You are here:Home-Resources-Counsel of Chalcedon Magazine-1998 Issue 4-The Protoevangelium

The Protoevangelium

The messianic interpretation of Genesis 3:15 is very old. Though Irenaeus is the first known author of the Christian era to make an explicit connection between the seed promise and Jesus Christ, both the Septuagint and the Jewish targums (Ps. -J., Neofiti Frg.) view the passage messianically. This position has been largely abandoned by commentators and theologians who embrace higher critical principles of biblical interpretation. In his commentary, von Rad adopts what has become an accepted maxim, that the passage is an aetiological explanation of man's natural animosity toward snakes. He later affirms that the passage serves the larger purpose of explaining man's hopeless struggle against evil. He denies any messianic sense. Eissfeldt similarly views the passage as an "aetiological animal saga," and he later adds that the verse is a good example of a "lay saying" which teaches that a good deed is repaid with a blessing and an evil one with a curse. Brueggeman takes an existential approach to the text and writes that "it is rather a story about the struggle God has in responding to the facts of human life. When the facts warrant death, God insists on life for his creatures." Wifall summarizes these two leading, modern approaches when he writes that "Genesis 3:15 must be 'demythologized' as an expression of man's existential predicament in this world, or can be viewed as an aetiological myth which attempts to explain the natural hostility between mankind and the serpent." Either way, the events recorded in these early chapters in Genesis are mythical, ancient stories meant to explain the origins of man and his predicament in the world.