Spanish Jerusalem Bible changes ‘fishers of men’ to ‘fishers of persons’
DAVID RAMOS/ACI PRENSA
By Walter Sanchez Silva
Catholic News Agency
May 18, 2022
LIMA, Peru— The Desclée de Brouwer publishing house, which publishes the Jerusalem Bible, changed the word “man” (“hombre”) to “person” (“persona”) in its new Spanish edition.
The Jerusalem Bible is among the best known publications of the Bible. It has been published in Spanish since 1967. The first edition was published in French in 1956, and was based on the original Hebrew and Greek texts, not the Latin Vulgate, as are subsequent editions in other modern languages.
The excerpt shared by several Twitter users refers to Matthew 4:19, where Christ says to his disciples: “I will make you fishers of men,” which in the new edition says, “I will make you fishers of persons.”
“It doesn’t seem right to me, but I think it has the importance that we give it. If we read Holy Scripture every day, we would have realized long ago that the Jerusalem Bible translation is not the best option,” said Fr. Antonio María Domenech Guillén, a priest of the Diocese of Cuenca.
ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister news agency, asked the managing director of the Desclée De Brouwer publishing house, Javier Gogeaskoetxea, about the change in the most recent version of the Jerusalem Bible.
“The change is due to the fact that the Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem seeks above all fidelity to the original texts. It so happens that in the original ‘Greek’ text the word used does not include gender. Therefore the translation possibilities should not include it either: person or human being,” he explained.
“If I were to put ‘man,'” he continued, “we would be lacking in fidelity to the original text because the Greek word is neither man nor woman.”
“I understand that there is an attempt to ‘polemicize’ by attributing ‘inclusive’ language to the translation. But nothing is further from reality, the reason is fidelity to the original text,” he said.
“The basic rule followed by the Jerusalem Biblical and Archaeological School is that ‘the oldest text is always the most truthful.’ If the words are now changed to be ‘gender-friendly’ it has nothing to do with the decision of the Jerusalem Biblical and Archaeological School,” he noted.
“The biblical translations don’t conform to modern times, but rather try to be faithful to the ancient texts,” the managing director of the Desclée De Brouwer publishing house concluded.
Father Jesús Silva, a Spanish priest and graduate in Patristic Theology, gave a detailed explanation on Twitter about what would be the best translation of the word ánthropos in the Greek text, first translated in the Jerusalem Bible as “men”, and now as “persons.”
“The term that translates, anthropos, refers to a ‘human being’ regardless of sex. However, the translation as ‘persons’ has its problems. To what persons was Jesus referring: human, angelic or divine? Well, in the text, thus translated, it is not excluded that Jesus is calling the disciples to evangelize the angels or God himself,” the priest said.
Fr. Silva then said that “since ‘persons’ is an ambiguous term, we will have to look for another that is not. We can then translate it as ‘human persons’ or ‘human beings.’ In turn, this translation is equivocal, since, what makes a human human?”
“Let’s put that it’s ‘a rational being’, as the RAE (Royal Academy of the Spanish Language) says. However, if intelligent aliens exist, it remains to be seen whether the term ‘human’ can be applied to them or not. As long as this is not clarified, the concept of human persons is also equivocal.”
“Perhaps the most appropriate translation,” the priest further mused, “whenever we want to avoid translating the word ánthropos as ‘man’ – could be ‘earthling’; although according to the RAE, any inhabitant of the earth is one, for which it should rather be said ‘fishers of human earthlings.'”
But as for the term “human,” Fr. Silva noted that the RAE defines it as “‘proper to man.’ That is to say, that literally speaking, what is human is what is proper to man (sic): men earthlings. But what does ‘man’ mean?
“The RAE comes to our aid again. The word ‘man’ means ‘rational animate being, male or female.’ Let’s therefore say that with the word ‘anthropos’ Jesus wanted to tell the Twelve that they would be ‘fishers of rational animated beings, male or female.'”
So then, the priest summed up, “with that circumlocution that’s so correct, to avoid misunderstandings that occur with words like ‘person,’ ‘human being’ or ‘human earthling,’ and adopting the principle of the economy of language, we could translate the word ánthropos as ‘man’, which includes all of the above.”
To conclude, Fr. Silva proposed that “in this new translation of the Bible, more adapted to our time, and guided by a principle of inclusion, as well as fidelity to the text and the intention of Jesus, let us translate the phrase in a new way as ‘I will make you fishers of men.’ You’re welcome.”
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