My Bible translation

Beginning on March 14th of 2004, I worked nearly every day for just over five years to translate the entire Clementine Vulgate Bible from Latin into English. The translation was completed on March 28th of 2009. I have placed this translation of the Bible in the public domain; it has no copyrights and no restrictions (other than the restrictions imposed by the eternal moral law). The translation is called the Catholic Public Domain Version (CPDV).

The CPDV is similar to Challoner’s Douai in many ways. Both are based on the Clementine cpdv-coverVulgate, both translated the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament and both testaments in the light of Catholic teaching. The CPDV benefited from the eloquence and insights offered by Challoner. However, my translation is not merely an update of the Douai; it is a new translation made using the Challoner text as a guide.

My translation is more literal than most modern English Catholic translations of the Bible. In preparing my translation, I came to understand that several of the popular modern Catholic translations, such as the Jerusalem Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible, have taken appalling liberties with the text. The translation is very loose and imposes a certain interpretation, not evident from the source text. The CPDV stays close to the wording of the Latin text, accurately representing the source text even when this results in a somewhat awkward or less readable phrasing. The CPDV also uses the Challoner text as a guide, to prevent the translation from moving away from a traditional understanding of the Latin.

Many modern translations claim to make a different trade-off, translating more loosely in order to make the text more readable. But it inevitably happens in this method of translation that the loose translation is also interpretive, represents the source text less accurately, and inserts concepts into the translation, not found in the source text. Even the New American Bible contains this type of translation problem, though to a lesser extent than the JB and NJB.

The CPDV is public domain, and can be used on website, republished in print, and included in books and articles without restriction or royalties. The CPDV can even be edited and published as a revised or new edition, or it can be used as one of several texts in making a new translation. The Bible should not be treated as if it were the intellectual property of a corporation or a committee. But many modern translations bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties, so those who have control over the copyrights are not willing to release them into the public domain.

The CPDV avoids imposing inclusive language on the text. Most modern Catholic English translations, while claiming to be literal and accurate, freely delete and rephrase words than refer to men. ‘Sons of men’ becomes ‘men’ or ‘you people’. The phrase ‘sons of Israel’ becomes ‘children of Israel’ or ‘people of Israel’ or ‘the Israelites’. But female references, such as ‘daughter of Jerusalem’ are not changed. The CPDV translates references to either gender literally, ‘sons’ is translated as ‘sons’ and ‘daughters’ is translated as ‘daughters’. The interpretation of the text is left to the reader and the Church.

The CPDV is a translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible, whereas most modern translations are based on the Hebrew and Greek texts. In my opinion, the Church benefits from having some translations based on the Latin, and other translations based on the Hebrew and Greek and Aramaic. The Latin text of the Bible was given a special place in the Church by the Council of Trent, due to its long usage in the Living Tradition and by the Living Magisterium.

“But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema. Let all, therefore, understand, in what order, and in what manner, the said Synod, after having laid the foundation of the Confession of faith, will proceed, and what testimonies and authorities it will mainly use in confirming dogmas, and in restoring morals in the Church.”

“Moreover, the same sacred and holy Synod,–considering that no small utility may accrue to the Church of God, if it be made known which out of all the Latin editions, now in circulation, of the sacred books, is to be held as authentic,–ordains and declares, that the said old and vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many years, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever.”

More on the CPDV and on Bible translations in general in later posts.

The CPDV is available online free at

— Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and Bible translator