The Knox Bible is available through our friends at Baronius Press. (You can read a review of their flexible cover edition of the Knox Bible here.)

33 thoughts on “Msgr. Ronald Knox – Translating the Bible (1953)”

  1. I appreciate that he wrote an entire book explaining his translation philosophy, I wish every translator could be as forthcoming, but I still disagree with 90% of what he says in this early explanation of what would later be called “dynamic translation”. I disagree with the whole “dynamic” school of thought because it is all based on the idea that we have some clear idea of exactly what the Biblical authors were trying to say, and that we have a full understanding of the historical context, and both of those assumptions are completely false.

    1. BC,

      His translation was always going to be more of a literary one. I don’t think he was willing to do otherwise. And he wanted it to be distinct from the Douay.

      But yes, I totally agree with your thoughts on translators explaining their philosophy of translation. His “On Englishing the Bible” is really a treasure even to this day, even if one doesn’t agree with all of it.

    2. I mean, as members of a Church (I presume you are Catholic? – Apologies if not) that claims a that it is given a special grace to infallibility interpret the Bible, certainly WE at least claim precisely to have a clear idea of exactly what the biblical authors were trying to say in at least some limited passages, and even in those where the Church has not provided a definitive definition yet, if some controversy rose up that threatened the unity of the Church, surely the Church *could* provide yet more definitive definitions if she so choose. I also don’t have a lot of love for the dynamic end of the translation spectrum when it comes to the Bible, but sometimes I wonder if those of us on the other side don’t sometimes oversell how mysterious the original biblical texts meanings are to modern translators. It seems to me in the vast majority of cases the meaning of the text is perfectly clear to those properly trained in translation, and it’s only a handful of texts where doctrinal debates are in play where any controversy comes up. I mean if this weren’t the case how could something like the RSV line of translations exist? Or a project like Thomas Nelson’s Orthodox Study Bible, which is basically a warmed over NKJV with the deutorcanonical and apocryphal texts inserted in. I mean, I know there are some Orthodox who aren’t pleased with it for that very reason (claiming it deviates too much from the Septuagint at points) but many I’ve seen online say it’s close enough.

      1. The Church doesn’t claim to have a definitive interpretation of much of anything in scripture. In the 2,000-year history of the Church, only about 6 different verses have been defined, and even then, the Church only says these definitions are only the primary meaning which is not to be denied, and that other secondary interpretations are possible. The Church regards the meaning of the scriptures as inexhaustible, and no one commentator could say everything that might be said. The Church does not claim to be able to explain everything in the scriptures but leaves it up to scholars and theologians to debate. The Church only knows what God intends for us to know, and cannot answer every question that might be asked about the Bible.

        And, there are significant parts of the Bible that are obscure and no one knows what it mean, in the case of the Old Testament, neither Christian nor Jewish commenters have ever understood it. For example, no one knows what the “Nephilim” were, nor what was meant when Moses’ wife called him “a bridegroom of blood”, but these are minor issues compared to the real thorny problems with the meaning of the Bible.

        And that doesn’t even address the problems with translation, and textual criticism, especially in the Old Testament. There are still significant portions, even in the New Testament, where no one knows what the original language means. Even in 2023, honest Bible translators have to admit that the best they can do when translating the Bible, is make an educated guess as to the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew. There are words in both the Old and New Testaments, that are used only once in the Bible and have never been discovered anywhere else, no one knows what these words mean, and then there are significant problems with the text, where there are verses where there are two different words that exist in the ancient manuscripts, both words seem equally likely, both words seem to make sense in content, and no one knows which word is the original text.

        I’m not saying the Bible is impenetrable or incoherent, but there are parts of it where no one knows what any of it means, I think the problem with dynamic translation is that it tends to li limit the meaning of various verses as if we know for certain which interpretation is correct, but when the original is obscure or ambiguous, the translation should preserve the ambiguity, and I don’t know how to accomplish that except by a fairly literal translation.

