Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Five Fundamental Facts About Jesus and the Church

Father William Most

The fundamental truth about Catholicism centers around the reality of Jesus as both man and God, as well as his creation of the Catholic Church through which he is "with us always." In his book, Free From All Error, Fr. William Most establishes six historical facts about Jesus and what he did while he was on the Earth that allow us to move forward with a reasoned faith. Let's look at these facts, which we've adjusted slightly and condensed down to five, on which we can base our trust in Catholicism:
  1. "There was a man called Jesus."
    • Jesus's historicity is beyond doubt.
  2. "He claimed to be a messenger sent by God," the Word of God made flesh.
    • Claims to be a messenger: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (John 3:16-17).
    • Claims to be God: "Jesus said to them, 'truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.'" (John 8:58)
      • Jesus says of himself "I am" referring to God's name given to Moses in Exodus 3:14. Every Jew knew exactly what he was saying, this is why, in the very next line, "they took up stones to throw at him."
  3. "He did enough to prove that He was such a messenger" and that He was God.
    • "Jesus often appealed to his miracles as proof of his mission and teaching:"
      • "Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, 'are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?' And Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them." (Matthew 11:2-5)
      • William Most notes that "God is the ultimate source of the miraculous power...and He cannot provide such power as proof of a falsehood." In other words, if God is the source and ultimate author of all that is miraculous, He would not allow someone to cause miracles in his own name if he were not God. All other miracles performed by humans are done in God's name. Jesus, however, always performs them in his own name, because he claims to be God.
    • Jesus proved that he was God by the success of his miracles and in the Resurrection. 
      • Father Robert Barron summarizes N.T. Wright's explanation of the Resurrection's credibility: "There would be no clearer indication for a first century Jew that somebody was not the Messiah than his death at the hands of Israel's enemies...The anointed one of Israel was meant to deal with the enemies of Israel...and to reign as the Lord of the nations. Therefore the clearest sign possible that somebody was not the Messiah was that he was put to death by the Romans. And of course you can hear that even in the Gospels can't you? The disciples run away when this happens. The disciples on the road to Emmaus say, ironically to Jesus himself, 'we thought he was the Messiah,' the implication being that clearly he's not. One thing you know for sure is that he's not the Messiah because the Romans killed him! Therefore, N.T. Wright says this: what's really weird from an historical standpoint...is how Christianity emerged as a Messianic movement. Because that's the claim of Paul and the others," that Jesus is in fact the Messiah. "The only way, N.T. Wright says, to make sense of this from an historical standpoint, is that Jesus rose from the dead." [2] None of the modern theories that attack Jesus's divinity would have carried any weight at all in the conversion of the first century Jews. Why would the first Christians continue on in their faith if Jesus had not risen from the dead? To be martyred? They continued on in their faith because it was true.
  4. Jesus had an inner circle of apostles whom He commissioned to continue in His teaching.
    • "And he went up on the mountain, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. (Mark 3:13)
    • "And Jesus came and said to them (the twelve minus Judas), 'All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.'" (Matthew 28:18-20)
    • "Jesus says to them, 'but whom do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered and said: 'You are Christ, the Son of the living God.' And Jesus answering said to him, 'blessed are you Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to you that you are Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. And whatsoever you shall bind upon Earth, it shall be bound also in Heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on Earth, it shall be loosed also in Heaven.'" (Matthew 16:15-19)
    • "These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you, but the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (John 14:25-26)
  5. "Jesus gave the message that God would protect [their] teaching." 
    • "He who hears you hears me; he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me" (Luke 10:16).
    • "'I say to you that you are Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. And whatsoever you shall bind upon Earth, it shall be bound also in Heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on Earth, it shall be loosed also in Heaven.'" (Matthew 16:15-19 again)
    • "These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you, but the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (John 14:25-26 again)
      • Jesus promises here that the Holy Spirit will be given to the Apostles so that their teaching will always be from God.
    • 'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. (Matthew 28:18-21; bold is DR Version)
    • "Again the Kingdom of Heaven  (membership in the Church which is Christ's body) is like a net cast into the sea, and gathering together all kinds of fishes. Which, when it was filled, they drew out, and sitting by the shore, they chose out the good into vessels, but the bad they cast forth. So it shall be at the end of the world. The angels shall go out, and shall separate the wicked from among the just."
      • The Church will be gathering together all kinds of people until the end of the world.
*Note: Some people would object and say that Jesus is not doing anything special with the Apostles; they would say his message is actually intended for everyone. This is true to some degree, but we cannot deny the particular mission of the Apostles as the teaching mouth of Christ. As George Joyce notes, Jesus is "distinguishing in an unmistakable manner, between the private individual who undertakes the work of fraternal correction and the ecclesiastical authority empowered to pronounce a judicial sentence:" "But if your brother shall offend against you, go, and rebuke him between you and him alone. If he shall hear you, you shall gain your brother. And if he will not hear you, take with you one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. If he will not hear them: tell the Church. And if he will not hear the Church, let him be to you as the heathen and publican." (Matthew 18:15-17) [3]

