What is the first promise of salvation?

The first promise of salvation in the Bible is found in Genesis 3:15, often referred to as the protoevangelium. After Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God pronounced a curse on the serpent who had tempted them, saying “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” This verse contains the first messianic prophecy, a promise that a future descendant of Eve would defeat the serpent, Satan, though sustaining injury in the process. This promise gave hope to Adam and Eve that redemption was possible through a coming savior.

What does Genesis 3:15 say?

Genesis 3:15 states: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” In this verse, God is speaking to the serpent who tempted Eve. The verse contains several key parts:

  • “I will put enmity between you and the woman” – There will be opposition and conflict between Satan and Eve’s female descendants
  • “Between your offspring and her offspring” – There will be opposition between Satan’s offspring (evildoers) and Eve’s godly offspring
  • “He shall bruise your head” – A male descendant of Eve will crush Satan with a fatal blow
  • “You shall bruise his heel” – Satan will be able to inflict pain on the male descendant, but it will not be fatal

So in summary, this verse predicts an ultimate victory for good over evil, as a future male descendant of Eve will destroy Satan, though sustaining injury in the process. This promised offspring is understood to be the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Why is Genesis 3:15 considered the first Gospel?

There are a few key reasons why this verse is known as the “first Gospel” or “protoevangelium”:

  1. It gives hope after the Fall – Up until this point, the story of Genesis has been one of increasing disobedience and curse. This is the first point where God provides a glimmer of hope for salvation.
  2. It promises offspring – Whereas Eve had believed the serpent’s lie that she would “be like God” (Gen 3:5), now God promises her offspring, preserving the first command to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28).
  3. It predicts victory – God’s promise that Eve’s offspring would crush the serpent’s head points ahead to the ultimate victory of good over evil.
  4. It necessitates a Savior – Implicit in the verse is the need for a Savior, the male descendant of Eve who will defeat Satan on humanity’s behalf.

So in the midst of punishment, curse, and exile from Eden, Genesis 3:15 provides the first prophetic glimpse of the messianic salvation to come through Jesus Christ.

How does Genesis 3:15 relate to the Abrahamic covenant?

There is a close connection between the promise of Genesis 3:15 and the covenant God makes with Abraham in Genesis 12 and 15. Let’s explore the key similarities:

  • Both contain a promise of offspring – numerous offspring for Abraham, and an ultimate saving offspring for Eve
  • Both look ahead to the defeat of evil – the serpent for Eve, wicked nations for Abraham
  • Both necessitate the coming Messiah – the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham
  • Both were unconditional promises made by God alone, not requiring human action

However, there are also some differences between the two:

  • The Abrahamic covenant narrows down the line of offspring to Abraham’s family, whereas the Genesis 3 prophecy concerned Eve’s descendants in general
  • The Abrahamic covenant specified blessing to all nations through Abraham, not just victory over one enemy
  • The Abrahamic covenant provides more specific national, land, and blessing promises

So while the Genesis 3 prophecy was more vague and general, the Abrahamic covenant clarified God’s redemptive plan, narrowing the line of offspring down to Abraham as the father of Israel, through whom the Messiah would come as a light to all nations.

How was Genesis 3:15 understood in early Judaism?

There are a variety of ways that Jewish interpreters understood Genesis 3:15 in early Judaism:

  • As a general promise of ongoing struggle between the serpent and humans
  • As a prediction of conflict between the serpent’s offspring and the righteous
  • As foretelling the defeat of Satan by the Messiah
  • As prophesying the birth of specific historical messianic pretenders

The more allegorical interpretations saw Genesis 3:15 as the first prophecy of the Messiah, who would be born of a woman and defeat the power of sin and evil. However, some Jewish thinkers favored more literal interpretations instead, even predicting the verse referred to actual historical figures meant to fulfill the messianic promise. There was no unified understanding of Genesis 3:15 in early Judaism, with opinions spanning the gamut between metaphorical and literal.

