"Inspired by the Divine Spirit, the Sacred Writers composed these books which God, in His paternal charity toward the human race, deigned to bestow on them 'for teaching, for reproving, for correcting, for instructing in justice; that the man of God may beperfect, equipped for every good work' (2 Tm 3, 16f). This heaven-sent treasure Holy Church considers as the most precious source of doctrine on faith and morals. No wonder therefore that, as she received it intact from the hands of the Apostles, she has kept it with all care, defended it from every false and perverse interpretation, and used it diligently as an instrument for securing the eternal salvation of souls" (Pope Pius XII, encyclical letter Divino afflante Sptritu, September 30, 1943).
In conformity with the spirit of this encyclical of Pope Pius XII, and with the encouragement of His Excellency the Apostolic Delegate to the United States, the Episcopal Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine requested members of the Catholic Biblical Association of America to translate the Sacred Scriptures from the original languages or from the oldest extant form of the text, and to present the sense of the Biblical text in as correct a form as possible.
The first printed English Catholic version of the Bible, the Douay-Rheims version, and its revision by Bishop Challoner were based on the Latin Vulgate.- Today, however, when the science of textual criticism has attained great perfection, it is desirable that a new English version of the Sacred Books be prepared, combining due reverence for the text with strict observance of the rules of criticism.
The use of the original texts as the basis of a new translation does not derogate from the decree of the Council of Trent concerning the Latin Vulgate. The Council does not forbid "translations into the vernacular tongue even directly from the original texts themselves, for the use and benefit of the faithful and for the better understanding of the divine word, as We know to have been already done in a laudable manner in many countries with the approval of the Ecclesiastical authority" (Divino afflante Spiritu).
The text of the eight books (Genesis to Ruth) contained in this volume is but the first part of a completely new translation of the Bible. This translation is based on the original and oldest texts of the Sacred Books. It gives the translators opportunity to convey directly the thought and individual style of the inspired writers. A better understanding of Hebrew and of the science of textual criticism, which has been the fruit of earnest and patient study since the time of St. Jerome, can now be reflected in the translation itself. The translators and editors intend to draw constantly on all material available to obtain in every instance a translation which represents, as far as possible, what the Sacred Author actually wrote.
In most matters pertaining to format and manner of presentation this new translation will follow the pattern set by the Confraternity revision of the New Testament. In only one respect do circumstances require an addition. Where the translation supposes the received text (Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek, as the case may be), which is ordinarily contained in the best-known editions, as the original or the oldest extant form, no additional remarks are necessary. But for the benefit of those who are happily able to study the original text of the Scriptures at first hand, a supplementary series of Textual Notes has been added in an appendix. These furnish a guide in all cases in which the editorial board has judged that either manuscripts in the original language, or the evidence of the ancient versions, or some similar source, furnish the correc reading of a passage, or at least a form more true to the original than that customarily printed in the available editions. As regards the matter of English style, it will be seen that the deliberate compromise with earlier usage frequently retained in Bible translations has here been given up.
The work of translating the Bible has been characterized as "the sacred and apostolic work of interpreting the word of God and of presenting it to the laity in translations as clear as the difficulty of the matter and the limitations of human knowledge Permit" (His Excellency A. G. Cicognani, Apostolic Delegate, in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 6, 1944, 389f). In the appraise ing of the present work, it is hoped that the words of the encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu will serve as a guide: "Let all the sons of the Church bear in mind that the efforts of these resolute laborers in the vineyard of the Lord should be judged not only with equity and justice, but also with the greatest charity; all moreover should abhor that intemperate zeal which imagines that whatever is new should for that very reason be opposed or suspected."
Conscious of their personal limitations for the task thus defined those who have prepared this text cannot hope that it will be perfect, but only that it may deepen in its readers the right understanding of the divinely given Scriptures," and awaken in them "that piety by which it behooves us to be grateful to the God of all providence, who from the throne of His majesty has sent these books as so many personal letters to His own children (Divino afflante Spiritu).