2/20/2017 3:28:01 PM
Who Crushes the Serpent's Head in Genesis 3:15?
The first prophecy in the Bible regarding Christ is in Genesis 3:15. It is an amazing text. Not only is the text ancient but it foretells Christ ending the power of Satan. Scholars call this the “protoevangelium” or “the first mention of the Gospel.”
Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
and you shall bruise him on the heel. (NASB95)
The context of this passage begins in Genesis 3:14 and ends in Genesis 3:19. In Genesis 3:14-15, God rebukes the Serpent. God declares there will be hostility between the woman and her offspring, culminating in the defeat of Satan. Adam’s sin and Eve’s deception brought sin into the world, and this resulted in God’s removal of our first parents from the Garden; God’s hedge of protection. And so began the long war between Satan and humanity. The first battle, was Cain killing Abel in Genesis 4. The last battle will be Revelation 20:7-10 when Satan is released from his 1,000-year imprisonment to fight one more battle. Satan will then deceive the nations one final time, and attempt a failed attack on the camp of the saints living and serving Christ in the beloved city, Jerusalem.
Let's take a closer look at the third phrase in Genesis 3:15 “He shall bruise you on the head” (NASB95). This passage begins with a pronoun “He.” However, if you look at various English translations, you will see there are quite a few variations on this first pronoun. Below I have included several early English translations for you to see firsthand the variety.
Genesis 3:15 (Wycliffe 1382-1395)** — 15 Y schal sette enemytees bitwixe thee and the womman, and bitwixe thi seed and hir seed; sche schal breke thin heed, and thou schalt sette aspies to hir heele.
**Translated from the Latin Vulgate, not from the original Hebrew.
Genesis 3:15 (Tyndale 1526-1534) — 15 the on the heed ad thou shalt tread hit on the hele. that seed shall tread Morover I will put hatred betwene the and the woman and betwene thy seed and hyr seed. And
Genesis 3:15 (Coverdale Bible 1535)** And I wyll put enemyte betwene the and the woman, and betwene thy sede and hir sede. The same shal treade downe thy heade, and thou shalt treade him on the hele.
**Translated from German and Latin
Genesis 3:15 (Matthews Bible / John Roger 1537) Moreover I will put hatred betwene the and the woman and betwene thy seed and hir sede. And that seed shall tread the on thy head, and thou shalt treade him on the hele.
Genesis 3:15 (Great Bible / 1539-1540) I will also put thy head, and thou shalt treade upon hys hele.the same shall treade downeenemytie between the and the woman, between thy sede and hys sede,
Genesis 3:15 (Geneva Bible / 1560) thine head, & thou shalt bruise his heele.He shal breake15 I wil also put enmitie betwene thee and the womã, & betwene thy sede & her sede.
Genesis 3:15 (Bishop’s Bible / 1568) I wyll also put enmitie betweene thee and the woman, betweene thy seede and her seede: and it shall treade downe thy head, and thou shalt treade vpon his heele.
Genesis 3:15 (Douay-Rheims / 1582-1609)** 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.
**Translated from the Latin
Genesis 3:15 (KJV / 1611) 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.
I have bolded the key phrases so you can see the pattern. If the translator had access to the original Hebrew Text of the Old Testament, they could easily see that the pronoun was 3rd person, singular, and masculine. In Hebrew and Greek, gender is grammatical and does not reference male or female, unlike English. Thus in Hebrew as well as Greek, the pronoun looks to its antecedent which is ‘seed’ and therefore, could never be translated as “she.” The Septuagint (300-132 BCE) which is a Greek translation of the Hebrew text, reflected this in their language by using a 3rd person, masculine, singular pronoun. The apparent problem arose with the Latin texts. In case you are curious, the difference between the ‘he’ and ‘she’ in Latin is the last letter. ‘Ipsa’ for ‘she’ and ‘ipse’ for ‘he.' In the 4-5th century, we can find Latin translations using ‘ipsa’ rather than ‘ipse.' Augustine (354–430) preferred this interpretation as well. Jerome completed His Latin translation of the OT around 405 AD. However, before we lay blame on Jerome for this error, evidence suggests that Jerome’s original translation followed the Hebrew text correctly. His other writings corroborate this fact (See Saint Jerome's Hebrew Questions on Genesis). Therefore, this error must be a copyist's error supported by the Catholic Church.
Having an incorrect interpretation is deadly for the one who believes the lie, but this can be remedied with proper study. However, having the Biblical text wrong is doubly dangerous for anyone reading the Biblical text will accept the error and because the text is corrupt, the Scripture’s integrity is undermined. This error in the translation "She shall crush thy head" introduced and embraced by the Catholic Church and their followers, has resulted in several false and damning beliefs. First, it places Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the Savior for Man rather than Jesus. To soften this implication, the Catholic subordinates her under Christ as a unique creation, but still cooperating in the salvation of humanity. Placing Mary in this role will unravel, confuse, and corrupt all the messianic prophecies predicting the God-Man Savior. Furthermore, there is the glaring problem that Jesus alone died on the cross for sin and not Mary. The New Testament exclusively points to the person and work of Christ for the salvation of man. Second, this error results in new false doctrines. For example, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (CCC 490-493) claims that Mary was sinless from her birth to her death. Additionally, there is the false doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary (CCC 499-501). Even more disturbing is the false teaching that Mary brings gifts of eternal salvation and receives the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix (CCC 967-970). There are certainly other Marian doctrines that could be explored to further this point.
RCC CURRENT BELIEF
Today the Douay-Rheims Bible and Jerome’s Latin Vulgate are still being reprinted with this error. The Catholic Church has at least corrected this issue in their current authorized Latin edition Nova Vulgata. However, the Catholic Church defends both Jerome’s translation and their messianic-marianic interpretation of Genesis 3:15 for their doctrines regarding Mary.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
No doubt there is more to explore, but hopefully, this will serve as a helpful primer should you wish to study the topic further. As you know so well, contending for the faith is not just proclaiming the truth but defending against error as well. When it comes to the salvation of man, there is one mediator between God and Men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).