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Introduction

Yet she will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith, and love, and holiness with moderation. This is a trustworthy saying. 1 Timothy 2:15–3:1a (my translation)

1 Timothy 2:15 is the only verse in the New Testament that connects having children with salvation, and it’s not an easy verse to interpret. Who is being spoken about here? How are we to understand “saved” in this verse? How are we to understand “childbearing”? How does verse 15 fit within the broader context of 1 Timothy 2:8–15 and of the entire letter?

What does 1 Timothy 2:15 mean?!

There are various interpretations of “she will saved through childbearing” put forward by scholars, but in this article, I mostly explain how I understand the phrase. To keep the word count down, I’ve chosen to focus only on a few concepts in this discussion on 1 Timothy 2:15. I’ve passed over other concepts quickly but have linked to more information.

A Proposed Backdrop to 1 Timothy 2:15

What was happening in the Ephesian church?

From 1 Timothy 4:3, we know that some people in the Ephesus church were forbidding marriage. They were probably teaching that celibacy was a moral, and even a necessary, virtue. Paul considered these ideas to be doctrines of demons!

Now the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared. They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods that God created to be received with gratitude by those who believe and know the truth. 1 Timothy 4:1–3

Despite Paul’s disapproval, we read in more than a few early Christian texts that not marrying and not having sex and children were seen as good things. Moreover, sexual renunciation was positively associated with salvation and the resurrection. (I quote from several such texts here.)[1]

With this backstory in mind, here is my understanding of 1 Timothy 2:15.

Yet shea woman mentioned in 1 Tim. 2:11–12 who needed to learn, etc
will be savedshe will keep her salvation
through having children—through, or despite, the experience of sex and procreation
if theya woman and man (wife and husband) mentioned in 1 Tim. 2:11–12
continue in faith and love—usual expressions of following Jesus
and holiness with moderationpiety without excesses such as sexual renunciation.

Paul did not want an Ephesian woman (and women like her) to take the notion of holiness to extremes by refusing to have sex and babies with her husband. He wanted her to know that having sex and having children would not jeopardise her salvation: she will be saved.

The Language of 1 Timothy 2:15a

“She will be saved” (sōthēsetai)

Some have taken the Greek verb used in this phrase, sōthēsetai (from sōzō), to mean that a woman will be kept healthy and safe while giving birth. Considering the miserably high incidence of maternal mortality in the ancient world, however, I cannot see how any sensible person would promise such safety. The dangers of childbirth were life-threatening, even for Christian women.

Furthermore, some see 1 Timothy 2:15 as a Christian response to women calling on the Ephesian Artemis to help during childbirth. This goddess was known as a midwife who helped women in labour. I’ve looked long and hard at Artemis of Ephesus, but at this point in time, I do not think she is firmly behind 1 Timothy 2:15.[2]

Artemis is not mentioned in the letters to Timothy. On the other hand, there are blatant clues in these letters that point to sexual asceticism as being an issue in the Ephesian church (1 Tim. 4:3; 5:11–14).

I believe Paul used the word “saved” in 1 Timothy 2:15 with the same basic meaning as he did earlier in the same chapter when he wrote that God “wants all people to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4 cf. 1 Tim 1:15; 4:16).

Note that the verb sōthēsetai (“she will be saved”) is followed by the common conjunction de (in its usual post-positive position). This word often has the simple sense of “and” but it can have a slightly adversative sense. I think the sense here is, “But she will saved,” or “yet she will saved,” and that this phrase follows on from the idea of “to domineer a man/ husband” (authentein andros) at the end of verse 12. I propose that a woman in Ephesus was domineering her husband by withholding sex for the sake of piety. I explain this further here: An interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12 that joins the dots of 2:11–15.

“Through” (dia)

The sense of the Greek preposition dia, often translated as “through” in 1 Timothy 2:15, is not easy to grasp. Somewhat similar language for “saved through” is used in 1 Peter 3:20 and in 1 Corinthians 3:15, so it may be helpful to compare these verses.

Just as Noah and his family were “saved through (dia) the water” of the deadly flood, which is given in an analogy of baptism and salvation in 1 Peter 3:20–21, the Ephesian woman will be saved through (dia) the experience of procreation. She won’t be doomed if she has babies.

In 1 Corinthians 3:15, Paul uses the exact same verb as in 1 Timothy 2:15, sōthēsetai (“s/he will be saved”), for people who will be saved but will suffer loss “as through (dia) the fire.” Fire is used as a symbol of destruction in this passage where Paul assures the Corinthians of their eternal salvation.

In these verses, going “through water,” “through fire,” and “through having children” does not hinder salvation despite the real or perceived dangers. Rather, as we are told elsewhere in the Bible, “Whoever calls upon the Name of the Lord will be saved (sōthēsetai)” (Acts 2:21). This verse in Acts is one of many which tells us that our salvation lies in reliance on God.

