Saved By The Childbearing

I waited to say anything about this because I wanted to look into it a bit first. Wes White has a fascinating and  important post on the interpretation of 1 Tim 2:15.  Of course this is a difficult passage. The ESV says “Yet she will be saved through childbearing.” I don’t have time to go through all the details, but there are several difficulties and lots of interpretative options.

Wes alerted me to one which I had never seriously considered but which has much in its favor is to translate into English the definite article (which is omitted in the ESV), “through THE childbearing.” This is not arbitrary. It fits Paul’s teaching elsewhere. See George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 146-48. Steve Baugh’s office is separated from mine by less than 10 inches (the width a 2×4 and two pieces of sheetrock) and he knows a little about the NT (and Paul in particular) so I asked him and he pointed me to Knight’s commentary said that the grammar and teaching is perfectly consistent with what Paul  does elsewhere.

The advantage of this reading of the passage is that it connects it more closely to the surrounding context. In v. 13 Paul is discussing Eve as an historical figure. The language is not metaphorical or figurative. In v. 12, Paul doesn’t permit a woman (γυνη) “to teach or to exercise authority” over a man (in the assembled congregation, 2:1-11). Then comes the explanatory “For” (γαρ v. 13), Adam has creational priority over Eve. Adam is the head Eve by virtue of creation and it was Eve who was deceived and became a transgressor. The ESV is correct to supply the feminine pronoun (she) for the subject of “shall be saved” in v. 14. “She shall be saved….” The context is not about physical or medical preservation. In fact, until quite recently, female mortality in childbirth has been quite high. Many believing, faithful women have not been “preserved” through childbearing. Look at any European and British churchyard with a medieval history. The context is about sin and salvation. The flow if the passage makes us think in terms of deliverance from sin and its effects. How will she be saved? Through her own childbearing? Hardly. Where in Paul would we get the idea that the act of childbirth is redemptive? That would not only be unexpected but perhaps even a little bizarre. “Eve fell. You women are guilty. Be good and have children and you’ll be saved.” Not likely. In fact, that’s not what Paul is saying at all.

There’s a definite article (της) before the unusual (in the NT) noun “childbearing” (τεκνογονιας). Often, when translating Greek into English, the definite article isn’t translated, but sometimes it is. In this case if we translate it into English the sense of the passage changes. The woman is saved through a particular childbearing, not just any or every childbearing.

This being the Advent season it’s not hard (or it shouldn’t be) for us to imagine to which childbearing Paul refers. Knight points us to Gal 3:16 and 4:4 for parallels. It is true that the next clause has a verb in the third person plural, whereas the previous verb was in the third singular. That is a difficulty, but it can be explained by saying that, having discussed the problem of office and the related problem of sin and redemption (so that Paul connects the offices of the church to creation and redemption) he closes what has become a parenthetical thought about sin and redemption by thinking of females  more generally. “She will be saved,” yes, but all females are Eve’s children and they too need salvation from sin and its effects and they can have it by faith alone which produces the Christian virtues of which Paul goes on to speak.

Merry Christmas. THE childbearing has been done.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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