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100 years ago: English Bible and RCs

21 May 2021

May 20th, 1921.

THE fifteenth centenary of St Jerome is to be celebrated by the Roman Catholic community in England by the holding of a Biblical Congress in July at Cambridge, at which the Roman Catholic standpoint in the matter of the Scriptures will be explained (to quote Cardinal Bourne’s pastoral letter) “for the benefit of all our fellow-countrymen”. Nothing but good can come of such study of holy writ as his Eminence desires, and we look forward only less eagerly to the publication of the restored text of the Vulgate, which the Benedictine Commission has been at work upon under the supervision of Cardinal Gasquet. His Eminence invites his separated brethren to cast aside prejudice, and listen to what Catholic scholars will endeavour to put before them. That they will certainly do. At the same time, there is a tendency among Roman Catholics more and more to appreciate the merits of our own Authorized Version. A correspondent in the Tablet says, “We want a Bible which shall be at once faithful to the original and literary in style, if it is to attract constant reading.” The Douai Version has been steadily improved, and with every improvement has shed some of its clumsy Latinisms, and adopted more and more the phraseology and diction of our own Bible. The Tahiti correspondent pleads for an extension on the lines on which Bishop Challoner worked for a Bible “which would be at once faithful, orthodox, scholarly, and literary.” He quotes Canon Barry, who, some years ago in the Dublin Review, insisted that the Authorized Version “holds a place in the world-wide literature of England from which it cannot be ousted”. He properly held that so momentous a fact demanded more notice than it received in relation to the problem of conversion. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Northampton, in a pastoral letter, speaks of the place of the Bible as a “sympathetic link” between Boman Catholics and other Christians, and, in the opinion of the correspondent of the Tablet, that link would be stronger and closer “if our Catholic Bible embodied as far as possible the language and music of the Authorized Version”. None will deny the truth of that. The surprising thing is that the Roman mission in this country should have been so long hampered by its presenting as a “Catholic Bible” something not only different from the English Bible but so much its inferior in beauty.

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