The three languages
Complutensian Polyglot Bible, vol. 1 of 4, Alcalá de Henares, 1520. Page showing Leviticus 3-4.
The Renaissance encouraged the study of texts in their original languages. Many universities in the 16th century, including Oxford and Cambridge, adopted trilingual study—Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.
The Complutensian was the first printed polyglot (mu lti-language) Bible. The project was led by Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros (1436-1517), a leader in the Spanish Inquisition.
In 15th century Spain, hostility against Jews and conversos (Jews forced to convert to Christianity) increased with the Spanish Inquisition. In 1492, just after Cisneros became Isabella’s confessor, Isabella and Ferdinand ordered all Spanish Jews to convert or be expelled. Tens of thousands were killed and many conversos were still persecuted. All three of Cisneros’ Hebrew editors were conversos.
Both the Complutensian and Bomberg’s First Rabbinic Bible were dedicated to Pope Leo X (1513-21), who was a strong supporter of Hebrew study and Renaissance humanism.