Which well-known English Bible translations are based on the Vulgate? Which are not?

Knowledge about other languages (e.g. French) is welcome too.

2 Answers 2


A translation coming from an already translated work is called a "daughter translation." For example, the Septuagint in English is a daughter translation as it is based on the Septuagint instead of the Hebrew.

English Translations that use the Vulgate

Using the Vulgate as the basis for an English Bible has been done several times.

  • The first English Bible, Wycliffe's translation of 1382 (updated 1400) was based on the Vulgate.
  • Coverdale (1535) was partly based on the Vulgate as Myles Coverdale was neither a Hebrew or Greek scholar. Much more is based on the German works of Luther and Zwingli/
  • The Great Bible (1538) had Myles Coverdale as superintendent of the printing and editor of the translation. Again, since he could not work with Greek and Hebrew, this was based heavily on the Vulgate. His reliance on the Latin resulted in the Bishops' Bible being translated.
  • The Geneva Bible's (1560) Old Testament was done from Hebrew (the first English OT translation to come directly from the Hebrew). However, parts of the New Testament show to be based on Coverdale's work.
  • Douay-Rheims Bible (1610) was done from the Vulgate. The English was not aimed at the common person but for the educated and preachers.
  • The King James Version (1611) shows some influences from the Vulgate though its committees mainly worked from the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.
  • Richard Challoner revised the Douay-Rheims Bible (1752 and other years), and those revisions (aimed at making it more understandable) are the basis of many modern Catholic Bibles in English. His earlier revisions are closer to the Latin while his later changes aimed for a natural English flow. For the next 200 years, these revisions were most heavily used the Catholic Bibles in English.
  • The Confraternity Bible (1941) is another recension of the Challoner-Rheims Bible (Douay-Rheims as revised by Challoner). This one is very famous and was reprinted recently. In 1943, when Pope Pius XII directed that the original languages should be used for translation, the confraternity directed that the New American Bible be done from Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.
  • Knox's Translation of the Vulgate (1950) was meant to be used alongside the Douay-Rheims, but is much freer in rendering the Latin into English. This Bible also compares the Latin tot he Greek and Hebrew. When the Latin is doubtful, it translates from the original and places the Latin translation in a footnote.

Modern Translations that Do Not Use the Vulgate

Most modern translations will examine the Vulgate to see

  1. how it rendered the text and
  2. if Jerome had the same text (text critical issues).

The first helps in cases where the Greek or Hebrew phrase appears only a few times. How other ancient translators understood the idiom can shed light on how it should be translated into English.

The second is used when the Greek or Hebrew manuscripts show differences. Looking at how other translations rendered a phrase helps determine if the phrase was original. For example, the Septuagint version of Numbers is very close to the Hebrew for most of the book (extremely close). Being so close most of the time, anytime it differs is evidence that the Hebrew manuscript used by the Septuagint translators differed from the tradition that survived to the present.

Most translations not in the list above will use the Vulgate for these purposes. For example, the New International Version relies on the original languages (which would be Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic). New English Translation, The New American Standard Bible, and New Revised Standard Bible also use the Vulgate only for text critical issues.


The Douay–Rheims Bible is a translation of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate into English made in France for the Roman Catholic Church. Various editions are freely available online in numerous places. However, many later editions are based on more on the text of King James Version than on the Vulgate. You would want to try to find an earlier edition to remain closer to the Vulgate, but this will also mean that the translation will contain difficult (read old) English. Some attempts to modernize the language while remaining faithful to the Vulgate have been made.

Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples translated the Vulgate into French in 1530 (which was also the first complete Christian bible available in the French language). I cannot find it online - I am only finding the later 1564 Geneve bible which was based on Calvin's translation from the Greek and Hebrew texts.

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