The Childbearing (tēs teknognias)

The Greek word often translated as “childbearing” in 1 Timothy 2:15 is used with a definite article, so these two words may be translated as “the childbearing.” Some claim that the definite article means that one particular childbirth is being spoken of here, the birth of Jesus. However, abstract nouns (teknogonia is an abstract noun) are often used with a definite article in ancient Greek with no pointed significance and without referring to one particular event.

Furthermore, teknogonia doesn’t necessarily refer to just giving birth.[3] Lynn Cohick writes that teknogonia “is rather elastic and can indicate pregnancy, delivery or raising the child.”[4] The word seems to say more about the person having children than it does about the children, or child.

Later in 1 Timothy, Paul uses a cognate of teknogonia, and this verse is clearly not about the birth of Jesus. Rather, Paul’s concern is again celibacy. He instructs Timothy not to enrol young widows as official widows because this would entail a pledge of celibacy which could be difficult to sustain (1 Tim. 5:11–15). Paul wanted the young widows to get married and to have children (teknogonein), and engage in the usual activities of respectable Roman matrons which they couldn’t do if they held to flawed ideas of celibacy and procreation (1 Tim. 5:14 cf. 1 Tim. 4:3).[5]

Conclusion

1 Timothy was written because of “other” teachings (1 Tim. 1:3ff); 1 Timothy 2:15 addresses one of these strange teachings. I suggest an influential woman in Ephesus (or a group of Ephesian women) was taking notions of holiness too far and was refusing to have sex and children with her husband. As I’ve indicated, this was not an uncommon occurrence in the early church. We see the beginnings of this already in 1 Corinthians 7 (cf. 1 Tim. 4:3).[6]

However, Paul doesn’t explain what prompted his words in 1 Timothy 2:15, so we can’t be certain why he wrote them. On the other hand, we can be sure that this verse is not representative of Paul’s general teaching on salvation. Nowhere else does he mention that having children has any bearing whatsoever on salvation. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul encouraged permanent virginity and celibacy while acknowledging that it was not for everyone. And of course, some men and women cannot have children.

Whether a person has a child, or not, has no effect on whether they will be saved; a faithful follower of Jesus will be saved either way. This is a trustworthy saying.[7]


Footnotes

[1] Irenaeus, in his work opposing heresies (written about 180), mentions the school of the Gnostic teacher Saturninus who spoke strongly against marriage and procreation. Saturninus was active around the year 100. Irenaeus wrote, “They say marriage and procreation are from Satan. Many of those, too, who belong to his school, abstain from animal food, and draw away multitudes by a feigned temperance of this kind.” (Against Heresies 1.24.2 cf. 1 Tim. 4:2–3)

Clement of Alexandria, writing around the year 200, poses the rhetorical question, “What about those who use religious language for irreligious practices involving abstinence … and teach that we ought not to accept marriage and childbearing or introduce yet more wretches in their turn into the world to provide fodder for death?” (Stromata 3.6.45)

Peter Brown makes this comment about Encratites, a second-century Christian sect led by Tatian which forbade marriage and also discouraged the eating of meat.

In the Encratite tradition, the end of the present age was to be brought about by the boycott of the womb. And the boycott of the womb was crucial because sexuality was presented less as a drive than as the symbol of ineluctable processes, the clearest token of human bondage.
Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women and Sexual Renunciation in the Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), 99.

I have more quotations, including several from primary sources, here: Celibacy, Salvation, and 1 Timothy 2:15.

[2] Andrew Bartlett has summarised four approaches to understanding “she will be saved …” and he mentions English Bible translations that reflect these approaches.

  1. Some commentators see here a promise of mothers’ physical safety during childbirth. This is reflected in NASB [1995]: “But women will be preserved through the bearing of children …”
  2. Some say that childbirth is an attendant circumstance during which women will experience their spiritual salvation. This is reflected in EHV: “But she will be saved―while bearing children …”
  3. Some say that women will be saved by means of childbearing because this means they are adhering to their God-ordained domestic roles. This is reflected in NABRE: “But she will be saved through motherhood …”
  4. Some say that “the childbearing refers to the birth of Christ, which brings salvation. This is reflected in DLNT: “But she will be saved by The Childbearing …”

Bartlett also lists other English Bible translations that fit with these four interpretations in a footnote.
See Andrew Bartlett, Men and Women: Fresh Light from the Biblical Texts (London: IVP, 2019), 270–271.

None of these four options expresses how I understand 1 Timothy 2:15, and my preferred English translation of 1 Timothy 2:15 is the CSB, “But she will be saved through childbearing …”

Aida Besançon Spencer quotes three people who hold to interpretation 3. (Hurley, however, has a unique spin.)

