19 November 2016

Crushing the serpent's head

The depiction of Mary with the serpent’s head under her feet is taken from Genesis 3:15 in the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Scriptures. In the New American Bible this verse reads: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

According to this translation it is not the woman, but “He” – that is, the woman’s offspring – who crushes the serpent’s head. This agrees with other Bible translations, including the new version of the the Vulgate on the Vatican’s website, and more importantly, with the original Hebrew text.

This passage is known as the protoevangelium, the first proclamation of the gospel, and it a great encouragement to God’s people.

The War

The serpent deceived Eve and our first parents fell in sin. Maybe the devil thought that he had permanently ruined God’s good creation and that he had sealed humanity’s doom.

God quickly intervened and declared war on him. The devil and his seed would be engaged in a conflict with the woman and her seed. The seed of the woman is Jesus, born of the virgin Mary, who came to earth to destroy the works of the devil.

The decisive battle was fought at Calvary. The devil bruised Christ’s heel. In that dark hour Christ was betrayed, oppressed and crucified. But the inflicted wound did not take long to heal. On the third day the Lord Jesus rose victoriously over sin, death and the devil.

In the same battle the devil received the mortal blow. He had one destructive weapon against us, namely his accusation before God that we are guilty and therefore we should perish with him. As long as humanity was burdened with guilt, all people were slaves of Satan. But by his sacrifice on the cross Christ made reparation for the sins of his people and obtained their freedom. Their enemy was disarmed and he cannot accuse them any longer. Christ has crushed the serpent’s head.

The Victory

God’s people will be buffeted for some time by their defeated enemy, but not for long: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20). Christ’s triumph is their victory too! Satan will be cast into the lake of fire forever.

The first woman, Eve, listened to the serpent’s lie. God’s children do not. The Lord gives them a new heart so that they respond obediently to God’s Word, just as Mary did: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Moreover, they understand that God had eternally planned their redemption through the suffering of his Son, “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). The serpent’s vicious attack on the woman’s seed resulted in their liberation.

Glory to God for this wonderful picture that the Scriptures portrays of Christ crushing the serpent’s head under his feet. Let us give thanks and praise God for the hope and victory we have in him.

(Gospel e-Letter - December 2016)