  2. Got myself an old Sheed & Ward copy of the Knox Bible and the original Burns & Oates copy of “On Englishing the Bible.” I always keep an eye out for good-condition original Knox books. And I agree with Biblical Catholic: I wish it were basically a requirement for the translators of new Bible translations to write companion books explaining their approaches and choices, like Metzger’s “The
    Making of the NRSV” and Knox’s essay collection. Mark Giszczak’s book on the ESV-CE was kinda like that, though he wasn’t the one doing the ESV revision. I seem to recall Ignatius Press used to have some documentary or something on the RSV-2CE, but other than that, I’d love to hear, say, Henry Wansbrough write about the Jerusalem Bible family or the USCCB accompany the upcoming NABRE revision with an explanatory book.

  3. Wow, Knox’s comments around the 6-minute mark and onward about “revised editions” always coming out, especially in the United States, with only minor word changes that then call themselves brand-new translations hit a bit close to home! I feel like he’d be very annoyed to see the present state of affairs today with that attitude.

    1. There is an even bigger problem with translations making major changes to the next and not admitting it or advertising it, for example, the NIV was replaced in 2011 with a radically different edition with little announcement and nothing on the cover indicating changes, the only way you could tell is if you looked at the copyright, which abruptly changed from 1984 to 2011.

      Most translations make minor changes, but keep everything the same and the only way you can know is to look at the copyright notice which in the case of the ESV says 2001,2004,2007,2011,2016,2020, this tells you how many rounds of minor revisions there have been.

      In general, the bigger problem is a lack of transparency about minor changes being sneaked in an almost secretive way than the reverse. The International Standard Version has an interesting approach, they use numbers similar to software to indicate the significance of revisions, for example, edition 1.0.1 indicates minor changes, while edition 1.1.1 would be more significant revisions, and 2.0 would be a major revision.

      1. The NIV situation was particularly egregious, and I think Protestants who loved the NIV84 were justified in their outrage. And I feel like the NRSVue, with their self-admitted 20,000 changes, is making the “ue” do a LOT of heavy lifting, for instance. That’s not a lack of advertising, but I think they’re downplaying just how much they changed… and largely for the worse. Also, maybe it’s because there are fewer Catholic translations in the space, but I feel Catholic Bibles are better at spacing out major or even minor revisions. Aside from correcting typos and I think a few minor last-minute tweaks after 2006, the RSV-2CE text has basically been untouched since Ignatius rolled it out; the NAB’s revisions are always rolled out with a ton of advertising followed by suppression of the prior version; the Jerusalem Bible has been renamed with each revision; and so on. Though I feel Catholic translations are worse with typos staying uncorrected for years if not longer… cough cough NCB. Augustine Institute has given an 8-year heads up for their new CSV translation and hopefully they will sort out any NT edits during the gradual roll-out approach they’re taking. While it’s possible their published CSV Matthew text is final, it wouldn’t surprise me if they are listening in to input and the full NT volume’s Matthew text will have differences.

        1. Well, most new translations have frequent revisions for typos and other changes suggested by readers. The NASB was published in 1971, but then revised in 1973, 1975 and 1977 before being stabilized and staying until 1995.

          The CSB was published in 2004, then revised in 2007 and 2009 before being completely redone in 2017. Since then it has been revised one more time in 2020. The CSB has seen an unusual amount of turmoil due largely to leadership changes in the Southern Baptist Convention which owns the copyright. I’m starting to doubt the text will ever considered “done”.

          1. For what it is, the CSB is pretty good. I’ve heard it described as a much better NIV84 successor than the NIV11. Also, credit to the marketing team behind it for reviving the essentially ignored HCSB into something people actually wanted to read.

          2. Right, the CSB is good, when I hear the words “Southern Baptist Bible” I tend to fear the worst, but I have it several times and have noticed no discernible bias in favor of Baptist theology.

