Translation of Scripture Debate - Windsor v. Hofstetter

Translation Debate

Round Five

Final Arguments and Responses

Barry Hofstetter


Here, in addition to providing additional support for my own arguments, I wish to show the serious deficiency of Mr. Windsor’s arguments.  Earlier, he chided me for using an ad hominem in mentioning his lack of qualification to engage this debate.  His arguments, however, bear out the validity of my point, and so to the arguments I go.

Round 3b

There were several comments by Mr. Windsor in this round that need a response. 

SW RESPONSE:  First off, don’t talk down to me - that’s insulting.  Secondly, I accept your apology for being “casual” as conceding the contradiction.  You went from “precisely the same range of meaning” to “changes the meaning.”  Clearly the word “charitoo” alone does not mean “precisely” the same thing as kecharitomene.  

My comment, that I was trying to keep it simple for non-specialists, was not meant for Mr. Windsor alone, but for anyone who has not studied the original languages of Scripture.  In the first phrase, I was using “range of meaning” as the equivalent of “semantic range,” a technical term in lexical semantics.  In the second phrase, I was using it in the more informal and popular sense of the word.  The original point, that morphemic change does not change the semantic content, still stands.  It’s the same word with the same meaning.  Let me give another example, this time from Greek (since I have already given Latin and English examples of the principle).  Charitô means “I bestow favor.”  Echaritoun, the imperfect tense, means “I was bestowing favor.”  What changes is not the idea of bestowing favor – what changes is the time frame of the bestowal.  It’s the same principle when making the verb a perfect passive participle.  The sense of “bestow favor/grace” never changes.

SW RESPONSE:  The question was a simple “yes/no” question - and you did not answer it.  You appear to be trying to impress with all sorts of quotes -OR- distract from the fact that you’re avoiding the question.  Yes or no, do agree that charitos and charitoo both come from the same Greek root of “charis” which means “grace?”  The question did not ask you about verb usage, charis is not a verb.  One of the sources I pointed you to (referenced twice) IS a lexicon and would have told you this:   

Again, the question did NOT ask you to go into deeper theological use, which you could have done AFTER you answered the question (which I would have dismissed as well as not related to the question).  So you have dodged this question.  

The answer to the question was implicit in my answer.  Of course charitoô is the same root as charis.  My response was intended to answer the underlying agenda behind the question, which involves the assumption that it therefore somehow supports the Vulgate/DRB “full of grace.”

SW RESPONSE:  I take it your answer is “no” (but again, you don’t directly answer the question!).   I also responded to your assertion that Luke means the same thing in Acts 6:8, it’s NOT the same usage!  In Acts Luke says Stephen is “full of grace and fortitude” so we must consider that some PERCENTAGE of Stephen’s “fullness” is grace while the OTHER PERCENTAGE is fortitude.  Likewise, John’s usage in 1:14 is “grace and truth,” so by USAGE we must figure a PERCENTAGE of each - not a “fullness” of one above the other.

This is simply absurd.  The phrase “full of” in such contexts means that the individual so described possesses these qualities in abundance, however many nouns are dependent on the adjective.  To say, for example, that Stephen possesses 43% grace and 57% fortitude is just silly.  It’s even sillier when at John 1:14 we are talking about Jesus, who possesses all virtues in their absolute fullness. 

In reference to the lack of manuscript support for a Gen 3:15 reading that would support the Vulgate/DRB translation, Mr. Windsor wrote:

SW RESPONSE:  So, an argument from silence.  Thank you.

This is wrong.  In textual criticism, a manuscript which does not contain a reading is considered positive evidence that the reading may not have been original to the exemplar from which the scribe copied.  Enough manuscripts without the reading seriously call the reading into question.  There are other factors to consider, but when the text is lacking from all or nearly all manuscripts, that is positive evidence that it was not original to the archetype.

And for those who cannot read Greek, let’s look at an interlinear version:

So, in summary, you have an argument from silence; a reference without comment to a Greek source which upon further examination shows us “she” is a viable translation; and a retraction.  I have nothing further to add.

SW RESPONSE:  Actually, what was “proven above” was that the LXX can be translated “he, she or it” on the word in question - thus leaving St. Jerome’s translation a viable one.

Mr. Windsor has cited a Hebrew source and three times referred to it as Greek.  He then calls the Hebrew Tanach the Greek LXX.  In fact, as already proven, the LXX reads autos, “he,” all the more remarkable since the antecedent for the pronoun, sperma, is neuter (this shows the translator is thinking of “seed” in personal terms).  Of course, his inability correctly to identify even what language is under discussion casts a pall of suspicion on everything else he has written, right?