Thomas Schreiner writes that childbearing “represents the fulfillment of the woman’s domestic role as mother in distinction from man. Childbearing, then, is probably selected by synecdoche [in 1 Tim. 2:15] as representing the appropriate role for women.” James Hurley agrees: “Women in general (and most women in [Paul’s] day) will be kept safe from seizing men’s roles by participating in marital life (symbolized by childbirth).” Similarly, Dorothy Patterson asserts: “Keeping the home is God’s assignment to the wife.”
Spencer, “Jesus’ Treatment of Women in the Gospels,” in Discovering Biblical Equality, Ronald W. Pierce and Cynthia Long Westfall (eds) (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2021), 97.

These ideas echo what the  1599 Geneva Study Bible says: “… their subjection does not hinder women from being saved as well as men, if they behave themselves in those duties of marriage in a holy and modest manner, with faith and charity. (Source: Bible Hub)

In a useful discussion, Bronwen Speedie has summaries of these interpretations of 1 Timothy 2:15, plus one more, on her website, here.

[3] The Greek verb which typically means “give birth” is tiktō, not teknogoneō. Tiktō is used 18 times in the Greek New Testament. (See here.)

[4] Cohick, Women in the World of the Earliest Christians (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 138.

[5] Henry Alford expresses my thoughts on the linking of teknogonein with Jesus’s birth. In the 1800s he wrote,

I own I am surprised that any scholar can believe it possible that St. Paul can have expressed the Incarnation by the bare word ἡ τεκνογονία. He himself in this same Epistle, 1 Timothy 5:14, uses the cognate verb of the ordinary bearing of children: and these are the only places where the compound occurs in the N.T.
Alford’s Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary (Source: StudyLight)

[6] The author of the Letter of Hebrews may have addressed the issue of celibacy in the first half of Hebrews 13:4 when he stated, “Marriage is honourable among all people and the marriage bed (or, marital sex) is pure …” (my translation cf. Heb. 13:4 KJV).

[7] Frances Young, among others, connects the phrase pistos ho logos, used several times in the Pastoral Epistles and which can be translated as “this is a trustworthy/ faithful saying,” with salvation.

[The pastoral epistles (1 Tim 1:15; 3:1, referring back to 2:15; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:11; Titus 3:8)] are punctuated by ‘faithful sayings’. Sometimes it is difficult to determine whether the standard phrase ‘faithful is the saying’ refers to what has gone immediately before or what follows immediately after, but what is evident, I submit, is that the formula is invariably attached to a statement about salvation. This would suggest that the phrase does not simply signal a reliable Pauline tradition, or a secure doctrine but rather heralds an assurance of the gospel.
Frances Margaret Young, The Theology of the Pastoral Letters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 56. (Google Books)

Moreover, Stanley E. Porter has observed that “in virtually all authentically Pauline contexts σῴζω denotes a salvific spiritual act, perhaps eschatological in consequence.” Porter, “What Does It Mean to Be ‘Saved by Childbirth’” in Journal for the Study of the New Testament 49 (1993): 93.

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32 thoughts on “What does “saved through childbearing” (1 Tim. 2:15) mean?

  1. I always appreciate your detailed scholarship! I think you’ll be intrigued by Sandra Glahn’s new book titled “Nobody’s Mother.” It sheds new light with detailed evidences that Artemis of the Ephesians is important context for interpreting 1 Tim 2:15.

    1. Hi Cynthia, I’m still waiting for a copy to arrive from IVP. It’s taking a very long time. But I have listened to a couple of podcasts where Sandra Glahn speaks about her new book. I’m very much looking forward to reading it!

      My first inkling of a possible interpretation on 1 Timothy 2:11-15 began about a decade ago when I was watching a video shown at my church about ancient Ephesus. In the video, a man was walking around the ruins of Ephesus and talking about some of its culture and history, including the cult of Artemis and her being a midwife. (I mention several primary sources that refer to the Ephesian Artemis as a midwife, here.)

      During the video, the man continually quoted scripture from the book of Ephesians, but these verses from Ephesians seemed to have nothing to do with the setting. But I was reading 1 Timothy at the time and a whole lot of little things that I had been reading in 1 Timothy seemed to be making more sense as I watched the video. The upshot was that, for several years, I thought Artemis was behind “saved through childbearing” in 1 Timothy 2:15.

      Since then, I’ve kept reading on ancient Ephesus and Artemis. I’ve also been reading about celibacy and gnosticism in the early church. There are numerous primary sources that refer to celibacy in the first-century and early church. 1 Timothy is one of these sources. I no longer think Artemis is behind 1 Timothy 2:15, but I could be wrong. I actually wrote this article a while ago, hoping to read Sandra’s book before I posted it, but I got tired of waiting for the book to arrive. So I went ahead and posted it.