            Of course, I have to laugh at the extreme tunnel vision and parochialism of the average evangelical to whom “evangelicalism” is simply the same thing as “orthodox Christianity” and they are incapable of thinking beyond that narrow focus. I remember getting into an argument online with an evangelical who insisted that James White is more influential than the Pope, simply because he saw Catholicism as a tiny, narrow slice of the Christian pie which he insisted was mostly evangelical with only a handful of Catholics. The fact that Catholics and Orthodox combined make up more than 75% of all Christians worldwide and that evangelicals make up only a minority of the remaining 25% that are Protestant, just doesn’t make sense to such people. They are like Pauline Kael from the New York Times who allegedly said, after Nixon’s landslide victory in 1972 that “I don’t know how Nixon could have won, I’ve never met anyone who voted for him.”

            This narrow, parochial focus of evangelicals is relevant here because the CSB, NIV,NASB, and other evangelical translations often brag about being “ecumenical” because their translation committee contained “evangelicals from many different denominations”……what isn’t 100% evangelical ecumenical? What else is there except evangelicals?

            This is the #1 problem with evangelical translations, they never think beyond their own little bubble.

          3. The NASB and especially the CSB could seriously benefit from translating the deuterocanon/apocrypha like the ESV did. Even the NKJV technically has all the books translated via the OSB’s Old Testament, but they just need to release an “NKJV w/ Apocrypha” like the recent trend of “KJV w/ Apocrypha” editions coming back into style. As you said, it often doesn’t seem like the evangelicals behind a lot of these translations realize that the NLT, NET, NASB, etc., mass of translations is for such a proportionately small group of Christians. All these niche translations for each little congregation or evangelical conference. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be lots of choices for private study, and going off of what Anonymous above mentioned I actually welcome the Augustine Institute’s CSV to the party because Catholics might as well get more private study options besides the RSV-2CE, but at least there are far more Catholics to theoretically justify it. When I see one evangelical talking about their Bible collection that includes the KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, NIV, CSB, NLT, NET, and so many more translations, sometimes I wonder when they’re just going to save time and money and learn Greek.

  4. Sorry if this is a bit off topic, but I was wondering if anyone here has heard anything about the proposed CTS Bible with ESV:CE translation used in the recently approved ESV Lectionary for England and Wales with the Abby Psalms? I figured with Advent coming up soon the Bishops of England and Wales must be getting ready to make the change over for the Mass readings next month and I wondered if that meant CTS would have their bible ready to go too?

    1. CTS Bible with the ESV-CE translation will be released in Fall of 2024 in time for Advent. I received a pre-order order notice a few weeks ago.

    1. Seems that the 2025 date for the NAB could be possible, perhaps Advent of that year with the LOTH following the next year.

    2. I don’t know why you are assuming it will be as late as 2026. If you recall, the last time around, the 2011 OT went up for a vote around and it was still published on Ash Wednesday 2011. There is no reason to think that it will take longer this time, unless you’re assuming it will be immediately judged inadequate and require another year to revise it

      1. My perception is that publishers are still taking a bit longer than usual to produce books. Also mishaps happen.

        On a side note, I find it funny that (per the Pillar Article) the reason for the LOTH delay is the ICEL decided to take some imitative and do more work than what they were told to do. You rarely so such things now adays.

        1. The books in this case, have already been produced, they only need to be approved, and unless there is something extremely egregious about the translation, the official approval is usually nothing more than a rubber stamp. Advent 2025 at the absolute latest unless the Holy See decides that the translation is just complete garbage and they need to start over from scratch, which seems unlikely given that the revisions are likely to be minor, barely even noticeable to most readers unless they compare word for word and line by line with a fine toothed comb.