Examples of Genesis 3:15 interpretations in early Judaism

  • Some Dead Sea Scrolls apply the verse to the battle of the “Sons of Light” against the “Sons of Darkness.”
  • The first century Jewish historian Josephus used the verse to explain the birth of noble sons meant to defeat evil.
  • The Genesis Rabbah, a commentary on Genesis, understands the verse as foretelling the Messiah’s victory over Satan.

So Genesis 3:15 generated great messianic interest and speculation long before the time of Christ.

How did the New Testament authors understand Genesis 3:15?

We see Genesis 3:15 clearly understood in a messianic sense in several New Testament passages:

  • Romans 16:20 – “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” This verse echoing of bruising / crushing Satan’s head points back to the Edenic promise.
  • Hebrews 2:14 – “Through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” Here the Messiah’s defeat of Satan fulfills Genesis 3.
  • Revelation 12 – The woman and her offspring are persecuted by the dragon (Satan), but her child defeats the dragon, going back to the Genesis prophecy.

So the New Testament authors recognize Genesis 3:15 as a promise ultimately fulfilled in Christ’s work in reversing the curse and defeating Satan once and for all in His death and resurrection. The bruising of Christ’s heel at the cross led to the ultimate bruising of Satan’s head, achieving total victory.

How does Jesus’ fulfill Genesis 3:15?

Jesus fulfills the promise of Genesis 3:15 in multiple ways:

  • He is the offspring of Eve who defeats Satan – born of a woman (Gal. 4:4)
  • He defeats Satan in His death and resurrection (Heb. 2:14, Col. 2:15)
  • He reverses the curse through His life, death, and resurrection (Gal. 3:13)
  • He pours out His Spirit to empower the church to resist Satan (Acts 1:8)
  • He will return to permanently destroy Satan and all evil (Rev. 20:10)

So while Christ secured the critical victory over Satan through His first coming, the full crushing of Satan’s head will occur at Jesus’ second coming when He eliminates Satan, sin and evil forever. But the decisive blow was already struck at the cross.

How did the early church understand Genesis 3:15?

The early church fathers clearly understood Genesis 3:15 as the first prophecy of Christ’s coming and victory over Satan. Significant references include:

  • Justin Martyr (100–165 CE) – Christ was born of a virgin to conquery the serpent
  • Irenaeus (130–202 CE) – Christ reversed what Adam had done in his disobedience
  • Tertullian (155-240 CE) – The virgin birth of Christ fulfilled Genesis 3:15
  • Augustine (354-430) – The seed of the woman is Christ, born to destroy the devil

While later interpreters introduced other possible interpretations, the dominant early church view was that this verse pointed unambiguously to the Messiah Jesus as the ultimate seed who defeats Satan, sin and death on humanity’s behalf. It was a vital text for expressing the saving work of Christ.

How have modern scholars understood Genesis 3:15?

Modern critical scholars have proposed a variety of interpretations of Genesis 3:15, including:

  • Literal human warfare – The verse refers to actual human hostility between descendants of Eve and the serpent.
  • Symbolic spiritual conflict – The passage describes ongoing spiritual warfare between Satan’s followers and God’s people.
  • Allegory of Good vs Evil – The serpent represents evil being ultimately defeated by righteous God-followers.
  • Mythological archetype – The verse embodies the common mythological trope of a hero defeating a monster.
  • Prophetic foreshadowing – The passage purposefully anticipates and prefigures Christ’s victory on the cross.

So modern interpreters run the gamut from literal to symbolic to critical literary readings. Nevertheless, when understood in light of ancient Near Eastern culture and the overarching biblical narrative, many scholars still see Genesis 3:15 as an incipient promise of the gospel.


Genesis 3:15 stands out as the first messianic prophecy, offering hope of salvation soon after the Fall. While being understood in various ways throughout history, the dominant view of Jewish and Christian interpreters is that this verse points ahead to Jesus Christ, the ultimate offspring of Eve who defeats Satan on humanity’s behalf. Though subjected to bruising at the cross, Christ emerged victorious, crushing Satan’s head and reversing the curse. The cryptic first Gospel promise thus finds its resolution at Calvary and the empty tomb, with complete fulfillment yet to come at the end of the age.

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