Reader Feedback: the Knox Version

Do you remember my brief review of the new edition by Baronius Press of Ronald Knox’s translation of the Bible? HERE.

To buy it US HERE and UK HERE.

I received this today from a reader:

Through your link I purchased the Ronald Knox translation of the Bible. [Thanks!] It has been, well, a revelation — I rush home each day so that I can pick it up again and read some more. Douay Rheims is tough to simply read, and some of the newer translations (okay, *all* of the newer translations) are readable but have followed the general trend that dictates that all the beauty and poetry must be scrubbed from worship. The Knox, though, is just right: easily read (as opposed to studied verse-by-verse) yet sublimely beautiful. Thank you for mentioning it.


The Knox will be a gift from me to at least three people this Christmas: My priest, a nephew who with his wife (who teaches in a Catholic school) are considering conversion to Catholicism, and my other nephew, who teaches Latin and ancient Greek… and who is a militant atheist — the inclusion of “On Englishing the Bible” may pique his interest, and I’m praying that he receive the graces that he be piqued in other, good ways, too. Should Knox bring ___ to Christ, it’s time to undertake Msgr. Ronald’s cause!

It is good to get feedback like this.  It helps to know that people benefit concretely from things posted here.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Although I already had my eye on it, I also was stimulated by your review here into going ahead and ordering the Baronius Knox Bible.

    Nothing takes the precise place of a slavishly literal translation like the Douay-Rheims, preserving as it does the good, bad, and ugly of the Vulgate, including the places where it either makes no sense or is just plain wrong, because of Jerome’s incomplete understanding of obscure Hebrew vocabulary-syntax and/or limitations in the manuscripts available to him, not to mention (more trivially) Jerome’s confusion of tense throughout the psalms.

    But in his little accompanying book “Englishing the Bible”, Msgr. Knox makes a pretty convincing case for “dynamic equivalence” in the sense of saying it faithfully as it would have said in English–if its author had been English–rather than in word-for-word literal translation that does not always provide the sense that was intended in the original language.

    Of course, in our time, the dynamic equivalence approach to translation has been forever tarred by the original ICEL’s utterly unfaithful and agenda-driven efforts under its banner. But, having decided to keep one eye on Knox through at least one cycle of the Liturgia Horarum–starting with just the psalms and scripture readings for the Office of Readings (as I recite them in Latin), I think it can flesh out in a complementary way the understanding of many readings for one who has been restricted to their more literal D-R and RSV translations.

  2. katerosemar says:

    Several years ago, our family rediscovered Msgr. Knox’s edifying books, “The Creed in Slow Motion” and “The Mass in Slow Motion.” My brother and I have relished much of his other religious writing — and his detective fiction.
    Earlier this year, I pieced together from various used-book websites the three volumes of the Knox Bible (1950s printing, some water damage). Only a few months later, I stumbled on the Baronius site and decided to give this beautiful new edition to my brother for Christmas. Thank your review, Fr. Z!

  3. Father Z, is there any compelling reason that the USCCB or the CCCB, for instance, could not adopt the Knox Bible or something similar for use during Mass?

  4. TomG says:

    Irenaeus: As I understand it, there is one big reason – the USCCB owns the copyright to the NAB, an important profit center for them.

  5. THREEHEARTS says:

    As a young lad/boy I had the greatest of pleasures. During the second world war my father took me from Bristo by ‘bus to a place near Birmingham (I think) to hear Monsieur Ron give a talk. There were two great priests revered by the english. Monsieur Know and Fr Faber. We rad one and sung the other. Did you know that so many were dissapointed by the Bible he translated when it first came out? It was unfortunately. But for me his best seller was his, by his admission, was Enthusiasm. The story of the charismatic movement throughout the ages. His commentary on Ist Corinthians in this book was an eyeopener. It is a must read for all charismatics. It is probably the only accurate work on the movements theology.

