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Is it he, she, they or we who crush the serpent’s head? (Gen 3:15)

Virgin Mary and Eve Crayon & pencil drawing by Sr. Grace Remington, OCSO © 2005, Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey.


I have a blog post that receives many visits around Christmas time. It features this amazing image of Mary consoling Eve. On my website, but even more so on social media, I’ve received criticism that the picture isn’t “biblical.”

This picture is a work of art that depicts concepts of redemption and hope, and even power, and I think it does this wonderfully well and with integrity, especially when we realise that the focus is on Mary’s belly. It’s all about the baby Mary is carrying.

The main criticism I’ve heard about the picture is that Mary is the one who is crushing the snake’s head. But is this depiction of Mary as head-crusher really faulty? Just who is it that will strike or crush the serpent’s head?

They, Israel, will strike . . .

I’ve recently started using the Common English Bible (CEB) and I was surprised to read its version of Genesis 3:15. In the CEB, God says to the snake, “I will put contempt between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers. They will strike your head, but you will strike at their heels.” (Italics added.)[1]


“They” makes sense when we realise that the story of Adam and Eve is not primarily the story about the first humans, or about the only humans, God created.[2] Rather, it is the story of the couple who were the first people in an ancestral line that would include Israel.

The Bible, particularly the Hebrew Bible, is all about Israel, and Adam and Eve are the beginning of Israel’s story. Peter Enns and Jared Byas go further and state, “The Adam story is a story of Israel in miniature, a preview of coming attractions.”[3] The remainder of scripture enlarges on Genesis 3:15ff and is about the hostility between the children of Israel (the offspring of Eve) and the various enemies of God’s people (the offspring of the snake).

The two factions will be continually at war and attack, or “strike”, at each other. The same verbal root is used in Genesis 3:15 in regards to the assault on both the head and the heel, indicating that the offspring of Eve and the offspring of the snake are similarly intent on destroying the other.[4]

He, Jesus, will strike . . .

Instead of “they,” most English translations have “he” at the beginning of Genesis 3:15b: “He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” Many Christians have been taught that this “he” is Jesus who will deliver a fatal wound to the devil’s “head” despite receiving a wound on his “heel” during his crucifixion. This idea has been given the theological name proto evangelium, derived from two Greek words that mean “first” and “gospel.” Many Christians regard God’s words in Genesis 3:15b as the first proclamation of the gospel of our saviour and deliverer, Jesus.[5]

The Bible tells us that Jesus came into this world as the offspring of a woman (Gal. 4:4) in order to destroy the works of the devil (the snake?) (1 John 3:8b).[6] The writer of Hebrews puts it like this:

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he also shared the same things in the same way. He did this to destroy the one who holds the power over death—the devil—by dying. Hebrews 2:14 (CEB)

The Hebrew word translated as “offspring” or “seed” (zera) in Genesis 3:15 is a collective noun and is grammatically masculine. Because it is a collective noun, zera “typically takes singular pronouns standing in its place. Therefore when the text says that he will crush your head, grammar cannot determine whether this is a reference to the corporate seed or one representative from among the descendants.”[7] Furthermore, “he” may or may not correspond with the actual gender of the woman’s corporate seed or representative; “he” simply “agrees” with the masculine gender of zera.

In Greek, the word for seed (sperma) is also a collective noun, but it is grammatically neuter. Pronouns agreeing with sperma must also be neuter. Nevertheless, the Septuagint (LXX), the ancient Greek version of the Old Testament, has a masculine singular pronoun (autos) in Genesis 3:15b, rather than a grammatically correct neuter pronoun; it thus gives the sense of “he.”  So perhaps “he” is the actual sense meant by the author of Genesis 3:15b.

Oddly, the verbs in the LXX version do not have an obvious meaning of either bruise, crush, or strike. Rather, the verbs in the last two phrases mean watch, guard, or keep (in the future tense.) I’m not sure what is meant by: “He will watch your head, you will watch his heel.” Perhaps “lie in wait,” with the sense of always being ready to attack, is the meaning here.[8]

She, a woman, will crush . . .

