Friday, October 19, 2012

The Holy Bible: Knox Version (Baronius Press)

One of the common complaints on this blog is the serious lack of quality, high-end Catholic Bibles.  While there are certainly enough good Catholic translations to choose from, the way in which they are produced often leaves a lot to be desired.  For example, the recently released HarperOne NABRE came in a very attractive page-layout, but the imitation leather cover and binding was a serious disappointment.  

When I look at the Bibles in my library, which are way too many if you ask my wife, the only one I would ever consider a premium Bible would be the Cambridge NRSV Reference with Apocrypha in French Morocco leather.  (Technically speaking, of course, that one is not even a specifically Catholic edition.)  However, I am happy to report, that I can now add another Bible to my list: The Knox Bible by Baronius Press.

This Bible is beautifully made and crafted in such a way that it will last a lifetime.  Here are the particulars of this new edition:
** The Bible comes in at a size of 6”x8 ¼”, encompassing 1,472 pages

**Set in a single-column format with verse references placed at the side of the text

**Printed on light cream paper

**Re-Typeset based on Burns & Oats and Macmillian & Co. 1963 edition

**Translator’s notes and cross-references are located at the bottom of each page

**Beautifully bound in hardcover (black leather) 1/8” thick, with gilt edges

**2 Ribbon Markers, headbands, and marbled endpapers

**Foreword by Scott Hahn

**Included with this new edition is a paperback copy of On Englishing the Bible by Knox 

**Imprimatur from Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols dated 8th of January 2012

The Knox translation is certainly unique, however this review will not be analyzing the pros and cons of Msgr. Knox’s work.  I hope to do so in posts that will appear in the coming weeks that look at the translation in a bit more detail.  Instead, I am going to focus on the product itself.  But before I do, I thought it would be interesting to at least show you a bit of his style, by reproducing his version of the Christ-hymn of Philippians 2, with footnotes:

“Yours is to be the same mind which Christ Jesus shewed. His nature is, from the first, divine, and yet he did not see, in the rank of Godhead, a prize to be coveted;[a] he dispossessed himself, and took the nature of a slave, fashioned in the likeness of men, and presenting himself to us in human form; and then he lowered his own dignity, accepted an obedience which brought him to death, death on a cross. That is why God has raised him to such a height, given him that name which is greater than any other name; 10 so that everything in heaven and on earth and under the earth must bend the knee before the name of Jesus, 11 and every tongue must confess Jesus Christ as the Lord, dwelling in the glory of God the Father.”
  1. Philippians 2:6 ‘Did not see, in the rank of Godhead, a prize to be coveted’; others would render, ‘thought it no usurpation to claim the rank of Godhead’.
  2. Philippians 2:11 ‘Dwelling in the glory’; the Greek is perhaps more naturally rendered ‘to the glory’.
Now on to what Baronius Press has done with Msgr. Knox’s translation.   What immediately stands out is the craftsmanship involved in producing this volume.  (I have experienced this type of quality production before with their Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary volume.) The quality of the binding, the paper, ribbon markers, and endpapers make this Bible standout from all of the other ones I own.  This Bible is sturdy, yet very comfortable to read both by placing it flat on a table or by holding it in your hand or lap.  This is the case no matter where in the text you are reading, from Genesis to Revelation (the Apocalypse).  While this is not a portable, compact Bible, it can easily be brought to study and prayer groups, even Holy Mass.  It is simply a standard sized Bible.  I wonder if Baronius Press will eventually make different editions of the Knox Bible, like in a compact form or flexible leather, similar to what they have done with their Douay-Rheims editions.

For me, the highlight of this Bible is its single-column page layout.  It is very easy on the eyes, and the quality cream colored Bible paper minimizes any issues with ghosted print image from the reverse of the page.  That being said, I am not sure if I will ever write in this Bible.  It is just too pretty!  While having the verse numbers on the side can be a bit tricky at first, it becomes quite easy to use after only a few minutes.  The many notes, both textual and commentary, from Msgr. Knox are clearly visible at the bottom of each page.  I should mention that while there are not a ton of cross-references in this Bible, the notes in the New Testament do indicate where there are direct quotes from the Old Testament, as well as referencing similar passages found in the among the four Gospels.  In addition, there are cross-references in the notes in the Old Testament as well, but not as many as are found in the New Testament.    