  6. fvhale says:

    I, too, the Knox Bible by Baronius printed, after your post, bought. Clasp it I do! This morning in Osee read (Matins lessons for Sunday Fourth of November):
    “When first the divine voice made itself heard through Osee, this was the command given him: Wanton wed thou, wantons breed thou; in a wanton land thou dwellest, that keeps troth with its Lord never.” (Hosea 1:2).
    Compare that with DR:
    “The beginning of the Lord’s speaking by Osee: and the Lord said to Osee: Go, take thee a wife of fornications, and have her children of fornications: for the land by fornication shall depart from the Lord.”
    While “fornication” is a direct borrowing into English from Latin “fornicatio,” which etymologically invokes an oven (popularly a reference to passion) with an arched shape (more related to the place of the activity), you cannot beat “wanton” to bring out the Germanic origins of (Old) English (with etymology meaning wanting or lacking training, discipline, self-control). NABRE using the rather direct “prostitution” (again of Latin linguistic origins, standing about in public places)
    As a one-time student of Old English or Anglo-Saxon, and the earliest English texts (almost all Catholic texts, by the way), I must say that I really ENJOY reading the Knox translation. I can savor the effort that Msgr. Know put into making an (Oldish) English Bible, not one so easily close to Latin through (Old) French and that linguistic layer that latinized English as it morphed from its Old to Modern forms.
    It is just great fun for me to read it, and consider a fresh linguistic perspective in English translation.

  7. JARay says:

    I have been contemplating buying a new copy simply because of its beauty. I already own a Knox bible which I bought over fifty years ago. I did buy the reproduced Breviary from Baronius Press and I am delighted with the three volumes.
    There is one little feature in the Knox Bible which you will not find in any other Bible and that is the translation of the responses of Jesus’ questions to Peter i.e. “Do you love me?”
    I’m sure that you all will know what I’m referring to:-
    1st time Jesus replies “Feed my lambs”
    2nd time Jesus replies “Feed my shearlings”
    3rd time Jesus replies “Feed my sheep”
    Now Knox has a comment that there seems to have been in existence an earlier manuscript which he has translated as “Feed my Shearlings” which differentiates between lambs and sheep. Shearlings are those which have grown out of being lambs and have not yet become adult sheep. In other words, Jesus is giving three stages of development, just as we recognise children, teenagers and adults in human development. Many say that Jesus asked the same question three times to counter the three denials of Peter, but this translation has Jesus giving three different admonitions to Peter regarding the care which he must exercise in his future Office of being Pope. As Pope he must show one kind of care to children, another kind of care to teens and yet another kind of care to adults within the Church.

  8. iPadre says:

    I see that it is 6″ x 8.25″, but cannot find out how thick it is. Does anyone know?

  9. fvhale says:

    The one in my hand is 6″ by 8.5″ by 2″.

    Black hard cover. Gold edges on pages. Two ribbons (red and yellow). Came with a copy of Knox’s “On Englishing the Bible.”

    (In my previous comment, probably gone to “moderation” because of the vocabulary of Hosea 1:2, the spell checker change “Knox” to “Know.” Spell checkers are a pain.)

    Just in case my previous comment fails to appear because of Hosea, I will just say that I really enjoy reading the Knox translation because it is very (Old-ish) English. By that I mean that it tends to reach back to the Germanic roots of English (Old English, Anglo Saxon) both in vocabulary and poetic form (e.g. a lot of alliteration). I really enjoyed my study of Old English because almost all of the existing texts are Catholic–a fact often ignored by English teachers who act as if there was nothing but Beowulf. The Knox translation often goes deep into English linguistic history, sounding often like Anglo-Saxon, which is much more challenging (and at times much more interesting) than using the easier Latinate forms that came later into English (following the Norman Conquest).

  10. Tom: “Irenaeus: As I understand it, there is one big reason – the USCCB owns the copyright to the NAB, an important profit center for them.”

    I figured that was probably all there was to it. Seems rather unscrupulous to a simple lay person like me.

  11. Mattheus says:

    I’m a transitional deacon and have had the Knox translation for about a week. I can’t put it down. I love it, it’s forced me to read more slowly. As we become more familiar with certain passages we can just breeze through them without grasping what we’re reading. This beautiful translation forces you to slow down and soak in the scriptures again. I keep flipping to my favorite passages to see how Knox translated them. I also love the layout on the page, the single column allows you to just read through like you would with any other book, bringing out the drama of the scripture. I highly recommend it. Also I recommend the Ignatius Press printing of the Pastoral and Occasional Sermons. by Knox. I often take them to my holy hours. Very insightful and a joy to read.

  12. Supertradmum says:

    I recommend it as well, but my copy was stolen years ago with all my library on Knox, including a rare biography and stories about his brothers. Ah well. When I get settled (!), this shall be on my wish list.

