Translation of Scripture Debate - Windsor v. Hofstetter

Translation Debate

Round One

Opening Arguments

From Scott Windsor

Genesis 3:15 and Luke 1:28

"Is the traditional Catholic translation of these verses a viable translation of the Scriptures?"

This is the question that Mr. Hofstetter and I have agreed upon for this debate. Keeping this in mind, we need to focus upon the viability of the traditional Catholic translation of the Scriptures at hand. Certainly Mr. Hofstetter can come up with other translations (he has stated he will use the ESV (English Standard Version), and I expect to see even his own translation(s) of the verses we agreed to debate. I want to preface this debate by asking the reader and my opponent to stay focused upon the question and not be diverted, or allow ourselves to be diverted into debating the viability of other translations.

We need to first establish just what “the traditional Catholic translation” is. For my part I will stand upon the Old Latin Vulgate, and for English it will be the Douay-Rheims Bible. Latin is still the “official language of the Church,” and the Douay-Rheims has long been the traditionally accepted English translation - with the Confraternity Version coming about in the mid 20th century which is a revision of the Douay-Rheims into more modern English. I must add that while the Vulgate is ancient, not only in age, but also due to the fact that the translation was made during the latter part of the “patristic era” (the age of the Early Church Fathers). St. Jerome began his translation in 384 AD and completed it in 405 AD. Mr. Hofstetter himself said, “the Vulgate is itself an ancient version” (May 2, 2012 at 2:45pm). I’ll begin by looking at the DRB version of these verses:

Genesis 3:15 - “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”

Luke 1:28 - “And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”

Thesis Statement
Both of the above verses have special Marian meaning in the Catholic Faith, and perhaps this is why Mr. Hofstetter has agreed to debate these two verses (several others were offered). So it is my task to demonstrate that the traditional Catholic translation of these verses is a viable translation or transmission of God’s Word to His People, the Church. It is my goal to not only demonstrate the traditional Catholic translation is viable, but to also lessen the objection many, if not most, Protestants have regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Catholic view of her. I know, as a convert myself, that the Catholic view of the Blessed Virgin can be quite a stumbling block (if not outright offensive) for non-Catholics looking at the Catholic Faith - speaking from my own experience, it surely was. It seems fitting to start with Genesis, so I will begin there and then go to the passage from St. Luke. I will primarily use references from the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible since it is a popularly used concordance by many Protestants. For the most part, it’s not bad - but it has some points of dispute (like when we get to Luke 1:28, I will go beyond the Strong’s for part of the Greek reference). So, without further ado, let us begin.

Documentation (first verse)
“I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”

I will [ZIY = sheeth, to place] put enmities [DAI@ = ay-baw’, hostility, enmity] between thee and the woman [DY@ = ish-shaw’, woman], and thy seed [RXF = zeh’-rah, seed] and her seed [ibid], she shall crush [SEY = shoof, to bruise, crush, gape...] thy head [Y@X = roshe, head, highest part, masculine], and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel [AWR = feminine, a heel, the rear (of an army), --heel, (horse-)hoof, last, lier in wait].

Now, if we look at the King James Version (KJV) we see a difference:

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

The ESV is not much different from the KJV:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

The first part starts out the same, up to the point about his seed (the serpent) and her seed, but then we start a gender switch from “she shall crush thy head” to “it shall bruise thy head.” Next, a complete change of who shall do what to whom from “and thou (the serpent) shall lie in wait of her heel” to “and thou (the serpent) shall bruise his (not her) heel.” So therein lies the biggest difference. Readers of the KJV (Protestants) would like to see that the “it” is the seed of the woman (Mary) and “it”/”Jesus” shall bruise the head of the serpent and the serpent will bruise His (Jesus’) heel, the ESV removes all question for the Protestant reader. Readers of the DRB (Catholics) see this as the woman (Mary, who is also from the seed of Eve) shall crush (bruise works too) the head of the serpent (Satan), and the serpent shall lie in wait of her (Mary’s) heel.

