St Peter's wife

St Peter's wife

Francis Vrijmoed

Regarding John Young's response (March AD2000) to my letter about St Peter's wife (February AD2000) I have examined seven different bibles and one biblical commentary with regard to the passage in 1 Corinthians 9:5. The following are the results.

Five Bibles (RSV, NRSV, New English Bible, Jerusalem Bible, and NIV) all translated this passage using the expression "wife", with a footnote, "Greek: woman, sister (wife?)".

The Christian Community Bible (with imprimatur from the Bishops' Conference of the Philippines) translates it as "sister" (no footnote).

The (Dutch) Canisius Bible translates "een zuster, een vrouw" (a sister, a woman) with a footnote (as translated from Dutch): "St Paul most probably hints to the practice to be accompanied on mission activities by a woman servant".

Finally, Peter F. Ellis, CSsR, in his commentary, Seven Pauline Letters, uses the word "wife".

As Mr Young correctly mentions in his letter, the Greek word used by St Paul can mean either wife or woman. But it seems that, judging from the above-mentioned examples, and contrary to Mr Young's suggestion that "the traditional understanding among Catholic commentators has been that woman is the correct translation", the translation of wife is preferred in most of the cases I looked at.

This preference is not surprising as, especially when a male is travelling alone, the company or the service of any woman other then his wife would by any standard be considered imprudent, something one would not expect of the apostles.

Finally, in the litany of Our Lady, where we start honouring her as "virgin", it begins with "Virgin most prudent". Therefore, especially in the case of St Peter, whom Paul mentions by name, could we not rather expect that his wife would have insisted that she accompany her husband rather than allow another woman to look after him?

FRANCIS VRIJMOED
Hong Kong, China

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