Conclusion: Based on the clear and undeniable truth of these five facts, we are rooted in the truth of Christ's Catholic Church. We can see clearly that Jesus, after an entire night in prayer (Luke 6:12), called the apostles together (12 specifically to signify the typological fulfillment of Israel's twelve tribes; the Old Covenant "church" becomes the New Covenant, Catholic Church), gave them a commission to carry on his teaching, and promised their protection from error.

[1] Father William Most; Free From All Error
[3] George Joyce; Catholic Encyclopedia Article The Church

Is Mary the Daughter of Zion?

What does "Daughter of Zion" mean?
In the Old Testament, through the prophets, the Decalogue, the ceremonial laws, and the progressive revelation through Moses, God prepared Israel for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. As Lawrence Feingold explains, "he came not unexpected, but [as] the object of the yearning of that whole people (Israel) for 2000 years." [1] The Daughter of Zion is the personification of this yearning and expectation and is mentioned explicitly in the Old Testament, including Zephaniah 3:14 and Zechariah 9:9.

Is Mary the Daughter of Zion?
  1. Luke 1:28: "And he came to her and said, 'Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!'" The word Gabriel uses to address the Virgin Mary, "hail" (Latin: ave), was for many years thought to have little significance; it was nothing more than a standard greeting. In 1939, however, the Jesuit Pere Stanislas Lyonnet published an article that challenged this, showing that the Greek word Gabriel uses, "χαῖρε," has little precedence as a standard greeting; nowhere in Luke's other writings does he use "χαῖρε" in this way. In fact, "χαῖρε," as John McHugh points out, is "far from being a conventional greeting, [it] always refers to the joy attendant on the deliverance of Israel." [2] Keep in mind, Luke could have chosen a number of other Greek words to put in the mouth of Gabriel; throughout his other works, he uses many other words in the place of greetings. The word "χαῖρε" though, he uses only once. And this is where Lyonnet also makes a connection between this Greek word and Israel's Daughter of Zion. In fact, "χαῖρε" is the word used in the Old Testament every single time the Daughter of Zion is addressed, save Lamentations 4:21 where it is used ironically. The two best examples of this are Zephaniah 3:14 and Zechariah 9:9. [2]
    • Zephaniah 3:14-15: "Sing aloud (χαῖρε), O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has cast out your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear evil no more." 
      • These words clearly look ahead to the fulfillment of Israel's promise, in particular, the Incarnation ("The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst"). 
    • Zechariah 9:9: "Rejoice greatly (χαῖρε), O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you." 
      • Again, here we see a foreshadowing of the Incarnation ("Lo, your king comes to you.") 
    • Luke 1:28: "And he came to her and said, 'Hail (χαῖρε), full of grace, the Lord is with you!'"
    • χαῖρε: Again, remember, this Greek word that Gabriel chose to address Mary is used the same way the writers in the Old Testament address the Daughter of Zion, and "always refers to the joy attendant on the deliverance of Israel."
    • Conclusion: McHugh says that, in Luke 1, "Luke envisages the two Annunciations (Zeph 3:14 and Zech 9:9) as the dawning of the day of salvation (Lk 1:77-79)." For the Israelites, all of their history revolves around when "the Lord [will take] away the judgments against [them], [when he will] cast out [their] enemies. [When] the King of Israel, the Lord, [will be] in [their] midst; [and they] shall fear evil no more" (Zeph 3:14-15). If you'll remember, both the passage from Zephaniah and Zechariah speak of the Incarnation as the moment when the Daughter of Zion will be able to rejoice. The angel Gabriel's use of the word "χαῖρε" calls to mind this language of the Incarnation in association with the Daughter of Zion; he essentially gives her that title. For the Jewish reader, "χαῖρε," often translated "rejoice," would have immediately made them remember the promises made to the Daughter of Zion; they would have thought nothing else. We can conclude then that Gabriel's use of such a specific word, one that has a very special and unmistakable meaning to the Jews, is an intentional nod to Mary as the woman who marks the "fullness of time" (see below) and the fulfillment of Israel's Messianic hopes.
  2. Galatians 4:4: "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption." Here, Saint Paul talks about the "fullness of time," the moment when all of Israel's expectation and history comes to a head. The phrase "born under the law" points to the faith of Israel and the completion or perfection of the law. Within Saint Paul's formula, we see the mention of "a woman" in connection with the fulfillment of Israel's desire, a clear parallel with the personified Daughter of Zion. 
  3. Genesis 3:15: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." "The woman" in this passage is Mary, the mother whose seed will bruise the head of the serpent. In this prophecy, the very first Messianic prophecy, we see the entire Jewish people's story in a nutshell; their entire deliverance depends upon the enmity of the woman and her seed with the serpent and his seed. Though the "Daughter of Zion" is not mentioned here, the concept is implicit and even enhanced: God has promised a redeemer, and just as texts like Zechariah and Zephaniah personify this hope in a "Daughter of Zion," so God reveals that the Redeemer will come alongside a woman.
  4. In Mary, the fulfillment of Israel's expectation becomes a reality: All of Israel's hope centered around the coming of the Messiah and this hope was personified in their Old Testament literature about the Daughter of Zion. When the angel announced to Mary the coming of the Messiah, he did not force her to say "yes." In fact, during the time between the angel's proposal and Mary's response, the entirety of Israel's hope hung in the balance, all of their hopes and yearnings had come to a head. By saying "yes" to God at the Annunciation ("behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to thy word."), Mary took the hope of ancient Israel into herself and became pregnant with the Messiah, thus becoming the living fulfillment of Israel's Daughter of Zion.
Conclusion: In the same way that God prepared his people (Israel) for the coming of Jesus, so he prepared the person through whom Jesus would come (Mary); as Isreal was elected, so Mary was elected in a more specific and special way. This is who the Daughter of Zion is when she is spoken of in Sacred Scripture; she is the ultimate idea or fulfillment of Israel's expectation for Jesus. [1]