There is still another possible translation of Genesis 3:15b. Despite the Hebrew text having a masculine pronoun and a masculine verb (= “he will strike”), and despite the Greek having a masculine pronoun, the Douay-Rheims Bible and the Jerusalem Bible translate from the Latin Vulgate which has ipsa (she): “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” (DRB, italics added).[9]

Since the snake and the woman are the main figures being spoken about in Genesis 3:15, the translation or interpretation of “she” is not far-fetched, especially as God tells the snake that the woman will be his enemy.[10] Furthermore, most understand that the words spoken to the woman in the following verse, Genesis 3:16, potentially apply, not just to Eve, but to Eve’s daughters and not to her sons. So perhaps the words in Genesis 3:15 likewise may apply especially to Eve’s daughters, or to one daughter in particular.

In the immediate context, the woman in Genesis 3:15 is Eve, yet many Roman Catholics and some other Christians believe that “she” refers prophetically to Mary the mother of Jesus. They believe that Mary, as the “new-Eve” and mother of Jesus, will crush and defeat the devil through her role as Theotokos. (See, for example, Tertullian, On the Flesh of Christ, 17.)

Most Christians believe that Genesis 3:15 foretells the defeat of the devil, but whether this defeat will be achieved through a female or male descendant of Eve, or through her corporate offspring, is not spelled out in Genesis 3:15.[11] Interestingly, a few translations leave the question of the actual gender of the “seed” unresolved. The KJV and ESV have, “It will bruise …” The NET Bible has “Her offspring will attack your head …”

We, the church, will crush Satan under our feet

In his letter to the Romans, Paul alludes to Genesis 3:15. He tells the Christians in Rome: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom. 16:20). It is God who ultimately brings victory over the enemies of his people and puts an end to strife. Yet, as children of God and as agents of Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit, we all can play a part in bringing about shalom.

God is using us and our feet to trample down the devil—feet with shoes that are “ready to spread the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15).

As Christians, we believe Jesus has struck the fatal blow. We also believe that, as his church, we have been commissioned to continue Jesus’ ministry of bringing hope and healing to the world while the devil is in his death throes. My hope this Christmas is that Eve’s redeemed daughters and sons will rise up and be at the forefront of defeating evil, cruelty, and injustice, and will help bring shalom to our families, to our communities, and to our nations.


[1] The English translation of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) by the Jerusalem Publishing Society has: “they shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise their heel.”

[2] The story of Adam and Eve may not be the story about the very first humans, or the only humans, God created, but the story of the couple who were placed in Eden and who were the first people in an ancestral line that would include Israel.
To some, the idea may be new that God created human beings other than Adam and Eve. The biblical text shows us, however, that the couple’s oldest son Cain was aware of humans other than those of his immediate family. He was worried they would attack him when God drove him away from his farmland (Gen. 4:13–15). God acknowledged the existence of these other people and gave Cain a mark that would keep him safe from them.
Cain then went to live in a land called Nod (Gen. 4:15). “Nod” is closely related to the Hebrew word translated as “nomad” in Genesis 4:12 and 14, and refers to wilderness inhabited by nomads. Cain may have found his wife there among the nomads (Gen. 4:16–17). He later built a city called Enoch. Who were the inhabitants of this city? Were they only Cain’s descendants or did they include people who were unrelated to him?

[3] Peter Enns and Jared Byas, Genesis for Normal People: A Guide to the Most Controversial, Misunderstood and Abused Book of the Bible (Englewood, CO: Patheos Press, 2012), Kindle location 494.
The authors also draw this parallel: “Ádam was created by God and exiled from paradise for disobeying the command. Israel [beginning with Abraham] was created by God and exiled from Canaan for disobeying the Law of Moses.” Kindle location 517.
John Sailhammer writes that God’s words in Genesis 3:15 are “to be read as programmatic and foundational for the establishment of the plot and the characterization of the remainder of the book [of Genesis].” “Genesis”, The Expositors Bible Vol. 2, (ed.) Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 56.

[4] The same verbal root (shuph) is used for both Hebrew verbs in Genesis 3:15b that are variously translated as crush, bruise, wound or strike (in the future tense).

