Translation of Scripture Debate - Windsor v. Hofstetter

Translation Debate

Round 4

Counter Rebuttal

Scott Windsor

Hofstetter writes:

Mr. Windsor has in fact completely missed the point of the contextual/exegetical analysis, which was to demonstrate that there are no contextual/linguistic  grounds for the translation as rendered by the Vulgate/DRB.  He therefore has technically not responded to the arguments presented.  Those trained in biblical studies know the importance of exegesis to translation.  Understanding the text in its context is the sine qua non of accurate translation.  Exegesis is simply clarifying what the text actually says with attention to the original language and context, both literary and historical.


I have not missed Hofstetter’s point in the least - but I have denied that it is relative to the discussion!  As I told him, exegesis is fine for a discussion of interpretation - but not for translation.  For that matter, exegesis which ignores an existing original language text becomes more like eisegesis.  We have already demonstrated that Mr. Hofstetter was ignorant of the Peshitta text - I am quite certain that St. Jerome was not.

Hofstetter continues:

Now, I’m afraid we are not “almost home.”  I have been arguing contra the Vulgate from the beginning of the debate, and including the DRB since it is a translation of the Vulgate (BTW, OL or OLV = Old Latin/Old Latin Versions in scholarship are  a technical terms for the Latin texts prior to Jerome’s revision).  I believe I have already demonstrated the grammatical and syntactical problems with regard to both texts, arguments which Mr. Windsor so far has not engaged directly.


Contrary to Mr. Hofstetter’s opinion, I have been directly engaging his arguments where they actually apply to this debate.  I am not being distracted into side-topics (red herrings) which, while they might be interesting and make for good debates on their own - they are not material for this debate.  

As for the use of “OLV” or “OL” (which I did not use), I accept what Hofstetter says here - and argue that this only furthers my argument!  The fact is there was no single “OLV” prior to St. Jerome’s work.  The Old Latin Versions which existed were portions here and there of certain Scriptures - but no single volume.  Part of St. Jerome’s project, in his own words, was to “decide which of them agree with the Greek original.” [1]  

Hofstetter continues:

Excellent call, and I have to admit that the Peshitta wasn’t even on my radar screen with regard to this.  More below, but let me point out here that it is not one of the original languages of Scripture.  The original languages are the languages of composition, Greek for the NT.  Latin, Coptic and Syriac (Eastern Aramaic, the Peshitta) are translations, and not considered “original” languages.


Not all the New Testament was written in Greek originally, and St. Jerome testifies to this too: “the work of Matthew the Apostle, who was the first to commit to writing the Gospel of Christ, and who published his work in Judæa in Hebrew characters.” [2]  We’re not discussing St. Matthew’s version nor the Greek translation of it - but it would be wrong to blanketly assert that the entire New Testament was originally written in Greek.  The fact remains that the Peshitta text existed at the time of St. Jerome’s project and it would be ludicrous to think he did not utilize it (which Hofstetter has not argued against), an official Church of the East edition, in compiling the official Latin version of the Western Church.  It also remains that the Peshitta contains the “full of grace” title which we find in St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate supporting that St. Jerome’s use of that terminology is a viable translation.

Hofstetter continues:

While Jerome makes this claim, very few modern scholars would accept it, since we have manuscripts of the Peshitta which contain variants.  The Peshitta, as noted above, is written in Eastern Aramaic (Syriac) and so is not the same as the dialect spoken in Palestine in the first century.  Only a tiny minority believe it is the original language of Scripture.  


First off, “this claim” was not made by St. Jerome, but an official of the Eastern Catholic Church.  Secondly, whether it is a “tiny majority” or not - the fact remains the text exists and is arguably not only an ancient text, but also an ancient text in the original language of Jesus and the Apostles - whether or not it is the precise dialect is immaterial.  Thirdly, who are these “modern scholars” Hofstetter speaks of, and are they all Protestants?

Hofstetter continues:

You are correct, I was unaware that the Peshitta contained this reading.  For text critical purposes, however, versions are secondary.