      1. Enjoyed very much your exegesis. I studied this passage years ago and remember using resources from people such as Catherine Clark Kroeger and Aida Bensaçom Spencer. So here’s what I usually teach about it. The whole of 1Tim. is regarding right doctrine/theologically solid teaching i.e. Scripturally solid, faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ. The women were coming out of the Temple of Artemis, so it was critically important to protect the Church from false teaching/false influencers and syncretism. Of course you wouldn’t want these women in the pulpit or in authority over men until they had been taught right doctrine and did not use their authority as an occasion. to subjugate or lord themselves over males as was practiced in the Temple of Artemis (where ritual slaying of men was practiced). Few realize how significant and radical it was for Paul to order women to learn and in silence. Women were not allowed to learn in their culture. Fathers would burn their Torah before teaching it to their daughters and of course every morning men would thank Yahweh that they “weren’t born a woman.” But here was Paul telling. them TO LEARN! And to learn like a rabbinical student meant learning in silence at the feet of their Rabbi. Remember how Jesus demonstrated this at the home of Martha & Mary. Jesus told Martha in no uncertain. terms would this be taken away from her sister. This is not to say Jesus was putting down Martha for kitchen/homemaking/hospitality. Rather her insistence on putting sis in her culturally expected place. Theology for the men, fairytale stories for the women. (Remember the scene from Fiddler on the Roof though most women were illiterate & couldn’t have read the storybooks). Jesus never avoided contact with women or teaching them.

        Verse 12 like many of the teachings is specific to a particular issue going on at the time rather than universal for all time command. The Greek word for authority used there “authentein” is used nowhere else in the NT but can be found in extra biblical sources. That being said, the “translation” committee have no other places in Scripture to compare it to in order to accurately translate it. The rule for translation is that a word cannot mean what it. never meant. There is a Scripture in the OT which declares “Woe to you shepherds who scatter my flocks!” The ESV committee is guilty of knowingly and intentionally committing eisegesis rather than exegesis. For readers unfamiliar with these theological terms the former means reading into the text while the latter means letting the text speak to you. These so-called “scholars” should know better and will be answering to God for intentional distortion of his Word to promote an ideology. These may well be the “goats” in Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats. Thus, if authentein is not a universal command here but rather a situational one, then there was a good reason for the prohibition in this case. In the Greco-Roman culture Artemis worship was deeply ingrained and for women gave them freedom and control over men in the Temple that they couldn’t have outside of it. But trading patriarchy for matriarchy is no solution. All it does is swap the gender of the oppressed and oppressor. Perhaps the women came in with an agenda and plan for syncretism. We don’t know but have to trust that Paul who ministered with and praised women leaders in the early Church, had a valid reason for prohibiting women from teaching and leading men in that particular case.

        Saved through childbearing. The phraseology is strange, so what do we know about Gnosticism which was rampant in the culture: The body was evil, spiritual good and superior. One Gnostic sect forcibly aborted their pregnant women and ate the unborn children to release the light particles. Therefore I would concur that Paul may be conveying that pregnancy doesn’t put one’s salvation at risk. Perhaps he is reassuring the women that “At no time during the entire process of pregnancy and giving birth does this put your salvation at risk. This theory of mine is supported by the many Scriptures that teach against works righteousness which was rampant in the beliefs of Gnostics and Jews alike.

        1. Thanks Carlene. I see some things a bit differently from you. I’ll make a few comments.

          Ephesian Women

          There is little doubt that some Ephesian men and women were abandoning the worship of Artemis to follow Jesus. All over the Roman Empire, Gentile converts to Christianity were trying to put behind the worship of gods and goddesses, and the culture that went with it, to follow Jesus and the God of the Bible. I see no reason to think Ephesus was special in this regard, even if the devotion to Artemis was strong and widespread in Ephesus.

          The first century cult of the Ephesian Artemis was respectable by Roman standards and many of its priests and priestesses were young unmarried men and women who came from elite and respectable families. These young priests and priestess usually served for a year. There were other kinds of priests and priestesses in the cult of the Ephesian Artemis, and other temple functionaries, too. The cult was not dominated by women as some suggest. There was no matriarchy. Some highpriests were women, but most seemed to have been men.
          I’ve written about this here: https://margmowczko.com/the-prominence-of-women-in-the-cultic-life-of-ephesus/

          Ritual Slaying?

          I’ve read a lot about ancient Ephesus but haven’t read about a ritual slaying ceremony in an ancient source. Is there an ancient source for this idea? (I hear lots of idea about Ephesus and Artemis and many have no basis.) If it was a thing, did it have something to do with myth of the Amazons?