  • All of Israel's hopes for a Messiah and deliverance are personified in the Daughter of Zion throughout Old Testament literature. 
  • The protoevangelium (Genesis 3:15) shows that deliverance will occur through the seed of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 
  • The Annunciation confirms that Mary is the Daughter of Zion through whom Israel will receive Jesus.

[1] Lawrence Feingold; Audio Lecture; Mary, Daughter of Zion and Mother of the Church
[2] John McHugh; The Mother of Jesus in the New Testament

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Is Purgatory in the Bible?

What is Purgatory?

“All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church; Paragraph 1030

“The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church; Paragraph 1031

Where is it in the Bible?

Dave Armstrong has a very thorough article on this topic. We, however, will only look at a few convincing examples from Scripture:

  1. Matthew 12:32: “And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him neither in this world, nor in the world to come” (DR Version)
    • This argument, that Jesus here implicitly refers to some purification of sin that occurs "in the world to come," is used by Saint Isidore of Seville, Saint Augustine, Saint Gregory the Great, Venerable Bede, and Saint Bernard.[1] As Father John Hardon explains, “by this it is to be understood that certain faults are pardoned in this life, and certain others in the life to come.”[2] This is implicit in Jesus’s statement and seems to match perfectly with the Catholic Church's doctrine on Purgatory.
  2. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15: “According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But each one must be careful how he builds upon it, for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire [itself] will test the quality of each one’s work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire” (NAB).
    • Here, we see Saint Paul speaking at length about our works (building upon the foundation) and how they will be treated during Judgment. He claims that our works will be “revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each one’s work.” The commentary in the New American Bible explains that fire “both destroys and purifies.”[3] It is the final verse, verse 15, that implicitly points to Purgatory. “If someone’s work is burned up,” if it is purified by the fire so that “the person will be saved,” then the fire is purgative so that the person may be purified for heaven. See the Catechism paragraph 1030 (cited above) and how it meshes perfectly with what Saint Paul is saying to the Corinthians.
  3. 2 Maccabees 12:39-44: “On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his companions went to gather up the bodies of the fallen and bury them with their kindred in their ancestral tombs. But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had fallen. They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection in mind; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.”
    • The doctrine of Purgatory is closely related to the practice of prayers for the dead; if there was no Purgatory, there would be no reason to pray for the deceased. Though 2 Maccabees is a deutero-canonical book, and only in the Catholic canon, there is still much to be said about it in convincing Protestants. Clearly, as the author points out, this ritual of “praying for the dead” is a “very excellent and noble” practice of the ancient Jews. If this practice were appalling to Jesus, it is likely that he would have corrected the Jews, [4] as he did with many of the other Jewish traditions. Jesus does not correct this Jewish tradition, and if this were one of the things Jesus said but was not written down (John 21:25), it is likely a prohibition of prayers for the dead would have appeared in the writings of the early Church. Instead, the Church Fathers consistently urge people to pray for those in Purgatory.
  4. Purgatory follows logically from other verses: As Peter Kreeft says, “the existence of Purgatory logically follows from two facts: our imperfection on Earth and our perfection in Heaven.” Several verses in scripture flesh out this fact:
    • 1 John 1:8—When we die, we are imperfect: “If we say, ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves,and the truth is not in us”
    • Revelation 21:27—“In Heaven, we will all be perfect:” “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb. The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and to it the kings of the earth will bring their treasure. During the day its gates will never be shut, and there will be no night there. The treasure and wealth of the nations will be brought there, but nothing unclean will enter it, nor any[one] who does abominable things or tells lies. Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
    • “Put these two principles together, and purgatory necessarily follows.”[5]

