Protoevangelium is a
compound word. Proto means first. A prototype is the first creation
of some item.
Evangelium sounds a
lot like the word evangelize, and it is. When you evangelize, you share
the gospel. That’s what evangelium is. The gospel.
So, protoevangelium is
the first gospel. It is the first good news. It is found in Genesis
3:15 when God first tells us that he is going to send Jesus (even though he
doesn’t mention Jesus by name!)
After the Fall of Man,
God pronounces judgment on man for his sin. But He also offers the good
news that the seed of the woman, Jesus, would crush the head of the serpent, Satan.
Satan would strike Jesus on the heel, his death on the cross, but it would not
be mortal as Jesus would rise from the dead. Jesus would strike back with
a mortal wound to Satan by crushing his head. The protoevangelium is
God’s first announcement that Jesus was coming and that Satan would be
The First Good News
The strange words of Genesis 3:15
are of central significance to biblical theology. The verse reads:
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
this verse the protoevangelium—that
is, the “first good news.” The expression “good news” is a free translation of
the Greek word for “gospel.” The message of the Christian gospel is that the
death and resurrection of Jesus crushed the head of Satan—who, is personified
in the serpent of Genesis 3.
to New Testament writings, Jesus is the “offspring” foreshadowed in Genesis 3:15.
He is the one who brings about the great reversal of mankind’s plunge into sin
and destruction. Jesus overcomes the curse of God upon humanity by defeating
death and sin on our behalf. Therefore, according to biblical Christianity,
Genesis 3:15 points to God’s promise to rescue humanity from its divine
The Law of Double Reference
Here we have the first occurrence of the law of double
reference (cp. Isa. 14:12- 14; Ezek. 28:11- 17; Mt. 16:22- 23; Mk. 5:7- 16; Lk.
4:33- 35, 41). In these and many other passages a visible creature is
addressed, but certain statements also refer to an invisible person using the
visible creature as a tool. Thus, two persons are involved in the same passage.
The principle of interpretation in such passages is to associate only such statements
with each individual as could refer to him. The statements of Gen. 3:14 could
apply only to the serpent and not to Satan. The first part of Gen. 3:15 could
apply to both the seed of the serpent and Satan. The last part of Gen. 3:15
could only refer to Satan and Christ. A simple example of this law is the case
of Christ addressing Peter as Satan. When Peter declared that he would never
permit anyone to crucify his Lord on the cross, Christ rebuked him saying,
"Get thee behind Me, Satan" (Mt. 16:22- 23). Both Satan and Peter
were addressed in the same statement, and both were involved in the rebuke.
Peter, for the moment, was unknowingly being used as a tool of Satan in an
effort to keep Christ from going to the cross. Satan was the primary one addressed,
and so it is in Gen. 3:15. A literal serpent is addressed, but the primary
reference is to Satan. We have other examples in Isa. 14and Ezek. 28:11- 17
where the kings of Babylon and Tyre are addressed, but the statements mainly
apply to Satan-- the invisible king of Babylon and Tyre. There are some
statements in these passages which could not possibly refer to an earthly man.
b [enmity between thee and the woman] There is a natural
enmity between snakes and men, and between children of Satan and God (Mt.
10:34- 38; Jn. 15:18- 19; Jas. 4:4; 1Pet. 4:12- 19; 1Jn. 2:15- 17; 3:8- 12;
c [thy seed] Mt. 13:38; Jn. 8:44; 1Jn. 3:8- 10.
d [her seed...]
The Seed of the Woman
Gen. 3:15 refers to the seed of the woman, not the seed of
man. This could only refer to the coming of the Son of God through Mary (Gen.
3:15; Isa. 7:14; 9:6- 7; 11:1; Mt. 1; Lk. 1:31- 35; Jn. 1:14; Rom. 1:1- 3; 8:3;
Gal. 3:16, 19; 4:4; Php. 2:5- 11; 1Tim. 3:16; 2Tim. 2:8; Heb. 1:1- 8; 2:9- 18;
1Jn. 4:1- 6; Rev. 5:5). The virgin birth is one of the most essential doctrines
of the whole plan of God. Without faith in it and in the death, burial, and
resurrection of Jesus Christ one cannot be saved (1Cor. 15:1- 8; 1Jn. 4:1- 6).
important to note is that the enmity does not merely arise, it is specifically
said to be set or appointed by God himself. The animosity we experience from
unbelievers is sin, but it is divinely ordained hatred. God tells us here that he
intends the wicked to hate the righteous. This is not the origin of ‘culture
wars’ because the people of God are neither to create their own ‘culture’ nor
are they to defend a conservative agenda for American (or European or English)
culture. The world’s hatred of the church is not to be because the church
represents morality. The world will hate Christians because we believe in
Christ (John 3:19-20; 2 Cor. 2:15-16).
There is a big difference between these two. The world is not to hate us
because we are offensive in and of ourselves; the offense is in the gospel (1
Cor. 1:17-18, 21,23 ;cf. Rom 9:33; Gal 5:11). They hate us because we testify
to the truth of Christ and they do not believe (1 Tim 1:13). It is true that
our new life in Christ can convict them, Paul gets at this in Ephesians 5:3-21,
but we have no business parading a self-righteous attitude in our rejection of
homosexuality, divorce, abortion, etc. Our transformed minds are by grace, not
our own wisdom, so we have no place to boast. At any rate, the point is that
the course of history is according to God’s will, he is sovereign over all
aspects of his creation, both before and after the fall.
David R. Helm and Jon M. Dennis, The
Genesis Factor: Probing Life’s Big Questions (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books,