She Shall Crush Your Head
By David Hughes and Rick Salbato
A Merry Christmas to Traditional Bible Scholars
"It is worse still to be ignorant of your ignorance. "
In Genesis 3:15 in the Douay Rheims English version of the Bible and all older Catholic Versions, God says to Satan,
"I will put enmities between you and the woman, and your seed and her seed: she will crush your head, and you shall lie in wait for her heel."
To understand this passage we must go to chapters 11 and 12 of John's Apocalypse. In chapter 11 John sees the end of the world and the final battle between Satan and the Church. In chapters 13 and further chapters he retrospects back to what will bring about this final battle. But in chapter 12 he retrospects back to what started the battle in the first place. In chapter 12 John sees what happened before the world was created. He saw a vision of Heaven and the test given to the angels in Heaven. This vision was of the temple of God, (11:19) a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child. What John saw was the test given to the angels. One of them said, "No! I will not accept this woman and her future child." Many followed him because he was the angel of light, Lucifer. From an angel of light he became the great red dragon (snake) and following him was 1/3 of all the angels of heaven, dividing heaven. Therefore his followers were called demons, which means "to divide".
This was the first day of creation, Genesis 1:04 "and he divided the light from the darkness" and it is the only time God did not call it "Good". In other words God did not call the dividing of light from the darkness "good", but He called all the rest of His creation good - "and God saw that it was good".
Going back again to chapter 12 of Apocalypse we find John seeing the means by which the angels were cast out of Heaven (12:07) "And there was a great battle in Heaven; Michael and his angels battled with the dragon - etc." Skipping over to (12:13) we find the great Dragon not fighting with the Son, but with the Woman. "And when the dragon saw he was cast down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had brought forth the male child." This dragon is Satan, and Satan means "adversary and one who dislikes the commandments of God". (Jerome)
Related to this theological investigation is the last sentence of chapter 12 of Apocalypse, where we find Her as Mother of all those who keep the commandments of Her Son. But we also find that the dragon wages war with us because we are Her children. (Pope Paul VI made it a doctrine that the woman of Chapter 12 is Mary).
After this vision of Heaven took place (before the world was even created), Satan wanted to find this woman who he saw as a vision in Heaven of the future and Eve looked just like that vision. However, the real Mary did not come down out of Heaven until later, which John also saw in Apocalypse 21 when he saw Mary coming down out of Heaven as the Immaculate Conception but called the "Holy City, the New Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband." Her husband being the Holy Spirit. To understand how Mary is the Heavenly Jerusalem read the four volumes of "City of God" by Mary Agreda.
The reason I feel compelled to get into this narrative of different parts of Scripture is that there is in new translations of the bible a different view of Genesis 3:15, that has some validity if you do not use correct history and logic. Saint Jerome, in writing the Latin and Greek Vulgates, took the old Testament from the Septuagint but checked the wording against the Hebrew. In Jerome's letter to Marcella XXXII, he states, "I have been comparing Aquia's version of the old Testament with the scrolls of the Hebrew, to see if from hatred of Christ and to speak frankly to a friend, I have found several variations which confirm our faith." In a letter to Pammachius on the best method of translating he said,
"How shall we deal with the Hebrew originals in which these passages and others like them are omitted, passages so numerous that to reproduce them all would require books without number. --- Yet the Septuagint has rightly kept its place in the churches, either because it is the first of all the versions in time, make before the coming of Christ or else because it has been used by the apostles."
Why would the Jews corrupt their own Scripture? Why would the Septuagint be a better translation than the Hebrew? Because in 70 AD the Romans destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem, killed all the Levite priests and their children, and burned all the Hebrew bibles. In the Second Century Jewish Elders went to Caesarea and compiled all the scrolls they could find and wrote a new version of the Hebrew. In doing it they removed 7 entire books from the bible because of the references to Christ's suffering and corrupted other books. There then remained only one version that was uncorrupted and that was the Greek Septuagint, made several hundred years before Christ by 72 Hebrew translators sent to Egypt to give to the King of Egypt a Greek version. The miracle of the translators is well known. Each went into a room and translated on his own and then all the books were compared and nothing found different in all the 72 different translations. Septuagint means "the 70".
Logic and Modern Translations of Genesis 3:15
There is indeed a valid hermeneutic dispute that can be raised about the passage from Genesis 3:15 concerning whether or not it is the woman, or her seed, that will crush the head of the serpent.