If there is one criticism, and this is only minor, I would have appreciated a small selection of Bible maps in the appendix.  The older Knox Bible that I own contained two line-drawn maps, which would have been a nice conclusion to this beautiful Bible.  While it is always nice to have “the extras” with any Bible edition you purchase, the quality of this Bible allows me to easily overlook this minor omission. 

Having now spent a few days with the Knox Bible, as well as reading On Englishing the Bible, I want to conclude by making three comments.  First, bravo to Baronius Press for crafting such a beautiful Bible that I am sure will be appreciated by many people on both sides of the Atlantic.  The quality of this Bible is a testament to the attention and care that was given to its production.  There is no question that it was well worth the wait and the $54.95 price tag. 

Secondly, while there are certainly other translations that may be more useful for study, here I am thinking of the RSV, NRSV, or NABRE, the style of translation and flow of reading from the Knox Bible, even with the occasional archaic rendering or anglicized vocabulary, is refreshing and truly enjoyable to read.  I must admit that even though I own an older Knox Bible edition, I never did spend much time reading it because I just assumed that it would be too close to the Douay-Rheims in style.   I was wrong.  In a similar way, I can imagine that people who first experienced fresh translations like the Jerusalem Bible or New English Bible half a century ago, which departed from the Douay-Rheims or KJV traditions, had that same sort of feeling that I did as I began to read the Knox Bible.  I truly did not anticipate the amount of joy I would have reading through large portions of the Old and New Testaments in this translation over these past few days.  While this certainly has a lot to do with the translation, itself, Baronius Press must also be given credit for the achievement of this publication.  

Finally, having read all of Knox’s On Englishing the Bible, which I did in one sitting, along with my reading of the Knox Bible, the ultimate compliment I can pay to Msgr. Knox, as well as Baronius Press, is that I now have a greater desire to read more from Msgr. Ronald Knox.  His style of writing, and his unexpected wit and candor, I found to be very attractive and insightful.  I look forward to adding a few of his other works to my Christmas list.  I have avoided his writings for way too long.  Any recommendations?


Chad said...

I have Msgr. Knox's Pastoral and Occasional Sermons from Ignatius, and it is nice reading for particular occasions. I've seen, but haven't read any of his other works yet.

As to the Bible, the reason I didn't spring for this one was really the fact that I already have a Knox translation and don't want a second. I don't especially enjoy reading the one I have and wouldn't want to have another. It was the hardest translation to track down of any I looked for. I got it for completeness (gotta catch 'em all!) and for the acrostics.

I look forward to your review of the translation itself. I might like to give the translation another shot, though every time it comes up (such as when quoted by Ven. Fulton J. Sheen) it is a little jarring.

CatholicMom said...

Thanks for informing me about The Knox Bible!

Biblical Catholic said...

I am looking for a nice edition of the NABRE that has a picture of Pope Benedict in the front....I have an edition dating from 1998 with John Paul II and I would kind of like to keep the collection going....anybody have any suggestions? Does this reprint of the Knox Bible have a picture of the Pope in it?

Jonny said...

Biblical Catholic:

The Knox Bible has no picture of the Pope. If you are looking for a NABRE edition with a picture of Benedict XVI, get the one from Fireside. It is available in an endurahyde cover and also in hardback. I actually reviewed this one on this blog a while back. It also has among other features, a nice Catholic encyclopedia in the back.

Timothy said...

Biblical Catholic,

The NABRE from HarperOne does have a picture of Pope Benedict in the front. I would recommend getting the hardcover edition.

The Knox bible does not come with a picture of any pope.

Jonny said...

I am also impressed with the quality of the Baronius Bibles. The Knox edition is almost exactly the same at their black hardback Douay-Rheims, which I have been using for personal study, devotion, and prayerful reading for quite some time now.

