Confraternity Bible

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The Confraternity Bible
Complete Bible
New Testament published in 1941, OT released in sections 1952-1969 and became the New American Bible
Textual basisNT: Latin Vulgate compared with the Greek. OT: Biblia Hebraica Kittel with Septuagint and Latin Vulgate influence.
Translation typeFormal equivalence (from the Preface), moderate use of dynamic equivalence.
Reading levelHigh school
CopyrightSeveral, published between 1941 and 1969
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; the earth was waste and void; darkness covered the abyss, and the spirit of God was stirring above the waters. God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that those who believe in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting.

The Confraternity Bible is any edition of the Catholic Bible translated under the auspices of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) between 1941 and 1969. The Confraternity Bible strives to give a fluent English translation while remaining close to the Latin Vulgate. It is no longer in widespread use since it was supplanted in 1970 by the New American Bible.

Translation history[edit]

Spine of 1957 New Catholic Edition Confraternity Bible

The history of the translation project that resulted in the Confraternity Bible is complex and somewhat opaque. In 1941, a revision of Bishop Richard Challoner's version of the Rheims New Testament was released under the following title:

of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
Translated from the Latin Vulgate
A Revision of the Challoner–Rheims Version,
Edited by Catholic Scholars
Under the Patronage of
of the

The CCD's 1941 translation of the New Testament revised the Challoner–Rheims version in several ways:

  • It modernized the style of Challoner's 18th-century English.
  • The CCD used the Clementine edition of the Vulgate as a base, but made use of modern critical texts to improve fidelity to the original source texts.
  • Where Greek idioms had been translated literally into the Latin Vulgate, it paraphrased the Greek idiom, rather than translating directly from the Latin. Where they retained the Latin rendering, they noted the Greek in a footnote.
  • In general, it was a freer translation than Challoner's, and more periphrastic, however the translation still leans more toward formal equivalence.
  • It restored the paragraph formatting of the first edition of the Douay–Rheims Bible, which had been removed in the Challoner Revision.
  • In order to maintain fidelity to the Greek and Latin source texts, they retained use of second person singular pronouns thee, thou, thy, and thine, together with the -(e)st and -(e)th verb suffixes, but to make it read more like modern English, they dropped the second person plural nominative form Ye and used only the modern you, your, and yours. In so doing, they retained the more accurate translation of the Greek and Latin underlying texts, with a more modern sounding flow.

Because it was intended to be used in the liturgy, the translators did not introduce any rendering that would depart from the text of the Latin Vulgate, which before Divino afflante Spiritu in 1943 was regarded as inerrant by some Catholic theologians.

Upon release of the CCD's New Testament in 1941, translation work began on the Old Testament. Then, on September 30, 1943, Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu which stressed the importance of diligent study of the original languages and other cognate languages, so as to arrive at a deeper and fuller knowledge of the meaning of the sacred texts. Specifically, Pius XII characterized the original language texts as "having been written by the inspired author himself" and opined that such texts "ha[ve] more authority and greater weight than any even the very best translation, whether ancient or modern[.]" This pronouncement essentially doomed the CCD's revision of the Douay-Challoner version, which itself was a translation from Latin. Thus, the Church's focus shifted to a completely new translation of the entire Bible with emphasis on original language sources.

This is not to say that the CCD's Old Testament translation efforts up to that point were scrapped. Quite to the contrary, they continued, as the CCD's Old Testament from the outset was "Translated from the Original Languages with Critical Use of All the Ancient Sources" – an approach that was presumably in complete accord with the September 1943 encyclical.

What is known of the Confraternity's Old Testament translation is that it was completed in stages beginning in 1948 and ending in 1969. Volumes were released serially by St. Anthony Guild Press in New Jersey as they were completed. Their publishing history is as follows:

  • The Book of Genesis – 1948: this was a unique translation, the only one that was revised for the 1970 NAB
  • The Book of Psalms – 1950 and 1955, reprinted 1959
  • The Octateuch: Genesis to Ruth – 1952 (published as Volume One)
  • The Sapiential Books (Job to Sirach) – 1955 (published as Volume Three — with Volume Two left to be filled in later)
  • The Prophetic Books (Isaias to Malachias) – 1961 (published as Volume Four)
  • The Historical Books – Samuel to Maccabees (1 Samuel to Esther; 1 and 2 Maccabees) – 1969 (published as Volume Two)[1]

These translations formed the basis of what would become the Old Testament portion of the 1970 New American Bible, except for CCD's 1948 translation of the Book of Genesis. Genesis was completely revised before the release of the NAB. Some minor revisions were made to the rest of the books to normalize the anglicized form of formal names throughout the entire text, preferring a direct Hebrew-English instead of Hebrew-Greek/Latin-English rendering. They also dropped the Latin Vulgate/Greek Septuagint Book names (using the Hebrew 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, instead of 1, 2, 3, and 4 Kings, using the Hebraic Isaiah instead of Hellenic-Latinate Isaias, etc.), went with the Hebrew chapter-verse numbering instead of the Greek/Latin (which affects mainly the Books of Psalms and Job, but is also noticeable elsewhere). Lastly, they used the Hebrew-English translated form of the tetragrammaton, using an all capitalized "the LORD", instead of the Greek/Latin-English "the Lord". These are the main differences seen between the 1948-1969 Confraternity Old Testament books versus the 1970 NAB OT books, along with various other minor orthographic and grammatical revisions.

Given the Confraternity's completion of the Old Testament in 1969 and the NAB's introduction in 1970, there has never been a release of a complete Confraternity Bible (that is, with both Old and New Testaments) featuring all of the Confraternity's translations from 1941 to 1969. The most complete editions include the Confraternity's 1941 New Testament and those portions of the Old Testament that had been translated by 1961, namely the first eight books (the Octateuch - Genesis through Ruth), the seven Sapiential Books (Job through Sirach), and the eighteen Prophetic Books (Isaias through Malachias).

Because of the hybrid nature of the various versions of the Confraternity Bible, it has been referred to as the "Douay-Confraternity Bible", referencing the fact that the Old Testament section was made up partly of books from the Challoner-Douay Old Testament and partly from books translated or revised by the CCD Publishers released "Confraternity Bibles" up to 1969, always indicating to what extent they featured Confraternity translations of the Old Testament. They typically included some variation on the following description of the edition's Old Testament contents: "With the New Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Translation of the First Eight Books, the Seven Sapiential Books, and the Eighteen Prophetic Books of the Old Testament. The balance is in the Douay Version."[2]

The Book of Psalms contained in a Confraternity Bible could be one of several versions: The Challoner Psalms, the Pontifical Biblical Institute (PBI) of Rome from 1945 (which in the title page would be labeled "a New Translation of the Book of Psalms from the New Latin Version approved by Pope Pius XII"), the CCD Psalms of 1950, or the CCD Psalms of 1955. The 1950 CCD Psalms were based on the 1945 PBI version (a new Latin translation of the original Hebrew text requested by Pius XII, the "Novum Psalterium"). The 1955 CCD Psalter, which with minor revision such as Hebrew instead of Latin chapter and verse numbering and proper names, is also the Psalter used in the 1970 New American Bible, which was translated directly from the Hebrew manuscripts underlying those of the 1945 "Novum Psalterium". The 1950 and 1955 texts can be distinguished by reference to the first word of Psalm 1, in which the former begins with the word "Blessed" and the latter, "Happy".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Confraternity", Bibles, Wikidot.
  2. ^ "Douay Confraternity", Bibles, Wikidot.