Polyglot Bibles

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Bibles containing the text in several languages, usually in parallel columns, for the purpose of comparison. The term "polygot" is taken from the Greek words, πολύ (many, several) and γλ[symbol omitted]σσα (tongue, language). The derivative from better-known Latin words would be "multilingual." Similarly formed words are "triglot," "hexaglot," "heptaglot," used to designate Bibles in three, six, or seven languages, respectively.

Nature . Strictly speaking, the term polyglot is applied only to a Bible (1) that contains the whole biblical text of the Old and New Testament, according to the author's accepted canon; (2) that at least in its greater part is printed synoptically, i.e., in parallel columns, so that the reader has under his eyes the simultaneous reproduction of the same passage in all the different languages without turning a pagefacing pages often being used for this purpose; (3) that contains the original language of each book and its oldest versions. Only a few polyglots fulfill these conditions adequately.

In a wider sense, the term is used when the original text and its ancient versions are reproduced only in part, or when modern translations are used, but hardly when the versions are not printed synoptically.

Purpose . The aim of a polyglot is to facilitate an immediate comparison between the different renderings for the purpose of establishing the genuine text and its interpretation. For various reasons, the era of such Bibles seems to be past, not because they have ceased to be very useful, but because the expenses and the herculean labor they demand are preferably spent on other kinds of equally useful and deeper scientific work, more readily condensed into smaller volumes.

Great Polyglots . The following points must be understood: (1) There is a considerable variety in the presentation of the various texts when dealing with the OT or the NT, or when dealing with the protocanonical or deuterocanonical books or passages. (2) Each polyglot uses its own manuscript sources, by which the individual text must be evaluated. Extensive studies have been published on this subject (Dictionnaire de la Bible 5:513529). But sometimes the author of a later polyglot merely reproduces the text of an earlier one. (3) Of the major polyglots, only the fourth (Walton) was not published under Catholic auspices; the others were published with the approbation of the ecclesiastical authorities, which, in one case, was only reluctantly granted. (4) No single person is exclusively responsible for any of the major editions. Both the material and the scientific endeavors were shared and distributed among a number of men. Only the names of the most important are listed in the table. The patrons financed and favored and sometimes even initiated the enterprise.

The Complutensis was important for the fact that it was the first Catholic printing of the Hebrew, the Septuagint, and the NT Greek text. The Antwerpiensis was an improvement because of the larger number of languages and the magnificence of its printing. The Parisiensis was ill-fated from the beginning; it had no chance to compete with the Londinensis, which was and remains, as a whole, the best.

The most recent so-called polyglot is the Biblia Polyglotta Matritensia, published in Madrid by the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas and the Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos. In 1957 the Prooemium and the Psalterium Visigothicum-Mozarabicum were published. The Psalterium S. Hieronymi ex hebraica veritate appeared in 1962. The Targum Palaestinense in Pentateuchum has been announced. All these volumes are critical editions. The whole ambitious plan covers the entire field of the major polyglots, and so far it has been carried out in a very competent way by the foremost Spanish biblical scholars. However, it should not, strictly speaking, be called a polyglot, since each text is edited in a separate volume.

Bibliography: e. mangenot, Dictionnaire de la Bible, ed. f. virouroux, 5 v. (Paris 18951912) 5:513529. f. j. delitzsch, Studien zur Entstehungsgeschichte der Polyglottenbibel des Kard. Ximenes, 3 v. (Leipzig 1871, 1878, 1886). b. hall, "Biblical Scholarship: Editions and Commentaries," The Cambridge History of the Bible, ed. s. greenslade (Cambridge, Eng. 1963) 5063. m. revilla rico, La políglota de Alcalá (Madrid 1917). d. ramos frechilla, "La políglota de Arias Montano," Revista Española de Estudios Biblicos 3 (1928) 2754.

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