Appendix to Immaculate Conception
She Will Crush Your Head – Genesis 3:15
There is a variation in Biblical translation that can be recognized in 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 405 AD St. Jerome’s Vulgate translation of the Bible has been the main Bible of the Church, the Douay Rheims bible is based upon the Vulgate. St. Jerome, was translating the original texts for the Church, using both the original Hebrew text, and the Greek Septuagint. In his best judgment, he chose to translate the Hebrew word ( “זרע “ zera‛ ) as: "she will crush thy head." The first translation of the original Hebrew and Aramaic texts was into Greek and it is the Greek translation which uses ‘he’, not ‘she’.
But since the time of the King James translation (1611), Protestant scholars chose to interpret the Hebrew as "it" instead of “she” … shall crush thy head.
In the past 50 years, most Protestant, and Catholic translations have translated the Hebrew passage as "he".
However, there are several reasons to dispute the modern translation into ‘he’, as follows:
1. Literal Translation
The original Hebrew word under discussion only means: "the former" - i.e. the just referred to – in the sentence. The word actually implies no quantity and no gender - which is why the older translations use the phrase: "it" shall crush thy head. That translation is perhaps, the most literal.
And since that immediately prior reference was enmity "between your seed and her seed" - it is not clear if "the former" here refers to "her seed" or perhaps to "her", who was mentioned earlier in the same sentence
2. Plural or Singular ‘Seed’
So the object of “the former” can only be either the Woman or her seed.
If we consider “the former” as referring to the "seed" then the word used for ‘seed’ is the plural word ‘zeh’-rah’! This is same word used elsewhere in the Bible to refer to Abraham’s ‘seed’ being as numerous as the stars – the children of Abraham.
Genesis 15:5 And he brought him forth (H3318) (H853) abroad,(H2351) and said,(H559) Look (H5027) now (H4994) toward heaven,(H8064) and tell (H5608) the stars,(H3556) if (H518) thou be able (H3201) to number (H5608) them: and he said (H559) unto him, So (H3541) shall thy seed (H2233) be.(H1961)
Genesis 3:15 And I will put (H789)6 enmity (H342) between (H996) thee and the woman,(H802) and between (H996) thy seed (H2233) and her seed;(H2233) it (H1931) shall bruise (H7779) thy head,(H7218) and thou (H859) shalt bruise (H7779) his heel.(H6119) KJB+ Strong’s Bible Dictionary
(Highlighted reference numbers refer to the same word “זרע “ zera‛ (zeh'-rah) in Hebrew)
It is clear then, that the Hebrew word ‘seed’ ( “זרע “ zera‛ ) is not a singular object. Therefore, only the Woman can be used as the singular object. So “the former” which the Scripture is referring to, is the Woman – as St. Jerome translated it in the Vulgate.
It is more of a linguistic stretch to try to force the (plural) ‘seed’ of the woman to be a "specific singular" - than it is permit "the Woman" to be the "specific singular".
3. Singular Options in the Sentence
The context is that there is an enmity between the Woman and the Serpent - and later in the sentence, only a singular, not a plural entity (the Hebrew word “זרע “ zera‛ is a third person pronoun singular – he/she or it) can rightly be translated to ‘crush your head’.
Since there is no singular masculine person available in the text, the choices are 1) the Woman, or 2) all of her combined offspring designated by the term "it".
To presume that Jesus, ‘he’ is the ‘seed’ in this sentence, requires us to overlook the plural nature of the word being translated. This would try to suggest "Jesus" as the singular identity ‘he’ who is to "crush" the head of the serpent, when the word used for ‘seed’ is a plural word. This is making a ‘leap’ of translation which cannot be justified.
It is an irresistible and rational explanation, to prefer what St. Jerome chose to do - which is to presume that:
The one specific "singular" (the Woman) refers to the other specific singular (your head) 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 the mutual aggression is between those two.
4. The Enmity and the Victor
One must simply ask the 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 seed of the woman, and the seed of Satan, is in fact, only a side note. To change the victor of the enmity between the woman and serpent - to be the seed of the woman, simply does not logically follow.
The obvious translation would be: "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."
Obviously Jesus saved humanity by his Redemption and now intimacy with God both on Earth and in Heaven, is now available to us - but this is not the crushing humiliation of the head of the serpent, which is implicit in Genesis 3:15. The crushing of the head of the serpent is more than "making right” the damage caused the Serpent and is a different kind of action. Paul says in Colossians 2:15 : "Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it."
The Serpent is not humiliated by Jesus - who in the account of the battle of the End Times, was immediately "taken up to God and to his throne” before the Serpent/ Dragon ever has a chance to even do battle with him! (Rev. 12:5) No - Satan immediately goes away to "make war on the rest of her children." These are the children of the Woman. Nowhere - is there any reference to Jesus doing battle with Satan --Satan is never even given so much as a moment to do battle directly with Jesus .
Instead, the battle is immediately begun with: "the rest of her children."
So - who is the one who crushes Satan's head? - The only singular object that the Scripture could refer to is the Woman.
It seems strange that all the modern translations have dropped the ‘she’ of the long established Vulgate translation and used ‘it’ or ‘he’, when:
- ‘he’ seems to be an inaccurate translation of the original Hebrew; and
- it’ places the meaning of the sentence in poor context?
5 Church History and Sacred Tradition
Pope Pius IX in the Apostolic Constitution “Ineffabilis Deus” which defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 referred to the Scripture:
"I will put enmity between you and the woman,
between your seed (offspring) and hers;
She will crush your head while you strike at her heel."
After quoting the above verse from Genesis, the Holy Father elaborated on this text as follows:
"The Fathers and writers of the Church, well versed in the heavenly scriptures . . . These ecclesiastical writers in quoting the words by which at the beginning of the world God announced his merciful remedies prepared for the regeneration of mankind -- words by which he crushed the audacity of the deceitful serpent and wondrously raised up the hope of our race, saying, "I will put enmities between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed" taught that by this divine prophecy the merciful Redeemer of mankind, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, was clearly foretold; that His most Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, was prophetically indicated; and, at the same time, the very enmity of Both against the evil one was significantly expressed. Hence, just as Christ, the Mediator between God and man, assumed human nature, erased the handwriting of the decree that stood against us, and fastened it triumphantly to the Cross, so the most holy Virgin, united with Him in a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with Him and through Him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot.taught that by this divine prophecy the merciful Redeemer of mankind, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, was clearly foretold; that His most Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, was prophetically indicated; and, at the same time, the very enmity of Both against the evil one was significantly expressed. Hence, just as Christ, the Mediator between God and man, assumed human nature, erased the handwriting of the decree that stood against us, and fastened it triumphantly to the Cross, so the most holy Virgin, united with Him in a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with Him and through Him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot.”(Emphasis added)
It would appear that more than 1,600 years of Catholic translations were correct and it is modernist influences that have changed things in the last 50 years - inaccurately it would appear?
This explanation is based closely on the excellent article by David Hughes and Rick Salbato: ‘She Shall Crush Your Head. http://www.unitypublishing.com/SheWillCrush.htm