I still maintain that the leather hardback (with the essential extras: page guilding and ribbons) makes the best overall product. The hardback stays open when layed flat, does not sag in your hand or on a stand when read while you are standing or kneeling, stands up on your bookshelf, and is attractive and durable. If I could convert every edition of the Bible I own into what Baronius has done with their hardbacks (without paying a small fortune) I would do it in a heartbeat!

As far as the translation itself goes, I am happy to have my own copy. The translation notes in the Knox complements the Douay-Rheims and RSV Bibles nicely when doing comparisons.

Amfortas said...

I wish they'd brought out a flexible leather cover version (as they have for the DR). This is a hardback covered in leather. I bought two copies. The spine on one stays 'out' when you open the book and the other goes 'in' (the former is preferable as with the latter the spin will crease in time). My vedict is quite good but could have done much better. Sometimes Baronius gets it right (1962 Missal and Breviary) but other times it gets it wrong (Catena Aurea which will probably fall apart after a few years).

Porn Militia said...

I recommend The Creed in Slow Motion and The Belief of Catholics - thanks foe the review!

ThisVivian said...

Now, after reading a bit of this, at long last, this is the NLT for moderately conservative Catholics (who know and give two hoots about doctrine)! It reminds me of nothing more than an NLT (mainly conservative, though feminist ["egalitarian"], evangelical Protestant) with the archaic second-person pronouns and lacking quotation marks.

The layout is marvelous - it surpasses even the NCPB KJV, which is my go-to version - as I believe it matches, if not surpasses, the elegance of the NEB and JB layouts. Now, if only we could have a Bible paragraphed to modern standards (e.g. each speaker gets his own paragraph, new speaker = new paragraph).... O, we can dream.

I disagree with nearly every statement made by Knox in the first three of the essays in "On Englishing...", but he seems an amiable enough fellow. A bit too much of a most sensitive aesthete to translate the Bible after a literal fashion, and holding to some pretty weird views of English "purity" ("Anglish").

ThisVivian said...

Note also for those who have problems ordering from the Baronius website/HSBC Payments, Amazon now has the Knox Bible in stock for the same price ($54.95), but with free shipping (so, cheaper overall). I don't know if it comes with the supplements (Knox's "Englishing"), but, since "Englishing" came in the box with the Bible, I suppose it probably does.

Biblical Catholic said...

I got my copy this morning....I intend to read through it this weekend, not the whole thing (of course, I'm not a loony!) but probably the gospels and some of the Pauline epistles...I intend to read the whole thing cover to cover next year using my patented 150 reading plan...

ThisVivian said...

I read the Bible cover-to-cover, not including the Deuterocanon, in a week once, on a bet against two Mormon missionaries. More like four days, because I also read the Book of Mormon critically, so I could cite it chapter and verse at them, in that same time. And the BoM is probably as long as the Old Testament.

Needless to say, I didn't receive a great deal of spiritual edification nor lasting learning nor impression from that read.

Biblical Catholic said...

I could read the Bible in a weekend if I wanted to but I wouldn't get anything out of it, one cannot simply read it like a novel....the one year reading plan is too long and the glacial pace leads me to get bored and lose interest, but 100 or 150 days is reasonable....

ThisVivian said...

And, I must say, Knox rendered Genesis 1 in a more atrocious manner than any other translation I have ever read. I picked up the NAB and couldn't detect the slightest trace of heterodoxy, or even old-earthism, in comparison. He has:

Dependent temporal clause instead of "In the beginning" - check.

Breath of God instead of Spirit - check.

The "firmament" translated as "a solid vault" in line with the newest (obviously not-so-new) critical theories so as to cast doubt on the Genesis account in ways that are required not by the Hebrew, and are all but prohibited by the Latin (which he translated from), and which are completely prohibited by the Greek - check.*

*In the NAB, this ridiculous theory is kept to the notes; Msgr Knox puts it right there in the text.

That last one is like a slap in the face. I haven't read even all of Genesis yet, and I like his New Testament (I had the paperback reprint). I even like his rendering of Psalm 22/23; where most versions, altering the KJV a bit here or there, sound horrible, Knox departs so drastically one can barely tell it's the same Psalm, and has some equally excellent language, especially, "As in honour pledged, in straight paths he leads me..."

