Much as I am grateful to be able to see the text of the Bible in multiple languages at one time on a computer, sometimes you just want to curl up with a good, printed edition of a 6-language polyglot.
Fredrick J. Long and T. Michael W. Halcomb have begun such a series, with the recent publishing of Matthew and Mark in Hebrew, Latin, Greek, English, German, and French. It’s obvious that an English-speaking Bible reader would want access to biblical texts in Greek and Hebrew and Latin. German and French, as major research languages for biblical and theological studies, complete the languages of this almost-500-page polyglot.
It’s a pretty sweet work, and an awesome way to practice multiple languages at once. Here’s what it looks like:
The layout of the polyglot is clean and easy to follow. It would not be all that difficult to read through all of Matthew and/or Mark in a single language, if one so desired. The fonts are quite legible, although the Hebrew font for Mark differs from the Hebrew font for Matthew. (Also, the vowels are not properly centered under the Hebrew consonants in Mark. This doesn’t make reading it impossible, but I found it distracting.)
There is no critical apparatus, but this is no problem–Long and Halcomb intend simply to provide multiple texts for reading. (Text-critical notes on six languages would make this volume unwieldy, indeed!) The versions used are largely ones in the public domain. The Greek text, for example, is the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine edition. I have a Greek reader’s Bible I used to use with this same edition. At first I worried that I wasn’t using the academic version of the NA28, but after using that reader’s Bible for a few weeks, I realized it really didn’t matter, if the goal was just to get better at reading Greek. So, too, here: not having the NA28 text included is no loss.
The English translation in Matthew is an authors’ revision of the 1901 American Standard Version (ASV). In Mark the authors use their own translation. They aim to be “fairly literal” in translating the Greek, I’ve never really agreed with such translations’ taking the Greek’s historical present, for example, and keeping it in the present tense in English.
For example, Mark 10:35 begins, “And they come near to him…,” which follows a Greek present participle, but then the two verses later in English has “they said to them” (my emphasis). Though this translates a Greek aorist in the expected way, I would have smoothed out the tenses for the purposes of readability in English translation–even while seeking to be close to the Greek text. Even somewhat literal translations of Greek ought to put its historical present into English past tense, in my opinion. But this perhaps just amounts to a difference in translation philosophy. And a benefit of the authors’ translating Mark this way is you can easily tell, if your Greek parsing is rusty, which Greek verbs are present and which are aorist, since Greek historical present is rendered as present in English.
Those concerns aside, this modern-day “Hexapla” is hard to beat as a way of learning (and keeping active) multiple languages at once. A resource like this would be essential for someone preparing for a Ph.D. program in biblical studies or theology. Pastors, such as yours truly, who want to keep their Greek and Hebrew alive can do so with just this single book.
GlossaHouse offers a wide selection of creative resources for language learning and retention. Check out their site here to see the Hexapla and more.