Article Adjectives in the Douay Rheims

So, I own two Bibles. I say own, because any others that I’ve ever had are in the care of my parents. Any-who, when I first began taking my faith seriously, I decided that I wanted a nice Bible, one that would last for a long time, and one that could seem kind of like an heirloom (of course not taking precedence over it being the Word of God).

So, I saved up a bit of cash and bought myself a nice leather-bound New American Bible with large print produced by Our Sunday Visitor. Besides being a Bible, it’s a pretty book. It had some interesting translations that kind of bothered me (just because I’m big on language). The one that still sticks out to me was 2 Samuel 11:2

“One evening, David rose from his siesta, and strolled around on the roof of the palace…”

The use of the word siesta just irked me in an English translation, but that’s beside the point. I bought myself another Bible a few years later. This one was a Douay Rheims translation (which I had heard recommended by Jimmy Akin and several other apologists). I like the use of older style language used in this translation, but decided to start with Luke (my favorite Gospel to read) and then go into Acts. One thing I noticed was that in Luke/Acts, the translation uses what would be considered an inappropriate use of the article adjectives “a” and “an.”

As I understand the common rule, one uses “a” when the word being described by the adjective (after the adjective) begins with a consonant sound. In contrast, “an” is used when the word in question begins with a vowel sound. Throughout these two New Testament Books, the article “an” was constantly used before words that would typically require an “a”. Is there a reason for this?


The use of “an” has evolved since the Douay-Rheims was published. Formerly, it seems, “an” was used before words that began with a vowel or began with the letter “h.” Now, “an” is just used before words that begin with a vowel sound.

So, the Douay-Rheims Bible has some word combinations that sound strange to us today; the New Testament includes the following examples:
an holy
an one
an hundred, an hundredfold
an herd
an house, an householder
an halter
an high
an hymn
an horn
an eunuch
an heinous
an hair
an human
an husband
an harlot
an habitation
an Hebrew
an heifer

Hmm… odd. If you look at 2 Samuel 11 of the NAB on the USCCB website, you’ll find that it says, “One evening David rose from his bed and strolled about on the roof of the king’s house.”

However, in my print copy of the NAB, which I bought years ago, it too has “siesta.” Maybe they found that rendering to be too ‘Spanglish’ for general use…? :shrug:

In any case, the Greek gives us “καὶ ἐγένετο πρὸς ἑσπέραν καὶ ἀνέστη Δαυιδ ἀπὸ τῆς κοίτης αὐτοῦ” (“And it happened that, as it was becoming evening, David arose from his bed”), while the Vulgate has “surgeret David de strato suo post meridiem” (“David arose from bed after noon”) and the D-R renders it as “[David] had risen from his mid-day rest”.

So… was it a ‘siesta’, per se? Or was it merely that David got up in the evening from a nap? Either way, we get the idea… right?

A vs. An. When to use one or the other, and ‘an’ historical exception or two.

A and An are indefinite articles correct? Or are they called article adjectives now?

I will have to check my NAB and see if it uses “siesta” in that verse.

It may be that the letter h, in some English dialects in those days, was more often silent, (for example, “an 'arlot” or “an 'ebrew”). I have been told by a proper Englishman that working-class folk tend to drop the initial h, while in higher society it is pronounced (so, for example, it would be pronounced in herb and herbal).

I watch quite a few British TV shows, and one of the things that bothers me is when the characters have exactly this sort of tendency. An initial h will consistently be dropped. Maybe they did this a lot when that Bible was published.

Exactly. The DRV and the KJV both use “Elizabethan English”, in which initial h’s were rather conspicuous by their absence in the spoken tongue. Thus the use of “an”.

Another strange (to our ears) use of “an” is in the phrase “such an one”. This is because the pronunciation of “one” to be identical with “won” is a relatively recent development. In those days, “one” was pronounced to rhyme with “tone”, only without any initial consonant. This pronunciation survives in words like “on[e]-ly” and “at-one-ment”.

Reminds me of the musical My Fair Lady, when Eliza Doolittle pronounced the phrase, “In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen,” in her Cockney accent as “In 'ertford, 'erefore and 'ampshire, 'urricanes 'ardly 'appen.” :slight_smile:

:thumbsup: good reminder!

My NAB uses siesta also.

My Good News Bible (Catholic Study Edition) (Today’s English Version) uses the word nap.

For 2Samuel 11:2

You left out the word “ever” between “hardly” and “happen”. That was the only word that she did pronounce with an h. See about 1:20 :smiley:

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