Best known for his knowledge of elvish, the celebrated fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien was by profession a philologist with a mastery of numerous ancient languages—including biblical Hebrew. And he was also a devout Catholic. Thus it was only natural that when Father Alexander Jones began work on creating a fresh translation of Scripture from the original languages for English-speaking Catholics, he turned to the author of The Lord of the Rings. (The resulting edition, published in 1966 and known as the Jerusalem Bible, is still widely used today.) Philip Kosloski writes:
Father Jones asked Tolkien in 1957 to contribute to the Jerusalem Bible and he accepted. After seeing some of his initial work, Jones wrote to Tolkien, “In truth I should be content to send you all that remains of the Bible, with great confidence.”
Tolkien’s primary contribution, however, was [a translation of] the book of Jonah, though Jones hoped Tolkien could help with Joshua as well. Additionally, Tolkien translated a single verse from the book of Isaiah. However, Tolkien was engrossed in his other work and unable . . . to contribute anything else. He submitted his final draft of Jonah in 1961.
Tolkien didn’t know his name would appear in the printed edition, as he didn’t think his contribution was much of anything. He wrote in a letter dated 1967, “Naming me among the ‘principal collaborators’ was an undeserved courtesy on the part of the editor of the Jerusalem Bible. I was consulted on one or two points of style, and criticized some contributions of others. I was originally assigned a large amount of text to translate, but after doing some necessary preliminary work I was obliged to resign owing to pressure of other work, and only completed Jonah, one of the shortest books.”