released a two-volume paperback edition of the King James Version (KJV) for Catholics, featuring the deuterocanonical books in their traditional Catholic order. The original KJV included the deuterocanonical books in a section between the Old and New Testaments, but many modern editions of the KJV omit them entirely, in keeping with recent practice in most protestant churches.

Walsingham Publishing’s website includes a dedicated page for this two-volume Bible, including a wealth of background information and frequently asked questions. The original inspiration for this work was the establishment of the Ordinariate (which provides a Church structure for Anglican and Episcopal Christians to enter the Catholic Church). The King James Version has long been a traditional part of Anglican worship, and many converts continue to value its language and know its verses by heart. It also is quoted throughout the liturgical books which are used for worship in the Ordinariate. The introduction on the Walsingham Publishing site explains the importance of the KJV for the Anglican tradition, as well as the English-speaking protestant tradition more broadly:

For over 400 years, Anglicans and most English-speaking Protestants heard, read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested Scripture from the KJV. It was so well established among the faithful that when the modern translations began to appear, and were often favored by those in positions of power, the lay faithful often objected. The arguments advanced in favor of a more modern idiom, and that the KJV was no longer “vernacular,” carried little weight.

This edition contains the 1611 KJV text with changes to spelling that were introduced in 1769. Very few modifications were made to this base text, most notably, “Jehovah” was replaced with “The Lord” in eight places to bring the text in line with the 2008 instruction from the Congregation for Divine Worship. Footnotes were also added sparingly.

This Bible has not received an imprimatur, but the publisher points out that the selections of the KJV which are used in the Ordinariate liturgy have already been approved. The FAQ also includes a table of many verses that have been criticized in the KJV, with a brief analysis of each one.

The two-volume set (here are Amazon links to Volume I and Volume II) is currently available for $33.90. An extensive preview of the text layout and typesetting is available here. The biblical text is laid out in two columns in paragraph format (rather than the verse-by-verse format which is used in many KJV Bibles). It also uses a very attractive modern font.

25 thoughts on “King James Version for Catholics Now Available”

  1. I would love to see a project like this find proper ecclesiastical approval (probably through the Ordinariate).

    But in the meantime, I am quite skeptical about these sorts of projects. Canon law is unambiguous that publication of the Holy Scriptures _requires_ approval from the Holy See or the local Conference.

    I mentioned this on another blog when this project was first announced, and had a brief exchange, the gist of which was extolling the excellent qualities of the KJV as a translation. The problem is, I never had any doubt about the excellent qualities of the KJV. I grew up with it, and read it nearly everyday from childhood, and this it is a wonderful translation in almost every regard.

    Were a KJV edition to be approved for Catholics–and if the RSV and ESV can, there is really no reason the KJV should not be–I would be the first in line.

    But as Catholics, we are under the authority of the Church, a Church that has laws, one of which is:

    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.

    1. You raise a good point, Thomas. From a legal perspective, my understanding is that Canon 825 applies to publishers and not directly to readers. As the FAQ on the KJV for Catholics website states, Catholics are permitted to read translations of Sacred Scripture, even if they aren’t approved by Church authorities. Of course, no matter what translation we read, our faith calls us to read Scripture in union with the teaching and tradition of the Church.

      That being said, I would be very interested to hear the publisher’s perspective. The clear sense of Canon 825 suggests that publishers should not print Bibles that do not have Church approval. And yet we have seen multiple examples of Bibles printed for a Catholic audience in the past few decades without Church approval:

      – The New Living Translation was printed in a Catholic Reference Edition back in 2002, but it never received an imprimatur. It quickly went out of print.
      – The RSV-2CE was published by Ignatius Press without an imprimatur. It included a generic reference to ecclesiastical approbation, and Ignatius Press cited communications with the USCCB saying that the changes from the original RSV-CE were so minor that they didn’t need a new imprimatur. But the RSV-2CE was never included in the list of approved Catholic translations on the USCCB website, and subsequent communications from the USCCB cast doubt on whether it should be considered approved. On the other hand, the Episcopal Conference of the Antilles approved a lectionary based on the RSV-2CE for liturgical use.
      – Fr. Nicholas King’s translation of the Bible was not granted an imprimatur. He thanks his brother Jesuits in the acknowledgements, and I would assume that his religious superior permitted the publication. There is no ecclesiastical approval noted in the front matter, however.
      – The Message Catholic/Ecumenical edition was published without Church approval. If I recall correctly, the publisher inquired about seeking approval from the USCCB, but the USCCB was not interested in the time commitment that would be involved in that process.
      – The Common English Bible (CEB) included several Catholic scholars among the translators, and the publisher reached out to the USCCB about approval for a Catholic edition. The USCCB was not interested in devoting resources to review it.

