Statue Of Mary Stepping On A Snake..

Posted: September 2, 2010 by CatholicJules in Questions & Answers

Question: I noticed a statue of Mary stepping on a snake. I asked the owner of the store to explain what this meant. She said that in Genesis 3:15 the Lord said that Mary would someday crush the serpent’s head, the serpent being the devil. I checked this in my Bible (a Catholic version that I bought at the same shop). But Genesis 3:15 doesn’t say that. It says that the seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head. I understand this to be Jesus Christ, not Mary. So, how can that statue of Mary with the serpent be justified?

Answer: In the Book of Genesis 3:15 God speaks to the serpent after the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; He shall crush your head and you shall lie in wait for his heel.” This is a correct translation of the original Hebrew text and the traditional text of the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament. But two ancient translations, the Latin Vulgate (revised by St. Jerome) and the ancient Coptic version (Coptic is the Egyptian language used prior to the Arab Muslim invasions), read, “She shall crush your head.” But current editions of the Bible in modern languages, translations from the original languages, all follow the translation “He shall crush.”

Now, in order to understand why Our Lady is depicted crushing the serpent, you need to know that the whole of Christian tradition in any language of East or West interprets that passage as a prophecy of the coming of the Messiah or Savior, Jesus Christ, the “seed of the woman.” He is the Second or New Adam, and His Mother Mary, because she was completely free from sin, both original and actual, is the new Eve, the only woman who has a perfect enmity with the devil. This passage, sometimes referred to as the Protoevangelium (Greek = “first Gospel”) is the first announcement of the Good News of Salvation after the Bad News of Sin and Death. Many popes, including the Pope John Paul II, have repeatedly interpreted this passage in a prophetic sense, referring to Christ and Mary. Take a look, for example, at Pope John Paul II’s Marian encyclical Redemptoris Mater. The Catechism’s teaching on this passage is found in paragraphs 70, 410, and 411.

Some Scripture scholars deny that this passage refers to Jesus or Mary. They see the literal sense of this verse only as a popular folk tale, written as a way to explain why humans are afraid of snakes! (That’s a slippery interpretation if there ever was one.)

Naturally in the Latin tradition, because of the translation “she shall crush,” the passage has had a more vivid Marian meaning. That’s where the tradition of depicting Mary crushing the head of the serpent arose. But it’s a very apt and theologically precise image, nonetheless, since it’s a perfect image of her Immaculate Conception, her lifelong immunity from sin, won for her by Christ’s saving passion and death on the cross (cf. Luke 1:47). This is one reason why the new liturgy of the Roman Rite, promulgated at Vatican II, retains the reading “she will crush your head.” It is part of the antiphon (a short thematic verse) used for Mass on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. It’s part of the Church’s tradition, a witness to the Blessed Virgin Mary’s special role in her Divine Son’s plan of salvation.

Question Answered by FR. HUGH BARBOUR, O.PRAEM

Comments
  1. John says:

    The Catholic Church is guilty of many crimes against Humanity but possibly the worst of all is it`s inseminating False Pagan teachings in order ro have a tighter grip on the greater number
    The Mother and child concept was first made divine by Semiramis in ancient Babylon When her son Nimrod died he was deified and she thus become the mother of God
    From the time of Babel where God confused their tongues the concept of the Mother of God spread worldwide to all nations and cultures

    The Catholic Church has adulterated the pure truths in Gods word in order to amass great wealth at the expense of the uneducated poor

    • CatholicJules says:

      My dear John I take it that perhaps you are writing this because you have some good intentions and because perhaps you care. However there are so many fallacies in your statements. The Catholic Church is a congregation of sinners hence like many Christian organisations as well as other world religions, we too have our fair share of faults. Anyhow here are facts for you to chew on :-

      If few Fundamentalists know the history of their religion—which distressingly few do—even fewer have an appreciation of the history of the Catholic Church. They become easy prey for purveyors of fanciful “histories” that claim to account for the origin and advance of Catholicism.

      Anti-Catholics often suggest that Catholicism did not exist prior to the Edict of Milan, which was issued in 313 AD and made Christianity legal in the Roman Empire. With this, pagan influences began to contaminate the previously untainted Christian Church. In no time, various inventions adopted from paganism began to replace the gospel that had been once for all delivered to the saints. At least, that is the theory.

