|I begin by importing a chapter of the Latin text into my
WordPerfect program. I format the verses of the Latin so they
are three lines apart. I translate each verse with the following
1. To begin with, I translate each word of Latin into English.
Sometimes, the different linguistic structures make this
problematic. In the interest of clarity, I will (rarely) leave a word
out that is in the original. More often, I will add words in English
to make the original meaning clearer. When I add a word in the
English, I italicize it so the reader will have a better sense of the
2. I then correct the translations, using the 1899 American
edition of Douay-Rheims as the master text. I then read, re-
read, and re-read, over a course of months, until the work is
3. Where there are difficult passages, I lay the Latin, Greek,
King James, and Hebrew side-by-side for comparison.
4. When the translation is unclear, I will add the King James
reading as a footnote, to let the reader compare.
My goal is not just to translate the Latin Bible. It is to craft a
translation that, while based on the Latin, is faithful to all the
ancient versions and is refined in reference to modern ones. I
want the documents that result to be clear, accurate, and
faithful to the originals.
I do this partly out of pride, since I take my own scholarship
seriously. More than that, I do this because I am in love with
God’s Word and want more than anything else that others find
in it the same meaning and power I do.
I often hear variations of the following questions, “Why are you
wasting your time translating from Latin? Don’t you know the
books you’re translating were first written in Hebrew and
When the questioners establish that, yes, I am aware of the
original languages, they usually follow up by saying, “Don’t you
know that the Latin version is full of Catholic bias? Don’t you
know that the Latin is riddled with errors?”
Here are a few answers.
First of all, I have a bias in favor of real things. The oldest
extant Bible is in Latin, some three centuries older than the
oldest formerly extant Hebrew text.
Secondly, having placed the originals and the Latin side-by-
side, I haven’t found the many errors alleged to be in the Latin,
or the supposed Catholic bias. I’m thinking a lot of the hostility
toward the Latin is residue from the Reformation, which, we do
well to note, occurred eleven hundred years after the Latin text
Third, the continuity of the whole Bible is much more in
evidence in the Latin than in our contemporary English
versions. The best example of this is the word “Christ,” which
makes its first appearance in the KJV and its successors in
Matthew. Since we English-speakers have a Jewish Old
Testament cobbled onto a Protestant New Testament, we lose
sight of the unity that earlier centuries saw in scripture.
Fourth, the Latin text stood at the apex of seven centuries of
ancient biblical scholarship in many languages. Jerome had
access to materials long since lost to even the best scholars. I’
ve come to greatly respect his thoroughness, fairness, and
Fifth, as I’ve said often, the marvelous simplicity of the Latin
language is in full force in the Vulgate, making it an almost
sublimely clear and lucid text. My hope is to create an English
text that comes close to the primordial simplicity and clarity of
the original. This text will be able to stand on its own, as one’s
own Bible, or will be an enrichment to other versions, according
to the tastes of the reader.
©2010, John G. Cunyus
All Rights Reserved to Images, Commentary, and Translation reserved.
|My Method of Bible Translation
by John Cunyus