[5] The earliest, clearest evidence of the proto evangelium interpretation occurs in Irenaeus’ second-century work Against Heresies 5.21.1 (circa 180 CE). Irenaeus quoted Genesis 3:15 and plainly identified the woman as Mary and the seed as Jesus. This interpretation quickly became a common interpretation among Christian theologians.
Justin Martyr, writing earlier in around 160 CE, however, had previously compared Mary to Eve and stated, “And by [Mary] has [Jesus] been born, to whom we have proved so many Scriptures refer, and by whom God destroys both the serpent and those angels and men who are like him …” (Dialogue with Trypho, 100).
Hundreds of years later, in January 1546 in his last sermon at Wittenberg, Martin Luther stated, “Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the holy Mother of God rather not to be honoured? This is the woman who crushed the Serpent’s head.” (Source)
John Walton observes, however, that “there has never been unanimity … [and] Calvin was more inclined to see in the seed the corporate body [church] of Christ.” Walton, Genesis (NIV Application Commentary; Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan, 2001), 233-234.
Interestingly, the Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan (AKA Jerusalem Targum) of Genesis 3:15 contains a messianic prophecy that indicates there will be an antidote to the snake’s strike in the days of the Messiah.

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between the seed of thy son, and the seed of her sons; and it shall be when the sons of the woman keep the commandments of the law, they will be prepared to smite thee upon thy head; but when they forsake the commandments of the law, thou wilt be ready to wound them in their heel. Nevertheless for them there shall be a medicine, but for thee there will be no medicine; and they shall make a remedy for the heel in the days of the King Meshiha. (Source: Sefaria)

The date of this targum (Aramaic translation) is uncertain but it was not written before the fourth century CE.

[6] In Revelation 12:9, the snake is identified as “the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.” In Genesis 3:1, however, the snake is described as a wild animal made by God. Nevertheless, it is very smart, can talk, and is deceptive.

[7] Walton, Genesis, 225.

[8] The Onkelos Targum of Genesis 3:15 somewhat reflects the LXX.

I will place enmity between you and the woman, and between your descendants and her descendants. He will remember what you did to him in the beginning and you will watch for him until the end. (Source: OU Torah)

The Onkelos Targum, an ancient Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Torah, is believed to have been originally produced in Israel in the early second century CE but later edited in Babylon in the fourth or fifth centuries. It is the official Babylonian, or eastern, targum of the Torah.

[9] The Nova Vulgata, a revised Latin translation authorised by the Vatican, has ipsum (neuter) instead of ipsa (feminine). Ipsum grammatically “agrees” with the Latin word for “seed” (semen) which is neuter. Nevertheless, Augustine, Ambrose, Gregory the Great, and some later Roman Catholic scholars believe that “she” is the correct understanding and “she” refers to Mary the mother of Jesus. The Old Latin translations of Genesis 3:15 that predate Jerome’s Vulgate have the masculine ipse (“he”).

[10] Philo acknowledges the masculine language in the LXX but nevertheless believes “he” refers to the woman:

And the expression, ‘He shall watch thy head, and thou shalt watch his heel’ is, as to its language, a barbarism, but, as to the meaning which is conveyed by it, a correct expression. Why so? It ought to be expressed with respect to the woman: but the woman is not he, but she. What, then, are we to say?

Philo then gives a convoluted explanation as to why he thinks the woman is referred to as “he.” On the Creation. Allegorical Interpretation of Genesis 2 and 3, LXVII (188)

[11] John Walton expresses doubt that the devil’s defeat is in view.

Given the repetition of the verb and the potentially mortal nature of both attacks, it becomes difficult to understand the verse as suggesting an eventual outcome to the struggle. Instead, both sides are exchanging potentially mortal blows of equal threat to the part of the body most vulnerable to their attack. Walton, Genesis, 226.

© Margaret Mowczko 2016
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Image Credit

Virgin Mary and Eve, crayon & pencil drawing by Sr. Grace Remington, OCSO © 2005, Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey. Used with permission from the artist. Prints and cards of this drawing can be purchased online at the Monastery Candy store, here.