          1. Anyone expecting something akin to the JB > NJB > RNJB is probably going to be disappointed. If I recall, the primary aim of this NAB revision was to finally make the lectionary text and the Bible text match. I’d be surprised if the revision is anything beyond the scale of RSVCE > RSV2CE or ESV2001 > ESV2016. It’ll be a glorified fine-tuning. I’m more interested to hear about how the notes are being revised and whether the apparent minor OT tweaks that are supposedly being done in the meantime will be anything wild. There are probably people hoping they’ll revert the 2011 NABRE change to Isaiah 7:14 and do things like that, which I highly doubt they will, and I think the end result of the new NAB will probably make NAB fans content and NAB critics still critics. Though given that most of the critics are still yelling about things from the 1970 text and notes, my gut tells me a version without the notes that Catholic Answers folks call “heretic” or “problematic” will be popular, because it’ll put to bed one of the most persistent anti-NAB barbs. That all said I feel a lot of people online wouldn’t mind just taking the Confraternity Bible as it stood prior to 1970, inserting the remaining books that weren’t finished in that version from the 1970 NAB with spelling changes to conform to the Confraternity Bible’s spelling of words and names, and just saying: “Yep, here’s the finished Confraternity Bible, 50 years late!”

          2. Actually, that modest revision of the DR which is what the NAB was originally envisioned as, would be closer to 80 years late. But I don’t really see the value in a modest revision of the 1899 DR at this late date. If you want a translation of the Vulgate, there is the Knox Bible, or a new one could be commissioned, but revising the DR one more time seems pointless. It’s best to let it go.

      2. From the recent report in the online news source, The Pillar (11/14/2023), as a best case scenario, the new breviary could be released (after submitting the text to the Vatican dicastery, and, after approval, the time for publishers to put new breviaries together), in June 2026 yet could be anywhere after that until approximately February 2027. That is the range considering no further changes are necessary after the submittal of the texts to the Vatican coming no later than December 2024.

        It has been the goal of the USCCB to release all related texts together: Updated liturgical texts, new NAB Bible translation and new Breviary. Thus, if still a goal, it would appear that 2026/2027 would be possible release dates of all these resources.

        “Bets” are still on what comes first: these texts, or a complete Ignatius Study Bible 😉

        1. This is getting ridiculous, I don’t understand the pessimism about the Revised New Testament. Not until 2027 “the earliest” really? Technically, no Vatican approval is actually even necessary to publish it, all that is required is for a bishop to give an imprimatur, and if the whole bishop’s conference votes to approve it, which they almost certainly will, this will be enough to get it printed.

          It’s going to Rome only because they are going to try for the approximately 765,822nd time to get it approved for the liturgy, it will no doubt be rejected for use in the liturgy again just as all previous attempts were, and for the same reasons. There is no possible way it will conform to Liturgiam Authenticam any more than 2011 did. This means the new lectionary will have to be gradually negotiated over the next several years with approximately 3-4 thousand minor revisions to the actual NAB text to make it acceptable for use in the liturgy, just like what happened with the 2011 OT revision.

          No Bible translation that is a real translation will ever completely conform to Liturgiam Authenticam, this might be a sign that the standards are simply unrealistic. Or it might just mean that it isn’t possible to use any translation except by making thousands of minor revisions. It has always been this way.

          1. I have been good friends with a bishop for many years and this is the information I have acquired after reading all of this information above.

            The NABRE 2011 has never been presented to the Vatican for approval for liturgy. Consequently it has never been rejected.

            In order for that to have happened, it would have first had to be prepared for the liturgy, which is what has been happening over the past several years.

            Also, Bible translations themselves are not subject to measure up to Liturgiam authenticum. It was only texts for liturgy until 2017. A Bible translation itself is not liturgy. They are two different things.

            Since the release of Magnum principium in 2017, it is up to each Episcopal conference to decide how it is best fitting to render the liturgy into vernacular for its own territory. Once this is done and approved by its own body of bishops, the text is confirmed by the Apostolic See, not necessarliy “approved” anymore, like it once was before.

            While much of the guidelines in LA can work and are often used in English, it was discovered that they cannot be applicable to many languages, for example Japanese, where there guidelines just caused havoc and produced nonsense. So MP was produced to take its place.

            Finally, the NAB New Testament was not on the list of action items voted on at the U.S. Bishops’ Fall Plenary Assembly at Baltimore this year. Only the final Grey books of the LOTH were approved and new additional materials.

