US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Another new translation: word "immigrant" to appear in Bibles

By Elizabeth Lefebvre | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Bad news seems to flow out of Alabama left and right as the result of their harsh new immigration laws. How timely then that the Common English Bible will use the word “immigrant” in a new version, replacing what is usually translated as “stranger” or “alien.”

This translation reflects an attempt to more accurately follow the original meaning of the word in Hebrew. (Now, why does that sound so familiar? Oh, right, I do remember hearing something about these new Mass translations...) According to associate publisher Paul Franklyn, “immigrant” is the most up-to-date translation of the Hebrew word ger.

Robert Parham of points out that in verses such as Deuteronomy 10:18-19 (God "executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt") the word stranger leaves an ambiguity as to who exactly we have a moral responsibility to love. "Is it a homeless person? A person of color? A foreign student? A snow bird?" Parham asks. On the other hand, “alien” is a depersonalizing term. Franklyn points out the baggage associated with this term, as we tend to think of a frightening creature from outer space.

Will the use of this new word make us less cautious of strangers who are immigrants? Not necessarily, Franklyn says. "Most of us are by nature xenophobic. We have a fear of strangers, provided that we got here first. This phobia is not eliminated by switching from alien to immigrant in our common language. But it does help the participants in the modern political debate to think about what the Bible has to say about the ger."

Do we love the immigrants? Provide them food and clothing? Remember that in most of our family histories, we too have been immigrants? Or are we guilty of picking and choosing--or even dehumanizing--those we have a responsibility to love and assist?

Like the new Mass translations, regardless of any intent or justification, this move is sure to get people thinking about this issue.

Related reading:

Immigration crackdown leads to empty pews

New lenient policy on immigration to be implemented