      Pagan Influence Fallacy

      Opponents of the Church often attempt to discredit Catholicism by attempting to show similarities between it and the beliefs or practices of ancient paganism. This fallacy is frequently committed by Fundamentalists against Catholics, by Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and others against both Protestants and Catholics, and by atheists and skeptics against both Christians and Jews.

      The nineteenth century witnessed a flowering of this “pagan influence fallacy.” Publications such as The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop (the classic English text charging the Catholic Church with paganism) paved the way for generations of antagonism towards the Church. During this time, entire new sects were created (Seventh-Day Adventists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses)—all considering traditional Catholicism and Protestantism as polluted by paganism. This era also saw atheistic “freethinkers” such as Robert Ingersoll writing books attacking Christianity and Judaism as pagan.

      The pagan influence fallacy has not gone away in the twentieth century, but newer archaeology and more mature scholarship have diminished its influence. Yet there are still many committing it. In Protestant circles, numerous works have continued to popularize the claims of Alexander Hislop, most notably the comic books of Jack Chick and the book Babylon Mystery Religion by the young Ralph Woodrow (later Woodrow realized its flaws and wrote The Babylon Connection? repudiating it and refuting Hislop). Other Christian and quasi-Christian sects have continued to charge mainstream Christianity with paganism, and many atheists have continued to repeat—unquestioned—the charges of paganism leveled by their forebears.

      Use of a round wafer implies sun worship?

      Hislop and Chick argue that the wafers of Communion are round, just like the wafers of the sun worshippers of Baal. They don’t bother to mention that the wafers used by the same pagans were also ovals, triangles, some with the edges folded over, or shaped like leaves or animals, etc. The fact that a wafer is round does not make it immoral or pagan, since even the Jews had wafers and cakes offered in the Old Testament (Gen. 18:1-8, Ex 29:1-2).

      Unfortunately for Chick and other Fundamentalists, their arguments backfire. An atheist will take the pagan connection one step further, saying, “Christianity itself is simply a regurgitation of pagan myths: the incarnation of a divinity from a virgin, a venerated mother and child, just like Isis and Osiris, Isa and Iswara, Fortuna and Jupiter, and Semiramis and Tammuz. Beyond this, some pagans had a triune God, and pagan gods were often pictured with wings, as was your God in Psalms 91:4. The flames on the heads of the apostles were also seen as an omen from the gods in Roman poetry and heathen myths long before Pentecost. A rock is struck that brings forth water in the Old Testament . . . just like the pagan goddess Rhea did long before then. Also, Jesus is known as the ‘fish,’ just like the fish-god Dagon, etc.” Unless the Fundamentalists are willing to honestly examine the logical fallacies and historical inaccuracies, they are left defenseless. Fortunately, like the attacks on Catholicism in particular, all of the supposed parallels mentioned above self-destruct when examined with any scholarly rigor. If not guilty of historical inaccuracies, they all are guilty of what can be called “pagan influence fallacies.”

      Anything can be attacked using fallacy

      The pagan influence fallacy is committed when one charges that a particular religion, belief, or practice is of pagan origin or has been influenced by paganism and is therefore false, wrong, tainted, or to be repudiated. In this minimal form, the pagan influence fallacy is a subcase of the genetic fallacy, which improperly judges a thing based on its history or origins rather than on its own merits (e.g., “No one should use this medicine because it was invented by a drunkard and adulterer”).

      Very frequently, the pagan influence fallacy is committed in connection with other fallacies, most notably the post hoc ergo proper hoc (“After this, therefore because of this”) fallacy—e.g., “Some ancient pagans did or believed something millennia ago, therefore any parallel Christian practices and beliefs must be derived from that source.” Frequently, a variant on this fallacy is committed in which, as soon as a parallel with something pagan is noted, it is assumed that the pagan counterpart is the more ancient. This variant might be called the similis hoc ergo propter hoc (“Similar to this, therefore because of this”) fallacy.

