Protevangelium

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In Christian theology, the Protevangelium is God's statement to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden about the future relationship between the Serpent and Christ, the son of Mary as having a prophetic and Messianic fulfilment.

"And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." (Genesis 3:15, KJV)

Strictly speaking, the protevengelium refers to the last part of Genesis 3:15, "it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel." According to H.C Leupold, this passage uses a zeugma in the word "bruise", which may be translated "it shall crush thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel."[1]

Because of the grave nature of the context, the fall of man, this passage describes more than just a man stepping on a snake's head. In Romans 16:20, there is perhaps the clearest reference to the Protevangelium in the New Testament, "And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen." Here the seed of the woman is identified as "the God of peace" and yet the Church is identified as the feet that will bruise Satan's head.[2] From the masculine singular Hebrew pronoun in Genesis 3:15, we see that the seed of the woman is a man, and yet in Roman's 16:20 he is called the God of peace, which identifies him as the Lord Jesus Christ.

The reference to the seed of the woman as Christ is believed to relate to the Virgin birth of the Messiah, as well as the Hypostatic union of the Divine nature with the Human nature of Christ.[3]

Old Testament scholar Derek Kidner describes the Protevangelium as "the first glimmer of the gospel."[4] Several of the early Church fathers, such as Justin Martyr (160 AD) and Irenaeus (180 AD) regarded this verse "as the Protoevangelium, the first messianic prophecy in the Old Testament."[5]

It must be noted that the interpretation of this passage as the Protevangelium is mostly limited to conservative or traditional theologians. Liberal or modernist theologians usually interpret Genesis as myth or allegory, and therefore would not see the gospel in Genesis 3:15. H.C Leupold, a conservative, in his commentary on the book of Genesis, quotes one of the liberal theologians of his day, Skinner, as saying "it is doubtful if the passage can be regarded in any sense a Protevangel."[6]

The Bruising of the Serpent's Head[edit]

The reference to the bruising of the serpent's head refers to a number of biblical topics. Primarily, it speaks of the defeat of Satan, both spiritually and eschatologically. The defeat of Satan, when spoken of together with Christ's work, usually begins with the crucifixion. At the cross, Satan's power over mankind is undone, and so in a spiritual sense, he is defeated. Leupold says "But at the same time a crushed head spells utter defeat."[7]

In Eschatology, the study of the end times, Satan's defeat comes when he is cast into the lake of fire. "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." (Revelation 20:10 KJV)

The Bruising of the Seed's Heel[edit]

The bruising of the heel of the seed of the woman is almost universally taken to mean the crucifixion of Christ. Louis Berkhof says, "The death of Christ, who is in a preeminent sense the seed of the woman, will mean the defeat of Satan."[8]

Popular culture[edit]

There is a direct reference to the Protevangelium in the opening moments of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, where the character of Jesus, while praying in a garden, stomps on the head of a snake.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Exposition of Genesis, H.C Leupold D.D, Online Bible edition, Gen 3:15
  2. ^ Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, Genesis 3:14, 15, E-Sword edition.
  3. ^ Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Eerdman's 1996, page 294
  4. ^ Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary, (IVP, 1967), p. 70.
  5. ^ Gordon J. Wenham, WBC: Genesis 1-15, (Thomas Nelson, 1987), pp. 80-81.
  6. ^ H.C Leupold, Exposition on Genesis, Genesis 3:15, Online Bible edition
  7. ^ Exposition of Genesis, H.C Leupold D.D, Online Bible edition, Gen 3:15
  8. ^ Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Eerdman's 1996, page 294