By Justin Wishart
As I have progressed in my Greek studies, I became interested in buying a Bible that will help me continue reading Greek while doing Bible study, to kill two birds with one stone. I knew that there was an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. I started looking for a Bible that contained both the Septuagint and Greek New Testament in one edition. I thought this would be a fairly common Bible, but found out that it is not. After some searching, I discovered the Apostolic Bible Polyglot. This blog will be partly a review of this unique Bible. However, as I was researching the product, I discovered a bit about the man that created this version. I was intrigued by his story. So, this post will also highlight this man and glean some lessons we can possibly learn from him.
I ordered the ebony eco-cowhide edition, which is the cheapest physical Bible offered. When the Bible arrived and I opened up the package, the quality of the construction far exceeded my expectations. It is the nicest-quality Bible I now own. It is one of those Bibles that just feel nice in your hands. The binding is not simply glued together but you can see the quality stitching. The paper edging is a nice gold which matches the lettering on the spine. There are two built-in bookmarks, which is really nice touch for this specific Bible (more on this later). The paper used is of high quality. The only quibble I have is that the print is a bit too small, but I think that was a necessary evil (more on this later). If I were to give a rating for the construction of this Bible, I would give it 5 out of 5.
However, as impressed as I was with the construction of this book, the real value is found within. The words found within any Bible is of greater value than even the finest possible construction, but for the novice Greek reader this is especially the case with this Bible. The first thing that strikes you when you open the book is that it looks very different than most Bibles. This is called an interlinear. The Greek words are centred in bold, the English equivalent word is underneath, and the AB-Strong’s number is above. I can read the Greek as best I can, but when I get stuck I can glance at the English equivalent for help.
Another plus to this book is that it has a good word study tool complete with a lexical concordance and English-Greek index at the back. This is where the AB-Strong’s numbers come in. If you would like to do any further word studies, they are all catalogued by this numbering system. This is why the double bookmark is such a nice touch. You can keep your place in the Bible while studying the index, and bookmark your place in the index while you read the Bible. It should also be clear why the font might be a little small. With all this information packed into one Bible, any increase in the font would make the Bible unwieldy, never mind more expensive. Other products that supplement this Bible are freely available or can be purchased. There are more substantial lexicons, video seminars, and a host of other resources. This is truly one of the best biblical Greek resources out there, and it is unfortunately one of the best kept secrets as well.
All this is the life’s work of Charles Van der Pool. When I was researching this product, I was surprised that Van der Pool does not have a PhD in Biblical Greek. He was just a man who wanted to know the Bible better. Creating this polyglot was not his intention, but God used the desire to know His Word better to blossom into this incredible resource for the church. I had the opportunity to interview Van der Pool, and this is part of that interview.
You have produced a unique Bible. What are some of its unique features, and what is a polyglot?
The unique thing to the ABP [Apostolic Bible Polyglot] is it is the ONLY interlinear Greek Old & New Testament translation, along with being numerically coded to other works . . . lexicons, indexes, etc. This makes the ABP open to both experts in Greek and to beginners. One who doesn’t know Greek can follow along with the English. A polyglot is basically using more than one language. In the case of the ABP it is in Greek, English and partially in Portuguese.
What do you mean by the Greek Old Testament? Isn’t the OT written in Hebrew?
We know from the writing at the time of Jesus that the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek, possibly during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (circa 250 B.C.). As many Jews had been scattered throughout the world by Nebuchadnezzar and others, and during the time of Alexander the Great the Greek language became the popular language worldwide, many Jews knew only Greek. So when the writers of the New Testament wrote to many Greek-speaking Jews, they wrote in Greek. Interestingly, while they were writing and were quoting the Old Testament, they never quoted the Hebrew writings, only the Greek, popularly called the Septuagint.
How long has it taken you to complete all this work?
I started in 1985.
That’s 30 years! Why did you dedicate so much of your life to this project?
That’s a good question and hard to answer. I didn’t start off with a dedication to achieving an agenda, but as I tell people, “I was a cast iron stove to which God opened the door and inserted the ABP pie in it, and cooked it for twenty-seven years; then He opened the door and out popped the ABP pie twenty-seven years later.” It wasn’t a dedication as much as in inward drive of the divine. I suppose one could sum it up by saying that I allowed God to use me. I couldn’t do it again.
What would you say to someone who God has placed a pie in their oven? Maybe someone out there has that inward drive of the divine to pursue a scholarly endeavour as you have, but hasn’t received a PhD or formal training. What would you say to them?
Many people misread what is a personal desire and what is the will of God. I never had a desire to pursue a scholarly endeavour. In fact I hated foreign language studies, as my memorization faculties were lacking. I also hated English grammar and didn’t know a noun from a verb when I started. But now I have developed a Greek grammar. But as it states in Isaiah 55:8, “For my plans are not as your plans.”
What struck me most about this interview was the simplicity of his answers. There wasn’t some mystical sage response, no complex theological or philosophical treatise. The answers were simple: God wanted to do something with Charles Van der Pool, and he went for the ride. The result is a truly impressive achievement from a man who had no interest and little ability in languages. This gives me great hope. As I go through school, sometimes things seem daunting, but the answer to any worry is simple: allow God to work through you while doing the best work you can, and the results will be what God wants them to be. It won’t always be easy, but I don’t need to carry around worry. Maybe God has placed a scholarly pie in your oven, maybe even something as impressive as the ABP. Yet, you may sometimes feel overwhelmed. Remember Charles Van der Pool, a layman who simply had faith in God’s plan and rolled up his sleeves and produced something that any top notched PhD would be proud of.
 This is a modified Strong’s numbering system. While James Strong catalogued all the Greek words used in the New Testament, the Septuagint uses words not used in the New Testament. Thus, the Apostolic Bible Polyglot uses its modified system to account for this.