Since the time of the King James translation, Protestant scholars chose to interpret the Hebrew - "IT" shall crush thy head. In the past 50 years, most Protestant, and Catholic translations have translated the Hebrew passage as "HE". St. Jerome, who was translating the original texts for the Church, was using BOTH the ancient Hebrew, and the Greek Septuagint. In his best judgment, he chose to translate the word: "ipsa" - i.e. "SHE will crush thy head." To dismiss St. Jerome's translation as a MISTAKE - is at best, a well meaning presumption. There can be NO DOUBT that to a rational mind, it does seem that the passage could, in all fairness, be translated: HE shall crush thy head.
However, there are several reasons to deny this. The first is simply that the original Hebrew word only means: "the former" - the word implies no number and no gender -- that is WHY the older translations use the phrase: "IT" shall crush thy head. That is, perhaps, the most literal translation - if one chooses to isolate this phrase out of it's context. Using the word "it" makes it clear that there is no specific linguistic linkage to gender, which would clearly identify WHO will crush the serpents head. In all fairness, the original word COULD refer to BOTH, since the word used, simply means: "the former" - i.e. the just referred to. Since that last reference was enmity "between your seed and her seed" - it is not clear if "the former" refers to "her" or to "her seed".
It is often overlooked that, generally, women are not referred to of has having "seed" - but they are spoken of "having children". The use of the word "seed" - simply makes it clear that God is directly speaking to the serpent. It is a complete LEAP, which seems to be begging for an alternate interpretation - to translate the word as "HE" for "HE" is absolutely NOT implicit within the passage itself, because there is no gender or singularity at all implied. One must be reaching - to force the translation to read: "he" shall crush thy head - since, if one chooses to look at this phrase as "the former" it is speaking of "SEED" in the plural! The original does NOT say "he". But, the original does not CLEARLY say "she" either. It simply states "the former" - i.e. "that referred to previously".
If one want to take a purely literal approach, and to isolate the phrase out of it's context, the easiest way to translate this passage would be to say: "it" will crush thy head. But, this "it" simply does not seem appropriate, to Protestants, or to any modern! Therefore, the leap is made, to second guess the meaning of the scripture - and to disregard Jerome's interpretation - and to then change the wording to "he" - which is clearly a FORCED interpretation. Any reference to "he" is present NO WHERE in the original. After the fact - modern translator's clearly attempt to imply that it must be Christ, who fills the role as "he", who shall crush the head of the serpent. But this "he" is CLEARLY never mentioned, or even implied, in the Hebrew. The closest the Hebrew will actually permit, if one chooses to translate the passage out of context - is an ambiguous "it".
However, this modern interpretation overlooks the obvious THRUST of the original passage, which is: "I will place enmity between you and the woman." -- This much, at least is very, very clear. This is exegetically, and hermeneutically indisputable. The fact that there is another enmity established between the "off-spring of the woman, and the off-spring of the serpent - is also indisputable. So, any attempt to establish "Christ" as the one who is to "crush" the head of the serpent - is simply NOT established by this scripture - and there is no way that this determination can be made, based on linguistics alone. What IS clear - is that there is an enmity established between the woman and the serpent, and her offspring and his.
It is an equally rational explanation, to prefer what St. Jerome chose to do - which is to presume that the one specific "singular" refers to the other specific singular. I.E. "She (singular) shall crush YOUR head (singular) - and you (singular) will strike at HER (singular) heel." This translation is not only acceptable linguistically, but it simply makes more sense given the context of the passage. There is an enmity between the serpent and the woman established - and there is also a clear prophetic victor: The Woman, (not some "it").
If one chooses to dispute with St. Jerome about his interpretation of this passage, it must be acknowledged that the Hebrew does not provide a clear solution linguistically. If one DEMANDS a forced "literal" translation, to an isolated phrase, removed from context, one is not far off - to use the term "it". -- But this literal translation uses the word "it" - precisely because the "it" does not point to either the woman, or to one of her off-spring. -- "It" can only be used to designate "the former".
Saint Jerome is Right
The reason St. Jerome is right, and all modern translations are WRONG is because he clearly understood the meaning of CONTEXT of the passage. The context is that there is an enmity between the WOMAN and the SERPENT - and only ONE can rightfully be permitted to CRUSH HIS HEAD. The choices are 1) the woman, or 2) all of her combined offspring designated by the term "it". If there is anything CERTAIN, it is that the OFFSPRING is not a SINGULAR case. Only the WOMAN can be used in the singular case. Therefore, "the former" that the scripture is referring to is, as Jerome accurately translated it, is the woman.