      When the pagan influence fallacy is encountered, it should be pointed out that it is, in fact, a fallacy. To help make this clear to a religious person committing it, it may be helpful to illustrate with cases where the pagan influence fallacy could be committed against his own position (e.g., the practice of circumcision was practiced in the ancient world by a number of peoples—including the Egyptians—but few Jews or Christians would say that its divinely authorized use in Israel was an example of “pagan corruption”).

      To help a secular person see the fallacy involved, one might point to a parallel case of the genetic fallacy involving those of his perspective (e.g., “Nobody should accept this particular scientific theory because it was developed by an atheist”).

      Whenever one encounters a proposed example of pagan influence, one should demand that its existence be properly documented, not just asserted. The danger of accepting an inaccurate claim is too great. The amount of misinformation in this area is great enough that it is advisable never to accept a reported parallel as true unless it can be demonstrated from primary source documents or through reliable, scholarly secondary sources. After receiving documentation supporting the claim of a pagan parallel, one should ask a number of questions:

      1. Is there a parallel? Frequently, there is not. The claim of a parallel may be erroneous, especially when the documentation provided is based on an old or undisclosed source.

      For example: “The Egyptians had a trinity. They worshiped Osiris, Isis, and Horus, thousands of years before the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were known” (Robert Ingersoll, Why I Am an Agnostic). This is not true. The Egyptians had an Ennead—a pantheon of nine major gods and goddesses. Osiris, Isis, and Horus were simply three divinities in the pantheon who were closely related by marriage and blood (not surprising, since the Ennead itself was an extended family) and who figured in the same myth cycle. They did not represent the three persons of a single divine being (the Christian understanding of the Trinity). The claim of an Egyptian trinity is simply wrong. There is no parallel.

      2. Is the parallel dependent or independent? Even if there is a pagan parallel, that does not mean that there is a causal relationship involved. Two groups may develop similar beliefs, practices, and artifacts totally independently of each other. The idea that similar forms are always the result of diffusion from a common source has long been rejected by archaeology and anthropology, and for very good reason: Humans are similar to each other and live in similar (i.e., terrestrial) environments, leading them to have similar cultural artifacts and views.

      For example, Fundamentalists have made much of the fact that Catholic art includes Madonna and Child images and that non-Christian art, all over the world, also frequently includes mother and child images. There is nothing sinister in this. The fact is that, in every culture, there are mothers who hold their children! Sometimes this gets represented in art, including religious art, and it especially is used when a work of art is being done to show the motherhood of an individual. Mother-with child-images do not need to be explained by a theory of diffusion from a common, pagan religious source (such as Hislop’s suggestion that such images stem from representations of Semiramis holding Tammuz). One need look no further than the fact that mothers holding children is a universal feature of human experience and a convenient way for artists to represent motherhood.

      3. Is the parallel antecedent or consequent? Even if there is a pagan parallel that is causally related to a non-pagan counterpart, this does not establish which gave rise to the other. It may be that the pagan parallel is a late borrowing from a non-pagan source. Frequently, the pagan sources we have are so late that they have been shaped in reaction to Jewish and Christian ideas. Sometimes it is possible to tell that pagans have been borrowing from non-pagans. Other times, it cannot be discerned who is borrowing from whom (or, indeed, if anyone is borrowing from anyone).

      For example: The ideas expressed in the Norse Elder Edda about the end and regeneration of the world were probably influenced by the teachings of Christians with whom the Norse had been in contact for centuries (H. A. Guerber, The Norsemen, 339f).

      4. Is the parallel treated positively, neutrally, or negatively? Even if there is a pagan parallel to a non-pagan counterpart, that does not mean that the item or concept was enthusiastically or uncritically accepted by non-pagans. One must ask how they regarded it. Did they regard it as something positive, neutral, or negative?

      For example: Circumcision and the symbol of the cross might be termed “neutral” Jewish and Christian counterparts to pagan parallels. It is quite likely that the early Hebrews first encountered the idea of circumcision among neighboring non-Jewish peoples, but that does not mean they regarded it as a
      religiously good thing for non-Jews to do. Circumcision was regarded as a religiously good thing only for Jews because for them it symbolized a special covenant with the one true God (Gen. 17). The Hebrew scriptures are silent in a religious appraisal of non-Jewish circumcision; they seemed indifferent to the fact that some pagans circumcised.

