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Polyglot Bibles

Bibles which print the text in several languages. One might point back for the origins, at least in intention, to the Hexapla of Origen in the third century, but from Origen to printing no further known experiments of like proportions were attempted, because of the difficulties involved in hand-copying. Origen's work did not completely disappear, and various bilingual fragments of Scripture portions also survive. In 1502 Francisco Jiménes* de Cisneros began a comprehensive edition of Scripture; his death in 1517, and the delay in obtaining papal sanction, postponed publication of his six- volumed “Complutensian Polyglot”* until 1522. Its OT presented a revised Hebrew Massoretic Text, the Lucianic version of the Greek text, and the Vulgate Latin. Its NT offered Greek and Latin. The sixth volume added dictionaries and a grammar, completing a pattern which the derivative polyglots were to follow.

From Antwerp under the patronage of Philip II* (hence Biblia Regia) and the editorship of Arias Montanus, a polyglot was printed by Christopher Plantin (8 vols., 1569-72). There were added to the OT-except for Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles-Targumim with Latin translation; to the NT, the Syriac with Latin rendering; to the helps extended, treatises of a philological and archaeological nature.

From Paris under the editorship of J. Morinus, G.M. LeJay republished an enlarged Antwerp polyglot (10 vols., 1629-45). The NT had both Syriac and Arabic versions; additional volumes contained the Samaritan Pentateuch with its Samaritan Targum, Gabriel Sionita's edition of the Peshitta, and the Arabic version of the OT-each with a Latin translation.

From London with public subscription, Brian Walton,* assisted by Thomas Hyde, edited the Biblia Sacra Polyglotta (6 vols., 1653-57), which included Ethiopic Psalms and Persian gospels, and had available for notes from collation the first uncial manuscript-that of Alexandrinus, received by James I* from Cyril Lucar*-an addition which stimulated manuscript collection and modern textual criticism. In 1699 as two supplementary volumes E. Castellus's Lexicon heptaglotton, a dictionary of Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Samaritan, Ethiopic, and Arabic, to which separate Persian and a pioneering effort at comparative Semitics were appended. Other than these four, while polyglots are numerous, only parts of Scripture have received this kind of multilanguage treatment.