From Barry Hofstetter
to my response in round one for my sources.
Some of my arguments in defense of the “Protestant” translation of these
verses have already been presented also in that response. I will not repeat those arguments in detail,
but will review them at the end.
My thesis is
simply that the translation of these verses, as found in the KJV, ESV and other
standard translations, accurately reflects the Hebrew and Greek of those
passages. I will first make a general
statement on the Vulgate/DRB. I will
then examine the more recent New American Bible and New Jerusalem
Bible translations, and finish with a quick examination of the texts from
the perspective of the original languages.
of this debate should realize that the DRB is a translation not from the
original Hebrew and Greek (and Aramaic where that applies), but a translation
of the Latin Vulgate, itself an ancient translation from the original
languages. The DRB is a faithful
translation of the Latin into English, but a translation of a translation is
suboptimal. It creates an added layer of
complexity, raising the question of whether the original translator properly
understood the text he was reading.
Secondly, the fact that the Vulgate is an ancient translation provides
yet another difficulty. Ancient
manuscripts were not printed, but hand copied, and so there are text critical
difficulties inherent in the text itself.
We also do not know precisely what Hebrew and Greek text Jerome used in
preparing his translation, which makes it practically impossible to judge the
accuracy of his translation against his originals. The Vulgate is itself part of the overall
witness to the ancient texts that were current at his time, but the scholar
must determine the readings of those texts through retroversion (back
translating). All in all, this means
simply that it is better to go the original languages in which the text was
composed, and not through an intermediary translation.
DRB and its revisions went to press, Catholic scholarship has produced two
significant 20th century translations, the New American Bible
and the New Jerusalem Bible.
These translate directly from the original languages without first going
through the Latin. How do they render
the texts in question?
put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They
will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel. [NAB]
shall put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and
hers; it will bruise your head and you will strike its heel. [NJB]
enough, not only do these translations disagree with the Vulgate/DRB, but they
disagree with each other. The NAB sees
the word translated “offspring” (lit., “seed”), ZeRaH, as a collective
plural, and so renders it in English with the pronoun “they.”
The NJB, on the other hand, sees ZeRaH as a singular, and so renders
with the English pronoun “it.” Notice
that this parallels the KJV and ESV renderings given by Mr. Windsor in his
introductory statements, although the ESV renders “he” instead of “they,”
anticipating Christ as the ultimate offspring who fulfills the
protevangelium. Recent Catholic
scholarship therefore witnesses against the Vulgate/DRB rendering of this verse
and is far closer to Protestant translations which use the original languages.
And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is
with you.” [NAB]
He went in and
said to her, 'Rejoice, you who enjoy God's favour! The Lord is with you.'
Apparently, the NAB and NJB translators were
unimpressed with the spurious types of syntactical arguments with regard to the
use of the perfect stem that Scott cited in round one of this debate. Both these translations accurately capture
the force of the Greek perfect middle/passive participle and disagree with
Another Translation Issue
Before I proceed to examining the passages directly
from the original languages, I thought I would briefly explain the “other
translation issue” of Gen 3:15 which I alluded to in my previous response.
3:15 inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem et semen tuum et semen
illius ipsa conteret caput tuum et tu insidiaberis calcaneo eius [Vulgate]
Gen 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.
issue is the translation conteret, crush, and insidiaberis, lie
in wait. It is in fact the same verb in
Hebrew, ShUP, meaning simply bruise, crush or strike. Why does Jerome render the second usage of
the verb with a completely different meaning than the first? The Septuagint does not do so, and neither
does any other translation based in the original languages, including the NAB
and NJB Catholic translations. I mention
this simply to show that Jerome’s translation is problematic and does not
reflect the original Hebrew as we have it in the Masoretic text.
Correction to Response for Round 1
round one, I made the following claim:
does have a gender determined possessive
suffix which identifies to whom an object belongs, but the author does not use
that suffix here, instead assuming that his readers will understand the
possessor from context.
This is incorrect, and I missed something
which actually strengthened my argument.
I can only plead the fact that it’s been some time since I worked
extensively in Hebrew. The possessive
suffix is actually attached to the verb, and it is the third singular masculine
suffix, and so must refer back to ZeRaH.
Therefore, the translators’ addition of the possessive pronoun reflects
something that is actually there in the Hebrew, not simply understood from
From the Original Languages…
me now giver a quick overview of the pertinent issues from the original
languages. I am also including some
exegetical commentary from published sources which are directly pertinent.
3:15 directly addresses God’s judgment given to the serpent. Although there is a change of subject in vs.
