Monday, October 6, 2008

“Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119.105)

In a letter dated February 8, 2008, the Reverend Dennis C. Dickerson, Ph.D., Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the American Bible Society confirmed ―via His Excellency Nikola Eterović, Archbishop of Sisak and General Secretary of the Bishops’ Synod— the offer previously made to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, to prepare and publish a special edition of the Polyglot Bible – Biblia Polyglotta.

The Context

This special edition of the multilingual Bible is intended as a gift from the American Bible Society to the Pope and to all the participants in the XII General Assembly of the Synod of Catholic Bishops, which will take place on October 5 to 26, 2008 in Vatican City. The Synod’s theme is The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. As agreed upon by the American Bible Society and the Vatican, this Polyglot Bible will feature the Old Testament in five languages: Hebrew/Aramaic, Greek, Latin, English, and Spanish; and the New Testament in four languages: Greek, Latin, English, and Spanish.

The Text

In order to accomplish this illustrious undertaking, it was necessary for the American Bible Society to acquire the publishing rights, for the various Bible versions in the languages mentioned, from the following publishing houses:

  • Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, Edited by Karl Elliger and Wilhelm Rudolph / 1977 and 1997 Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.
  • The Septuagint, Edited by Alfred Rahlfs / 2006 Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.
  • The Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, 1965, 1966 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
  • La Biblia de Jerusalén / 1998 / Editorial Desclée De Brouwer, S.A.
  • La Nova Vulgata / 1998 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
  • The Greek New Testament / 1993 Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.

This edition of the Bible is being published by Grafica da Biblia, the printing arm of the Bible Society of Brazil. It is one of the largest Bible printing plants in the world, which currently stands at eight million units annually. Since 1995, 75.4 million Bibles and Testaments. Grafica da Biblia was built with a significant investment of the American Bible Society in 1995.

The Polyglot Bible, commemorating the Bishops’ Synod, was conceived—not as an edition for mass distribution—but as an edition with texts that could be used in liturgical assemblies, and that would have academic and exegetical merit. It will be a 3,200-page deluxe, leather-bound edition of the Bible, embellished with gold and silver titles, and dedicated to Pope Benedict XVI. The final design and production of this Polyglot Bible will be approved and endorsed by the American Bible Society and the Editrice Vaticana (the publishing house of the Vatican). It will also be an edition which Pope Benedict XVI may present as a gift to heads of state and other dignitaries who visit the Vatican.

The American Bible Society

The Polyglot Bible Project complements the mission of the American Bible Society whose purpose is to make the Bible available in the most diverse parts of the world and to the greatest number of people possible. This is done in various languages and formats so that all people may experience its life-changing message.

Founded 192 years ago, the American Bible Society is the oldest and most prestigious, non-denominational organization in the United States. It is not a church, nor is it affiliated with any denomination. However, because of the Protestant origins of our country, it is understandable that through the years, the American Bible Society has been perceived as an organization which has, to a large extent, served mostly non-Catholic churches.

The American Bible Society does not engage in doctrinal discussions, and thus is free to carry out its biblical mandate ecumenically, as it seeks to share God’s Word to all believers in Christ.

Evangelization: a common task, an ecumenical commitment

According to Monsignor Eterović, while the publication of the Polyglot Bible is designed to help us “rediscover the riches of God’s Word manifested in the person of Jesus Christ—the Eternal Word Incarnate—and its perennial importance in the life of the church, in the life of the ecclesiastic communities, in the life of society in general, and in the life of the believer,” it has now become an ecumenical edition, since its texts (all having the imprimatur and the nihil obstat of the Catholic Church) originate —as is the case with the English text—from the Protestant Council of Churches. Therefore, the symbolic value and contribution that this initiative of the American Bible Society represents for ecumenism and the work of all believers in Christ: namely, to spread the Gospel throughout the world, are enormous.

The Polyglot Bible allows us to transcend our historical foundation and reach beyond our traditions and differences both in the doctrinal and liturgical realms, as well as our diverse religious expressions. It also undergirds the common bond in ecumenism between Christians and Pope Benedict XVI’s Pontificate: the centrality that the Word of God will have in our personal, ecclesial, and social histories.

As Christians, we rejoice in the production of this biblical initiative which contributes, in a significant way, to the fulfillment of our Lord’s desire: “That all . . . may be one.”

(Production details of the Polyglot Bible: