He or she shall crush the serpent's head?


Hello everybody, I have recently developed an interest in different Bible versions

So I was watching a video one day of this man who was promoting an unapproved Marian apparitions (that I don’t believe in, I was just watching to hear his point of view). He basically talked about how “they” are rewriting the Bibles and one of his reasons for this was how most Bibles translate Genesis 3:15, this way:

"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.”

He then when on to talk about how it should read “she shall crush the serpent’s head” not “he” because the prophecy is about the Virgin Mary. But the only Bible I know that translates it that was is the Douay-Rheims. Most Catholic Bibles don’t even translate it that way!

The footnote in the RSV-CE Bible reads

3.15 he shall bruise your head: i.e., the seed of the woman, that is, mankind descended from Eve, will eventually gain the victory over the powers of evil. This victory will, of course, be gained through the work of the Messiah who is par excellence the seed of the woman. The Latin Vulgate has the reading ipsa conteret, “she shall bruise.” Some Old Latin manuscripts have this reading and it occurs also in St. Augustine, De Genesi contra Manichaeos, II, which is earlier than St. Jerome’s translation. It could be due originally to a copyist’s mistake, which was then seen to contain a genuine meaning—namely, that Mary, too, would have her share in the victory, inasmuch as she was mother of the Savior.

So who’s right? Does anyone have any info on this?


Well the way I understand it, the pronoun used in Genesis 3:15 is a little
ambiguous, which is why the King James Version erroneously translated
it as “IT.”

If we want a better idea of what the translation is, FOUR notable
men in history have translated/interpreted the pronoun as “SHE”:

  • Titus Flavius Josephus – 1st Cent
  • Philo Judaeus –––––––– 1st Cent
  • Saint Jerome –––––––––- 5th Cent
  • Moses Maimonides ––– 12th Cent
    [INDENT]_ Around the time of Jesus.
    [/INDENT]The more modern Masoretic Tanakh, Jewish Scripture edited after Jesus, would read it
    I believe as “HE,” but again the Masoretic texts are often in conflict with older versions
    of the Old Testament writings.


I am not sure it matters. Whether it is she who crushes the serpent’s head she has done so by being the mother of God and in Christ’s work the serpent is crushed. Or He has crushed the serpents head being Christ and by His own work He crushes the serpent’s head.

The point is both readings ultimately point to Christ.

God Bless


well the duoay rheims translate it as she and some traditionally interpret this as mary crushing the serpents head hence many apparitions she is standing on a serpent or crescent moon symbolizing a serpent.

But either way it is in reference to christs coming


Very interesting. Can you direct me to the actual quotes by Josephus and Maimonides? I have a feeling we can trust Jerome’s translation as he had access to native Hebrew speakers that could clarify murky passages for him. And my understanding is that ancient Hebrew is a very difficult language, and pretty much requires that someone knowledgeable guide you through it.


He or she shall crush the serpent’s head in Genesis 3:15?

I remember having this same question many years ago (pre-internet).

I was in a bookstore with Jewish Torahs and thought: “Now I will see how the rabbinic Jewish people translate Genesis 3:15 first hand.”

I opened a Torah and was surprised to find an ambiguous translation. I can’t recall for sure but I think it was “they” will crush the head or some such.

I thought: “OK. It is Jesus in one sense. And it is the Blessed Virgin Mary in another sense.”

Then shortly after I noticed in Romans this . . . .

ROMANS 16:19-20 19 For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I would have you wise as to what is good and guileless as to what is evil; 20 then the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

(bold and ul mine)

And so I concluded Holy Mother Church (and therefore us) is (are) involved in the equation as well in yet another sense.

Later I concluded: OK. This all makes sense as the Blessed Virgin Mary is a type or “typus” of the Church.

CCC 967 By her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to his Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church’s model of faith and charity. Thus she is a “preeminent and . . . wholly unique member of the Church”; indeed, she is the “exemplary realization” (typus) 510 of the Church.

(CCC italics original)



Whence also Josephus (Book 1, Chap. 3) reads
it this way as our translator writes. For he says:
“He ordained that the woman should inflict
wounds on his head” from which it is evid-
ent that Josephus in his day read ‘aute’, that
is to say, ‘she’.

Moses Maimonides writes,
which is indeed amazing,
“But what must be admired most of all, is that the serpent
is joined with Eve, that is, its seed with her seed, its head
with her heel; that she (Eve) should conquer it (the serpent)
in the head, and that it should conquer her in the heel.”

  • (More Nebochim, Part II, chap. 30)

"…the Jewish philosopher Philo, who lived around 40 A.D., argued from the Hebrew poetic technique known as parallelism, that the reading should be “she.” Genesis, since it is an historical book, is written in prose; but whenever a prophecy is uttered, as is the case here, Moses turns to poetry. In the technique of parallelism, the idea in one line parallels the idea of the following line; as, for instance, in Our Lady’s Magnificat:
My soul doth magnify the Lord
And my spirit hath rejoiced in
God my Saviour. (Lk 1:46,47).
"You can see that the ideas in the first line or stich, “soul” and “Lord,” complement the ideas “spirit” and “God” of the second line. In some cases, two lines, a distich or couplet, parallel a following couplet, as is the case in Genesis 3:15.

A I shall put enmities between thee
and the woman,
1 {
B and between thy seed and her seed:
A She shall crush thy head,
2 {
B and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.

"In this case line 1A goes with line 2A, and line 1B corresponds to line 2B. Therefore the “woman” of line 1A corresponds with the “she” of line 2A. To make the subject of line 2A “he” or “it,” and to say that it relates to the “seed” of line 1B, is bad Hebrew poetry according to Philo. In other words Philo is saying that the Revised Standard Version is bad Hebrew poetry, but the Vulgate is good Hebrew poetry. The Revised Standard Version is a faithful translation of the Massoretic text as we have it today, but the Massoretic text of today is a corrupted text.


That is a very interesting comparison with the book of Romans. Perhaps it means that the Catholic Church (the Romans) will crush Satan. I noticed that in the greeting of the epistle to the Romans, Paul calls the church at Rome “the beloved of God”. He doesn’t refer to any of the other churches this way. Maybe I’m reading too much into his greeting. But look at the incredibly subdued way he greets the Thessalonians. So the Hebrew “they will crush” could refer to the Catholic Church specifically, rather Christians in general.


I don’t usually revive an old thread yet this one isn’t that old and its a subject that interests me greatly. Im currently reading Josephus, translated by William Whiston. Book 1 chapter 3 of antiquities of Jews is about Seth and Noah, I’m not seeing anything in regard to the women. Am I looking in the wrong place? Can someone direct me to where exactly this phrase is? I’m a firm believer in the Jerome translation but I want to have references ready when I engage people in debate.


In William Whiston’s translation of Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities the reference to Genesis 3:15 seems to be in Book 1, Chapter 1, Paragraph 4, a few sentences from the end:

Besides this, he inserted poison under his tongue, and made him an enemy to men; and suggested to them, that they should direct their strokes against his head, that being the place wherein lay his mischievous designs towards men, and it being easiest to take vengeance on him, that way.

However, as you can see, it is "men, i.e., humankind in general, who will strike at the serpent’s head.


Yes, I did read that part, but I was hoping to read she in Chapter 3 as judas Thaddeus above suggested. He must have got this idea somewhere though so if anyone knows of a translation that says she in Josephus works, then I’m VERY interested in seeing it.



Anybody? Maybe you guys feel this is a settled matter, but I beg the differ. The ‘he’ and ‘his’ part doesn’t flow with Hebrew poetry.

If anyone knows where the idea of Josephus reading ‘she’ came from, please direct me to that resource.


You can read this thread:


Neither, or both. I did a little study on this and it appears that the pronoun ending used is a Neuter third declension form. So, actually, neither he nor she. English doesn’t have such a form of pronoun form. It must be translated to either he or she in English as there is no neuter declension for a person in English.


Seek and ye shall find!!!


“God took from him the use of speech, put poison under his tounge, condemed him to the loss of his feet and to crawl upon his belly, declared him the enemy of all mankind: and commanded EVE also to tread upon his head, both as the fountain of all our woes and as the part where he most easily receives a mortal wound. After pronouncing these penalties, God turned Adam and Eve out of the garden”

My conclusion is that William Whilston was a biased translator and purposely rephrased this passage to conform to his own theology.


Here’s the reason why the Jerome translation makes the most sense with respect to Hebrew Parallel Poetry.

**I will put enmities between thee and the woman, **
- Initial suggests: War between the party of the women and the party of the serpent
and thy seed and her seed:
- Parallel suggests: War between the secondary party of the women and the secondary party of the serpent
she shall crush thy head,
- Initial comment: She will crush serpents head.
and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel."
- Parallel comment: The serpent is powerless and waits for his head to be crushed

This parallel poetry is found in many many places in the Bible. Especially in Psalms.
Jesus uses it too in the beatitudes.

Conclusion: When God commands things, he commands them in parallel poetry!

Another point to consider: The women started it, the women will end it! Jesus was sent to save us caught in the middle of it. This idea that God punishes the serpent by allowing him strike our heel is completely WRONG. Its a mistranslation in the Septuagint that goes way way back.


No “she” in Jerome’s translation. You can read his translation notes here:


The change was a later interpolation.


Why not try commenting on my strong points regarding Hebrew poetry and the writing of Josephus, who predates even St Jerome by 300 years. Simply claiming Jerome didn’t translate ‘she’ and referencing a 300 page 99 dollar book most of us do not have access to doesn’t help.

Even the non-trinitarian lukewarm ‘Christian’ William Whiston didn’t go so far as to inject the word ‘he’ into his translation of Josephus. There are just too many strong evidences to suggest the real translation applies tot the subjects of the verse (the serpent and the women).

Furthermore, St. Augustine translated she before St Jerome did in his book “The genesis of the Manichaeans.” Book 2 chapter 8.


See post #16: “…the Jerome translation…” You can’t attribute “she” to Jerome.

You wouldn’t need to purchase the book; you can easily check it out in your local library. That’s what I did.

Ok, since you asked, your translation of Josephus is pretty messed up. If you go back to the Greek text of Antiquities, you’ll see that Eve/“she” is nowhere mentioned in Ant. 1:50; that’s why her name is in italics in the Google translation to which you’re referring. (It’s something the editor added that’s not actually there.) Similarly, you might want to check the Latin text for the Augustine reference, but I’m not going to take the time to look it up.

As for the parallelism, the most likely reading is that the “they” of “They shall crush your head…” refers to the plural offspring of Eve–the seed mentioned in the previous line.

Speaking of parallelisms, the “lie in wait” is really an unfounded stretch–it’s exactly the same verb as the “crush” verb from the previous line. Some translations use something like “bruise,” which is at least in the general ballpark.

There’s no possessive pronoun at all assigned to the heel in the Masoretic text; the possessive pronoun in the Septuagint is masculine.

If the wording you’re suggesting is not in Jerome’s Vulgate, the Septuagint, or the Masoretic texts, I would say your argument will always amount to special pleading—although that’s certainly not to say that there was perhaps some manuscript floating around somewhere that used the pronouns to which you refer. But as for the Vulgate itself, it’s a later interpolation and can’t be attributed to Jerome.


I can’t access the link. Who is the translator of the quote you provide?


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