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#121 - Roman Catholic Bibles
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
I have read many articles concerning the error or corruptions of all the Bible; however, I have not been able to find anything concerning errors or corruptions of the Roman Catholic Bible. Do you have anything about this?
The original Hebrew (Old Testament), Aramaic (Daniel only), and Greek (New Testament) texts would actually constitute the authentic Bible. All versions of the Bible -- whether in Latin, English, Chinese, or Hindi; whether produced in 384 A.D., in 1611 A.D., or in 1996 A.D. -- are merely translations indirectly derived from many generations of handcopies of those original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts.
Jerome's Latin Bible, completed in 384 A.D., became known as the Latin Vulgate (common), because it was written in the everyday language of the people of the 4th century Roman empire, just as the original writings in the New Testament were written in the Koine (common) Greek language of the 1st and 2nd century Roman empire. It was not until 1546 that the Council of Trent made the Latin Vulgate the authorized version for the Roman Catholic church. Until Vatican II (1966) the Latin Vulgate was the biblical standard for the Roman Catholic church. It was also the textual basis for the Rheims-Douai (1582-1609) and Knox (1944-1949) English versions of the Bible, even though the Latin Vulgate did not adequately or accurately reflect the Hebrew and Greek texts that the world's leading biblical scholars agreed were the best representations of the original biblical texts. Some editions of the Vulgate had considerable textual corruptions.
This is much like the insistance of a rapidly diminishing number of denominations today to stick with the King James Version as the only authorized version for reading and preaching. Also a few of today's Protestant theologians have concluded that the only true authorized text of the New Testament is Erasmus' so-called (and error-ridden) Textus Receptus, which was first published in 1514 was used as the textual basis for the original King James Version. The result has been the publication of the New King James Bible and a few similar Bible versions that sadly have all of the same textual errors as the original King James Version. (To further explore this, see http://www.bibletexts.com/kjv-tr.htm.)
Vatican II freed Roman Catholic scholars to honestly explore biblical issues without theological restrictions and genuinely encouraged biblical study among lay Catholics. This quickly resulted in the publication of the Jersulem Bible and the New American Bible, both of which were based upon the solid scholarly standards, Old Testament Hebrew and Aramaic texts and New Testament Greek texts. The original Jerusalem Bible has been revised and renamed the New Jerusalem Bible, and the greatly inferior original New American Bible has been completely revised to set arguably the highest standard for English word-by-word translations. Other translations (e.g., NRSV and TEV) have been expanded to include the Apocrypha, enabling them to have been officially approved for use by Roman Catholics.
Most Catholic and Protestant scholars today use the United Bible Society's definitive Biblica Hebraica Stuttsgartensia (Hebrew) and Greek New Testament, 4th Revised Edition as the textual basis for their biblical translations. Still, a small number of Bible translations do show strong theological biases -- biases that more reflect the post-Constantine theologies of the fourth century rather than the first century theology of the earliest Christians. At a scholarly level the best biblical scholars from both the Catholic and the Protestant traditions are in considerable agreement on most issues. This is evident in the agreement on most conclusions found in the Catholic New Jerome Biblical Commentary and the Protestant Oxford Bible Commentary, both of which are outstanding works. And most translations, including the New American Bible, the New Jersalem Bible, the New Revised Standard Version, the Today's English Version, and the Revised English Bible, do an excellent job of conveying in English what the original ancient authors intended to say.
To learn more about the Latin Vulgate and other early Latin Bibles, see http://www.bibletexts.com/glossary/vulgate.htm.
To explore BibleTexts.com's "Recommended Bible Study Books & Resources," including Bible versions, see http://www.bibletexts.com/reviews/.
Copyright 1996-2004 Robert Nguyen Cramer