From reading the last two (or three) essays in "Englishing", "Nine Years Hard", "Farewell to the Machabees", and it may have been one other, it's of painful obviousness that Msgr Knox cleaved to a very, very low view of the inspiration and preservation of Scripture, if indeed his beliefs could even be called "inspiration" (they most certainly could not be called "preservation" in any sense of the term that the English language admits). This may explain some of his horrid renderings in Genesis, and weird, albeit not necessarily incorrect (as once, "in the beginning God" is gone, there's no need to keep the verbal formula "in the beginning was the Word", as the parallelism has already been lost: "it takes two to tango") - it may be more accurately described as idiosyncratic - rendering of the first verse of John, "And the word was abiding..."

Today, that reminds me a bit much of "The Big Lebowski", and with how much pain Msgr Knox seemed to go through to avoid "debased" words and phrases, he would have hated that.

Zenkai said...

CJA Mayo,

I don't see how his translation "undermines Creation or the Inspiration of Scripture". Knox seems to be very conservative. And his translation doesn't use the historical-critical method at all. Therefore, the Knox Bible is much more conservative than the JB, NJB, NAB, NABRE, etc.

Biblical Catholic said...

Saying that Knox has some weird, idiosyncratic translations is one thing, accusing him of not believing in the inspiration of the scriptures however is a little over the top.

Biblical Catholic said...

I just looked up Genesis 1....instead of 'In the beginning' he says 'at the beginning of time...' okay, that's a little weird, but it's not offensive or heretical.....and keep in mind that he was trying intentionally to break away from the traditional wording so that people would be forced to read it rather than just go by rote....the words of the Bible are so familiar that often people don't really pay attention to the words, so mixing it up with some radically different wording can help people actually pay attention....but he didn't intend the translation to be one's only Bible....but rather a supplement to more traditional translations....and he does start the Gospel of John the same way 'at the beginning of time....' unconventional yes, but hardly offensive or heretical.

ThisVivian said...

I'm saying not that his Bible seems to say, "no inspiration or preservation", only that his essays, the last three in "Englishing the Bible" do seem to cast light on his doubt of the doctrines (note that I spoke more of preservation than inspiration, but he speaks at times as, in the quote when "It seems as if the evangelists did not have the tool they were looking for" when writing the Scriptures, for preservation, his statements about the corruption of all three texts, LXX, MT, and VG, in "Nine Years' Hard" etc.), and positing that (purely speculatively) as a possible reason for some of his odd renderings - for, if the text is corrupt, why render it traditionally?

I'm trying to synthesize his statements in "Englishing" with some of his more idiosyncratic translation choices, and that was merely the first one that came to mind; I may very well be wrong. I never accused the man of heresy, man! (I said that after reading his interpretation of Genesis 1-3, I couldn't detect any in the NAB :-).)

Note also, that when I say, "a very low view of Scripture", that does not imply he does not believe in inspiration; there are many kinds of theories of inspiration (see the essay on "Inspiration" in the NJBC): did he believe that the Holy Spirit merely preserved the inspired authors from error? That seems to be his position, from the quote about Greek being an inadequate tool for them (though he could be speaking of any human language being an inadequate tool for the Holy Spirit himself?)? When I say "a high view of scripture", I mean (verbal) plenary inspiration. By no means are Catholics required to hold such a view.

ThisVivian said...

Also, due to space constraints, I must put this in a separate comment: I apologize for any offense I have caused; it was not my intent. (And moreso than any politician, I am prone to most infelicitous turns of phrase.)

Biblical Catholic said...

There really is no doubt that the text of the Bible has been corrupted over time....this is not to say that the text we have is useless or unreliable, but nevertheless it is not at all certain what the text of the Bible should read in every place, this is especially true in the Old Testament. God could have perfectly preserved every single word of scripture and allowed no corruption, but he did not. He didn't because he didn't intend for the Bible to be the main way he communicates with us, but rather through the Church.

ThisVivian said...

Of course it has been preserved word-for-word, as it was dictated to St Paul himself, in the Authorized Version of 66 books!

