Complutensian Polyglot Bible


Complutensian Polyglot Bible
   A six-volume, multilingual edition of both the Old and New Testaments, edited by a group of Spanish scholars working at the new University of Alcalá (in Latin, Complutum) under the patronage of the archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Francisco Ximénes de Cisneros. His financial support and political connections made it possible for the editors to consult the best Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin manuscripts then known, including materials borrowed from the Vatican Library in Rome. Three scholars from the large Spanish community of converted Jews had charge of the Hebrew text; a learned Byzantine refugee, Demetrius Ducas, and a conservative Spanish theologian, Diego López Zúñiga, were the leading editors of the Greek New Testament; and a number of humanists, including Juan de Vergara and Herman Nuñez de Toledo y Guzmán, directed the work on the ancient Greek text of the Old Testament. Although Cardinal Ximénes was eager to use the new art of printing to make a vastly improved text of the Bible available to scholars, he did not favor the philological criticism that had grown up among advanced humanist scholars, and he instructed the editors to present the traditional texts, modified only in cases where reliable ancient manuscripts made limited revisions unavoidable. One of Spain's most talented younger humanists, Elio Antonio de Nebrija, who worked on the text of the New Testament, argued against this conservative mode of editing but was overruled and eventually resigned from the project. Hence the Greek New Testament prepared for the edition was extremely conservative; the editors regularly preferred readings that backed the traditional Vulgate Latin text and that also preserved wording used by traditional scholastic theologians.
   Thus despite having access to a body of manuscript sources that far surpassed the manuscripts available to the Dutch humanist Erasmus, who was preparing a rival Greek edition of the New Testament, the Complutensian New Testament was based on outmoded philological standards. Even so, it was a remarkable achievement in biblical scholarship. Its printed text of the Greek New Testament was ready for publication and sale at the very beginning of 1514, more than two years earlier than Erasmus' more famous edition, but difficulties in securing papal approval for publication caused the distribution of the Complutensian New Testament to be held up until 1520. Hence Erasmus' more philologically sophisticated and more critical edition became the first published edition of the Greek New Testament and had a far greater long-term impact on New Testament scholarship than the Spanish publication.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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