Q: Years ago in parochial school, I recall that we were told that the Douay-Rheims version was the only one that we were allowed to read. The teacher even said that reading any “Protestant” Bible, especially the King James Version, was sinful. I’m sure that’s no longer the case, but is there an official Latin version and an English translation? How are we to choose among the many translations now available?
A: We should keep three things in mind in this area. First, no biblical book was originally written in Latin. All of them were written in Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic. St. Jerome’s translation into Latin is known as the Vulgate. It is held in high regard in the Catholic Church, which also acknowledges that older texts in the original languages have come to light since St. Jerome translated the Vulgate.
Second, Bible translations used by Roman Catholics and members of the Orthodox Churches have a longer Old Testament canon (list of inspired books). The longer list was used for over 1,000 years before it was formally accepted at the Council of Trent (1545–63).
The Catholic Church has given an official, binding interpretation to very few texts—for example, understanding Matthew 16:18–19 as authorizing Peter and his successors as leaders of the Church and accepting the Last Supper accounts as teaching the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.