          As well as Ephesus, several other Eastern cities had foundation myths that involved the Amazonian women: Cyme is said to have been founded by an Amazon named Cyme; Smyrna is said to have been founded by an Amazon name Smyrna; Myrine is said to have been founded by an Amazon name Myrina, etc. But there’s no evidence to suggest that the mythical Amazonian women somehow emboldened real women.
          I have more on this here: https://margmowczko.com/the-prominence-of-women-in-the-cultic-life-of-ephesus/

          Authentein

          There were no pulpits in first-century house churches, and Christian service should not be about someone having authority over a capable brother or sister in Christ. “To have/ exercise authority over” is a misleading translation of authentein.

          The earliest translations of 1 Timothy 2:12 into Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and Arabic were made when Koine Greek was still a living language. From these translations, and from a few other ancient texts, we can get a fair idea of what authentein meant. I’ve written about this here: https://margmowczko.com/authentein-1-timothy2_12/ And here: https://margmowczko.com/authentein-bad-behaviour-1-tim-212/

          Gnostics

          The various schools of thought under the umbrella term “Gnosticism” developed in the second-century. We do see some gnostic-like ideas argued against in the later books of the New Testament; however, I don’t find it helpful to tie the asceticism being taught in Ephesus (1 Tim 4:3) tightly to Gnosticism.

          Gnostic salvation was not works-based as such. Rather, salvation was achieved when one ascended to the realm of the deities and became acquainted with, or had knowledge of, the divine. At that moment in time, the divine spark, or spirit, or mind was released from its material earthly body. Gnosticism was elitist and exclusive; the claim was that only a few people could achieve this gnosis (“acquaintance/ knowledge”). From here: https://margmowczko.com/1-timothy-212-in-context-3/

          Cannibalism

          The charge of cannibalism was an effective way of slandering opponents and enemies, and not uncommon in Roman antiquity. Several writers in the early church wrote to defend Christianity against various charges, including the charge of cannibalism (or, “Thyestean feasts”). See, for example, the defence of Athenagorus (died 190) written to the Emperors Marcus Aurelius Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus: https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0205.htm

          Minucius Felix wrote about the same time as Athenagorus, or about fifty years later. (These dates are debated by scholars.) Using a fictional dialogue, a character describes the “well-known” initiation rite of new Christians involving the murder and cannibalism of a baby. (Octavius chapter 9) This rite is briefly mentioned again in chapters 28 and 30. See here: https://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/octavius.html

          All this to say, I take most accusations of cannibalism made in Roman antiquity with a grain of salt, this includes many of the claims of Epiphanius in his polemical work the Panarion, also known as Against Heresies. (A pdf of Panarion is here. See from page 90.)

          The surviving writings of Gnostics themselves do not in any way support Epiphanius’s outrageous claims, just as Christian writings do not support the outrageous claims made against them.

  2. I think your view here is a very common sense view and I’m adopting it. Your reasoning is sound, and also it has the bonus that it will do less harm than any of the other views, and that’s saying a lot. Can we all begin to think that if our view does significant harm, maybe it’s not what God intended?

  3. This interpretation was great to read. Thank you for shedding light on passages that are often used to harm or intimidate others into a certain way of living/existing.

  4. Are you familiar with Dr. Sandra Glahn’s recent work with this passage:

    Nobody’s Mother: Artemis of the Ephesians in Antiquity and the New Testament

    I would encourage it as a resource to further build into the dialogue.

    1. I’m eager to read Sandra Glahn’s new book. In many respects, we are on the same page with how we see Artemis of Ephesus.

  5. I suppose this is a typo:

    Similarly, Dorothy Patterson asserts: “Keeping the _hole_ is God’s assignment to the wife.”

    1. Thanks, Gary. I just checked the quotation and fixed it.

  6. I’m intrigued by your interpretation. It seems coherent and sensible to me. I like it a lot! Thank you so much for your thinking and research.

    1. Thanks, Cathy.

  7. Now that is how you unpack Scripture! A really thorough job—cheers! And the conclusion fits so much better than anything I’ve ever read. Debi Pearl had written that this was a promise of safety to wives who showed discretion. —Basically that good wife behavior earns you a sort of guarantee against maternal mortality. As much as we all would desire assurance in such matters, I can better see how that was not the intended message.
    I can also see how easy it has been for the church to fall into legalistic patterns, where we continually design new transactional forms of godliness that are supposed to earn God’s favor. It has been a oppositional to the doctrine of grace, where the favor of God is unmerited and one must accept that they are loved without conditions.

  8. It is good to see you saying this, Marg, because it confirms much that I have been thinking myself. In particular, I do not have the same knowledge of greek as you do, so it is good to see that you think the greek can be understood in the way I have suspected it could.