For purposes of being critical of St. Jerome’s translation, to ignore or just summarily dismiss the official text of the Eastern Church is critically irresponsible.  I must thank Mr. Hofstetter for his candid admission of not aware of the reading of the Peshitta here.  While it may go without saying, I’ll say it - the fact he did not know of this weakens his previous arguments and renders them suspect.

Hofstetter continues:

It is also the case that not even all manuscripts of the Vulgate contain the reading (see scanned attachment).  There is sufficient doubt with regard to the reading even in the Latin manuscript tradition.


“The reading” of primary concern here is “full of grace” - or the Latin, “gratia plena” and the text which Mr. Hofstetter provided us contains that!  Here is a photo excerpt from that text: [3]


Translated, that’s “Hail, Full of Grace, the Lord is with you.”   So I do not know how Mr. Hofstetter could have made such a statement - for it is entirely false and gives us reason to have sufficient doubt with regard to his reading of even the Latin manuscript he provided!

Hofstetter continues:

Speaking of ancient versions the Peshitta is not the only ancient one.  Sahidic Coptic is equally ancient, and renders kecharitômenê “her who found grace.”  It also does not have “blessed are you among women.”


Again, that OTHER versions may exist is NOT the point of this debate!  THIS debate is focused upon whether or not St. Jerome’s translation is a viable one.  I believe we’ve seen enough evidence to agree his translation is viable based upon what St. Jerome had available to him at that time - though I do not believe Mr. Hofstetter will agree, not yet anyway.  This is not a question round, but let me posit and ask the following.  Language evolves in small steps and at times, huge leaps - but it undoubtedly evolves.  That being said, a person translating Scripture only ~400 years from the original autographs would have a better grasp on the original text versus someone translating more than 1500 years after the fact.  There is no doubt that many of the transcripts which have come to light SINCE the 4th century are variable on the two verses we have been debating.  Again, I assert that these other translations may not be “wrong” - just “different” theologically speaking.  As has also been asserted - there is more than one way to “interpret” the passage viably, but interpretation is not the discussion of this debate - but translation.  I reassert, if there are existing translations which agree with St. Jerome which both pre-exist and exist after his day - then his translation is a viable one.

Hofstetter speaking of Dr. Sippo states:

The only way that this highly interpretive and eisegetical commentary will work is if one ignores what the actual Hebrew text says grammatically and syntactically.  


Whether or not Dr. Sippo’s work is interpretive and eisegetical is Mr. Hofstetter’s opinion, which is invalid in this debate.  He goes into more detail, so let us continue...

Dr. Sippo (a physician, not a biblical scholar [source])


Ad hominem is not necessary here.  Certainly Dr. Sippo got his doctorate in medicine, but he has been providing scholarship for many years on the topic of apologetics.  I’m sure some of his opponents beg to differ, but this debate, here and now, is not about Dr. Sippo’s person, so let us leave this red herring/ad hominem behind.  I do wish Mr. Hofstetter would resist the temptation to participate in character assassination and stick to the facts of the debate, but as he strays - I will point it out.

Hofstetter continues:

...makes some elementary mistakes in his analysis.  Gen 3:15 in the Vulgate does not use the neuter ipsum,  but the femine ipsa, so I really am unsure of his initial point.  


I agree, the Vulgate uses “ipsa.”  Which is the feminine - however, that is not Dr. Sippo’s point.  

Hofstetter continues:

He ignores the fact that the verb is third masculine singular. He ignores the fact that the pronoun his translates the masculine pronominal suffix attached to the verb.  With regard to the JPS version, this is an acceptable translation if the noun ZeRaH, seed, a grammatically masculine singular noun, is understood as a collective, which is as we have seen in earlier analysis is certainly a plausible understanding of the text.  His argument is also largely a petitio principi – if you read what he says carefully, he simply assumes the validity of the Vulgate rendering and essentially uses it as proof of his assertions.

These errors in themselves are sufficient to discredit Dr. Sippo’s analysis of the text.  Additionally, the substance of his argument is basically  the argument from parallelism, which I showed earlier is not valid here (i.e., parallelism doesn’t always work in a one to one correspondence with the items in parallel, and that parallelism is a feature of Hebrew poetry and higher rhetorical style, such as prophetic proclamation, not narrative per se).