Further Reading

John Meade, assistant professor of Old Testament at Phoenix Seminary, has two interesting articles on the “Christmassy” verses of Luke 2:14 and Isaiah 7:14:
Peace on Earth: The Text and Message of Luke 2:14 for Christmas Time
The Ancient Versions on Isaiah 7.14

Explore more

The Virgin Mary Consoles Eve
Jael, Mary, and Jesus’ Crucifixion
The Power of God’s Grace
Peace on Earth
A Thrill of Hope: Jesus’ First and Second Advents

34 thoughts on “Is it he, she, they or we who crush the serpent’s head? (Gen 3:15)

  1. Wow! Incredibly beautiful writing – congrats.

  2. Thank you for doing the hard work of digging into these questions and enlarging our understanding of God’s kingdom workers! This post encourages and inspires not just women, but all God’s people to do good on the earth. Our efforts make a difference as we follow the lead of Jesus, who came “to destroy the devil’s work.”

    1. They do make a difference! God uses our prayers, our actions, and our written and spoken words when we follow Jesus’ lead. Bring on the kingdom workers and the kingdom!

  3. Great article.

    The New English Translation of the Septuagint (http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition) translates Gen. 3:15 as,
    “and I will put enmity between you and between the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; he will watch your head, and you will watch his heel.”

    1. Thanks for the full translation, Dave.
      And note the Onkelos Targum in the footnotes.

  4. Yet another example of the fact that not only are these ancient foreign languages, but they are written in the context of ancient foreign cultures. Thanks for helping me see even more clearly the need to be open to different ways of looking at the text in order to get at the right understanding for me in my language and culture.

    Well done, Marg.

    1. Thanks, Tim.

      Foreign cultures indeed! I’m very thankful for the wonderful work of John Walton and others who have explored the cultures of the Ancient Near East to help us see what the original writers were thinking.

      I’m fairly convinced by John Walton’s conclusion that Genesis 3:15 is about a continuing hostile struggle with no end in sight.

      Despite some pretty big hints in the Hebrew Bible, it’s not until we hit the New Testament that we see that the God of peace, through Jesus, is the one who ends the struggle. Yet as recipients of God’s peace (e.g., Eph. 2:13-14), we can act as agents of his shalom.

  5. A few people have expressed concern about the idea in footnote 2, that God may have created other people, other than Adam and Eve. They are concerned because the idea of other people jeopardises aspects of their theology of salvation. Here are a few quick points of some of my responses to their concerns.

    ~ Sometimes our theology gets in the way of biblical narratives. Ideally, the narratives should be understood on their own terms.

    ~ Genesis 5:4 does say that Adam had more children than just Cain (who was banished), Abel (who was murdered), and Seth (who carried on the godly line), but the other people mentioned in Genesis 4:14ff are not identified as relatives, and Cain is scared of them. Also, the other people don’t seem to have been living with or near Adam and Eve.

    ~ “God so loved the world ….”(John 3:16) and Jesus is the saviour of the world (John 4:42). These truths remain whether God created other humans or not.

    ~ Jesus is the one and only saviour of Jews and Gentiles, everyone (Eph. 2:13-14). All the redeemed have been grafted into Israel, and form a new Israel (Rom. 11:17ff; Gal. 6:16). Through faith, anyone can become a descendant of Abraham (Gal. 3:29).

    ~ The Adam and Eve and Serpent story in Genesis 3 is a microcosm of the story of Israel. Jesus, Israel’s Messiah, is an important part of Israel’s story. By virtue of Jesus, all humans, regardless of their ancestry, can join in and become part of the next chapter of this story.

    ~ If the idea that God may have created other people is still a concern, it may be a comfort to realise that the biblical record of the flood indicates that these other people were wiped out. (Although, the ancestry of Noah’s daughters-in-law is unclear.)

    ~ I have an article about Paul’s use of Adam as a Messianic type in Romans 5 here.

    I personally cannot see that the biblical salvation story, and Paul’s teaching on it, is jeopardised by the idea that God created other people. Also, I am not insisting that the people in Genesis 4:14ff must be understood as non-relatives of Cain, but it sure sounds that way.

