A Note on the Translation of Gen 3:15
A Roman Catholic deacon, in a talk I heard yesterday, asserted that the usual English translations of Gen 3:15b, "He/it shall bruise your head," are mistaken. The proper translation, he said, was "she shall bruise your head," and refers allegorically to the Virgin Mary.
I checked this when I got home and the Hebrew clearly says הוא ישופך ראש, "he/it will bruise your head." Whence the good deacon's assertion? The Septuagint also clearly uses the masculine form. But the Vulgate says ipsa conteret, "she will bruise." A little research turned up a boatload of comment on this reading (a controversy of which I had been until yesterday completely unaware). The RC Douay Rheims translation follows this reading. However, the Nova Vulgata, the revised Latin version authorized by the Vatican now reads ipsum conteret, "it will bruise." This is no doubt correct in terms of the original text; nor can I believe that St. Jerome's original translation of the Hebraica veritas was anything but ipsum.
What amazed me in the literature was the fierceness of the opposing sides. Apparently in a previous age, up to the 19th century, the question of Gen 3:15 seemed to both RC and Protestant to involve crucial questions, and that to retreat amounted to surrendering a key point. But there could only be one outcome to the debate, and the RC church has accepted it, recognizing, I think, that its claims about Mary are not really at risk in the question of the translation of this verse. Nevertheless, I can tell you that at some levels, among the laity, the old debate is still very much alive.
Heb Genesis 3:15
VUL Genesis 3:15 inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem et semen tuum et semen illius ipsa conteret caput tuum et tu insidiaberis calcaneo eius
KJV Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.