In honour of the celebration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary today, I thought I’d start a multi-part study of a passage in Scripture and the relationship it bears to the teaching on the Church about the role of Mary, Our Blessed Mother.
Some time ago I was horrified to discover, when doing some personal study on Genesis 3:15, that there is a difference between the text in the Latin Vulgate (that translation of St. Jerome’s that Catholics had given pride of place for centuries) and a number of other translations.
The reason for this was that the other translations I consulted were all taken either from the Greek translation of the original text (the Septuagint) or they were taken from the original Hebrew itself.
At first I noticed the difference in just two other translations and thought that it was odd. I kept digging, examining half a dozen different translations before realizing that I couldn’t escape the truth – there was definitely something fishy going on here.
The accurate translation of the Hebrew reads:
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 Vulgate, on the other hand, is translated in the Douay-Rheims version (old English) as:
I will put enmities between thee and the woman,
and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.
I started to feel anxious; in discussions about sola scriptura with my Protestant friends, I had often pointed out that Martin Luther had “doctored” the bible, adding the word “alone” so that he could impose a teaching that was not actually present in Scripture. This, in my view, compromised the very integrity of the doctrine it was supposed to uphold. No-one could argue that this DIDN’T happen, for Luther himself admits to it in a letter to a friend of his, and this is all very well-documented and well-known.
Now, it seemed, I was facing the possibility that St. Jerome had done something very similar many, many years ago, and that this threatened the integrity of the Church’s teaching on the role of Mary, given the historical association of the concept of Mediatrix with this passage.
Who exactly is supposed to be doing the head-crushing here, after all? Is it the woman? Is it the woman’s offspring? WHO is the woman?