      Similarly, the early Christians who adopted the cross as a symbol did not do so because it was a pagan religious symbol (the pagan cultures which use it as a symbol, notably in East Asia and the Americas, had no influence on the early Christians). The cross was used as a Christian symbol because Christ died on a cross—his execution being regarded as a bad thing in itself, in fact, an infinite injustice—but one from which he brought life for the world. Christians did not adopt it because it was a pagan symbol they liked and wanted to copy.

      Examples of negative parallels are often found in Genesis. For instance, the Flood narrative (Gen. 6-9) has parallels to pagan flood stories, but is written so that it refutes ideas in them. Thus Genesis attributes the flood to human sin (6:5-7), not overpopulation, as Atrahasis’ Epic and the Greek poem Cypria did (I. Kikawada & A. Quinn). The presence of flood stories in cultures around the world does not undermine the validity of the biblical narrative, but lends it more credence.

      Criticism, refutation, and replacement are also the principles behind modern holidays being
      celebrated to a limited extent around the same time as former pagan holidays. In actuality, reports of Christian holidays coinciding with pagan ones are often inaccurate (Christmas does not occur on Saturnalia, for example). However, to the extent the phenomenon occurs at all, Christian holidays were introduced to provide a wholesome, non-pagan alternative celebration, which thus critiques and rejects the pagan holiday.

      This is the same process that leads Fundamentalists who are offended at the (inaccurately alleged) pagan derivation of Halloween to introduce alternative “Reformation Day” celebrations for their children. (This modern Protestant holiday is based on the fact that the Reformation began when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517.) Another Fundamentalist substitution for Halloween has been “harvest festivals” that celebrate the season of autumn and the gathering of crops. These fundamentalist substitutions are no more “pagan” than the celebrations of days or seasons that may have been introduced by earlier Christians.

      Historical truth prevails

      Ultimately, all attempts to prove Catholicism “pagan” fail. Catholic doctrines are neither borrowed from the mystery religions nor introduced from pagans after the conversion of Constantine. To make a charge of paganism stick, one must be able to show more than a similarity between something in the Church and something in the non-Christian world. One must be able to demonstrate a legitimate connection between the two, showing clearly that one is a result of the other, and that there is something wrong with the non-Christian item.

      In the final analysis, nobody has been able to prove these things regarding a doctrine of the Catholic faith, or even its officially authorized practices. The charge of paganism just doesn’t work.

      NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
      presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
      Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004
      IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
      permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
      +Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 200

      • Kare says:

        I Thank you for your knowledge on this discussion, I would say that 85% of the population (guessing here) are unaware of the Catholic traditions and how to follow them, I have know a few Catholics and they give up the religion for something that they themselves find convenient- in other words what they want to read and interrupter it, one has to realize that there is more than a few passages to be able to capture the essence of what the Bible entails, and not to conveniently translate it to those who are changing religion in their favor, there are those that say one thing and do another, We try to relate to the bible’s passages, and translate it into a better understanding but there are those that will make it their own and confuse the theology teaching and accept it because of their own ignorance.You are right on the spot,in your explanation for some individuals.

        • CatholicJules says:

          Thank you Kare for sharing your thoughts, may the peace and joy of our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you…

  2. John says:

    The Catholic bible is The New Jerusalem Bible and my bible says It will bruise your head and you will strike it’s heel. Then the footnotes says Greek read He. Suggesting a personal Saviour. So no the Catholic bible does not say she.

    • CatholicJules says:

      The Jerusalem Bible is only one translation of the Catholic bible. In any case if you read the whole question and answer section carefully you will find that you are not wrong, but there are more than one translation as stated.

      • John says:

        I actually thought the statues of Our Blessed Lady standing on the snakes was that she was born without original sin so she could give birth to Our Lord Yeshua Christ meaning she conquered the serpent that was the cause of original sin by tempting Eve to eat the forbidden fruit but I must be wrong. Peace

  3. Uku Kaarel Jõesaar says:

    How Lady Mary was born without sin, if she is just people as other peoples and successor of sinful peoples and and successor of sinful Adam and Eve. Lady Mary had not been with a man before Jesus was born, but otherwise she is just people with sin. Jesus was without sin, because he was the son of God, and in addition, he also did not sin. I am glad if you could explain how to understand it. Thank You.

