In the original Greek of the Gospel the word used is “anthropos,” which is neither man nor woman, but “human person.”
Did Jesus say “I will make you fishers of men,” or did he actually say “I will make you fishers of persons”? The answer can be found in the original Greek of the Gospel, according to the publishers of a popular edition of the Bible.
The Jerusalem Bible is among the best-known editions of the Bible in Spanish, favored by scholars and pastors alike. Published by Desclée de Brouwer in Spanish since 1967, with the ongoing support of the French Archaeological and Biblical School of Jerusalem, it is an ongoing work of interpretation and translation of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. This already sets it apart from other editions of the Bible, that often translate directly from the Latin Vulgate.
In is most recent, fifth edition, the Jerusalem Bible changed the phrasing of Matthew 4, 19. The verse famously presents Jesus saying to his disciples “I will make you fishers of men.” The new translation reads “I will make you fishers of persons” instead.
Whereas some considered the translation to be problematic (including members of the Spanish clergy), the managing director of Desclée de Brouwer, Javier Gogeaskoetxea, explained to CNA the reasons behind the change.
“The change responds 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 [anthropos]used does not include gender. Therefore, the translation possibilities should not include it either,” he told CNA.
The Greek anthropos denotes the human person in general, not distinguishing man or woman. In fact, Greek has two separate words for both genders: andros or Andras for “man” and gyné or gynaika for “woman.” “If we were to translate ‘man’,” Gogeaskoetxea continued, “we would be lacking in fidelity to the original text because the Greek word is neither man nor woman.” Hence, “fishers of persons” is an accurate translation.
There have been some online attempts to polemicize this decision, as if the publishers of the Jerusalem Bible were including “inclusive language” in its most recent edition. “Nothing is further from reality,” Gogeaskoetxea stated. “The reason is fidelity to the original text […] Biblical translations do not conform to modern times, but rather try to be faithful to the ancient texts.”