The "descent of tongues" on Pentecost actually was a set of twelve black bonded leather, smyth-sewn, thumb-indexed, gilded Authorized Versions, each containing sixty-six books, hitting the apostles in the head. It was in a tongue unfamiliar to them, after all.

Oh, and don't forget that they included the old Scofield annotations.

But, on the other hand, there's no doubt that I have an uncommonly high view of Scripture, especially for a Catholic or an Orthodox.

ThisVivian said...

Of course it has been preserved word-for-word, as it was dictated to St Paul himself, in the Authorized Version of 66 books!

The "descent of tongues" on Pentecost actually was a set of twelve black bonded leather, smyth-sewn, thumb-indexed, gilded Authorized Versions, each containing sixty-six books, hitting the apostles in the head. It was in a tongue unfamiliar to them, after all.

Oh, and don't forget that they included the old Scofield annotations.

But, on the other hand, there's no doubt that I have an uncommonly high view of Scripture, especially for a Catholic or an Orthodox. That is, I believe the Bible to be completely inerrant and infallible in all matters that it teaches (and, arguably, I might even be accused of holding to some form of "sufficiency of Scripture", as it's theoretically possible for a man to pick up a Bible and be saved in a state of grace by virtue of baptism of desire before he's received in to the Church).

It annoys me, that, in much hermeneutical literature, "infallible" (which is a much stronger word, meaning, "unable to ever be false"), and "inerrant" (a weaker word, meaning "currently without error") are switched around, so "inerrancy" becomes a stronger statement than "infallibility", which is often restricted merely to "matters of faith and morals", much like the Social Gospel, whereas "inerrancy" is expanded to mean "true in every word and in every sense, and infallible by the dictionary definition" (cf. the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy).

Jonny said...

Hi Tim:

Just wondering if you received my brief review of the Knox translation I e-mailed you (and not ended up in your spam box :)

Also, the Knox Bible might be interesting to include in some of the "Spot Checks" as you have done in the past...

Biblical Catholic said...

The word 'infallible' cannot logically be applied to a document, as it implies the ability to make decisions.......inerrant is the proper term

ThisVivian said...

Nevertheless, many exegetes and theologians do apply the term "infallible" in the sense of "inerrant in faith and morals, fallible on everything else".

Biblical Catholic said...

That's not consistent with Catholic fact, that opinion has been condemned....

Zenkai said...

CJA Mayo,

What do you think about the historical-critical method as used in the NAB, NABRE, JB, and NJB?

ThisVivian said...

BC: I didn't say "Catholic theologians", although I have seen Catholic exegetes and theologians use the word "infallible" in that way. Where has it been condemned, that the statement above is inconsonant with the Catholic faith? I'm glad that it has been.

Zenkai: it has its uses: my full range of feeling about historical criticism (and even textual criticism for that matter) would take a thesis-length essay to hammer out, not a blog comment (or even a blog post). Provisionally, I believe (although I am not certain) I have a similar view to it as is expressed by the Holy Father in Vol 1 of Jesus of Nazareth. I strongly feel that historical critical conjectures and hypotheses should not be shoehorned by Episcopal declaration in to every copy of a certain Bible published for the simple lay faithful: it can be extremely faith-challenging, or apostasy (or modernism!)-inducing to non-initiates in the Crytycalle Artes.

I seem to have an overwhelmingly negative attitude towards the HC on this blog because many Bibles have an excess of it, and many theologians and exegetes use it to great excess - "who wrote what, when, where, and how, and who redacted it all together?" being the entirety of many commentaries - but there are very few (none, to my knowledge) which include or use too little.

Also, why praise mediocrity (as in my critiques of aspects of the NAB/RE), when there is darkness to curse? Praise one rendering in John, when it doesn't make up for five score terrible renderings elsewhere, and two hundred score improper annotations? As Richard John Nehaus said (in relation to the NAB, nonetheless), "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness - but sometimes we must curse the darkness so we don't get used to it".

Now, with the Knox, I may seem unduly harsh because I measure translations by the stick of literalism, more or less (which, according to Knox, was the opposite of his mind; "whenever I had fulfilled my own expectations, I had suddenly ceased to fulfill Dr Finch's"), and I found it odd, at best, that one EXTREMELY LITERAL rendering of the Hebrew (not the Latin, mind), in the translation of "firmament" as "a solid vault" (which has theological implications) was in the midst of such an otherwise loose translation.

