The book of Hebrews begins not just with a thought, but with a sound, the sound of a preacher's voice. When the first phrase of Hebrews is read aloud in the original Greek, we can hear with the ear what could easily be missed with the eye alone: the richness of its tones and the rise and fall of its melody ... this has the unmistakable sound of a sermon. ...
Like the initial line of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address ... these opening words of Hebrews display the cadence, the alliteration, and the keen awareness of the musical flow of beautifully spoken language that signal a carefully and poetically crafted oral event, a style that is sustained throughout the book.
- Thomas Long, Hebrews
PolumerÔs kai polutropÔs palai ho theos lalêsas tois patrasin en tois prophêtais
Multifariam, multisque modis olim Deus loquens patribus in prophetis
God, that spak sum tyme bi prophetis in many maneres to oure fadris,
God in tyme past diversly and many wayes spake vnto the fathers by Prophetes
God in tyme past dyuersly & many wayes, spake vnto ye fathers by prophetes
At sundry times and in diuers maners God spake in the olde time to our fathers by the Prophetes
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners,
In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets;
In the past God spoke to our ancestors many times and in many ways through the prophets
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,
At many moments in the past and by many means, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets
After God spoke long ago(1) in various portions(2) and in various ways(3) to our ancestors(4) through the prophets,
1) Or “spoke formerly.”
2) Or “parts.” The idea is that God’s previous revelation came in many parts and was therefore fragmentary or partial (L&N 63.19), in comparison with the final and complete revelation contained in God’s Son. However, some interpret πολυμερῶς (polumerw") in Heb 1:1 to mean “on many different occasions” and would thus translate “many times” (L&N 67.11). This is the option followed by the NIV: “at many times and in various ways.” Finally, this word is also understood to refer to the different manners in which something may be done, and would then be translated “in many different ways” (L&N 89.81). In this last case, the two words πολυμερῶς and πολυτρόπως (polutropw") mutually reinforce one another (“in many and various ways,” NRSV).
3) These two phrases are emphasized in Greek by being placed at the beginning of the sentence and by alliteration.
4) Grk “to the fathers.”
Long ago in many ways and at many times God's prophets spoke his message to our ancestors.
Going through a long line of prophets, God has been addressing our ancestors in different ways for centuries.
In many fashions and in many fragments in former times ...