    1. ” and Cain is scared of them.”

      Cain is scared specifically because he killed his brother, not because they are strangers he knows nothing about.

      1. Perhaps, but I’m not sure that people in other communities and other lands would have known what Cain did. I think Cain is scared because he knows, from first-hand experience, how horrible murder is. He murdered his own brother. It would be even easier to murder a stranger.

  6. As a Christian, I initially thought Gen. 3.15b spoke of a natural hazard similar to the “sweat of the brow” and “in pain you will bear” judgments. It was the reoccurring motifs in the rest of the bible which pointed to the this thematic statement as metaphorical. In this ‘judgment address’ the Lord speaks to this entity behind the animal in a different way than to the humans.
    As to the similar nature or action of the verb in 3.15b, both speak terminally to the actors (a bite of a serpent was usually fatal as is a crushed head). Even though the verb is identical, the translation should reflect what snakes do (bite, pierce), while feet ‘crush’. The end result is stated first (judgment on the serpent), so it is not chronological but logical order of address.
    Some folks see both judgments as simultaneous (Jesus’ death crushed the serpent) but Heb. 9.28 says it is a separate event.

    1. Hi Alex,

      I love the wording of your comment, especially, “In this ‘judgment address’ the Lord speaks to this entity behind the animal in a different way than to the humans.” I don’t quite follow your meaning in the last sentence, though.

      1. Hi Marg,
        What I meant is the address seems metaphorical to the serpent while to the humans the language is normal and direct. I have not developed this thought however and is more of a ‘working hypothesis’.

        1. Thanks for the clarification, Alex.

  7. The bible is about the dichotomy of the flesh vs the spirit. ‘I will put ENMITY between your seed and her seed. Just as Moses ‘lifted up the SERPENT in the wilderness, so was the SON of MAN (flesh, serpent) lifted up in Judea. ‘The flesh counts for nothing; it is the spirit that gives life.’ Jn 6:63. This dichotomy is plainly seen in the two trees, two seeds, two mountains, two women, two cities. One was of the flesh and one of the spirit.

    The old covenant with the nation of Israel was external, seen, temporary, of the flesh (serpent). The New is internal, unseen, eternal, of the spirit (Messiah’s spirit dwelling with us, the new temple).

    The old covenant nation of Israel worshipped the creation more than the Creator. They worshipped manmade idols of ‘wood and stone:’ stone temple, stone tablets, wooden altar, wooden ark, cherubim, etc. All of which were UNLAWFUL images of things in heaven, earth and sea.

    Peter was ‘ha satan,’ and Judas was ‘devil.’ The Hebrew word for ha satan means ‘Adversary or Accuser.’ The law accused every last person on the earth as it was meant to do. It was a schoolmaster that revealed sin and one’s need of a Savior. ‘The law brings WRATH.’ The Israelites would not LISTEN to God’s voice and demanded a mediator so God gave them a legislator, Moses, and he gave them ‘laws they could not keep’ (Ezekiel chapter 20) so that by refusing to hear his voice speaking through the Messiah, the law would be their death knell, as images were forbidden. They were objects of God’s wrath.

    We should not call anyone ‘Rabbi, Father, Teacher, Preacher, Pastor, Reverend, etc. for Jesus said not to, ‘..for you are all brothers and all have the same Teacher.’ Matt 23:8-10. We should not follow the same path the Israelites did and not listen to his voice and follow another for the new covenant makes us all equal in God’s sight. Anything that elevates, divides, excludes was of the old covenant.

    We have a new and better one. New priesthood, new law, new name, new wine, new song, new city, new Jerusalem = new creation in Christ Jesus. From external, seen, temporary, fleshly to internal, unseen, eternal, spiritual.

    Let us all grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the honor and glory, praise and worship, power and strength for all eternity.

    1. I agree with some of this, Anna, but not all of it.

      It is true that “the flesh,” when used as a metaphor for the sinful or selfish nature, is opposed to the Spirit. But it would be a mistake to think that our actual, physical flesh or body is opposed to the Spirit. I’m not sure if you think that, but I just want to clarify the point.

