The Knox Bible was republished ten years ago, this month, by Baronius Press. For most of the past ten years, it was available as a leather hardcover, only recently being available in a flexible cover edition. I still love the Knox Bible, even with its occasionally dated renderings. I have found that it continues to grow on me as I get older. Certainly one of the main reasons I still use the Knox Bible regularly is due to the man himself, Msgr. Ronald A. Knox. C.S. Lewis famously referred to him as “the wittiest man in Europe,” and while that is certainly true, those who have spent time reading any of his many works has discovered a lifelong spiritual companion. I have always been attracted to his writings compared to the other writers of his day. While I can’t always explain why that is the case, I would venture to guess that it has to do with his humility, which seems to be found on every page of his writings. For even though he wrote mystery novels and was involved in radio broadcasts as well as other activities, he knew what and who he was, a son of the Church, a pastor. His writings, including his translation of the Bible, reflect a pastor’s heart. Perhaps that is why Msgr. Knox has often been overlooked in comparison to many of the more famous Christian writers of his day, I think here of people like Chesterton, Belloc, and Lewis, among others. But that is a discussion for another time.
But I would love to hear from you whether or not you still read the Knox Bible and why?
(If you are interested in looking at the numerous post concerning Knox on my old blog, you can find that link here.)
A final quote from “On Englishing the Bible” to leave you with:
“The work of translating the Bible, really translating it, is being taken in hand in our day for the first time since Coverdale. Moffatt and Goodspeed began it, with their fearless challenge of the Authorized Version; their work has been followed up by a text issued with official sanction in the United States. Quite recently, the proposal for a new rendering has been gaining ground among non-Catholics in our own country. Meanwhile, the Catholic hierarchy in the States has entrusted a large body of Biblical scholars with a similar commission. They began with caution; their New Testament was merely a revision, with certain verbal alterations , of the Douay. The Old Testament, to judge by the single volume of it which has so far appeared, is on a far more ambitious scale. They seem resolved, if I may put it in that way, to out-Knox Knox in baldness of narrative and modernity of diction. The germ is spreading, and there will be more translations yet. Indeed, it is doubtful whether we shall ever again allow ourselves to fall under the spell of a single, uniform text, consecrated by its antiquity.” -Msgr. Ronald Knox (Mells, 1949)
God bless you Msgr. Ronald Knox! (Pray for us!)
22 thoughts on “Happy Ten Year Anniversary to the Baronius Press Knox Bible!”
I adore the Knox Bible and regard my discovery of it and of him around the time of my conversion six years ago as being providential. I now use it daily with the UK Ordinariate’s office book and although sometimes I compare it with the RSV-2CE for accuracy or variations, I still have not found a better, that is to say, a more readable translation than Knox’s.
I continue to use the “Knox Bible”, in many of its presentations. The Baronius edition, though welcome, is for me, a most challenging print layout. Not only in font choice, but in regard to its page layout, stretching “from sea to sea”. It is visually uncomfortable.
I am a late fan of the Knox Version having only got a copy two years ago. I wanted one for a long time but never made the commitment to purchase one. Then I got one as a Christmas present. I am not Roman Catholic, nor do I think that the Vulgate is the best textual basis as it’s a translation itself, but Knox’s translation is very impressive. I continue to be impressed by how accurate it proves to be and how valuable Knox’s commentaries are. And the translation is also a literary masterpiece. I used to love the KJV for its poetic aspects, but Knox’s translation is much better at it. The KJV inherited a lot of stuffiness from its predecessors, but Knox gives the Biblical text room to breathe.
Not the best textural basis? I don’t know what you mean. The Vulgate isn’t the original text surely, but its value is immeasurable.
For one thing, it gives you an idea of how the Early Church interpreted the Bible
Jerome’s “controversial” ( to modern people) renderings, such as “full of grace”, “she will crush his head”, “do penance and believe in the Gospel”, “give us this day our superstantial bread” etc gives you an idea of how the Bible was interpreted in Jerome’s lifetime, because precisely none of them were controversial when he made his translation, and many were actually carried over from the Old Latin translation, meaning the tradition behind them is much older.
