Is Mary the Woman in Genesis 3?
"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.”
Pope Pius IX, in his dogmatic bull Ineffabilis Deus, says the following:
"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 . . . saying, “I will put enmities between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed” taught . . . that his most Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, was prophetically indicated; and, at the same time, the very enmity of both [Mary and her Son] against the evil one was significantly expressed."
And Pope John Paul II taught in Mulieris Dignitatem:
It is significant that [in Galatians 4:4] St. Paul does not call the Mother of Christ by her own name, “Mary,” but calls her “woman”: This coincides with the words of the Protoevangelium in the book of Genesis (cf. Gen. 3:15). She is that “woman” who is present in the central salvific event that marks the “fullness of time”: This event is realized in her and through her.
In the light of the New Testament and the Church’s tradition, Pope John Paul II affirmed:
“We know that the woman announced by [Genesis 3:15] is Mary, and in ‘her seed’ we recognize her Son, Jesus, who triumphed over Satan’s power in the Paschal mystery” (General Audience, January 24, 1996). The Holy Father thus acknowledged a long tradition, extending back to the ancient Church and confirmed repeatedly and solemnly by the Magisterium, which recognizes the active role of Mary, together with and in subordination to her Son Jesus, in our salvation.”
Is "the woman" announced in Genesis 3:15 Mary? Does this passage prophetically indicate that "the woman" is Mary? Is "her seed" Jesus, the Son of God? The purpose of the post is to answer these questions from the Bible, using scripture to interpret scripture.
Who is "the woman" in Genesis 3:15?
The first mention of this woman is found in Genesis 2:
"So, the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man and brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:21-23)
Unless Mary was fashioned from a rib taken out of Adam (Genesis 2:20), then we can reasonably conclude that "the woman" at this point in the scriptures is not Mary. This "woman" is referenced seven times in Genesis 3:1-14, the verses preceding Genesis 3:15.
The woman has a conversation with the serpent (Satan):
"Now the serpent was craftier than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree, which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5)
She took and ate fruit from the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" which the Lord God commanded Adam not to eat from (Genesis 2:16-17):
"When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate." (Genesis 3:6)
After eating from the forbidden tree, Adam and the woman realized that they were naked. They made loin coverings and hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God.
"Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden." (Genesis 3:7-8)
When Adam was confronted by the Lord God about breaking His command not to eat from the tree, Adam blamed the woman.
"Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:9-12)
When the woman was confronted by the Lord God, she blamed the serpent who deceived her.
"Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:13)
The Lord God condemns the serpent in Genesis 3:14. Up to this point we can further conclude that "the woman" is not Mary. There is nothing before Genesis 3:15 that indicates "the woman" is someone other than the woman who was fashioned from a rib taken out of Adam. We learn name of this woman:
"Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living." (Genesis 3:20)
Pope John Paul II made it very clear that the woman in Genesis 3:15 is Mary. The Roman Catholic Dogma of "The Immaculate Conception" teaches that Mary was born without the taint of original sin and that she lived a sinless life.
"All these momenta are embodied in the definition enunciated by Pius IX in his famous Bull “Ineffabilis Deus,” of December 8th, 1854: “We define that the doctrine which declares that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted to her by Almighty God, through the merits of Christ Jesus, Savior of mankind, was preserved from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore must be held firmly and constantly by all faithful Christians."
If "the woman" recorded in Genesis 3 is Mary, then Mary sinned against God and is responsible for "original sin." I don't think this will sit too well with many of my Roman Catholic family and friends.
What is meant by "her seed" in Genesis 3:15?
Pope John Paul II stated "in ‘her seed’ we recognize her Son, Jesus..." The Hebrew word for 'seed' in Genesis 3:15 is zera' which is found 229 times in 205 Old Testament verses. It is also translated as offspring, descendants, and family. The first mention of "seed" in Genesis 3:15 is the offspring of Satan. The second mention of "seed" is the offspring of Eve.
In Genesis chapter 4 we see the birth of Cain and Abel, two of the offspring of Adam and Eve.
"Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a man-child with the help of the LORD.” Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground." (Genesis 4:1-2)
The same Hebrew word for seed used in Genesis 3:15 is translated offspring in the following verse:
"Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him Seth, for, she said, “God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel, for Cain killed him." (Genesis 4:25)
This word is also translated descendants in the following verse:
"God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years." (Genesis 15:13)
We can reasonably conclude that the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15 is humanity. Eve is the "mother of all the living" (Genesis 3:20). Some would argue that this seed is in reference to redeemed humanity. Others would argue that this is humanity in general. I would argue on the side of humanity in general because Adam and Eve's sin against God resulted in the condemnation of death for all humanity:
"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come." (Romans 5:12-14)
Who are the offspring of Satan?
A case could be made that the seed or offspring of the serpent, Satan, are angels who were cast out of heaven with him (Isaiah 14:12, Luke 10:17-18, Revelation 12:9). An even better case can be made that the seed of Satan are his spiritual descendants.
“Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:43-44)
"Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil." (1st John 3:7-8)
What is meant by "enmity" in Genesis 3:15?
The word enmity means hostility between two or more parties, such as the serpent and the woman. This word is used four other times in the Old Testament (Numbers 36:21-22, Ezekiel 25:15; 35:5). A great example of its use is found in the following passage:
"If he pushed him of hatred or threw something at him lying in wait and as a result he died, or if he struck him down with his hand in enmity, and as a result he died, the one who struck him shall surely be put to death, he is a murderer; the blood avenger shall put the murderer to death when he meets him. ‘But if he pushed him suddenly without enmity, or threw something at him without lying in wait, or with any deadly object of stone, and without seeing it dropped on him so that he died, while he was not his enemy nor seeking his injury..." (Numbers 35:20-23).
The judicial sentence for striking and killing someone in enmity (hostility) is death. In the context of Genesis 3:15 God will put hostility between the woman who was deceived and the serpent who deceived her. God will also put hostility between the human offspring of the woman and the offspring of Satan. God uses the pronoun "He" - the ultimate human descendant of Eve is Jesus, the Son of God, who will defeat Satan.
"He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel."
This is the first in a long line of prophecies of a future redeemer, the promised Messiah, culminating in the virgin birth of Jesus.
Although Jesus suffered intense physical pain and suffering on the cross (bruise him on the heel), this is where Satan was defeated.
“Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die." (John 12:31-33)
Satan and his followers will eventually be thrown into the lake of fire for all eternity.
"And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever... Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:10, 14-15)
"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." (Romans 16:20)
As I stated in some of my previous blogs, it is not, nor will it ever be, my intention to attack my Roman Catholic friends and family. My hope for them is that they will examine this Roman Catholic dogma, as well as others, against what is taught in the scriptures - the 66 books of the Old and New Testament. Studying the Bible is hard work, but it is worth the effort! The following is clear from the surrounding context of Genesis 3:15:
The woman is not Mary - it is Eve who was deceived and sinned against God.
The seed of the woman is not Jesus - it is all of the human descendants of Adam and Eve.
Jesus, the Son of God, the ultimate descendent of Adam and Eve, is the enmity that defeated Satan on the cross and will cast Satan and his followers into the lake of fire for all eternity.
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth"
2nd Timothy 2:15
Unless otherwise noted, all scripture cited in this post is taken from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update.