Genesis 3:15: The Protoevangelium

Jesus42Genesis 3:15 occurs in a very dark time during the story of Adam and Eve. The serpent (Satan) had just tempted Eve to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge that God forbid Adam and Eve to eat. Eve eats the fruit and then shares the fruit with Adam who eats it as well. God becomes displeased to say the least and approaches Satan, Adam, and Eve collectively. In Genesis 3:15, He addressed the serpent (Satan) and says: “Because you have done this, I will make you and the woman hostile toward each other. I will make your descendants and her descendant hostile toward each other. He will crush your head, and you will bruise his heel.” This verse has come to be known as the protoevangelium or “the first good news”[1]. But is Genesis 3:15 the first prophecy referencing Christ or does that occur later in the Bible?

Hindson and Yates contend that this verse is the protoevangelium.  They state: “the protoevangelium made clear that one day God would send one who would defeat God’s enemy. This would eventually allow for the restoration of everything to God’s original design and restore man’s position as theocratic administrator.”[2] In this line of thought, it would be possible to make a case for the connection of the Old Testament to the New Testament as a type of road map for God’s redemptive plan.

Burge and Hill certainly compliment the words of Hindson and Yates. They call the protoevangelium “the first good news”[3] and that only adds to the argument that God had established a redemptive plan for His creation which had fallen drastically far from the glory they enjoyed in Eden. Continuing they reaffirm Genesis 3:15 as being the protoevangelium by referencing New Testament verses that closely resemble the same language. They state: “The closest that the language from Genesis 3:15 comes to surfacing in the New Testament is in Paul’s word about Christ reigning ‘until he has put all his enemies under his feet’ (1 Cor. 15:25), or even better, ‘The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet’ (Rom. 16:20).”[4] Seeing similar words echoed in the New Testament certainly adds legitimacy to claiming this verse as the protoevangelium.

De Guglielmo speaks about interpreting Genesis 3:15 itself and says: “the Protoevangelium is not a prophecy standing by itself or on its own, which can therefore be interpreted with no regard for its setting. It is an essential part of the punishments meted out to the three offenders.”[5] This means that Genesis 3:15 is prophecy, but it is also punishment directed towards the serpent. This is confirmed by the order in which the sin occurred. The serpent lured Eve, Eve ate the apple, Eve persuades Adam to eat the apple. Genesis 3:16-19 clearly reference Eve and then Adam. He also makes it a point to argue that Mary is an element in the Protoevangelium when he states: “From the discussion of the Protoevangelium the following points can be made: a) Mary is not explicitly mentioned in the Protoevangelium. b) Yet she must be included as a member of the human race which will gain a complete victory over the devil, c) Viewing the Protoevangelium in the light of later revelation, one can discern the role of Mary in the redemption of mankind, in that from other premises derived from later revelation one discovers that the Messiah will obtain this victory for the human race, not merely as a descendant of Eve, but as the son of Mary, the immaculately conceived.”[6] It is important to recognize Mary as a part of the protoevangelium as a descendant of Eve and fulfillment of the prophecy.

Certainly God did not mean that Eve’s initial offspring would achieve victory over Satan, that victory would come later. However, it is certainly appropriate that Eve was present for the protoevangelium since Mary was a descendant of Eve. The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology certainly agrees with this assessment. In their article on Eve, the dictionary states: “Although Eve’s sinful act led to death, it would be her offspring who would crush the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15). Christ’s death and resurrection defeated the evil one and opened the way for Adam and Eve’s descendants to have eternal life.”[7]

Above all else, this verse foretells the prophecy of a Savior for all of man, not just Adam and Eve. It seems that God may have had a plan in place in the event man chose to eat the forbidden fruit in Eden. Certainly this prophecy caused a great discomfort for Satan. I offer one last piece of evidence that this is the protoevangelium. While Jesus was in the wilderness, Satan made every attempt he could to tempt Him, though it turned out to be useless on Satan’s part[8]. I would contend that Satan was attempting to avert Christ from being the atonement for sin because Christ fulfilled the prophecy of Genesis 3:15. Praise God for His love and mercy through His Son, Jesus Christ.


[1] Burge, Gary M. & Hill, Andrew E. The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2012. p. 13

[2] Hindson, Edward E. and Gary Yates. The Essence of the Old Testament: A Survey. Nashville: B&H, 2012. p. 56

[3] Burge & Hill. p. 13

[4] Ibid.

[5] De Guglielmo, Antonine. “Mary in the Protoevangelium.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 14, no. 2 (April 1, 1952). p. 105

[6] Ibid. p. 115

[7] Elwell, Walter A.  Evangelical Dictionary of Theology.  2nd ed.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001. p. 411

[8] Matthew 4:1-11,

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charlestinsley

My name is Charlie Tinsley and I blog about The Bible. In particular, I post my thoughts, commentaries, and Bible Study teachings I have done. I hold a Bachelors Degree in Science in Religion Summa Cum Laude with a Biblical Studies Minor. I am currently studying for a Masters In Divinity at Eastern Mennonite Seminary with PhD ambitions in the study of Theology. I am married and have been for several years and I currently reside in Virginia.

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