The Vulgate was the Bible of the common people for 1,000 years, and thus due to its historical importance it is a good thing to have a modern English translation readily available, although I don’t think a translation of the Vulgate should be anyone’s only Bible, it should only serve as a supplement to a modern critical translation of the Greek and Hebrew
It is similar to the LXX which isn’t the original OT but has a similar role in history so certainly a modern English translation of the LXX is quite valuable.
Or perhaps you just mean that there are too many textual errors…..in which case I point you to the Nova Vulgata of 1969, a modern critical version of the Vulgate that removes the scribal errors as best we can
I love my Knox. I recently got a hardback one in-person from the local Catholic bookstore, new. It must have been one of the very last batch, since they only make the flex cover now. I really like the language, the extremely helpful notes, and the single-column layout.
I have bought and read everything written by Msgr. Knox that I have been able to get my hands on, but I haven’t bought the Knox Bible yet because of the cost. However, I do have his New Testament and I love it. I always look up the Sunday readings in it when I get home from Mass, and I’m always happier with his translation. Pray for us, Servant of God Ronald Knox!
I managed to snag myself a 1954 Sheed & Ward copy of the Knox Bible a while back. It was a regular two-column hardback when I got it for about $25, but since then, I’ve had it rebound in goatskin, its page corners rounded, and the page edges dyed red, so it doesn’t look like that beat-up, dusty hardback anymore (but it also doesn’t look manufactured to perfection like, say, a Cambridge or a Schuyler—you can see the by-hand rubbing marks from the red inking on the page edges, so it has a DIY-looking charm to it). After that, I gradually added a hardback NT (the one from the three-volume S&W boxset), the Burns & Oates hardback copy of “On Englishing the Bible,” and two out of the three volumes of his NT commentary series. I actually gave away my pocket RSV-2CE NT & Psalms when I started carrying that hardback NT as my traveling one all the time. (I’ve also kept my eye out for the Chanticleer Edition of the Knox NT, meaning I’m still not truly done with Knox just yet!)
When it comes to Latin-based translations, the Knox quickly became my preference rather than the Challoner Douay-Rheims, and whenever I have an opportunity to recommend a Bible for a new Catholic, the Knox is always mentioned, without fail, alongside if not sometimes above the RSV-2CE. As much as I still like and often use the DR, something about the ease of reading the Knox, plus the notes that tell you about both the Greek and Latin manuscripts, just gives me a greater desire to use it instead. He doesn’t hold back telling you “yeah, this ain’t in the Greek, or even many of the Latin copies, but it’s in the Clementine, so here it is, make of it what you will as a scholar and a faithful reader.” In academic contexts, when rendering a Latin verse into English for a footnote, I’ve actually found myself sometimes pairing the DR rendering with the Knox, if only for clarification when the DR is a little too obtuse—and also to give the Knox some free advertising in this day and age! I’ve often even taken to offering the Knox rendering of a passage when discussing translations with non-Catholics, and they’ve always been taken by Knox’s way with words and unique takes, such as in the opening to St. John’s Gospel.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Knox audiobook of the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation read by Fr. Hugh Thwaites, which has been a frequent companion during slow workdays.
So, all in all, I have to say that I have plenty of Knox on my shelf, and I am always on the lookout for more. To me, like Haydock’s commentary, I hold Knox’s words in very high esteem and always make sure to consult him whenever reviewing supplements. For the sake of good, elevated, but not hopelessly archaic English, the Knox might very well be the Bible text I introduce to my children before any other. As I see it, if a child can read, or have read to them, the English of Lewis and Tolkien, the English of Knox should be fitting; it’s neither patronizingly simplified to the point of blandness nor needlessly overwrought in its archaisms to the point of becoming near incomprehensible.
The thing that makes using the Knox so much fun is that there are all these other works of his that are keyed to it. You mentioned the commentaries and the various other bible editions out there. You add to that his sermon books, On Englishing the Bible, and the collaboration with Cox, and you have plenty to keep you occupied and inspired. And I like how you put it at the end of your comment. I agree 100%.