      We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and we are inseparably body and spirit, both now and in the future when we will have a body like Jesus’ resurrection body (Phil. 3:20-21). To separate body and spirit, and regard the body as evil is a belief that entered the church through Platonism, not through Jesus. Again, I’m not sure if you think that, but I want to make this point.

      I also don’t think we can make a distinction between external and internal. I know the KJV says “the kingdom of God is within you,” but it should be translated as “the kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:21b). Also, “you” is plural” in this verse. The kingdom of God is among us as a group of followers of Messiah Jesus!

      Right now the kingdom of heaven (i.e. the kingdom of God) is both visible and invisible, but I don’t think it is internal as opposed to external. Rather, God wants us to experience the reign of Messiah Jesus in community as well as individually.

      There is somewhat of a dichotomy between the Old Covenant(s) and the New Covenant, but I don’t think there is a dichotomy between body and spirit/soul, between external and internal, or between visible and invisible. The real dichotomy is death and life.

      In other respects, I think we are on the same page. We indeed have a new and better Covenant, a new inclusive priesthood, a new law of love, and we are a new creation with the hope of a new, restored earth (2 Cor. 5:16-18; Rom. 8:20-25).

    2. Marg astutely picked me up on another thread for using an either/or. It was a lapse, which I try to avoid.

      Chesterton said, “Heresy was truth run amok”. What does this mean?

      A theologian once said to me (concerning heresies) that “People are often right in what they assert, and wrong in what they deny.” Thus most heresies take a truth, and vastly emphasise it to the point of contradicting another truth. This is the false (mind-of-the-flesh) dichotomy of either-or. The mind dislikes a paradox.

      For example:
      either God is three, or God is one
      either Christ is fully human, or fully divine

      So the early centuries of Catholic Christianity faced a veritable barrage of such heresies. It used Councils and Creeds to authoritatively preserve the paradoxical both/and of supernatural truths (always Mysteries) Such as “The Trinity” or the “Hypostatic Union”.

      At the Reformation, the earthbound, relentless, logic-of-the-flesh reasserted itself with a new list of either/ors:

      either Faith or Works
      either Bible or Tradition
      either God’s Soverignity or Free Will
      either Worship in Spirit or Worship with your body
      either Eucharistic Meal or Sacrifice
      either Priesthood of all believers or Ministerial Priesthood

      Again Catholicism and Orthodoxy preserved the both/and that are firm as far as they go, but point to truths and paradoxes beyond final rational resolution–revealed truths about (but not exhaustive of) supernatural mysteries.

      God is not bound by the simple dichotomies of scholars.

      1. “God is not bound by the simple dichotomies of scholars.”

  8. Although the Douay Rheims rendition of Genesis 3:15 is likely a mistake (“I will put enmities between thee [the serpent] and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: SHE shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for HER heel.”…..the startling thing is, it seems to have been subsequently prefigured, & fulfilled, that way! And many Catholics & Orthodox (ie maybe “most Christians”) believe Mary (New Eve) is still part of this drama.

    Where is Mary as she stands under The Cross? She stands on “Golgotha” …..Aramaic for “Skull” (John & Mark both bother to tell us this)
    And this fulfillment is prefigured several times in the OT where a Jewish woman destroys the evil one by “crushing” his head.
    (1)Jael hammers a tent-peg through Sisera’s skull and saves her people (Judges 4:17-22)
    (2)A woman saves the people by dropping a millstone on the head of King Abimelech, breaking king his skull. (Judges 9:45-54)
    (3)A wise woman from the city (unnamed) convinced Joab not to destroy Abel Beth-Maacah, because the people did not want Sheba hiding there. She told the people of the city to kill Sheba, and his head was thrown over the wall to Joab. (II Samuel 20:15-22)
    (4)Judith saves the people by beheading king Holofernes (Judith 13:2-10)
    (5)Esther saves Israel from extermination by her intercession with the king.
    Haman is hung but scripture says “he brought it upon his own head” (Esther 9:24-25)

    Mary is clearly seen as The New Eve in The Early Fathers. https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/media/articles/mary-as-the-new-eve-st-irenaeus/

