Questions about the Douay-Rheims Bible


Hey everyone, I’m getting a Douay-Rheims Bible because I lost my NAB on the train :frowning: (I’ve already set a claim for the lost and found but still). I’m going to ask a few questions about the Douay-Rheims. (Just for the record I am NOT a DR-onlyist, I just like the translation)

*]Why does it number some chapters differently (i.e Psalm 23 - “The Lord is my Shepherd” is now Psalm 22) and why does number some verses differently (i.e 1 Cor 6:9 is now 1 Cor 6:10)
*]Is it true that usually traditionalists love it, and why?
*]I understand that most Catholic Bibles translate 1 John 5:7 as “the spirit, water, and the blood” as being one. A lot of Protestants translate that verse as “the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit.” I understand that most Catholic Bibles don’t translate it like that because it wasn’t in the original Greek and it was a later addition. So why does the Douay-Rheims translate it that way?
*]Why does it translate “love” as “charity” in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and why does it translate “the Lord is my Shepherd” as the “the Lord ruleth me”?


To answer your first question, Wikipedia actually has a nice brief summary of the differing of the numbers in the Psalms. Basically, it’s a difference between the Hebrew Masoretic text and the Greek Septuagint.

Remember, the Bible was not written with numbering for chapter and verse. That came later. And so there are some minor differences between different translations.

I think Traditionalists love the D-R because of the more traditional language as well as it having those familiar translations of key passages (like “full of grace” instead of “highly favored one” in Luke 1:28). It doesn’t hurt that it is translated from the Vulgate, that offcial Latin translation of Scripture. :slight_smile:

I’m not sure about the other questions so I’ll leave that for others to respond to.


The chapter/verse divisions used almost uniformly today were adopted relatively late, particularly in the 16th century explosion of scriptural study by both Catholics and Protestants. The Latin Vulgate predates all of this and so it doesn’t exactly match up with what later scholars adopted. The text is all the same, just divided differently. If I recall correctly, a couple long psalms are divided and a couple short ones are combined in comparison to the standard format. But again, the text is all the same.

Is it true that usually traditionalists love it, and why?

I suspect because it is translated from the Latin Vulgate, which for the pre-Vatican II Mass was the source for all the readings at Mass. However, the DR is NOT taken solely from the Vulgate, but as the title page declares is “Diligently Compared with the Hebrew, Greek and Other Editions in Diverse Languages.”

To make a long story short, one of the big projects of Renaissance Humanism was to go back to the original Hebrew and Greek sources, rather than simply accept St Jerome’s 5th century Latin translation as 100% accurate. So Erasmus famously edited and published a Greek New Testament based off available manuscripts, while Cardinal Cisneros in Spain published the Polyglot Bible which printed St Jerome’s Vulgate in parallel text with the original Hebrew and Greek for comparison. The scholars of the English Colleges in Douai and Reims did the same when translating the Bible into English. They took the Vulgate as the basis, and followed its structure, but consulted the original texts to make sure the translation is pure.

I understand that most Catholic Bibles translate 1 John 5:7 as “the spirit, water, and the blood” as being one. A lot of Protestants translate that verse as “the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit.” I understand that most Catholic Bibles don’t translate it like that because it wasn’t in the original Greek and it was a later addition. So why does the Douay-Rheims translate it that way?

This is a perfect illustration of the above. The Greek text compiled by Erasmus, the so-called “Textus Receptus” (Received Text) was actually a compilation of later Greek manuscripts and so had several scribal errors/additions not found in earlier texts. The Protestant Bibles of the Reformation era (King James, Lutherbibel, Reina-Valera, etc) all follow this text and thus incorporate these additions into their translation. Another classic instance is the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13 where the late Greek manuscripts of the Textus Receptus include the doxology “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever.”

St. Jerome, working in the 5th century, naturally had access to the oldest Greek manuscripts which we lack today, and so did not include any of these later additions in his Latin. The translators of the D-R however, following the Greek of the Textus Receptus as they “dilligently compared” it with the Vulgate, noticed the discrepancy and added the Trinity to 1 John 5:7.

Since the 16th century, we have gained access to many more Greek manuscripts, many of which are older than the Textus Receptus and which lack those late scribal errors/additions. Thus, now even modern Protestant translations like the NRSV or NIV omit the naming of the Trinity from 1 John 5:7, as well as the final doxology from Matthew 6:13. So we see in that instance St. Jerome was right and closer to the oldest Greek.

Why does it translate “love” as “charity” in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and why does it translate “the Lord is my Shepherd” as the “the Lord ruleth me”?

