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The Douay-Rheims Bible


The Douay-Rheims Bible, which is also sometimes called merely the Douay Bible or abbreviated as the D-R Bible, is the oldest full Roman Catholic Bible translation in English. It is sometimes written with the spelling of Douai-Rheims, or referred to as the Rheims-Douai Bible. The spelling of “Rhemes” has also been used. The name is based on the fact that the translation was produced at the English College at Douay; the college had migrated to the area of Rheims and editions were printed there as well. Douay and Rheims, as well as Rhemes, are English spellings of the French towns of Douai and Riems, which explains the different spellings used in publishing. Douay-Rheims is the most common spelling used in publishing the translation today.

Numerous English translations of the Bible were available by 1578, but none were acceptable to Roman Catholics. A New Testament would be produced in order to enable Catholics to refute ‘heretical ideas’ from neighbors who knew their Bible inside and out, and also to discourage adherents from reading any other English translation that might be readily available.

Gregory Martin began translating the text of the Vulgate into English in 1578 at the Roman Catholic College at Rheims. The entire Bible would be completed by 1610 at Douay. At the Council of Trent a few decades prior, the Latin Vulgate was declared the only authentical Catholic text. The Bible was thus a translation of a translation. The Bible has wide margins and the notes are in clear type in the footer of the text.

The Douay-Rheims is a literal translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible, initially translated by St. Jerome. Some of the Latin words did not have an exact English equivalent. In these cases, the word was either kept in its original form or “anglicized.” Some words were not changed at all; for example with amen, which passed unchanged from Greek, into Latin, into English, or the word pasch.

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