    One thing that I believe to be a mistake, though, is to equate the woman in verse 15 with the woman or women in verses 11–12. The women in verses 11–12 are, I think, someone very sure of themselves. But the woman in verse 15 is probably not. She has been told by the false teachers that she will lose her salvation because she is pregnant. As a result, she is dejected and very unsure of herself, and that’s why she needs the assurance from Paul (and Luke, I think) that she will keep her salvation even though she is pregnant, and even to hear that «this is a trustworthy saying».

    And if it is one particular woman with an actual pregnancy, then I think that is sufficient definiteness for a definite article in «the childbirth».

    Then I understand how the idea that some have, about this having to do with the role of Artemis as a midwife, can be a tempting one. My main obejction to that is that Paul is writing to Timothy, and certainly Timothy would understand by himself that Artemis worship was not christian worship. He didn’t need Paul to tell him that.

    1. Thanks, Knut. The Greek verb which is correctly translated in English as “she will be saved” pretty much needs to refer back to someone. Some people think it refers back to Eve who is mentioned in 1 Timothy 2:13-14.

      However, I think 1 Timothy 2:13-14 is a correction of an Ephesian woman’s flawed teaching: this woman needs to learn first and not teach (1 Tim. 2:11-12). And I think 1 Timothy 2:15 is tied to authentein (domineering behaviour).

      I don’t think the woman is pregnant. I think she has renounced sex and is not at all feeling dejected. Judging by second century documents, she was probably proud of her decision to be celibate. Ascetic men and women had a “higher status,” they were more highly regarded, than “ordinary” Christians. There’s lots of evidence for this.

  9. Great explanation!
    Do you think Paulis also making a big deal of this in order to backtrack from having strongly stated that he recommended celibacy??
    (That would help explain a few spots where dear Paul’s given me whiplash w his apparent contradictions.)
    Just a thought.

    1. Paul preferred celibacy for himself, but he didn’t strongly recommended it. Rather, I think he cautioned the Corinthians about being too hasty to choose celibacy (1 Cor. 1:7:1ff, esp. 1 Cor. 7:2, 7, 8-9, 28).
      https://margmowczko.com/1-corinthians-74-in-a-nutshell/

      Also, there was some kind of “present distress” that was also influencing some Corinthians Christians to be celibate. There wasn’t this “distress” in Ephesus.

  10. An excellent exposition of a tricky verse: thanks Marg!

    Linking 1 Tim 3:1 (“This is a trustworthy saying”) to the previous phrase rather than the subsequent on, because the previous phrase is about salvation, makes a lot of sense.

    1. Thanks, Martin. I makes much better sense to me to link 1 Tim 3:1a to the preceding statement in 1 Tim 2:15 than to the following statement in 1 Tim 1:3b.

  11. I have long been with “(The)Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament”, edit, Metzger, p. 640, and you and Martin here on 1 Tim 3:11(a) which seems to be the second “faithful is the word” phrase in inclusio with 1:15 which as Martin says wras up the idea of salvation quite nicely.

  12. I have heard many interpretations of this verse over the years and all of them left me feeling “considerably rumpled in spirit” (to quote Anne Shirley). I have never seen an interpretation like yours. And yet besides being the only interpretation that leaves me breathing a sigh of relief, it’s also the only interpretation I’ve ever seen that relies heavily on the Greek language used and the Ephesian culture at the time, as opposed to parsing the English every which way and back.

    1. What a lovely compliment! Thank you, Kimberly!
      I’m happy to have contributed to an unrumpling of spirit.

  13. […] Note that sōphrosynē is repeated a few verses later in 1 Timothy 2:15. I’ve written about verse 15, here. […]

  14. Thank you, Marg, for not kowtowing to the group that tries to squeeze people out of being saved with hopeless limitations.

    1 Timothy 2:15 is great for revealing people and spirits who may be in psychic sex cults disguised as sects of mystical Christianity or men’s character development clubs.

    They attempt to trick women into believing God wants them to have SPIRITUAL children with the Initiated to be saved, using the passage from 1 Timothy to mix light and darkness, instead of following the commands of Christ to go forth as a person in your own body and preach the Gospel out of your own mouth, in person. I wouldn’t believe it myself if half of the popular secular music weren’t about it.

    So, YES, ABSOLUTELY, women need to know the Word for themselves, but they must be taught by their elders that sex cults and psychic sex cults are very active using Biblical terminology to try to confuse women (“If an angel himself were to preach another gospel”). Go through song lyrics with your teens to prove it–the book “Gnostic America” may have gotten this half right.

    Women must come to the reality that you are on a marketplace, not only as a body to be used for sex, but a car to be driven psychically by people who prefer the Kia Soulless. Gnosticism Kills!