      I get the sense that in practice, despite the clear language of Canon 825, many bishops conferences (with the notable exceptions of India and the Philippines) are only interested in devoting their review efforts to translations that could be used in liturgy. Since Catholics are permitted to read translations that are not approved, there is less incentive for a conference to devote time and expense to reviewing translations that will only be used for personal reading.

      1. I absolutely agree on the part of readers. There are plenty of good reasons to be cautious in the choice of a translation to read, there is (to my knowledge) no specific law forbidding it, at least no law that remains in force.

        I was thinking specifically of publishers. I cannot speak to all your examples, but to my knowledge the RSV2-CE was approved by the Holy See, though whether by the CDW or the the CDF escapes my memory.

        In spirit, I am quite sympathetic to grassroots efforts, but respect for the Church does include respect for her laws, and so ignoring such a plain one gives me pause.

        Speaking personally, a project of publishing an arrangement of various Psalters according to the Divine Office sort of fizzled against the need to seek the necessary approvals (though I might still undertake to get them someday). But, the law is the law…

    2. There actually is a very good reason why the KJV should not be approved: other than the others you mentioned, the KJV is explicitly anti-Catholic both in intent and in its actual translation. Many of the specific renderings in the KJV were written the way they were in an attempt to make a Catholic interpretation impossible. To prove this, compare the KJV to a modern, ecumenical translation and you will notice that many of its distinctive renderings have been changed because modern scholars recognize the bias in the KJV.

      Unlike modern translations which attempt to be unbiased or ecumenical, employing translators who have as diverse a religious background as possible (including Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and even Jewish scholars) so as to avoid any taint of sectarian bias, the KJV was translated to be a highly sectarian and biased translation, to oppose the Douay Rheims and the Geneva Bible (the favorite Bible of the Puritans) on the other side.

      I also agree with Ronald Knox (in his book ‘On Englishing the Bible’} that the KJV’s reputation for beautiful prose is inflated and that many of its renderings are as bad as anything in the Douai Rheims, and they only seem good because so many of its phrases have become proverbial through sheer repetition. Knox speculates that if the English Reformation had failed, the Douay Rheims would be the one that would have become proverbial. I think he has a point.

      The only gained the reputation it now has in the middle of the 19th century. As England was first starting to become de-Christianized, Christians started encouraging Bible reading, not for religious reasons but simply ‘as literature’, and started praising its alleged ‘beauty.’ Before this time, the KJV was widely regarded as a mediocre translation. Indeed, the KJV never really caught on until over 100 years after its publication, and the reason it caught on is that all competing versions were eventually outlawed. In particular, the Geneva Bible outsold the KJV for decades until it was finally suppressed for good by royal decree.

      The KJV is a translation whose time has come and gone, It is time to abandon it.

    3. Marc, several years ago I personally emailed Fr. Nicholas King about the lack of an imprimatur in his translation and my reservations about it. He replied that “of course” it had ecclesiastical approval but nowadays they are “not required to have it printed in the Bible”. I thought that sounded kind of odd but I figured he knows better than I do. I do like to read some translations that don’t have Church approval, at least explicitly.

      1. That answer sounds very strange to me also. Almost every Bible I own which is designed for Catholics includes the imprimatur on the copyright page. Ecumenical bibles usually don’t do that. I’m thinking of the New Oxford Annotated Bible NRSV or the various editions of the NRSV “with Apocrypha.” But every edition of the Jerusalem Bible, NJB, NAB, RSV-CE, etc. features an imprimatur.

    4. Canon 825 doesn’t seem to matter much (if at all) in practice, as Marc has pointed out. And I’m not sure it applies at all to Eastern Catholics – the Orthodox Study Bible and various other Orthodox psalters, gospel books and whatnot (none of which have imprimaturs) are all recommended and used quite often at the local Byzantine and Ukrainian Catholic parishes and others I’ve visited.