            When the NAB New Testament does come up for action and the liturgical version of the NABRE gets completed, it will be announced on the USCCB website and via major news channels, just as the NABRE was announced.

          2. Tell that to Ignatius Press which claims that the RSV CE2 is fully compliant with Liturgiam authenticam simply on its own without any revisions necessary.

            At any rate. no version of the NAB has ever really been approved for use in the liturgy, it has been rejected for using inclusive language, which is the same reason the NRSV was rejected with special permission for its use in Canada. Unless the 2025 edition significantly reduces the use of inclusive language (which is doubtful) it seems unlikely it will be fully approved either. As nearly everyone knows, the text read in English Masses in the United States is not the NAB that is available in stores for purchase, it is a special “liturgical edition” of the NAB where the text has been modified (in more than the usual ways that a text is changed for use in a lectionary) for use in the liturgy since the actual text has been judged “inadequate” more than once.

            And it is still the case that no Vatican approval is necessary to get the 2025 NAB published, it can go straight to the printer once the USCCB approves it sometime in the 3rd quarter of 2024. Unless the USCCB rejects the text for some reason and demands a rewrite,(which I think is unlikely because the translation committee has no doubt kept the bishops up to date on the progress of the translation) I see no reason it cannot be published by Ash Wednesday 2025 just like in 2011, regardless of whether or not the Holy See has had its say on it. If every Bible required approval by the Holy See, we would see one new translation only about once every 25 years or so, given the inefficiency of the Vatican bureaucracy.

          3. Carlos,

            As Biblical Catholic said, if “no Bible translation that is a real translation will ever completely conform to Liturgiam Authenticam,” then take it up with Ignatius, whose RSV-2CE text is being used in the Ordinariate’s Bibles and its Divine Worship liturgical books with zero edits to my knowledge. That said, anyone who has dug into that text knows it’s not precisely the most “literal” always. For an obvious example, its liturgical “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” instead of “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” in Matthew 6:12. Didn’t someone once say the RSV-2CE originally was created just to be a lectionary text, and the idea of printing that text as a standalone Bible came later? But in any case, I see no reason to believe there will be a significant delay for the new NAB either and expect to have my copy for Lent 2025. Whether we will end up with yet another case of the new NAB vs. a “liturgical edition” of the new NAB, God only knows. I’ve heard unsubstantiated rumors that the new NAB might actually move in a “theologically conservative” direction, going for “Hail, full of grace” and “the virgin, pregnant and about to bear a son” again, though I have no reason to believe that. Those rumors are probably influenced by the comments about the NAB supposedly toning down their infamous notes and nothing more. I agree with the earlier comment by Charles that an NAB revision on the level of the Jerusalem Bible revisions will actually shock me if it happens, rather than just a fine-tuning.

  5. I’m glad I got the Abbey Psalms and Canticles while they were still in print, so I can use a half-updated LotH for the next few years. Have they said what they’re going to name the NABREue yet?

    1. For clarification The Abbey Psalms and Canticles are still in print. The hardcover edition is now available from Liturgy Training Publications for $24.95. Magnificat has just released softcover edition for $9.95. When the USCCB shut down their bookstore the inventory was acquired by several publishers. As mentioned above Liturgy Training, Magnificat and Catholic Book Publishers.

      1. Ah, good to hear. I only knew about Ascension Press, where I got my copy, but it’s been listed as out of stock there for a while.

    2. I don’t think they need to rename it, it will probably be called something like “New American Bible Revised Edition With Revised New Testament” something like that

  6. Children,
    The NABRE is in the approval process far off from being printed though.
    Maligning dynamic equivalence is unjustified; paraphrase and dynamic equivalence are different things. Form centered translation can actually misrepresent the original meaning/oomph of the biblical writers’ book.
    Regarding Knox, NABRE, NJB, and Isaiah 7:14–it seems the DSS confirms rendering it as “young woman” is accurate—this does not exclude any theological interpretation but rather is less euphemistic than the Septuagint preference of “virgin”, likely that Greek rendering is an elevated euphemism for “almah” although it is imprecise.

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