16 which focuses on God’s judgment on the woman, in vs. 15 the main attention
is given to the serpent. Of special
importance is the verb YiShUPKa, which is third masculine
singular (and has the pronominal suffix indicating “your” head), as we have it
in the critical BHS and the vast majority of manuscripts. This indicates that the subject is ZeRaH,
seed. We also note
that when the Serpent is told that he will be allowed to strike back, but not
fatally, the third person masculine possessive pronominal suffix is
attached to that verb, TiShUPeNU, indicating that it is his/its heel
that will be crushed.
“Enmity” has the
intensity of hostility experienced among nations in warfare (e.g., Ezek 25:15; 35:5) and the level of animosity that results in murder
(e.g., Num 35:21). The language of the
passage indicates a life-and-death struggle between combatants. “Crush” and
“strike” translate the same Hebrew verb šûp (AV, “bruise”) and
describe the combatants’ parallel action, but the location of the blow
distinguishes the severity and success of the attack. The impact delivered by
the offspring of the woman “at the head” is mortal, while the serpent will
deliver a blow only “at the heel.” Continuing the imagery of the snake, the
strike at the human heel is appropriate for a serpent since it slithers along
the ground, while the human foot stomps the head of the vile creature.
“Between you [serpent]” has the singular pronoun
(as elsewhere in the verse), meaning that this hostility begins with the beast
and the woman as individuals. Yet their experience is shared by their offspring
too; the serpent and woman are distinct from their offspring yet also one and
the same with them. Here we have the common case where an individual represents
and her adversary are the progenitors of a lifelong struggle that will persist
until a climactic moment when the woman’s offspring will achieve the upper
This continuum of
experience between parent and offspring is seen by the parallelism of the verse
“between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring.” Moreover, “offspring” is the rendering
of the Hebrew term for “seed” (zeraʿ), which may
refer to an individual or to a group. It is ambiguous by itself since it may be
singular, referring to a specific child (e.g., 4:25), or a singular collective indicating a plural progeny
(e.g., 12:7; Isa
41:8). Modern versions show this by
their diverse renderings, proposing singular or plural translations for the
following pronouns. “Seed” is a
resourceful term for speaking of all human history while at the same time
permitting a reference to a specific individual descendant. This explains why
the individual offspring of the woman (“he,” “his heel”) can be said to do
battle with the progenitor serpent (“your head,” “you”) in v. 15d and 15e.
In Luke 1:23, the key word is the perfect
(middle)/passive participle kecharitômenê, from
charitoô, “to show grace or favor.” The fact that is in the perfect stem shows
that the action is completed, with the consequences of that action continuing
up to the present (from the perspective of the writer). That fact that it is passive shows that the
action did not result from any action of Mary’s, but comes from another
source. Any idea of “fullness” must be
determined semantically and/or contextually and is not inherent in the meaning
of the stem.
After the greeting, Mary
is addressed as the “favored one” (κεχαριτωμένη). In this context, Mary
is the recipient of God’s grace, not a bestower of it (Fitzmyer 1981: 345;
Alford 1874: 446). She is simply the special object of God’s favor, much as
John the Baptist was a special prophet of God.
74. The Perfect of Completed Action. In its most frequent use the Perfect Indicative
represents an action as standing at the time of speaking complete. The
reference of the tense is thus double; it implies a past action and affirms an
existing result. HA. 847; G. 1250, 3.
The force of the perfect tense is simply that it
describes an event that, completed in the past (we are speaking of the perfect
indicative here), has results existing in the present time (i.e., in relation
to the time of the speaker). Or, as Zerwick puts it, the perfect tense is used
for “indicating not the past action as such but the present ‘state of affairs’
resulting from the past action.”
BDF suggest that the
perfect tense “combines in itself, so to speak, the present and the aorist in
that it denotes the continuance of completed action… .”
Chamberlain goes too far when he
suggests that the perfect sometimes is used to “describe an act that has abiding results.” The implication that
“the perfect tells you that the event
occurred and still has significant
results” goes beyond grammar and is therefore misleading. Even more misleading
is the notion, frequently found in commentaries, that the perfect tense denotes
permanent or eternal results. Such a statement is akin to saying the aorist
tense means “once-for-all.” Implications of this sort are to be drawn from
considerations that are other than grammatical in nature. One must be careful
not to read his or her theology into the syntax whenever it is convenient. 
Wallace, D. B. (1999; 2002).
Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics
Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament
(573–574). Zondervan Publishing House and Galaxie Software.