    So Jesus last act on the cross (in John), “Behold thy mother”, was cosmic more than domestic.
    Notice two things
    (1)Jesus calls his mother “woman” &
    (2) He says “Behold (HERE IS) your mother (Son)”. A statement of fact; a reality; not a request-to be “like” a mother/son

    Jesus calls Mary “Woman”……because that was Eve’s name before she sinned.
    She was “Mother of all the living” & The Church Fathers saw Mary as The New Eve.
    The first Eve listened to a fallen angel (Satan) in Eden; bringing The Fall.
    The New Eve (Mary) listened to God’s angel at The Annunciation, bringing Redemption.

    So now the New Eve (Mary) stands under the Tree of Life (cross) watching (with) The Divine Fruit ( the fruit of her womb).
    She knows “how good this fruit is” but she lets her fruit…..remain on the tree!
    And a “sword pierces her heart” as prophesised (Luke 2:35)
    And This obedience reverses Eve’s disobedience.
    She watches as her Adam (“Flesh of my flesh” reversed) suffers; and she suffers with her baby.
    New Adam & New Eve both suffer in obedience; the picture is complete.
    The fall is reversed & undone!
    And it is Mary’s “Yes” at the Annuciation, & her instigation of His mission at Cana, (Where Jesus first calls her “Woman” ), that ultimately bring The Divine Fruit back to its place on The Tree (the cross).
    So Jesus’ last act on the cross in John, is to say “Behold thy mother”. A New Eve for a New Adam, mother of (a now redeemed) mankind. “Woman”!
    God having sacrificed Himself, revokes His restriction, so that we are now actually called to eat of the flesh of this Divine Fruit ……….in His Eucharist (See John 6)
    So Mary is called “woman” by Jesus, at the beginning of his mission and at the end.
    At the beginning; (Cana) she pleads for her people (“They have no wine”)…..Gebirah/Esther/New-Eve
    At the end; she accepts her people as her children. “Behold (i.e. Here is) your mother”

    1. Thanks for this, harlen.

    2. This may be a good example of confirmation bias Harlen. The focus is always on Christ, from start to finish. Jesus says, the OT speaks of Him. Paul used the OT to point people to Jesus. Mary is a humble servant who in faith accepts the Angels pronouncement of what WILL happen. The Angel does not ask her a question, and she does not say “yes,” just like in previous visits by Angels and their pronouncements like with Zechariah and the name John; Like Sarah and Abraham. Jesus was being a kind and faithful son to think of his mother and see that she was taken care of, nothing more. His brothers were not yet believers. And finally, Jesus, the only one who could, crushes the head of the serpent, the enemy of all mankind.

      1. Mary’s words to the angel Gabriel in Luke 1:38, “May it happen to me as you have said” is an affirmative response and is effectively a “yes.”

  9. I think the “he” (in “he shall bruise you on the head”) refers to the sperma… who is Christ. The head/heel configuration reminds me of Jesus’ statement about those who would stumble upon the stone vs. those who are crushed by it (ah, there is possibly that word again too). Christ would be Crucified, one could say bitten on the heel, figuratively, because the Resurrection would nevertheless take place. But it is the devil’s head which is truly on the line.

  10. But the definitive fulfillment/denouement of this protoevangelium…….in Rev 12, clearly depicts the battle is between “The Woman” and ” the great dragon…. that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan”

    1. Actually, I think a full reading of Revelation tells us of quite an extensive battle with an array of forces, and the Leader/Victor who rides on a white horse. And the woman is with child, whom the dragon is after, and She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with rod of iron” … “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.” This not detract from the role of Mary, but it is clearly a war with her offspring. We are all in the battle, but Christ is the ultimate witness.

  11. Interpreting figures in Revelations can be “both/and” not “either/or”. One meaning does not preclude others in layer after layer.
    There is a recurrent theme throughout the OT….. where the children of Israel are under dire threat, and yet are saved by the intercession of a daughter of Zion, or by her direct action to crush the head of the evil one.
    It is a repeating “type”. The heroic daughter of Zion, who, though “only a feeble woman”, is the one who saves all the people of Israel by slaying “the evil one” …..usually by smashing his head. They also show God’s predference for “power in weakness”.

