AbstractModel transformations are among the key concepts of model-driven engineering (MDE), and dedicated model transformation languages (MTLs) emerged with the popularity of the MDE pssaradigm about 15 to 20 years ago. MTLs claim to increase the ease of development of model transformations by abstracting from recurring transformation aspects and hiding complex semantics behind a simple and intuitive syntax. Nonetheless, MTLs are rarely adopted in practice, there is still no empirical evidence for the claim of easier development, and the argument of abstraction deserves a fresh look in the light of modern general purpose languages (GPLs) which have undergone a significant evolution in the last two decades. In this paper, we report about a study in which we compare the complexity and size of model transformations written in three different languages, namely (i) the Atlas Transformation Language (ATL), (ii) Java SE5 (2004–2009), and (iii) Java SE14 (2020); the Java transformations are derived from an ATL specification using a translation schema we developed for our study. In a nutshell, we found that some of the new features in Java SE14 compared to Java SE5 help to significantly reduce the complexity of transformations written in Java by as much as 45%. At the same time, however, the relative amount of complexity that stems from aspects that ATL can hide from the developer, which is about 40% of the total complexity, stays about the same. Furthermore we discovered that while transformation code in Java SE14 requires up to 25% less lines of code, the number of words written in both versions stays about the same. And while the written number of words stays about the same their distribution throughout the code changes significantly. Based on these results, we discuss the concrete advancements in newer Java versions. We also discuss to which extent new language advancements justify writing transformations in a general purpose language rather than a dedicated transformation language. We further indicate potential avenues for future research on the comparison of MTLs and GPLs in a model transformation context.