SW RESPONSE:  First off, that last question was posted a bit hastily, yes, “heel” is not a verb, it is a noun.   The point of the question was you were denying (a negative argument) the “subject of the verb” - which would be the “heel” and thus “whose heel did or does the crushing” is the question at hand.  As we have seen above, that “who” can be “he, she or it” so for St. Jerome to translate it to “she” (or her) it is a viable translation.

It’s hard to see why Mr. Windsor continues in this same error.  “Heel” is not the subject of the verb either in Hebrew or in any translation.  It is the direct object, receiving the action of the verb.  It does not do any crushing.  Secondly, I have already responded to the “he, she or it” comment.  In context, it can only be “he” or “it.”  This is sometimes called the lexical fallacy, looking at a range of meaning in the lexicon and then choosing the one that best fits the reader’s theology, rather than the one which best fits the context.  Of course, his inability even to make the subject/object distinction and to identify correctly the subject in a sentence casts a pall of suspicion on everything else he has written, right?

Round 4, Counter-Rebuttal by Windsor

I hardly know where to begin.  Apparently Mr. Windsor thinks that logical fallacies and distortions are a proper means of debate.  I find especially problematic his tendency to classify valid arguments and evidence as irrelevant red herrings and to refuse to respond to them.  In a formally scored debate, this would weigh heavily against him.  To give him the benefit of the doubt, I believe that his ignorance of the issues contributes greatly to this problem, not any malice on his part.

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.” 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.

Unless Jerome specifically states that he “used” the Peshitta, we have no evidence that he did.  That the NT was composed entirely in Greek (including Paul’s letter to the Romans) is an accepted conclusion from scholarship, disputed usually only by those who have a vested theological or apologetic interest otherwise.  Jerome, at any rate was translating from the Greek, not any hypothetical original Aramaic.

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?

The claim was repeated by Jerome apparently with some approval.  No, it is not in the original language of Jesus and the apostles.  Eastern and Western Aramaic have certain differences, so that some change was necessary in producing the translation.  There are also variants in the manuscripts, as in all ancient documents.  Religious claims such as these have to give way to empirical evidence.

“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!

 If one goes back, and looks at the text to which I was responding, the context was the reading of “blessed are you among women.”  Mr. Windsor had stated:

Let me repeat, from Biblical times without any change or revision!” [added emphasis mine].  Mr. Hofstetter claims that no ancient text (that he is aware of) says“blessed (are you) among women.”  Evidently he was ignorant of the Peshitta text.  I would also assert that if the Peshitta text is the text of the Church of the East, and is in Aramaic, the language which Jesus and the Apostles actually spoke, then St. Jerome would surely have consulted it as well.

This calls into question Mr. Windsor’s ability to read even the English text and to follow the context of the discussion, which casts an even deeper shadow of suspicion on everything he has written.

In response to my citation of the Sahidic Coptic, Mr. Windsor states:

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.

And once again, Mr. Windsor misses the point.  The point is that an ancient translation, operating in a different context, renders the text differently.  There is ancient, pre-Protestant precedent for the translation “having found favor.”  If the reading “full of grace” in the Peshitta supports Jerome, than the Coptic militates against that support.  Of course, if Mr. Windsor will admit the “Protestant” translation is a valid one, that will be major progress on his part.

Mr. Windsor then supplies a new argument:

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.

The answer is, “not necessarily.”  A person translating Scripture 400 years from the original autographs may in fact bring certain assumptions to the text based on his current understanding of the source language which were not the same when the document was being written.  I have seen more than one example of native English speakers reading the KJV who get something wrong because they are reading 21st century definitions into the text, rather than the 17th century context.  The translator must be an expert in the language synchronic with the text he is translating.  If translation is in fact the issue, the contextual and semantic evidence is clearly against Jerome’s plena gratia.  Notice the logical fallacy here.  As I stated before, the existence of one ancient translation which is similar to the Vulgate does not automatically prove Jerome right.  It can simply mean that both the Vulgate and the Peshitta are wrong.

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.

It is an appropriate use of an ad hominem argument to point out that a person does not have the qualifications necessary to address the topic.  In this case there was an ambiguity as to what type of “doctor” Dr. Sippo’s title referred.  In fact, for the several reasons stated earlier, it is clear that he does not have the knowledge base sufficient to make the attempted arguments.

So *could* it be read “he” or “she” - yes!  I concur with that.  However, when translating from the Greek 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.

