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The translation of the Bible by Ronald Knox was officially made at the request of the Bishops
of England and Wales, although Knox had wanted to try his hand at updating the language of
the Bible for some time.
It had been the desire of a succession of bishops for almost a 100 years to create a new
Bible translation to replace the Douay Rheims edition. This Bible which had served English
speaking Catholics since the time of the reformation had undergone several revisions, but
was filled with archaic language, making it incomprehensible in a few places.
Originally, it was hoped that Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, the most famous convert
to Catholicism of the 19th Century would translate the Bible, but this project was never begun.
In his book, The Idea of a University, Blessed John Henry Newman pointed out the “great
difficulty in combining the two necessary qualities, fidelity to the original and purity in the
Although the Douay translation was much loved and gave many passages of Holy Scripture
that are still well-known today, it was felt that the translation was too difficult to understand.
A new translation would bring the gospel message to a much wider audience.
The English bishops gave him permission to start just before World War II broke out. It was
initially planned that he would report his work to a team of evaluators, but the wartime
difficulty of communication made that impractical, so he worked entirely on his own. When it
came out after the war, there was some predictable criticism from people who liked either
the King James version or Challoner’s revision of the Douay-Rheims. Knox even wrote a
small booklet to explain how he had gone about translating the Bible in order to placate
Knox’s bible also received great acclaim when it was first published. Time magazine called
Knox the “man who made the great 20th century bible.”
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.
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The Holy Bible: A Translation From the Latin Vulgate in the Light of the
Hebrew and Greek Originals is a Catholic version of the Bible in three
volumes (later published in one volume editions) translated by
Monsignor Ronald Knox, the English theologian, priest and crime writer.
It is more commonly known as the Knox Bible or Knox Version
In 1936, Ronald Knox was requested by the Catholic hierarchies of
England and Wales to undertake a new translation of the Vulgate with
use of contemporary language and in light of Hebrew and Greek
manuscripts. When the New Testament was published in 1945, it was
not intended to replace the Rheims version but to be used alongside
it, as Bernard Griffin, the Archbishop of Westminster, noted in the
With the release of Knox's version of the Old Testament in 1950, the
popularity of translations based on the Vulgate waned as Church
authorities promoted the use of Bibles based primarily on Hebrew
and Greek texts following the 1943 encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu.
The Knox Bible was, however, one of the approved vernacular
versions of the Bible used in the Lectionary readings for Mass from
1965 to the early 1970s, along with the Confraternity Bible.
The style of the translation is in idiomatic English and much
freer in renderings of passages than the Douay version.
With the Deuterocanonical books, the interpretation of the
passages was brought closer to the Septuagint. When the
Latin appeared to be doubtful, the translation of the text
was based on other languages, with the Latin translation
placed in the footnote.
Ronald Arbuthnott Knox (17 February 1888 – 24 August 1957)
was an English Catholic priest, theologian, radio broadcaster,
and author of detective stories. He is known for his "Ten
Commandments" of Detective Fiction that describe a
philosophy of writing in which the reader can participate,
attempting to find a solution to the mystery before the
fictional detective reveals it.
|Ronald Arbuthnott Knox
C. S. Lewis called him "the wittiest man
in Europe," and Ronald Knox was a deft
apologist, an astute translator of the
Bible, and the preacher for occasions great
and small throughout the first half
of the twentieth century in England.