The Seed of Eve
In a recent spirited debate with a Jewish friend, he said this:
Dear Rob, you have been fed a pack of lies. I could list them all, but I’ll just start with your statement that Jesus is foretold in the Tanakh in many places. That, sir, is only if you mistranslate, misunderstand, misconstrue, or take out of context every single last “proof” you offer. In fact, there’s a web site that takes apart each and every “proof” that you would raise. I suggest you read each of its links. It will show that you have been sadly misled. Check out 365 Messianic Prophecies Claimed for JesusB.D.
I checked out the website, read through the first of the 365 proofs in the list, and was surprised at what I found. So I decided to break down the main arguments offered in this first proof and see where they hold up and where they fall short.
The first prophecy this website tackles is what Christian theologians call the protoevangelium (the first Gospel), which is found in Genesis 3:15. It is the statement God made to the serpent (Satan) in the Garden of Eden just after Adam and Eve committed the first sin in history:
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)
Christians view this passage as the first specific reference to Yeshua in the Bible. He is not mentioned by name, of course, but we believe this prophecy presents a picture of Yeshua enduring suffering in order to ultimately defeat our spiritual enemy. Judaism, on the other hand, rejects the New Testament and Yeshua as Mashiach (Messiah) and, therefore, must interpret this verse differently. Thus, in her article on 365 Messianic Prophecies, author Sophiee Saguy attempts to disprove any prophetic connection to Yeshua in Genesis 3:15.
It Does Not Say “Seed”
The first point Saguy makes is that, when correctly interpreted, the passage does not say seed. The author points out that “The word mistranslated as ‘seed’ by so many Christian translations is the Hebrew word זַרְעֲ (zĕra). It should be translated as ‘offspring,’ not ‘seed.’”
I don’t disagree. The word seed is not used in many of the English translations of this passage. The AMP, CJB, CSB, ESV, and NIV use either offspring or descendants. For example:
And I will put enmityGenesis 3:15 (NIV)
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.
A Compound Noun
After establishing the mutually-agreed fact that this passage is referring to offspring, Saguy moves on to her next point:
Since זַרְעֲ / zĕra does not mean “seed” what does it mean? Zĕra is a collective noun, which means all of the offspring who come from a parent . . . When used to speak of humans zĕra means the totality of all a person’s descendants, considered collectively as a group. Instances of this word in the sense of one specific person are rare, and when it is used in this way the person referenced is invariably identified in the actual text.-Sophiee Saguy
What does this passage say when interpreted as referring to the totality of Eve’s descendants? It says that God is going to put enmity between Satan and Eve, and also between the “descendants” of Satan (presumably demons) and the descendants of Eve, which would be all of humanity. I would certainly agree with that. The theological principle that the devil is at war with mankind is taught in Scripture. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Who is “He”?
Saguy then argues that “Genesis 3:15 does not say anything about one individual or a ‘group’ of people; it speaks of all people. After all, Chava (Eve) was the mother to every single human who ever lived!”
That may be true of the opening phrase of Genesis 3:15, but the verse does not end there. It goes on to say, “he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” So even if we grant Saguy’s point that the word seed (or offspring ) means all descendants of Eve, we’re still left with a singular reference to an individual who will crush Satan’s head, and whose heel Satan will strike.
This raises an important question. In the final lines of Genesis 3:15, to whom does the third-person singular pronoun he refer? It cannot be referring to all of Eve’s descendants for grammatical reasons. Moreover, there is no theological basis for the idea that all of humanity will crush Satan’s head. There is no logical ground for it either; a large percentage of Eve’s descendants don’t even believe Satan exists, and yet other descendants may even pick his side.
This verse is prophesying an individual who will do battle with Satan and suffer in the process. This, as we’ll look at below, is an exact description of Yeshua’s work on the cross.
No Mention of the Seed
Saguy next cites two New Testament verses which she claims are often used to prove the fulfillment of prophecy:
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore, also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.Luke 1:25 (KJV)
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.Matthew 1:18–20 (KJV)
Saguy concludes, “No mention at all about the ‘seed of a woman’ in either reference given as ‘proof’ that Jesus fulfilled a prophecy that, upon examination, does not exist.”