Looking back at the Hebrew (from Strong’s, which is taken from the KJV) we see the word “AWR” (Strong’s H6119) is a feminine form of the word for “heel” - and therefore it makes sense that it is “her heel” that the serpent lies in wait of (and “lier in wait” is also a translation of this word). It really makes no sense, literally speaking, to change the gender here and present this as a male (Jesus) who will crush the head of the serpent (Satan). Literally speaking, it is a female who will do the crushing and it will be a female for whom the serpent (Satan) lies in wait of her heel. Going beyond the literal, yes, these things can be said of Jesus too - but this passage does not speak of a male doing it. Thus the traditional Catholic translation of this verse is not only viable - it is a better translation than those which would do all the gender swapping.

Documentation (second verse)
Moving along now to Luke 1:28:

Luke 1:28 - “And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”

In Latin that is:

“Et ingressus angelus ad eam dixit: Ave gratia plena: Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus.”

Now to mix the Greek in, again primarily using Strong’s Concordance:
“And [kai, G2532, kahee - a primary particle, having copulative force and sometimes also a cumulative force; and, also, even, so then...] the angel [aggeloj, G32, ang’-el-os, a messenger; especially an angel] being come in [eisercomai, G1525, to enter...], said unto [proj, G4314, pros, a preposition of direction; forward to...] her [autoj; G846, ow-tos’, “her”]: Hail [cairw, G5463, ...especially as a salutation (on meeting or parting)...], full of grace [Kecharitomenae, (see below)] the Lord [kurioj, G2962, God, Lord, master...] is with [meta, G3326, a primary preposition properly, denoting accompaniment...] thee [sou, G4675, of thee, thine (own), thou, thy]: blessed [eulogeō G2127, to speak well of, praise, honor] art thou [su, G4771, the person pronoun of the second person singular, thou] among [ἐν, G1722, "in," at, (up-)on, by, etc. Derivation: a primary preposition denoting (fixed) position (in place, time or state), and (by implication) instrumentality (medially or constructively)] women [γυνή, G1135, goo-nay, a woman; specially, a wife].”

Perhaps the key disagreement here is over the word “kecharitomene” - which Catholics translate to English from the Vulgate “gratia plena” as “full of grace.” Do lets look at the Greek. According to the New World Encyclopedia:

"Χαίρε, Κεχαριτωμένη", Chaire kecharitomene... The latter word, kecharitomene, is the passive voice, present perfect participle of the verb "to grace" in the feminine gender, vocative case; therefore the Greek syntax indicates that the action of the verb has been fully completed in the past, with results continuing into the future. Put another way, it means that the subject (Mary) was graced fully and completely at some time in the past, and continued in that fully graced state.

So, based upon the information presented here, one can easily see that the traditional Catholic translation is not only viable, it is quite accurate and literal to the Greek - not just the Latin. Now it can be argued that there is no distinct vocative case for the feminine noun in Greek, however the way this is phrased is in the vocative! The angel, Gabriel, greets her - “Hail, Full of Grace!” God has essentially give the Blessed Virgin a new name! The greeting catches Mary off guard and puzzles her, as we see in the very next verse “....she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.” It was a salutation, in vocative case, bestowing upon Mary this new title/name - “kecharitomene” or “Full of Grace.”

Closing Argument
Both the verses selected by Mr. Hofstetter are quite accurately and viably translated by the traditional Catholic version of the Bible into English (the DRB). We’ve seen how the Hebrew of Genesis 3:15 much better represents that it is the heel of a female which crushes the head of the serpent, and thus the traditional Catholic version here is not only viable, it is a better translation. As for Luke 1:28, again, the Greek syntax of kecharitomene indicates this is a passive voice (it’s already accomplished) of a perfect participle of “grace” in the feminine gender, thus the “grace” bestowed upon Mary perfectly precedes the Annunciation from the Angel Gabriel, leaving no room for a lack of grace - thus she was and is truly “full of grace” and therefore rightfully bears the name/title of “kecharitomene” - “Full of Grace.”

I humbly await Mr. Hofstetter’s response.


Word Count: 1726

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