    5. Does this canon mean only that the biblical *texts themselves* must be approved if a book containing them is to be published, or that every printed edition of those texts specifically must be approved on an individual basis? The latter interpretation seems legally absurd, and de facto completely false.

      Furthermore, it hardly seems like this canon is primarily directed toward extremely small, niche grassroots projects that just barely count as “publications.” Really, this very small project seems more like someone printing off a few copies and asking for a fee, primarily to cover the costs. (Imagine if I printed off some copies of the KJV for a few fellow Catholic friends to read and study, and I arrange things to be more useful and even throw in a few notes to help my fellow Catholic friends avoid some doctrinal errors. And I ask for money to cover the costs. I might even slap a copyright on there for various purposes. Am I really violating canon 825?) The point of the canon seems pretty clearly to be the giving of directives to real Catholic “publishers.”

      I very well might be wrong and I’m certainly willing to be corrected, but in this case, where we have these ambiguities of application in the canon law, and where we are dealing with a set of texts most of which have been approved in the ordinariate by legitimate authorities, a simple application of equity seems to imply one shouldn’t really be scrupulous about this. (See Summa Theologiae IIaIIae q. 120.) In fact, it seems that the “publisher” was actually trying to be attentive to some of these distinctions. See for examples the FAQs where he explains why he called it a “King James Bible for Catholics” rather than a “King James Bible Catholic Edition.”

      Like I said, I could be wrong here. However, while I’m no laxist about canon law, I am hardly bothered by this.

      1. I don’t think you really get the point of the Canon. The Church’s intent is to preserve the integrity of the Scriptures, which she (rightly) claims as a sacred trust.

        So, random people printing their own customized version of the Bible is very much the sort of thing the Church intends.

        Strictly speaking, that canon could be said to extend to all the baptized, but as a practical circumstance, at least those of us visibly inside the Church owe it obedience.

        I want to repeat though, that I am actually very sympathetic to this particular instance. I think a KJV for Catholics would be a _great_ thing to have. I just want it the right way.

  2. There’s a whole book called “Errata of the Protestant Bible” from 1688 that catalogues all the anti-Catholic renderings in Protestant Bibles, verse by verse. While earlier English Bibles were clearly slanted in their language, The KJV proved to be relatively unbiased. If you look at these same verses and compare *all* modern Catholic translations, the KJV proves to be more traditionally Catholic in its wording than all the Catholic Bibles that are approved today, overall. It’s just funny that there’s a KJV-phobia among Catholics when most of our Bibles at this point are just mildly revised Protestant translations. And it seems the reason we’re turning to translations like the ESV, is because the translations that come out of the Church now are even worse.

    1. The chapter titled “The Absurdities in turning Psalms into Metre” made me smile, and want to seek this book out.

      While no doubt not sympathetic to the KJV either, at a first glance, it does seem mainly concerned with translations from the late 1500’s, many of which poor or manipulated renderings are marked as “corrected” in the KJV.

      I shudder to think what the author would do with the NAB… but I would also bring popcorn.

      1. The Book of Psalms was originally written in ancient Hebrew and designed to be sung. Translating Them into Greek and back into Hebrew and eventually English they have lost their lyrical qualities.

    2. Sharif, you make good points.

      I like reading my KJV (w/ deuterocanonical books) devotionally, having picked it up after reading a favorable article by Dr. Peter Kreeft. I always have it beside a Catholic-approved version for comparison.

      Interestingly, some of the most popular bibles in Catholic circles today come from the King James tradition (I’m specifically thinking of the Revised, New Revised, and English Standard version). These are most often used in Catholic biblical studies and courses.

      Part of the issue, it seems to me, is the lack of a Catholic-sponsored translation that goes the way of formal translation to the degree that the RSV and ESV (and less so, NRSV) have gone. The Revised New Jerusalem Bible claims to be more on the literal side, but even it is not nearly so as the RSV, etc. (though it certainly is more formal than its predecessors).