    The following verse is the spiritual sex cult buster if any woman believes otherwise:

    Matthew 22:29-30
    Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
    For IN THE RESURRECTION THEY NEITHER MARRY, NOR ARE GIVEN IN MARRIAGE, but are as the angels of God in heaven.

    1. I’ve had a few run-ins with people who call themselves Christian but are into psychic sex. I wish it was a rarer thing.

  15. […] What does “saved through childbearing” (1 Tim. 2:15) mean? […]

  16. Hi, I’ve been looking into the subject of women teaching and leading for about 2 years now (not so long ;-)) I’ve found your site to be very helpful in getting an overview of different interpretative options, without pushing on one interpretation. Thank you for being honest about the unclarity of some passages, esp. 1 Tim2: 11-15!

    I do have a question for you. I’m going to try and lay it out, bear with me…

    The thing that has kept coming back to me over these years and starts landing more and more is the possibility that Paul meant wife and husband in stead of women and men in general in this passage. It seems as though Paul might be teaching about marriage here, like he does elsewhere. And I think, to him, that meant teaching about Christ and the church.

    So when he speaks about a wife not authentein-ing her husband, that’s because the wife-husband-relation is supposed to mimic the relation between Christ and the church. I’ve read that authentein might mean ‘to act indepently/to decide on your own’. That would fit into the Adam and Eve reference. They were meant to be one. It says so in gen 2. And the very next thing that happens is the woman (image of church, or Gods people) gets tempted and sins. Then the husband (image of Christ) doesn’t do what Christ did and give himself up to put her before him to be holy and blameless (Eph 5). Rather he blames her. There’s no unity there anymore. Then he rules over his wife, there’s hierarchy all of a sudden, not the intended unity.
    So I wonder if that’s the problem in Ephesus, that a wife or wives were not being one with their husband, but went and acted indepently. Now, don’t take this to mean that I think wives should get permission of their husbands for everything. I don’t. I think the oneness works like: you know someone thoroughly, love them and then you act in their spirit, even if there not there. Like the church ought to know Christ deeply, be filled with His Spirit and can act on behalf of Him. They are then truly one. And fully an image of Him (which we are made to be).
    In the human setting, marriage is an image of the divine marriage between the church and Christ. But we need also keep in mind that our husbands are not God, but human, like us. Still, we are to strive to mimic the divine marriage, hence the call to love your wive and submit to your husband, which in practice is (at least nearly) the same thing.

    My problem is though, ‘domineer’ seems to be a more common translation to authentein. But I can’t see how Eve ‘domineered’ Adam, so why reference them?

    Well, I’m still not completely convinced I’m on the right track. But it seems to come together so wonderfully like this. Vs. 15 still puzzles me, though. Maybe it fits with what you put forward in this article. I’ll think more about that.
    I wonder if you know of any literature on this view? Either affirming it or debunking it. I’m so amazed at the beauty of Gods plan. But maybe I’m reading to much into it..?

    Well, I hope you, or someone else can respond (and that you can follow my train of thought). And if not: thank you for your work!! It really has been a big help!

    1. Hi Dutch Callista,
      I don’t take 1 Timothy 2:11-15 as general teaching on marriage, as in Ephesians 5:22-33. I take all of 1 Timothy 2:8-15 as Paul addressing and correcting bad behaviour from certain people in the Ephesian church. So I don’t think it’s helpful to compare 1 Timothy 2:11-15 with Ephesians 5:22-33.

      I think 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is addressing two things: 1. an Ephesian woman’s faulty teaching, and 2. her domineering, or independent, behaviour regarding her husband.

      1. Paul addressed her faulty teaching by telling Timothy that she needs to learn (in 1 Timothy 2:11) and by providing Timothy with correct summaries of Genesis 2 and 3 (in 1 Timothy 2:13-14). This suggests an Ephesian woman needed to be set straight on the Adam and Eve story.
      https://margmowczko.com/adam-and-eve-in-gnostic-literature/

      I can’t see that Eve dominated Adam or acted independently of him. I don’t see any sense of coercion or independence in Genesis 3:6 when she handed him the forbidden fruit and he ate it. And it seems Adam is by her side for the whole Genesis 3 episode.

      2. Paul addressed the Ephesian woman’s domineering or independent behaviour with his words in 1 Timothy 2:15.
      https://margmowczko.com/chastity-salvation-1-timothy-215/

      I don’t think there’s anything particularly beautiful about 1 Timothy 2:8-15. It’s about people behaving badly and Paul giving basic advice to Timothy about it.

  17. Thank you for your answer. I wasn’t as clear as I hoped I had been. I also think Paul adresses bad behaviour in 1 Tim 2:11-15. But, if the bad behaviour was in marriage, in setting that straight, he would have to have in mind a good view on marriage. His view would be Eph 5.