Indeed, Knox’s translation spawned a wealth of supplementary material, and in such a short amount of time, which is a testament to its quality. In fact, since you bring up Cox, I have “It is Paul Who Writes,” too. A current publisher really should put all these Knox books back in print (the commentaries, the sermons, everything), because, as nice as it is to hold and read these 40s/50s books free from the scourge of glued bindings that came after, reading Knox shouldn’t be a thing reserved for collectors.
Cluny Press is going to publish Knox/Cox Waiting for Christ next July.
Finally got me a baronius press Knox. It’s a very nice bible, though that single column takes a bit to get used to. Kinda makes it feel less “bible like” and “regular bookish”. I haven’t started through it yet but I’m looking forward to finally reading this translation.
It does take a bit to get used to the format. Hope you enjoy the Knox over time!
Recently, I contacted Ignatius press and ask them if they were still planning when they released the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible Old Testament, if it was still going to be in two volumes? Their response was that it will all be in one volume. I asked them if they were going to have it in one volume and the New Testament would be in its own volume and they said it will be in one volume with the New Testament. I don’t know whether or not there is going to be a standalone ICSBOT volume or not.
That is fantastic Cluny is doing the Knox-Cox stuff. I first encountered those in a retreat center library. I had no inkling they existed.
I still use my Knox a decent amount, though the RSV has become my daily reader, mostly due to all the material keyed to it.
I mostly prefer using an old Sheed and Ward knox rather than the Baronius due to how wide the text block is on the reprint. I am 35 and my eyes are fine, yet they can get lost going from line to line in Baronius. I counted the characters one time, maybe for an article here. It was something like 55 characters wide for S&W and 75 for Baronius. Don’t quote me on that though.
In other Knox news, I finally got a copy of Enthusiasm a month ago. I am eager to read it!
Funny story about the Knox translation:
I was recently in the position of being on my knees before a successor of the apostles on my way towards possible ordination. On this particular night, as I knelt there and was handed my own bible, the bishop says:
“Wow, the Knox translation! How did you wind up with that one?”
“Well, I am a fan of the Vulgate, and have read the Douay-Rheims, so decided a more contemporary translation of the Vulgate might be interesting,” I said.
“It’s a great translation,” the bishop said.
Apparently, or at least I’m being led to believe, that there is not going to be a one or two volume, standalone Ignatius Catholic Study Bible Old Testament, volume/volumes, to go along with the New Testament everyone already has. From what all I know and have been told so far is that the Ignatius Study Bible Old and New Testaments will be in one volume, under one cover.
I already sold my physical ICSBNT last year in anticipation of this very scenario, instead choosing to make use of the digital version when needed. I also just wasn’t feeling the bonded leather option for the ICSBNT that I had. I don’t know, it just kinda felt “too flashy” to me to have essentially a textbook layout with gold-gilt page edges and the other bells and whistles. When the single-volume ICSB comes out, I’ll gladly take the hardcover option. I saw when he was on Pints with Aquinas that Scott Hahn himself uses the hardcover ICSBNT, so that only strengthened my decision; if the hardcover is good enough for the guy who produced the thing, it’s good enough for me. However, given the amount of material that was in the NT volume, if they’re really going to cram all the OT content in with that, I pray the ghosting isn’t horrific. Surely something comparable in size to the ESVSB should be possible?
I’ve come a little late to this, but I wanted to chip in and say that I really enjoy reading my Baronius Know Bible (one of the hardback versions) precisely because of what other people object to: it is laid out like a normal book, with the text going from right to left across the page.
It is a mystery to me why more Bibles aren’t laid out like that. What is the advantage of columns meant to be? I can understand that someone who has been reading a Bible with columns all his life might be put off by the change of format, but from a standing start it seems much better.
One thing I don’t like though is that Know uses different names for some of the books, and for some of the people referred to, so I have ended up scribbling the “normal” names of the book on the contents page in pencil. I find that eccentricity rather distracting.
It’s because it’s a translation from the Latin Vulgate instead of the Hebrew like most modern translations. I agree this is minor, though notable, point of distraction for the Knox and the Douay-Rheims before it though. It’s actually one of the things that keeps me from making the Knox bible my main daily reader, despite my overall appreciation for it otherwise.