What is the Confraternity Bible?
The Confraternity Bible refers to any edition of the Catholic Bible translated under the auspices of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine ("CCD") between 1941 and 1969. The Confraternity Bible is known for the balance it strikes between accessibility and authenticity. The Confraternity Bible was supplanted in 1970 by the New American Bible and is no longer in widespread use. (Learn more about the New American Bible here.)
In 1941, a revision of Richard Challoner's version of the Rheims New Testament was released under the following title: "The New Testament 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 the Episcopal Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine." (Learn more about the Douay-Rheims Bible here.)
The CCD's translation of the New Testament revised the Challoner-Rheims version in several ways: It modernized the style of Challoner's Eighteenth Century English. Where Greek idioms had been translated literally into the Latin Vulgate, it paraphrased the Greek idiom, rather than translating directly from the Latin. In general, it was a freer translation than Challoner's, and more paraphrastic. It restored the paragraph formatting of the first edition of the Douay-Rheims Bible, which had been removed in the Challoner Revision. 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.
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 Divino Afflante Spiritu, an encyclical letter, 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 Challoner-Rheims 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 The Book of Psalms – 1950 and 1955, reprinted 1959 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 (Isaia to Malachia) – 1961 (published as Volume Four) Samuel to Maccabees (1 Samuel to Esther; 1 Maccabees to 2 Maccabees) – 1969 (published as Volume Two)
These translations formed the basis of what would become the Old Testament portion of the 1970 New American Bible, except for the C.C.D.'s 1948 translation of the Book of Genesis. Genesis was completely revised before the release of the NAB. Only minor revisions were made to the rest of the books to normalize the anglicized form of formal names throughout the entire text. 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 of the 1940s through 1960s.
The most complete editions include the Confraternity's New Testament and those portions of the Old Testament that had been translated by 1961. 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" into the mid-1960s, 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: "The New Confraternity translation of the First Eight Books, the Seven Sapiential Books, and the Eighteen Prophetic Books.
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