That is, an NLT will never get marks from me as high as a KJV or NASB, even if it succeeds at its stated intent more fully and completely; and any literal renderings that are found therein, in the midst of paraphrase, are going to stick out, and make me ask, "why was he literal here?"

My one half-penny,


ThisVivian said...

Ah, let me correct myself: the "vault" rendering is permitted, although not required, by the Latin (it is a weird and most literal reading), is essentially demanded by the Greek ("stereoma", a mistranslation, or translation of the word emphasis ["unwarranted adoption of an expanded semantic field"] of the word "raqia", "the expanse" or "that which is spread out", from the root "רקע", "to spread out", BDB), and is all but forbidden by the Hebrew.

I mixed that up in my first post, saying it was allowed by the Hebrew but not by the Greek.

Biblical Catholic said...

For information on the Catholic Church's teaching on the inspiration of the scriptures start with the Vatican II document 'Dei Verbum' and then follow the footnotes....the Church does not hold to any 'limited inspiration' theory....

ThisVivian said...

I wasn't speaking, when asking, of my opinion of Knox's "preservation from error", but as "infallible in faith and morals", "inspired throughout but erring sometimes in matters of history, science, origins, or other matters not obviously directly connected to faith and morals". (I say, "not obviously", because origins/the fall are of paramount importance in salvation history: whether Mordechai was counsellor to Ahasuerus or, in a meta-scriptural [that is, Sacred Tradition] sense, whether Moses himself penned every word of the Pentateuch, has less bearing on soteriology.)

That last one, I can't really argue with, as I don't believe even a rank literalist such as myself could imagine Judith or Tobit (or even Esther) as being accurate history.

ThisVivian said...

"I could read the Bible in a weekend if I wanted to but I wouldn't get anything out of it, one cannot simply read it like a novel....the one year reading plan is too long and the glacial pace leads me to get bored and lose interest, but 100 or 150 days is reasonable...."

I recommend "The Bible in 90 Days" plan from the YouVersion app (66 books, since they're all Protestant plans), either adding four chapters of the Deuterocanonicals a day with the readings given, or reading them separately afterwards (I'd recommend the first). It is a good pace, slightly faster than your "Psalm plan", but not too fast.

As you point out, a year-long reading plan is absurd. You'll forget the Bread of Life discourse before you read the Pale Horse riding in, let alone remember who Asa (or "Asaph" in the Critical Text) - or even David, for that matter - is by the time you read Matthew 1.

Deep South Reader said...

How do we like the leather cover? Is it "high end" bonded? Actually genuine?

Timothy said...

It genuine leather in a hardcover form.

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

I just got a copy of this edition, and I was disturbed because it did not appear signature sewn to me, i.e. I didn't see any little "packets" of signatures at the spine.

I haven't taken off the shrink wrap, in case I decide to return it. It seems to me that a perfect bound (glued) bible would fall apart quickly. But why would they just glue a leather bound, guilded bible? Has anyone been able to tell if this bible is sewn?

Thank you.

Jonny said...

Like the rest of the Baronius Press books that I own, the Knox does have sewn signatures. They are not as large and obvious as say, an Ignatius Press book, but they are indeed there.

I am very satisfied with the quality of the Baroinius books, and my black hardcover D-R has held up through extensive use. Do keep in mind, however, I do not write in or cram papers in my Bibles, and no Bible of mine leaves the house without being safely incased in a leather shell!

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Thanks, Jonny, for your reply. I am relieved to know that it is signature sewn. (I can't bear to write in books either.)


Raine said...

Just wondering if you could comment on the margin sizes in this Bible. I have the Baronius Press leather DR Bible which I love, but find the margins rather small - for someone like me who likes make margin notes. I especially find the margins near the spine quite narrow and that makes for difficult reading of text near the spine because of the rounding of that edge when the book is lying open. Sure would appreciate knowing how the Knox margins are viz the spine. Thanks.