English is lame in that we only have the word “Love” that is supposed to serve all sorts of different purposes. In the Koine Greek of the New Testament, a clear distinction was made between different types of “love.” The work the Apostle Paul wrote is αγαπη (“agape”) which specifically denotes a non-romantic, brotherly, and compassionate love. St. Jerome of course appreciated the distinction and translated it with the corresponding Latin term for the same type of love: caritas. The translators of the D-R have a clear tendency to use Latin-based English words whenever available and so rendered it “charity.”

As for the Psalm 22, the translators again were just literally following Jerome who begins the psalm with “Dominus reget me” (The Lord rules me). I have no knowledge of Hebrew, so I can’t help you beyond that…

Enjoy the world of philology!


Thank you for your responses! This answers all my questions! :smiley:

Yeah, this one of the reasons why I’m getting it.

Especially the Luke 1:28 situation. It’s closer to the original Greek “Kecharitomene” and I feel like when I raise a family it’s going to be less confusing when I’m teaching them the Hail Mary because imagine being taught to say “Hail Mary, full of grace” and they you open your Bible and it says “highly favored”


In Catholic theology “charity” is love, except not the feeling or emotion that most people characterize as love a la hollywood.
But rather a more profound meaning also sometimes referred as “agape love”
It is the will that decides to love and will the good of the other even above ones own.
The perfect love of our Father in heaven and the perfect love shown by Jesus to us.
“charity” = “love” is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.


My attempt:

  1. Different manuscripts had different numbering of the Psalms. Numbering depends upon the ancient manuscripts used in the translation.

  2. The D-R has been used by English-speaking Catholics since the early 17th century. It was translated between 1582 and 1609. It uses the traditional loftier theological language, rather than the vulgar tongue of modern bibles. As well, it is a translation of the Latin Vulgate, which Saint Jerome accomplished between the years 382 and 405. It is as ancient and traditional as one can get in English-speaking Catholicism without reverting to Saint Jerome’s Latin Vulgate. The D-R has been revised various times since its composition, as the English language has substantially changed.

  3. Are you speaking of verse 7 or verse 8?

The Knox Bible (here with parallels in Greek and Latin), a plain English Catholic translation from the 20th century has it (7+8): “7 Thus we have a threefold warrant in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, three who are yet one; 8 and we have a threefold warrant on earth, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, three witnesses that conspire in one.

While the Confraternity Bible (1941-1969 American Catholic bible) has it: “For there are three that bear witness [in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 8. And there are three that bear witness on earth]: the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three are one.

  1. Both the Knox and the Confraternity bibles use “charity”. Charity is a more precise word in this context than love, as love has meanings that include charity, but also also contain various other forms, such as spousal love, or love of activities or of material objects. In modern usage, charity has come to mean a form of social welfare, rather than the filial love that was intended by the inspired authors.


In Psalm 22 (23 RSV), the Hebrew (which St Jerome translated from) uses a verb that means something on the lines of “rule as a shepherd rules sheep.” The Latin uses the more literal, whereas others use a translation that more reflects the meaning.

The Vulgate errs on the side of literal, as does the DR. A former teacher said, it is a literal, conservative, and safe translation. Not always the best, but does not mislead like other translations can do. Traditionalists like it because of this, or because of fad/hype. I like the dignified language, but honestly it is written in the English is of the late 1800s - not really that long ago. The second person singular (thou, thee) and different verb endings don’t take long to learn, and the diction isn’t as nearly as obscure (to modern man) as the KJV can be. I don’t mean to be blunt, but if the DR is hard to read (after some diligence), then you are probably best with the NAB, written at an 8th-grade reading level.


Haha! I just recently gave my NAB to my 6th grader cousin. While it isn’t the most faithful translation, I felt that it was more appropriate for a young person to start getting into reading the Bible. It has very large print text, and even a rosary.

I will be using the DRV only from now on because I believe that adult Catholics should only be reading the DRV.


Once again, for a 20th century American English Vulgate-based translation, please look into the Confraternity Bible (1941-1969). This was a work in progress, so the earlier versions (1952 and earlier) had a pure D-R Old Testament, and a fresh and very readable, but still reverent Confraternity New Testament. You can find them very reasonably on eBay or in thrift stores. Excellent bible.


I posted this in “Ask An Apologist” before I found this thread:

As my penance today, I was told to read Psalm 16. I read it the American Bible then I was going to read it in the Douay Reims bible but found it to be Psalm 15. I’ve seen this before with Psalm 23 so my question is which psalm was I supposed to read and why are the number different between the two versions? Thank you.

So now I know why they are numbered differently, but I still want to know which Psalm should I read. I’m thinking the American Bible psalm 16 (D-R 15). I read both psalms 16 just in case. :wink:


Since there are good answers above I will only comment about why traditionalist might perfer it. One is that modern scholarship has lost a lot of trust with many traditionalists because of all the various levels of heretical and liberal ideas and schools of thought. The DR is quite safe in that regards.


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