Again, Mr. Windsor confuses his Hebrew and Greek, further discrediting his comments.  Secondly, I feel like I’m talking to someone who has absolutely no sense whatsoever of the grammar and context of the text even in English.  The above paragraph really makes very little sense, and it’s my profession to make sense out of arcane texts in ancient languages.  He ignores the grammar and syntax of the passage as if it doesn’t exist.  Mr. Windsor states “would lie in wait of her (third person singular and feminine) heel.”  The Hebrew does not use the third person singular feminine suffix – it uses the third person singular masculine suffix.  It’s extremely difficult to debate or even discuss this with someone who has difficulty grasping not only the basics of the Hebrew grammar involved, but even the English.

With regard to 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.

Mr. Windsor here reveals that he knows very little about the basics of textual criticism.  However, a little research indicates that the earliest date for a Peshitta NT manuscript is 5th or 6th century (400’s or 500’s).[1]  Jerome was commissioned to produce the Vulgate in 382, 4th century, completing the OT in 405, with the earliest being the Codex Fuldensis, 546 CE.[2]  Now, to cut to the chase, how do we know that the Peshitta was not influenced by Jerome's translation?  We have no earlier manuscript to show that it wasn’t so influenced.  I point this out to show that Mr. Windsor argues as though these things are simple straightforward facts, but in reality we are dealing with ancient manuscripts without a lot of supporting and connecting evidence.  There is more than one possibility, and more than one way to explain the two texts and their relationship, and Mr. Windsor should be more cautious about arguing as though these are settled facts.

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.


I have supplied adequate reasons as to why the arguments I have introduced are valid and on topic.  To summarize, with regard to modern Catholic translations, seeing how modern scholars handle the same texts from the original languages without first going through the Vulgate demonstrates whether or not the Vulgate is a valid translation if based on the same original texts.  With regard to exegetical and contextual details, these are essential to provide a proper understanding of the text based on the original languages (Hebrew and Greek), and so crucial in evaluating any translation.

I would also like to point out that Mr. Windsor several times has declared  that whatever other translations render is fine, but is not the point, that we need to stick to the traditional Catholic translation found in the Vulgate/DRB.  Then, as a major point, he introduces the Peshitta, another translation that is not the Vulgate/DRB.  Apparently, when I do it, it’s not on point, but when he finds a translation which supports his traditional rendering, he has no problem doing the same thing.  I see that Mr. Windsor’s sense of irony is severely underdeveloped.

Throughout this debate, Mr. Windsor has consistently made errors with regard to the translation issues at stake and particularly claims from the original languages.  In his opening arguments round 1, he claimed

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). 

Now, I have already responded in detail to this, but here I want to point out that such an elementary mistake (confusing the gender of the direct object with the gender of the subject, and mis-transliterating )aQeB as AWR, which Strong’s does not have) casts a pall of suspicion on everything that Mr. Windsor writes.  To someone who has even an elementary understanding of the language, it raises huge question marks.  If one goes back and reads the entire debate, one will see several such problematic claims on the part of Mr. Windsor, all of which add up to discredit the arguments he attempts to make.

Allow me to summarize at this point.  Buried within a great deal of confusion and obfuscation we find the only two possible arguments that can be used to make the case.  These are:

1)      The possibility that Jerome was using an exemplar (original Hebrew manuscript) with a different reading than the Masoretic tradition, and…

2)      The argument from parallelism

With regard to the former, Mr. Windsor has been able to provide no hard evidence of any extant manuscript that contains a feminine form of the verb or the clear feminine pronoun HiY.  He was able to produce three ancient authorities, one of whom he had to retract because he did not support the reading, another who interprets as she but translate as he, and a third who may support the “she” reading but may also be giving an interpretative paraphrase.  This is insufficient to support the claim.  With regard to the argument from parallelism, which seems a favorite of the Catholic apologists, Mr. Windsor has failed to answer the charge that parallelism, even if present, does not always provide a one to one correspondence between the parallel elements.  He especially has failed to respond to the charge that parallelism does not override the meaning of the text provided by the vocabulary and syntax of the passages, elements which clearly contradict Jerome’s translation.

Allow me to repeat, if the issue is simply translation, and not the kind of theological apologetics used to defend the Catholic interpretation of the verse, then neither the text nor the context of the Hebrew allows the validity of the Vulgate/DRB.

Similarly with Luke 1:28.  I invite the interested reader to review the arguments presented throughout this debate.  The lexical, syntactical and contextual evidence all indicate that Jerome’s translation is in error.  At this point I won’t speculate on what gave rise to this reading (doing so would have the effect of introducing new arguments), but again, as the text stands, “having found favor” or the like is simply a better rendering than “full of grace,” which is not what the Greek means.

In fine, Mr. Windsor has failed to prove that the Vulgate/DRB renderings of these texts are valid.  They do not accurately reflect the Hebrew and Greek texts.

Word Count: 3773

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