    • CatholicJules says:

      The Angel Gabriel greeted Mary with Hail full of Grace…The title “full of grace” comes from the Greek word kecharitomene, which describes a “perfection” and “abundance” of grace. In other words, Mary was proclaimed by the angel to be with a perfection of grace, which was a very powerful statement. How can Mary be completely and perfectly with God’s grace, yet still have sin left in her? Christians eventually came to recognize that it was extremely possible for Mary to be without sin, especially if she was completely filled with God’s grace. Luke 1:28 happens to be the only place in the Bible where anyone is addressed with the important title of “full of grace.”

      “…the Holy Ghost shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God.” – Luke 1:35

      Luke 1:35 shows Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant. According to the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was the pure and holy vessel that held the Ten Commandments (the Old Covenant). The Ark was so holy in fact, that if anyone where to touch it they could actually fall down and die! It was housed in the Holy of Holies, which was a perfectly clean place where the Jewish high priests could enter only once a year according to their law (See Lev. 16:2-4). So how are Mary and the Ark related? The same language that describes God’s “dwelling” place for the Old Ark is used again for Mary’s overshadowing by the Holy Spirit. Put another way, the Old Ark held God’s Ten Commandments and could not be touched by human hands because of its holiness. Mary, the New Ark, holds the New Covenant in her womb, which is Jesus Christ. How much holier is Christ than the Ten Commandments? It only makes sense that for Mary to hold God in her womb, she too would be completely pure and without any sin.

      “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed (offspring) and hers; He (she) will crush your head while you strike at his (her) heel.” – Genesis 3:15

      What does the book of Genesis have to do with Mary’s Immaculate Conception? Genesis 3:15 is the first passage in the Bible that refers to Jesus defeating Satan on the cross. It is also the first verse that shows us how Mary would become the New Eve. The seed of the woman, who would crush the serpent’s head, is Jesus. The woman at enmity, or hostility with the serpent, is Mary. It was God who put this hostility between Mary and Satan (the serpent), and it is believed to be in the same likeness as Christ’s hostility for the seed of the serpent. What exactly does all this mean? For Mary to be like Christ in His hostility for Satan forever, it is very possible to say that this passage implies Mary’s lack of sin. What better way is there to be in total hostility with Satan than to be in God’s constant grace? As the New Eve, Mary undid the “no” of the Old Testament Eve by saying, “yes” to carry Jesus.

    • My suggestion would be to read “Women – God’s Secret Weapon” by Ed Silvoso.

      Another suggestion would be to re-read Genesis again while contemplating what Mr. Silvoso proposes. Even prior to finding this resource I noticed when I read Genesis very literally and carefully

      1. Eve was not even created yet when God spoke directly and ONLY to Adam about not eating from the tree. Read as if God is focusing on Adam “man” and not woman.

      2. Why did Jesus appear as a male? Maybe specifically bc the males needed a model to emulate? Maybe females, for the most part, did not need to see/experience and example of how to communicate with God, how to nurture and care for other, how not to kill, etc. Maybe they innately had/have these qualities.

      That is all I can share now.
      Be Blessed,
      Kim

      • CatholicJules says:

        I wonder how Mr Silvoso can totally omit Genesis 3 and propose Eve was ignorant?

        Unless one can truly accept God’s Will for us in humility, accept the different gifts of strength and wisdom he bestows on men and women we will never truly grow in our faith and love for one another.

  4. crystal says:

    The Virgin Mary was born without original Sin. The serpent in the Garden of Eden represents original Sin. The Virgin Mary is standing on the Serpent to show she escaped original Sin.

  5. GW says:

    It wasn’t a snake it was a serpent from the underworld. Mary is protected by the holy spirit and the serpent cannot harm her. That’s what it represents. I have seen that serpent in my life time it has two horns on its tail and its mouth has a smile.

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