I use BibleHub.com which provides Greek and Hebrew presumably original texts. I like the Douay-Rheims Bible (DRB) because, on casual observation, it seems closer usually to the original. That is, it does not add verbiage to the translation to try to enhance and clarify.

But! People's names in DRB are usually different from King James's Version (KJV). And I prefer the names in KJV because they're the ones I remember. For example, Nebuchadnezzar, who would be recognized out of context by almost everybody, is Nabuchodonosor in DRB; Jehoiakim is Joakim in DRB. It's difficult enough reconciling people because their names already have multiple transliterations (Jehoiachin, Joachin, Joiachin) without having to deal with this diversity between the two bible versions (Jeconiah).

Example texts:

And the sons of Josiah were, the firstborn Johanan, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum. (1 Chron. 3:15, KJV)

And the sons of Josias were, the firstborn Johanan, the second Joakim, the third Sedecias, the fourth Sellum. (1 Chron. 3:15, DRB)

Why the difference?

3 Answers 3


Names present an interesting dilemma for translators. Do you:

  1. Translate the literal meaning? (e.g. Cephas -> Petros)
  2. Transliterate the pronunciation? (e.g. Yeshua)
  3. If the person goes by different names in different languages--common in the Roman Empire--do you use their commonly known name in another language? (e.g. Levi -> Matthew)
  4. Use a variant of a name that has been translated twice? (or more) (e.g. Messiah vs. Christ)
  5. Or some hybrid among these options?

Option 4 above is particularly noteworthy in a comparison between the KJV & the DRB. Most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and at least the vast majority of the New Testament texts were originally written in Greek, but the DRB relied heavily upon the Latin Vulgate, which made it, in many places, a translation of a translation.

The Old Testament names in the KJV exhibit an interesting provenance as well. They were recorded in the Tanakh in Hebrew, translated into Greek when quoted in 1st-century Christian texts, and then translated from Greek into English by the KJV translators. This is why in English the name of a prophet (e.g. Isaiah, Esaias) is sometimes different in the Old Testament versus the New. One text was translated from Hebrew to English, another was translated from Hebrew to Greek to English, and influenced by other languages as well.


Common names are more consistent than uncommon names

"David" is an example of a name that has been in wide circulation for 3,000 (or more) years. Most languages with Judeo-Christian influence have a common name for "David"; translators do not need to transliterate or develop their own translation, they can just use the existing, common name. As a result, the name David has a rather consistent spelling in English Bibles.

Other names are not widely used (when was the last time you met a person named Habakkuk?) and so a language may not have an existing, well-known version of it. There is not a single set of translation policies to dictate which of the options above a translator should use. If there's a way this name is used in speech (i.e. people have been preaching in a language before the book was actually translated into the language), the translators are likely to just spell phonetically the way people say the name. But even transliterations are approximations and will vary from place to place.

Even then, some of it just boils down to taste. When speaking Spanish and referring to my American friend Thomas, do I call him "Thomas" or "Tomás"? Honestly, I've done both.


Language development

Additionally, as already noted by Michael16, languages change over time, and spelling, pronunciation, and even meaning of words will be different from generation to generation (though the variation is much more evident when comparing across several centuries). Wycliffe's translations of Biblical texts into Middle English, in the 14th century, make very difficult reading for speakers of modern English.

Both the DRB & KJV have been through multiple revisions since their original publication in the 16th & 17th centuries, respectively. A Bible translation written into 23rd century English a few hundred years from now, would doubtless include major variations in wording, spelling, and pronunciation from a modern English Bible today.

In some cases, the original pronunciation of a word has been lost (this is particularly common in ancient languages, like Hebrew, that were written without vocalization), and so one scholar's opinion on how to pronounce & transliterate a name will differ from another's.



Preference for KJV names, pronunciations, and even verbiage is common, because the KJV has had such an enormous impact on the English language. Many words & phrases in the KJV have entered common speech, and are still used even though they would be seldom employed otherwise.

Even when other translators differ in opinion with the KJV translators on the best way to render a name from one language into another (and again, there's no clear, hard and fast rule here), the way the names were rendered in an extraordinarily influential text, like the KJV, is likely to remain in circulation for many years to come.

  • 1
    Great answer! Very interesting and particularly informative. +1 :)
    – Rajesh
    Commented May 29, 2022 at 16:48

This question is likely to be closed but let me offer a few helpful comments by way of some examples.

First recall that the DRB is a translation of a translation and so there are two opportunities to get things confused!

Personal names in Bible times were far from standardized. How should we translate the name of Paul's companion, Silas. Should it be -

  • Σίλας = Silas as per Acts 15:22, 27, etc, or
  • Σιλουανός = Silouanos (literally) or, Silvanus, or, Silvanos, or, Silovanos, Silovanus, or Siluvanus ... ? See 2 Cor 1:1, 19, 1 Thess 1:1, 1 Peter 5:12.

The name of Peter is even messier. Should it be:

  • Σίμων = Simon (the Greek sounds very different from the English here), or perhaps, Simmown (to get closer to the Greek pronunciation) or Simonem as per the DRB, or Shimeon (Aramaic), or שִׁמְעוֹן = Shimon, or better Shim-one as per the original Hebrew?
  • Πέτρος = Petros (transliterated), or Petrus (as per Latin), or Peter (English), Pedro (Spanish), Pietro (Italian), Pierre (French), etc?
  • Κηφᾶς = Kephas, or Kefas, or, Cephas, etc.

In the case of Nebuchadnezzar, the spelling of this name is occurs in different ways in the Bible - should we standardize it to one spelling. The same is true of many of the kings of Judah such as Uzziah, Jehoiachim, etc. Many of these names are different in the NT from the OT and many had more than one name.


That's because at that time English language, particularly spellings were just being standardized after the invention of the Printing Press. The bibles before or around the early times must differ in spellings; see a BBC documentary on the history of English, Adventures of English. The Geneva bible has Iesus and Coverdale has Iesu for Jesus. Even the translations at the end of the 19th century, Darby and YLT have Timotheus for Timothy. The DRB version is actually from the Latin Vulgate, not directly from the original Greek and Hebrew. I think everyone starting on the study about the Bible versions, this series of articles by Daniel Wallace is a must.

I would recommend to use the NHEB, WEB or the ESV for a good accurate version. These are the modern, more accurate editions of the Authorized version/KJV; and the KJV itself was basically derived from Tyndale.

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