    Jael/Sisera; Jael hammers a tent peg through Sisera’s skull
    Judith/Holofernes; Judith cuts of Holofernes head after tricking him seductively.
    The woman of Thebez mortally wounds Abimelech with a millstone on the head
    They all echo this triumph of a Daughter of Zion over the HEAD of the evil one.)
    So also Jewish Queen Esther saves her people by intercession with her King (Xerxes of Persia). They are threatened with genocide by Naman. But because of Esther’s queenly-intercession (with Xerxes), Naman instead is hung ( head not actuually smashed?)
    These stories all repeat & rehearse the theme that prefigures & rehearses the apocalyptic denouement announced in Gen. 3:14-15
    The final “crushing of the true serpent’s head” began with Mary’s fiat at The Annunciation, but its definitive fulfilment is still unfolding, & many Catholics/Orthodox believe Mary still plays a cosmic role as Jesus’s human “helpmate” ( “Co-Redemptrix”….co-operator with redemption ) (As new Eve to new Adam).
    If “the Woman” figures in all these “rehearsal-victories” it seems right that she will figure in the final, definitive showdown.

  12. Thanks for sharing this comprehensive perspective. Holy Spirit led me to connect 1 Cor 3 “…If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him…” to the curse on the serpent. I’m still digging into what the 1 Cor 3 reference means- but I wonder if there’s any connection to satans role in the garden of eden or gasemene. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Justin, That’s an interesting connection.

      I think when Paul refers to those who might destroy the temple of God, he is speaking about certain Corinthians who are causing divisions in the church. Factionalism is his main concern in the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians.

      1 Corinthians 1:10-12: Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction. For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters, by members of Chloe’s people, that there is rivalry among you. What I am saying is this: One of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.”
      See also 1 Cor. 3:1-9 and 4:1-21.

      There was also discrimination from the powerful and educated (“wise”) against the poor and uneducated (1 Cor. 1:17-2:15). See also 1 Cor. 3:18-23.

      Paul didn’t want the church, the temple of God, to be destroyed by divisions and factions.

  13. From an article in Catholic Answers:

    “…the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament that was commonly used in the early Church, specified the gender of the one crushing the serpent’s head as being male and thus the Woman’s Seed.
    “When Jerome did his translation of Scripture into Latin—the translation known today as the Vulgate—he followed the Septuagint’s ‘he/his’ reading… Eventually, the ‘she/her’ reading found its way into the Vulgate. This probably happened either due to a copyist error or to a scribe trying to harmonize Jerome’s text with the other [i.e., the ‘she/he’] tradition. Once in the Vulgate, the reading could influence other Catholic translations, such as the Douay-Rheims, [which] was originally based on the [‘she/he’ version of the] Vulgate…”


    1. Thanks, Dave.

  14. […] Judith, who beheaded the Assyrian general Holofernes, and Queen Tomyris of the Massagetai, who placed the severed head of Cyrus in a vessel filled with blood (Herodotus 1.214.1), are presented along with Jael, who hammered a tent peg through Sisera’s skull. The three women are connected by their gory acts of violence on the heads of three powerful enemies. These women, according to “Mirror,” prefigured Mary who is the person who crushes the serpent’s head, the serpent being the devil (cf. Gen. 3:15). […]

  15. Marg, thank you for your insightful article about this fascinating verse of Scripture.

    You might also enjoy this “Mary and Eve” poem published last year, inspired by this same illustration: https://www.ekstasismagazine.com/poetry/2022/mary-and-eve

    1. Thank you for sharing your poem, Michael. Is there a recording of it being spoken aloud somewhere?

  16. […] Eve was the first woman created in Eden. In Genesis 3:1ff, she is seemingly targeted by the serpent in the Garden who successfully persuades her to eat the forbidden fruit. She then shares the fruit with Adam who was with her. By eating the forbidden fruit, Eve and Adam each disobeyed God’s explicit command in Genesis 2:16–17. This act of disobedience had catastrophic consequences. […]

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