PROTEVANGELIUM, THE. A name given to a verse in the Book of Genesis (iii. 5). The verse belongs to the Jahwistic narrative. It reads: " 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." This has been called the first announcement of the gospel of redemption. Christ, it Is interpreted, will destroy the power of sin and Satan (bruise the Ser pent's bead), though at the cost of suffering (since Satan bruises his heel). But, as A. R. Gordon says, the words can hardly " be regarded as a prophecy of the final victory of Good. At the most, they imply only unceasing conflict between good and evil." Prof. Skinner thinks it " possible that in its primary Intention the oracle reflects the protest of ethical religion against the unnatural fascination of snake-worship. It is psychologically true that the instinctive feelings which lie at the root of the worship of serpents are closely akin to the hatred and loathing which the repulsive reptile excites in the healthy human mind; and the transformation of a once sacred animal into an object of aversion is a not infrequent phenomenon in the history of religion (see Gres. /.c. 360).
The essence of the temptation is that the serpent-demon has tampered with the religious instinct in man by posing as his good genius, and insinuating distrust of the goodness of God; and his punishment is to find him self at eternal war with the race whom he has seduced from their allegiance to their Creator. And that is very much the light in which serpent-worship must have appeared to a believer in the holy and righteous God of the Old Testament." R. Kittel Interprets the passage to mean that at some time in the history of the human race certain individuals or one individual will arise who will bring the moral war to victory in the name and on behalf of the whole race. " Closely connected with this idea is that of the saviour of the future, which is thus transferred from the naturalistic to the moral sphere." He thinks it quite possible that we ought to ascribe the passage to a much earlier date than the Jahwistic docu ment itself, and that it is really the " first Gospel." See W. H. Bennett, Genesis in the " Century Bible"; A. R. Gordon, The Early Traditions of Genesis, 1907; J. Skinner, Genesis, 1910; R. Kittel, The Scientific Study of the O.T., 1910.