The Church does not profess faith in Purgatory apart from evidence in the Scriptures. In fact, she often uses them to explain and defend her faith in this purifying state of existence.

[1] Edward Hanna; Catholic Encyclopedia; Purgatory
[2] John Hardon; The Catholic Catechism
[3] New American Bible; Note on 1 Corinthians 3:13
[4] Dave Armstrong’s Biblical Evidence for Catholicism Blog; Biblical Evidence for Purgatory: 25 Bible Passages
[5] Peter Kreeft; Catholic Christianity

Friday, November 9, 2012

Who is "the woman" in Genesis 3:15?

Eve and Mary by Sr. Grace Remington, O.C.S.O (From Dolce Domum) 

"And the Lord God said to the serpent: Because you have done this thing, you are cursed among all cattle, and beasts of the earth: upon your breast shall you go, and earth shall you eat all the days of your life. I will put enmities between you and the woman, and your seed and her seed: (s)he shall crush your head, and you shall lie in wait for (her)his heel. To the woman also he said: I will multiply your sorrows, and your conceptions: in sorrow shall you bring forth children, and you shall be under your husband's power, and he shall have dominion over you. And to Adam he said: Because you have hearkened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded you, that you should not eat, cursed is the earth in your work: with labor and toil shall you eat thereof all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you, and you shall eat the herbs of the earth. In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread till you return to the earth out of which you were taken: for dust you are, and into dust you shall return." (Genesis 3)

Who is “the woman” in Gen 3:15?

Many Protestant scholars claim that "the woman" is Eve because she is the only woman present. The woman, however, is indeed Mary, the Mother of Jesus:

