The Knox Bible is an approved Catholic translation whose aim is to produce a translation of the Bible which reads in a fluid and eloquent English. This nine-year effort was undertaken solely by Monsignor Ronald Knox, an Anglican-turned-Catholic-priest, at the request of the Bishops of England and Wales prior to World War II. Motivating the project was a desire to replace the Douay-Rheims Bible. Although the Douay-Rheims had been a Catholic staple since the reformation, many felt the archaic language made the translation difficult to understand in a number of passages. The result of Msgr. Knox’s efforts was a translation that received wide praise and was approved for liturgical use in many English-speaking areas in the decade preceeding Vatican II. Even Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen preferred the Knox Bible, often using it as a reference when quoting verses.
Indeed, Msgr. Knox’s resulting translation does use exquisite language. For example, take Matthew 1:18-21. First, from the New American Standard Bible:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Next, from the Knox translation:
And this was the manner of Christ’s birth. His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, but they had not yet come together, when she was found to be with child, by the power of the Holy Ghost. Whereupon her husband Joseph (for he was a right-minded man, and would not have her put to open shame) was for sending her away in secret. But hardly had this thought come to his mind, when an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, and said, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take thy wife Mary to thyself, for it is by the power of the Holy Ghost that she has conceived this child; and she will bear a son, whom thou shalt call Jesus, for he is to save his people from their sins.
One interesting feature of the Knox Bible is its attention to detail with some of the psalms. In the original Hebrew, some psalms take the form of an alphabetical acrostic – the first letter of each verse is ordered such that they read from the beginning to the end of the Hebrew alphabet. This is believed to indicate a completeness in thought, similar to the idea that Christ is the alpha and the omega. When translating into English (or any other language), this quality is lost. However, Msgr. Knox took good care with these alphabetical acrostics, providing translations which maintain this ordering in a beautiful English rendering. For example, go check out Proverbs 31:10-31, which helpfully bolds the first letter of each verse.
On the practical side of things, if you’re familiar with Baronius Press, you know their products are top quality – leather bound, gold gilding on the pages, and two ribbons to help you keep your place.
You will find the page layout of the Knox Bible to be a little different compared to many other Bibles. Rather than two columns on a page, the Knox translation favors a single column style.
Additionally, verse numbering is done in the margins of the page, rather than inline. Both of these features make for a more readable layout of the Bible.
As a bonus, when you order the Knox translation from Baronius Press, you receive a short booklet written by Msgr. Knox entitled “On Englishing the Bible”. This booklet gives Msgr. Knox’s account of translating the Bible from the Latin Vulgate, the challenges of finding an accurate – but readable – phrasing, and a healthy dose of Monsignor’s wit.
Have you used the Knox Bible before? If so, what are your impressions? If not, what Bible translation do you prefer, and why?