    I think you could view Eve talking with the snake and deciding to take the fruit as acting indepently from her husband. To me it stands out that there was no involvement from him, even though he was there, because the remark was they were to be one flesh. And I take that to allude to the church being one with Christ. And we should not be deciding on our own what is right and wrong, but when we have to make decisions about right and wrong, talk to Christ. But, again maybe I’m reading to much into it. My view raises the question which decisions are ok to make by yourself (as a christian without consulting God, or as a wife without consulting your husband).
    What I don’t get about your view is: why would Timothy need to be reminded about the story of Adam and Eve? He was a Jew, raised on Scripture! He had travelled with Paul. He knew this. He would have recognised faulty teaching about Adam and Eve from afar and he would have known how to correct it. So maybe Paul needed to tell him he should take action, like with the men and women behaving badly in the previous verses. But if Timothy had forgotten about the very basic story of Adam and Eve, I would expect Paul to have to remind him of much, much more in this letter.

    Well I’m thankful you took the time to respond to my comment. I am actually a woman elder in my church, alongside my husband and other couples, because as a couple we can be elders in my church. But women can’t be elders on their own, nor can they preach on sunday in our church. But they can teach in any other setting…. We have been diving into the subject because this practice raises questions.
    So.., I’ve actually come to think that all Paul teaches about men and women in relationship to eachother is within the marriage-relationship. And that there are no prohibitions to teaching men or leading them in the concregation, or anywhere else.

    Maybe in 1 Tim there is be a similar problem as in Corinth, where wives are told to be silent and ask their husbands at home if they want to know anything. Some people explain that to mean that wives shouldn’t judge their own husband when he has prophesied. So might that be the case here? That a wife was judgeing her husband. And Paul tells her she can learn, but not judge (teach and decide over) her husband. Because that is disrespectful to her husband in the middle of the congregation. She should uphold the marriage-imagery of Christ and the church. She should respect her husband. But then why reference her being deceived first?

    Well, I don’t know. There are so many takes on this passage , but when co-leading a church you can’t really say: ‘but I don’t know what it means’, well, not if the others don’t really know either. Especially when some people in church are convinced it is a prohibition on, at least some, teaching and leading by women. You have to take some stand as to what’s most likely. Otherwise most would rather stick with the old explanation, however many questions it might raise.
    But honestly, I just don’t know anymore. I do know saying there’s some false teaching that we don’t know about isn’t going to cut it for my congregation: ‘Well, you might just say that’s the reason for any rule you don’t like.’

    Thanks again for your reply.

    1. I’ll respond to a few of your comments.

      ~ Yes, Paul had a high view of marriage (cf. Ephesians 5). There is no doubt about that. However, he thought singleness and celibacy was preferable for those who could manage it (cf. 1 Corinthians 7).

      In Ephesus, too many young women were choosing celibacy and were becomig idle (cf. 1 Timothy 5:11-15). The “widows” in these verses refers to mostly young women who had never married. You may be interested in my quotation from Paul Trebilco in a reply to Tom here:
      https://margmowczko.com/glahn-artemis-fertility-goddess/

      ~ The narrator of Genesis 3 doesn’t mention involvement from Adam when the snake is talking and when Eve is thinking, but I think it’s reading too much into the story to say Eve was acting independently. I think the narrator had other aims when he highlighted certain interactions.

      As I’ve said elsewhere,
      “It is interesting that the overall pattern of dialogue relationships in Genesis 3:1–12 is Serpent > Eve = Adam < God. The couple are an equal pair caught in a struggle between good and evil." ~ You asked, "What I don’t get about your view is: why would Timothy need to be reminded about the story of Adam and Eve?" No doubt, Timothy knew the story of Adam and Eve. He hadn't forgotten it. Paul reminds him of it here because it is relevant to what I believe an Ephesian woman was teaching. Also, the letter was likely read aloud and 1 Timothy 2:13-14 would have reminded the audience, including the woman at fault, of the basics of the correct biblical story. ~ There were plenty of women in churches associated with Paul who ministered without husbands. Most of the 18 women Paul identifies in his letters, plus Lydia in Acts, were ministers or prominent members of their churches and they are not identified as wives. Only 4 of the 18 women are mentioned with a husband. Furthermore, one woman is identified as a sister of a man, and another is identified as a mother of a man. These women did not need a man in order to minister in their Christian communities, their churches. I list the 18 women and Lydia here: https://margmowczko.com/paul-and-women-in-a-nutshell/

  18. Thank you, Marg. May God bless you and your work!

  19. […] What does “saved through childbearing” (1 Tim. 2:15) mean? […]

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