Year B Epiphany 6: people first

I mentioned earlier this week the ecumenical lectionary group that I am blessed to attend each Tuesday morning, and my colleagues’ influence on my understanding of this Sunday’s readings.

A few days later, I am still grappling with one of the effects of hearing, instead only of reading, this week’s lectionary selection.

In my NRSV copy of the Gospel, a leper approaches Jesus: “If you choose, you can make me clean.”

I heard another read the NIV, in which a man with leprosy approaches Jesus.

I commented at the time about the difference in language, and I noted my preference for the “person-first” construction of the NIV. But,

thinking further, using a person-first translation does not restore the image of the man who comes to Jesus. Still, all that we know about him is his defining disease and his hope for healing and restoration. Unlike Naaman, who has a whole career, family, access to the king, companionship, power – oh, and a nasty skin disease – this man is, however we introduce him, a walking symbol, not a character in his own right, but a symptom of a system broken by dis-ease, disconnection, disappointment, refusing to despair.

In which case, is it in fact more appropriate to use the symbolic language of the NRSV than attempt to construct a character out of person-first language?

What do you think?

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