It is MORE of of linguistic stretch to try to force the OFFSPRING of the woman to reference a "specific singular" - than it is permit "the WOMAN" to be the reference of the "specific singular".
If the Hebrew said "he" shall crush thy head, Jerome would have translated it that way - but the Hebrew CLEARLY does NOT say "he" shall crush thy head.
One must simply ask the simple question: if an enmity is established, which it clearly IS "between the woman and the serpent" - who is the prophesied victor?? The answer is the WOMAN. The enmity between the off-spring of the woman, and the off-spring of Satan, is in actuality, only a side note. To change the VICTOR of the enmity between the woman and serpent - to be the OFF SPRING of the woman, simply does not logically follow - because there is absolutely NO SINGULARITY established. The obvious is rendered: "I will place enmity between you and the woman, and between your children and her children. She shall crush thy head, and you shall strike at her heel."
To try to PROVE this absolutely, by the original Hebrew language, is simply impossible. It is equally impossible to prove that it is the OFFSPRING of the woman who will crush the head of the serpent. One thing is absolutely certain, however, SOMETHING will crush the head of the serpent. Christ, SAVED humanity by his redemption - but this is not the CRUSHING HUMILIATION of the HEAD of serpent, which is implicit in Genesis 3:15. The crushing of the head of the serpent is MORE than "rectification" of the damage caused the serpent. It is the CRUSHING HUMILIATION of the HEAD of the Serpent.
The serpent is most adequately humiliated, not by a composite of sinful, yet predestinate souls, -- nor he is he adequately humiliated by Christ - who was "immediately, straight away snatched up to heaven and seated at the right hand of God" before the serpent ever has a chance to even do battle with him! (Rev. 12:7) No -- Satan immediately goes away to "make war on the REST of "her" children." No where - is there any reference to Christ doing battle with Satan -- there is only a reference Christ being IMMEDIATELY lifted straight up to God, and placed on his throne - and then to Satan going away enraged - to make war on the REST of her children. (Rev. 12:7) Satan is never even given so much as a MOMENT to do battle with Christ - let alone is there time for Christ to crush his head - in this final Apocalyptic conclusion of the enmity first referenced in Genesis. There is NO battle staged - or fought - between Christ and Satan. Rather, the battle is immediately rendered with: "the rest of her children." So - who is the one who crushes Satan's head? - the woman - or the rest of her children??
As Knights of the Immaculate One - we need only look at the countless images of the Serpent being crushed under the feet of Mary to know who God intended to refer to in Genesis 3:15. God, in his Almighty providence has set this in stone - in hundreds of thousands, if not MILLIONS of images - that have been carved, or cast, for many, many centuries.
Before Our Lady appeared in Guadalupe, Mexico in 1531 two things were happening in the world. Martin Luther, whose real name is "Luder" which means "beast" was splitting the Church in Europe, and the Indians of Mexico were still clinging on to their Mother goddess, Tonantzin. This goddess is depicted in statues with her head as a combination of loathsome snakes and her garment as a mass of writhing serpents. Before Cortez stopped him, Montezuma would sacrifice up to 20,000 people in a single day to this goddess and other gods. These sacrifices consisted in cutting out the heart of the victims while they were still alive. In preparation for the feast of the Immaculate Conception the Franciscans taught the Indians that one of Her names was "She who crushes the serpent" as a way of showing them that She was more powerful than their serpent Goddess. When Our Lady came, She said Her name was, Coatlaxopeuh, which means "She who crushes the serpent". The bishop assumed Juan Diego was saying Guadalupe and so the other name stood the test of time. Nonetheless this is another proof of the correct translation of Genesis 3:15
Time will Test the Evidence
This question is not one to belabor, because a man convinced against his will - is of the same opinion still. The ENMITY starts with the very question of the subject at hand. A Protestant, or a well intentioned Catholic translator - can no more convince a Knight of the Immaculate against that Knight's will - than can the Knight convince the Protestant - or the well meaning Catholic translator - of the true intention of this passage. What IS certain - is that SOMEONE or SOME THING does NOT want it to be circulated - that "the woman shall crush thy head."
This is an argument best left for the end of the world, because based on the PURE LINGUISTICS of the sentence OUT OF CONTEXT - there is no clear answer.
Our opinion is that St. Jerome, and 1940 years of Catholic translations had it right. But, this is only our opinion - because we are Knights of the Immaculata. Our interpretation of this translation is demonstrative of our loyalty to our oath as Knights of the Immaculate, and to our fidelity to the intentions of St. Maximillian Kolbe.
David Hughes and Rick Salbato