Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Catholic Misuse of Genesis 3:15

                                                                 By Keith Thompson 

The Catholic Church has exalted Mary the mother of Jesus to an extremely high status over the centuries. Misuse of the Holy Scriptures has occurred in the process. One example of distortion of Scripture to support Catholic exaltation of Mary has to do with the translation of Genesis 3:15. First let us examine the true meaning of Genesis 3:15 by looking at the translation offered by all Protestant translations. In agreement with the majority text (MT) and the Greek Septuagint Old Testament (LXX), Protestant translations will render the passage as such: 
"13Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." 14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”(1)
“He” (הוּא) in the original Hebrew is masculine. It is pronounced “hoo” and can also mean “it.” Many think it means “it” in reference to collective offspring of the woman crushing the head of the serpent. In the LXX, however, it is rendered autos “he,” indicating that the passage should be understood as a Messianic prophecy about Jesus Christ alone crushing the head. “He [Jesus] will crush the serpent's head.” 

However, Jerome (342-430) in his Latin Vulgate translation made a major error changing “it” or “he” into “she” using the feminine pronoun ipsa in the Latin. Roman Catholic scholars who accepted the Latin Vulgate then translated Genesis 3:15 in their Douay-Rheims Bible as:
"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."(2)
Instead of “he” (one of the woman’s descendants crushing the serpent as the LXX renders it), it becomes “she will crush your head.” And who is “she” for the Romanist? She is Mary of course. From this mistranslation they claim that instead of Jesus alone crushing the head of the serpent it would be Mary who would crush the head of Satan by being perfect and sinless. They use this mistranslation to justify the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception among other doctrines. The Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission explains the controversy:
The Hebrew text of Genesis 3:15 speaks about enmity between the serpent and the woman, and between the offspring of both. The personal pronoun (hu’) in the words addressed to the serpent, “He will strike at your head”, is masculine. In the Greek translation used by the early Church (LXX), however, the personal pronoun autos (he) cannot refer to the offspring … but must refer to a masculine individual who could then be the Messiah, born of a woman. The Vulgate (mis)translates the clause as ipsa … This feminine pronoun supports a reading of this passage as referring to Mary which has become traditional in the Latin Church. The Neo-Vulgate (1986), however, returns to the neuter ipsum…”(3)
Note that the Neo-Vulgate (Nova Vulgata), the revised Latin version authorized by the Vatican, corrected the error and changed it from ipsa to ipsum in the Latin. This controversy was not unknown to Roman Scholars of old. One such Romanist Bishop Alphonsus Liguori (1696 –1787) stated:
She will crush your head: some question whether this refers to Mary, and not rather to Jesus, since the Septuagint translates it, He shall crush your head. But in the Vulgate, which alone was approved by the Council of Trent, we find She.”(4)
 Conceding the argument the Catholic Encyclopedia remarks
"and I will put enmity between thee and the woman and her seed; she (he) shall crush thy head and thou shalt lie in wait for her (his) heel" (Genesis 3:15). The translation "she" of the Vulgate is interpretative; it originated after the fourth century, and cannot be defended critically. The conqueror from the seed of the woman, who should crush the serpent's head, is Christ …”(5)


1.) NIV, Genesis 3:13-15
2.) Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible, Genesis 3:15
3.) Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission, Donald Bolen, Gregory Cameron, Mary: grace and hope in Christ : the Seattle statement of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission ; the text with commentaries and study guide, [Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006], p. 33 footnote 4
4.) St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary, (adapted), New York: Catholic Book Publishing, 1981, p. 88.
5.) Catholic Encyclopedia, Immaculate Conception, Genesis 3:15 http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07674d.htm

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