Again, Dr. Sippo’s point is not really over the use of ipsum v. ipsa, but the facts that:

A - the serpent and B - the woman will have enmity between them.

C - his seed and D - her seed would share in that enmity.

D or B - will strike the head of A (theologically, D or B is correct).

A - the serpent will lie in wait of the heel of D or B (again, either view is theologically correct).

So *could* it be read “he” or “she” - yes!  I concur with that.  However, when translating from the Hebrew** to the Latin, keeping the genders in line, he and her would have enmity, his seed and her seed too, that he (third person singular and masculine) would lie in wait of her (third person singular and feminine) heel.  God is talking directly to the serpent, Moses records this in third person singular.  Since we’re going from the second person singular, masculine in the first part - it makes sense that we stay with the antithesis of that first part - and that it is her heel that he is lying in wait of.

Hofstetter continues:

Haydock is fine for Catholic apologetics, but highly dated when it comes to scholarship.  


Understandably, Hofstetter quotes from non-Catholic commentaries and translations - that same then must be allowed on my side.  Truth has no “date” - if Hofstetter wants to deal with Haydock’s scholarship, that would be fine - but again, such an attack is basically another red herring/ad hominem insofar as this debate is concerned.

Hofstetter continues:

In round two, I cited a commentary on Genesis with much more up-to-date information.  As Haydock does not deal with the actual details of the Hebrew text, his comments here do not support the affirmative position.  He argues essentially that non-existent Hebrew and LXX manuscripts prior to what we now have had a different reading of the text.  I have dealt with this in detail in earlier in the debate.


Well, contrary to what Mr. Hofstetter has said here - in his response he already admitted that he was not considering yet (was not aware of?) the Peshitta text - which is the Hebrew text which Haydock refers to (“the Syriac” version).  I even made a point of that in my response that Haydock refers to the Peshitta!  I led this horse to the water, but I cannot force it to drink!  Actually, in his next breath he concedes the existence of the earlier version...

Hofstetter continues:

Finding another ancient version which agrees with the Vulgate does not prove that the Vulgate is a valid translation.  It could simply mean that the same factors which caused Jerome to mistranslate were also present for the Peshitta.  


And being present in the Peshitta, an ancient text from biblical times, lends credence to the viability of the Vulgate.  What we see here is Mr. Hofstetter discounting not only the officially accepted translation of the Latin Church, but also the officially accepted translation of the Eastern Church - which I acknowledge, pre-existed St. Jerome’s Vulgate.  It would seem that Mr. Hofstetter takes almost a KJV-onlyist approach to this - if it’s not in the Masoretic Text, it’s not valid.  That being said, one could argue that the text simply means the Baltimore Orioles have no chance to with the AL East this year - and that argument would be just as valid as Hofstetter’s “it could simply mean...” argument.

Hofstetter concludes:

In your rebuttal, you have failed to address the exegetical and contextual details against your position, and have failed to substantiate the validity of the Vulgate renderings.


Well, of course I beg to differ.  We’ll have to let the readers decide that one.  I believe I have been more than adequately answering to ALL Mr. Hofstetter’s validly on-topic comments.  Yes, there have been a few of his arguments which I have dismissed as off-topic, and I have clearly stated where those arguments are and why they were dismissed.  Mr. Hofstetter does not counter my dismissal with reasons why I should not dismiss - he just repeats that I am failing to address his points.  Clearly I address most of his points, and again, where I don’t, I have stated why I have not.  



[1] St. Jerome, Preface to the Latin Vulgate: http://vulgate.net/jerome-preface-vulgate-new-testament.html
[2] ibid.
[3] Novum Testamentum Lucam, provided by Hofstetter: http://www.americancatholictruthsociety.com/articles/translation_debate/NTLLuke_1_28_gratia_plena.jpg

**Originally I mistakenly used the word “Greek” here, it should have been “Hebrew.”

Word Count: 1532 (not counting quoted words from Hofstetter)

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