    Somewhere I have a New Testament of his with lovely art work. However, for exactness, one should cross-reference with the Catholic RSV, which is the best translation. Knox has gorgeous language.

  13. dep says:

    @Supertradmum: Sad to hear of your loss — there’s something especially ironically bad about the theft of a Bible. Though it’s not a replacement, the Knox biography is online, here:
    And, for what it’s worth, I did a little review of the Knox in my local paper, which to my surprise did not burst into flames when the word “Bible” appeared there:

  14. Supertradmum says:

    Threehearts, how wonderful. Agree about book Enthusiasm…ironically stolen with others. You are correct im my mind re the book review.

  15. Supertradmum says:

    Apologies for error…texting is not my strongpoint.

  16. pelerin says:

    When I bought my first Missal in 1963 I saw that the English translation of the Scriptures was by Mgr Ronald Knox. I found his translation dignified and also far more understandable than the Anglican version I had been used to.

    When the Mass started to be celebrated in the vernacular I had presumed that this would be the translation used but as we were to discover this was not the case.

    I am pleased that a new generation of Catholics are discovering Mgr Knox’s work. I have a copy of The Gospels by Knox which I treasure as it belonged to my father who in our last conversation together told me of his friendship with Knox over many years. At one time they had planned to write an opera together – my father would do the music and Knox the words. However my father told me this never materialised as the hierarchy put their foot down!

    As my father was not a Catholic I was baffled as to how their paths had crossed and sadly I never had the opportunity to ask him. I later discovered that my father (who was born in the same year as Knox) had been a young organist at an English cathedral when Knox’s father was the Bishop there and presume that that was where they met and formed what was to become a lifelong friendship.

  17. dep,

    A fine review of the Knox Bible. Thanks! You quotation concerning Amos 4: 2-3 sent me off on a web search for different translations of these two verses.

    King James Version
    The Lord GOD hath sworn by his holiness, that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks. And ye shall go out at the breaches, every cow at that which is before her; and ye shall cast them into the palace, saith the LORD.

    The Lord God hath sworn by his holiness, that lo, the days shall come upon you, when they shall lift you up on pikes, and what shall remain of you in boiling pots. And you shall go out at the breaches one over against the other, and you shall be cast forth into Armon, saith the Lord.

    Revised Standard Version
    The Lord GOD has sworn by his holiness that, behold, the days are coming upon you, when they shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks. And you shall go out through the breaches, every one straight before her; and you shall be cast forth into Harmon,” says the LORD.

    Never let me be called holy, the Lord God says, if doom does not overtake you for this; see if you would not be trussed on spears, and your children given up to feed the cooking-pan.! Leave the city walls you must, the Lord says, one by this breach, one by that, and be cast away in Armon.

  18. Seamus says:

    In the late 60s, IIRC, three translations were approved in the United States for Mass Readings: the RSVCE, Knox, and the Jerusalem Bible. (I may be wrong about the JB; perhaps the bishops were still allowing use of the Confraternity version, which they themselves sponsored and which was soon replaced by the NAB.) I know that during the 80s the approved translations were the RSVCE, the JB, and the NAB. Now the bishops only allow the version that provides a stream of copyright royalties to the USCCB.

  19. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    So far the most of Knox’s translation I have read is that included in the Oxford ‘Parallel Apocrypha [sic]’, where it – and his notes – always provide a fascinating contribution to comparing versions!

  20. The Masked Chicken says:

    “But for me his best seller was his, by his admission, was Enthusiasm. The story of the charismatic movement throughout the ages. His commentary on Ist Corinthians in this book was an eyeopener. It is a must read for all charismatics. It is probably the only accurate work on the movements theology.”

    Yes, Mnsr. Knox felt it was his favorite work. The book has been out of print for some time (limited copies of the 1994 printing are available). I have heard that there are plans to reprint it. Mnsr. Knox stops his book at John Wesley, which is where the modern Charismatic Movement begins. The book does need a follow-up.

    The Chicken

  21. An American Mother says:

    The book does need a follow-up.

    And you, my dear gallinaceous friend, are just the one to do it . . . :-)

  22. wmeyer says:

    And you, my dear gallinaceous friend, are just the one to do it . . . :-)

    Well done!!

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