There are three problems with Saguy’s conclusion. First, to adequately prove a negative claim, as Saguy makes here, contradictory evidence is required. Saguy provides none. Second, the specific word seed is not required in order to validate whether or not a passage “proves” the prophecy of Genesis 3:15. Yeshua was a human being, and therefore, qualifies as a descendant of Eve. Third, the two verses Saguy cites are arbitrary “strawman” proof texts that don’t mention or allude to the prophecy in Genesis 3:15.
Okay, But Why Yeshua?
To be fair, because Saguy fails to build a sufficient case does not necessarily mean that Yeshua is the one spoken of in Genesis 3:15. Many Jews continue to believe that the verse refers to a Mashiach who has not yet come. On what grounds do Christians claim that the verse refers specifically to Yeshua?
Ideally, to see if this prophecy has been fulfilled by Yeshua we need to consider biblical passages that discuss (a.) whether or not Yeshua was a descendant of Eve, (b.) whether or not Yeshua “crushed the serpent’s head,” and (c.) whether or not Yeshua had his “heel bruised” in the process. Let’s see what Scripture says on these three topics.
A Descendant of Eve?
To ask if Yeshua was a descendant of Eve is ultimately to ask, “was Yeshua human?” We find clear scriptural evidence for His humanity in the birth narratives of Matt 1, Mark 1-2, and Luke 1-2. It is also found in many other passages, including John 1:15, John 8:39-40, Col 2:9, and Heb 2:14. But perhaps the most substantial scriptural support for the humanity of Yeshua is found in Philippians 2:5-8:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Did He Crush the Serpent’s Head?
In Gen 3:15, God tells Satan (who is embodied as a serpent in this passage) that a descendant of Eve “will crush your head.” What does that mean, exactly? Most English translations use the word “crush.” Other terms used are:
- bruise (CJB, ESV, KJV, NASB, RSV)
- [fatally] bruise (AMP)
- strike (CSB, HCSB, NRSV)
- break (GNV)
- wound (MSG)
Prophecy is full of symbolism, of course, and it’s generally accepted that this verse is not referring to the literal crushing of the skull of a snake. Rather, Jewish and Christian scholars alike understand the serpent in Genesis 3 to be Satan or a tool of Satan. Thus, the phrase “crush your head” seems to be prophesying that an individual will, in some way, mortally damage or defeat Satan. And we have an abundance of Scriptural evidence that shows Yeshua did just that.
In fact, the apostle Paul ties Yeshua’s resurrection directly to that first sin in the Garden, which the serpent engineered. The serpent talked Adam and Eve into sinning against God, which brought with it the penalty of death. But Yeshua’s resurrection—his victory over death—ultimately defeated the work of the serpent. Paul writes, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ, all will be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22). Paul then explains the consequences of Yeshua’s resurrection:
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” [a] “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” [b] The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
(Notice that in this passage Paul is quoting [a] Isaiah 25:8 and [b] Hosea 13:14 to show that Yeshua is the One whom the Tanakh foretold.)
Additional verses that support Yeshua’s damaging or defeating Satan include John 3:16-17, John 16:33, 1 Corinthians 15:24-26, and 2 Timothy 1:10. And Hebrews 2 not only speaks directly to Yeshua’s victory, it also speaks to his humanity as a descendant of Eve:
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.Hebrews 2:14
Was His Heel Bruised?
Jewish and Christian scholars alike typically equate the phrase “bruise his heel” with the notion of damage or suffering that is not fatal. That phrase is used in Gen 3:15 to show that that one who crushes the serpent’s head will also suffer himself, though not as severely as the serpent. Here we can look to the many passages that discuss the suffering Yeshua endured in His mission leading up to and on the cross, including:
- Matt 16:21, 17:12, 26:36-39
- Mark 8:31, 9:12,
- Luke 9:22, 17:25, 22:15, 24:26,
- Acts 1:3, 3:18, 17:3
- Rom 8:17
- Hebrews 2:9-14
Based on the depth and breadth of Scriptural evidence above, it’s easy to see why Christians refer to Genesis 3:15 as the protoevangelium, the first Gospel. It is a prophecy that clearly found its fulfillment in the person of Yeshua, who, as Revelations 13:8 tells us, is “the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.” It is all part of God’s perfect, glorious plan!