On Wednesday, April 17, the Manifold Greatness display arrived at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. To kick off the exhibit, the college hosted a talk by Professor Bart D. Ehrman, entitled “Misquoting Jesus: Scribes Who Changed the Scriptures and Readers Who May Never Know.” The talk was a great success, attended by an estimated audience of 700 people, and students and community members began to observe the exhibit in Centre’s Grace Doherty Library.
The exhibit also offers many teaching moments in the life of the college. My religion course, entitled “Biblical History and Ideas,” explored the exhibit. The course examines the historical context surrounding the composition and reception of the Bible, and the translation of the King James Version directly relates to elements in the course.
After studying elements of the original Hebrew text that were “lost in translation,” such as Jerome’s translation in his Vulgate of Exodus 34:29, the radiant face of Moses (cornuta esset facies), the students were able to witness the legacy of such translations on the original title page of the King James Version, featuring a Moses with “horns.” The exhibit is able to visually express details involving biblical translation in a vibrant and memorable way.
Lee Jefferson is Assistant Professor of Religion at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.
Manifold Greatness opened at the University of Dayton Roesch Library in Dayton, Ohio on Friday, August 24. One of the highlights of our local exhibition is a first edition Douai-Rheims Bible, the first English translation of the Catholic Bible. For the exhibit period, it is sharing a case with a first edition King James Bible, on loan from Denison University in Granville, Ohio.
In this post, we compare the two Bibles and their unique history.
The origins of the Douai-Rheims translation were much different than the KJV. Due to anti-Catholic legislation and persecution during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (a Protestant), English Catholics, led by William Allen, established a college and a mission seminary in Douai (Flanders) in 1568 and later at Rheims (France). The translation by English Catholics, known as Douai-Rheims, was published in several parts: at Rheims, the New Testament was published in 1582, and in 1609 the Old Testament was published in two volumes at Douai. The Douai-Rheims was not intended for use at Catholic liturgical services (where the language was Latin), although it did meet many needs. English Catholics could read it instead of Protestant English translations, and Catholic writers could use it to counter or refute Protestant adversaries who often quoted Scripture as part of their arguments.
The Douai-Rheims was scrupulously faithful to the Latin Vulgate, the translation made by St. Jerome in the fourth century. In the sixteenth century, the Council of Trent considered Latin a quasi-sacral language: it was the lingua franca, for more than thirteen centuries, in all churches, monasteries, and councils; for all services, theological discourse, and biblical commentaries. The King James Bible translation relied upon original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts rather than the Vulgate, and freely incorporated a “few dignified or felicitous phrases” from previous translations, including the Douai-Rheims.
At the time of its introduction, the King James Bible was not universally accepted; some desired a more literal translation. However, its language was incorporated in the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church, and it eventually became widely known as the Authorized Version in England – one that had the approval of its royal sponsor, King James I, and was “appointed to be read in churches.”
Katy Kelly is the Communications and Outreach Librarian at the University of Dayton.