  1. A permanent “enmity” between the serpent and Eve is impossible: In the story of the fall, Eve becomes the serpent’s ally, the enemy of God. The enmity, therefore, cannot be between Eve and the devil; the enmity is between Eve and God. This is the fundamental moment in human history where mankind became estranged from God and servants of evil. Even after this prophecy, Eve did not become the devil’s enemy, but his slave, and is incapable of being placed as his opposite.
    • Eve and the woman have opposite tasks: In the garden, Eve became the associate of the devil in unleashing sin upon the world. In the Protoevangelium, God promises a woman who will do the exact opposite. It is impossible to think of Eve as “the woman” through whom victory will come; her contribution is primarily the world’s loss of original justice. Scheeben points out that Eve is eternally the instrument of the devil’s victory; Mary is eternally the instrument of his defeat. Their tasks could not be more opposite and incompatible.
    • Eve is never seen as someone through whom victory could come: Eve is never portrayed as one through whom any glory might come. As Da Fonseca notes, “one would hardly understand from what follows, why, when speaking to Eve, God had nothing but words of reproof and chastisement; and that throughout the entire history of redemption there is found not even a minimal allusion to a fact so important. For every time Eve is mentioned, she is described as the cause of our ruin, never as the beginning of our restoration.”[1]
    • Eve’s descendants have not crushed the serpent’s head: In general, Eve’s descendants are plagued by her sin, not the destroyers of it. One seed, the seed of Mary, has crushed the serpent’s head: Jesus Christ.
    • The serpent has to be punished: In this passage, God is punishing the serpent. To set Eve at enmity with the devil will hardly be a punishment for him at all—very often she will remain his slave. Scheeben notes that the enmity must be “a victorious pursuit” and an “invincible enmity” for “the woman” and “her seed” or the serpent will not be punished at all—enmity with Eve would be essentially a reward.[2]
    • The passages addressing the serpent and addressing Eve are so different in tone: it is impossible to believe that the woman who is spoken to with such bitterness and disdain in Gen 3:16 can be the same as the one mentioned as the Mother of the Redeemer, the one through whom victory is achieved, in Gen 3:15.
  2. The verse essentially reads “I will put enmities between you and A woman:” In Hebrew, when an article is used in the manner of this verse, it is used “to denote a single person or thing (primarily one which is as yet unknown, and therefore not capable of being defined) as being present to the mind under given circumstances.”[3] The circumstances in which God is speaking refer to Mary who is, as of the time of the prophecy, unknown. With this in mind, the verse should read “…between you and a woman” because “the woman” mentioned in the prophecy cannot yet be known and refers to a woman who will appear “in the fullness of time.” [4] 
  3. 3. Galatians 3:16 makes it clear that “her seed” is Jesus and not some collection of descendants: “To Abraham were the promises made and to his seed. He says not: And to his seeds as of many. But as of one: And to your seed, which is Christ.” Referring to a similar example of the type of messianic prophesy made in Genesis 3:15, Galatians 3:16 makes it clear that these prophecies refer, when speaking about “a seed,” to the incarnate Jesus Christ. Who then is the “her” spoken of when the prophecy mentions “her seed?” Of course it is Mary.
    • “Her seed,” namely, the seed of a woman refers to the Virgin Birth of Christ through Mary: In all Old Testament literature, any mention of “a seed” refers to the descendant of a man, for example Abraham. Any stress at all on the seed of a woman should appear peculiar and can only make sense in light of the future Virgin Birth, where Mary gives birth without the seed of a man. In addition, the “seed of the woman” refers to something that can only be fulfilled supernaturally, without the seed of a man; there has been just one of these births. With this in mind, then, we know that “the woman” is Mary and that “her seed” is Jesus.
  4. “The seed of a woman” can refer to no one but Jesus [5]: If the woman was Eve and this phrase—the seed of a woman—were referring to all of Eve’s descendants, it would not say “woman” but “the seed of a man;” for the births of all her descendants came through the seed of a man by necessity. Knowing the peculiarity of this phrase, then, it’s impossible to look beyond the supernatural implications and reference to the Virgin Birth. Only one birth took place supernaturally and can warrant the phrase “seed of a woman” exclusively: the Virgin Birth of Christ through Mary. 
    • The woman appears closely tied to the Son: The seed of the woman is closely tied to the seed itself; they appear in fact to be inseparable. Eve, however, is never presented in a way that might suggest a link between her and any of her offspring; Cain is her firstborn. Mary, on the other hand, is linked inseparably from the saving work of her Son through her divine motherhood, co-redemption, mediation, and, most apparently in this passage, her immaculate conception.
  5. They are three separate punishments: In this scene of Genesis, God is revealing the consequences of Original Sin to each of the actors separately. There is a temptation to read “the woman” as Eve because she is the only woman present. However, each punishment is addressed to each actor separately and must be read with this in mind (Gen 3:14-15 is to the serpent, Gen 3:16 is to Eve, and Gen 3:17-19 is to Adam). When read as a punishment separate from that of Eve’s, the text shows a profound foretelling of the serpent’s death under the foot of Jesus and has nothing to do with some permanent relationship between the serpent and Eve.
  6. The imagery matches that of Revelation 12 where Our Lady appears as “the woman”: Revelation 12 speaks of “a woman, clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” Further, there is an image of a woman struggling with birth pangs (Gen 3:16) and a dragon/serpent figure, all undeniable images from Genesis 3. Just because it is Eve who is cursed with birth pangs in Gen 3 does not mean she is pictured in Rev 12. In fact, the woman in pain is a figure of Mary, the Church, and Israel’s Daughter Zion, “a maternal figure that represents the holy remnant of Israel groaning for redemption.” (Is 26:17; Mic 4:9-10)[6] All three figures are perfectly fulfilled in Mary. Though Mary herself felt no physical pain in giving birth to Jesus, she does feel pain as mother to men. In addition, the pain that Mary feels in Rev 12 is the pain of Christ’s passion which pierced the side of the mother as well (Luke 2:35). In fact, Jesus himself, in the Gospel written by John—the same John who wrote Revelation—likens the pain of his passion to the pain of a woman in labor (Jn 16:20). We know for certain that “the woman clothed with the sun” in Rev 12 is Mary because she “brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” (Rev 12:5). Who else is this, but Christ? As a result, then, we know that in Gen 3:15, where the Marian imagery mirrors that of Rev 12, it is Mary who is “the woman.”

[1] P.L. Da Fonseca; In Mariology: A Guide for Priest, Deacons, Seminaries, and Consecrated Persons; Page 7
[2] M.J. Scheeben; Mariology; Page 242
[3] Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar; Google Books; Page 427-428
[4] Catholic Encyclopedia; Entry on The Blessed Virgin Mary by Anthony Maas
[5] M.J. Scheeben; Mariology
[6] Ignatius Catholic Study Bible; Page 506