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Mulier oder femina

Augustinus im Streit um die richtige Bibelübersetzung

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image of Vigiliae Christianae

In his Sermones Augustine is often obliged to ward off misunderstandings which might arise from differences between standard Latin and the colloquial language of his listeners. This is why he opposes their wish to replace mulier with femina in the scriptures. He explains the matter as follows: it is only in popular speech that mulier means a married woman, whereas in the Bible women of any age—including the Virgin Mary—are called mulieres. Femina is a word which in Old Latin inspires reverence through its use in sacral contexts and which was preferred by poets from Augustan times onwards. Thus it is regarded as more elevated than the commoner mulier. Nevertheless, because mulier, unlike femina, agrees with Hebrew išah and Greek γυνη in being used only of human beings (though applicable to women of all ages and conditions), it remains the most appropriate Latin translation.

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