      Personally, I see value in both dynamic and formal translation and own bibles that take both approaches, but find it noteworthy that Catholic-sponsored bibles in the modern age tend to be less on the formal side than those in the KJV tradition. It would be interesting to see a more formal translation coming from the Catholic biblical scholarship side.

  3. I have to say that I love the KJV and I’ve used it for devotional purposes years. I do wonder about some of the negative reactions it gets from some Catholic circles, though if I’m being honest, I’ve run in those circles myself in the more distant past.

    I do think it likely had some mild anti-Catholic bias in the beginning, what with the English reformation and all. But I also recall from my knowledge of history that the goal of the KJV from the first was to be as non-sectarian as possible, as King James was attempting to create a Bible that at least all his various Protestant subjects could accept. That’s why it famously didn’t include anything but translator notes in the footnotes.

    Perhaps at the time of its publication the KJV might have struck some pious Catholic ears as offensive, but compared to the original 1970 NAB it might as well be a Papal Encyclical! (this does not include the recent NAB:RE, which I’ve heard has actually gotten much better)

    This is the point that I think needs to be born in mind when considering the KJV for Catholics today. Like others have said, with the Church granting imprimaturs to translations like the NLT or the ESV (both of which I own and throughly enjoy) with only the barest alterations, why not give the KJV another look?

    I appreciate the Douai, but until some publisher gives it the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible treatment, I just can’t stand to read it for long stretches, so when I’m wanting my traditional Bible translation fix I’ll be turning to the KJV or the Knox.

    Now whether it was right for the publisher to print this is another matter. Seems clear from the Canons cited that it was ill advised. Wonder why one of the Ordinariates didn’t just issue one for the project, I mean it must be the case that there are people within them who know this translation extremely well, perhaps better than the review committees that approve more modern translations, so why not just give it an imprimatur, so long as you qualify it with a disclaimer that it isn’t to be used in liturgy like they did with the NLT or the NCV? Unless there are those within the ordinariate that do eventually want, at least a version of the KJV, approved for liturgy, and didn’t want to preempt attempts to do so?

    Just my own wild speculations here.

    1. The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible is an edition that really excels the sum of its parts. It is a very interesting work of historical scholarship as well.

      I second your though, and would love to see an original Douai/Rhemes printed this way. (I think the original gets a bad rap, and the Challoner revisions are for the most part neither worse nor better, just different.)

      It’s a big if, but if I ever got the chance, I’d like to arrange something like this, but with a more classic font than the NCPB, and with drop caps on chapters (similar to what Schuyler has done) reproduced from the original 1582 NT.

  4. I’m not for or against it either way. There are definitely cons to the KJV. However, some pros are the fact that I live in a heavily Protestant area, and many of which are of the fundamentalist stripe. This may prove to be beneficial for evangelisation.

  5. I wish it were possible for the new KJV to be approved by both Roman Catholic and Orhodox authorities. This would be the first small step towards our overall reunification.

    1. Raymond,
      I think it’d be a good idea since the National Study by The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Philip Goff, Arthur E. Farnsley II, Peter J. Thuesen, Principal Investigators [March 6, 2014] says 55% of Bible readers in America read the KJV followed by the NIV at 19%.

  6. There is an audio version of KJV for Catholics. The reader is very good (C. Glyn).
    Here is the audible link:
    C. Glyn youtube channel is rich of audio KJV recitation.
    The Catholic KJV version on audible is voice only, no music.

  7. Why would Catholics need a KJV Bible?
    Aren’t the added books of the KJV Bible the same as what Catholic bibles already have?

    1. Sorry, Karren, the books to which you refer have not been *added* by the Church, but deleted by the Protestants (some of whom also wanted to delete books from the NT, such as the Epistle of S. James). Please note the distinction.

    2. The short answer is yes but with some differences regarding how the actual books themselves are organized. With the King James with Apocrypha these books are added in between the Old and New Testaments. With a proper Catholic Bible these books are fully integrated in sequence.

  8. Hi, I’m Brazilian and I have KjV deuterocaninical 1611, I like english poetry for I’m writing a about Catholicism with this book, I recognize history of this bible Anglican, I’m catholic and have bunch others translations, is okay for catholic read this bible or I’m betraying my brothers and sisters of Pope’s( Jesus christ/st peter/st paul to francis) Church. Abraços e cheia de graça esteja convosco

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