15 But she will be delivered through childbearing,[a] if she[b] continues in faith and love and holiness with self-control.
1 Timothy 2:15tn Or “But she will be preserved through childbearing,” or “But she will be saved in spite of childbearing.” This verse is notoriously difficult to interpret, though there is general agreement about one point: Verse 15 is intended to lessen the impact of vv. 13-14. There are several interpretive possibilities here, though the first three can be readily dismissed (cf. D. Moo, “1 Timothy 2:11-15: Meaning and Significance,” TJ 1 : 70-73). (1) Christian women will be saved, but only if they bear children. This view is entirely unlikely for it lays a condition on Christian women that goes beyond grace, is unsupported elsewhere in scripture, and is explicitly against Paul’s and Jesus’ teaching on both marriage and salvation (cf. Matt 19:12; 1 Cor 7:8-9, 26-27, 34-35; 1 Tim 5:3-10). (2) Despite the curse, Christian women will be kept safe when bearing children. This view also is unlikely, both because it has little to do with the context and because it is not true to life (especially life in the ancient world with its high maternal mortality rate while giving birth). (3) Despite the sin of Eve and the results to her progeny, she would be saved through the childbirth—that is, through the birth of the Messiah, as promised in the protevangelium (Gen 3:15). This view sees the singular “she” as referring first to Eve and then to all women (note the change from singular to plural in this verse). Further, it works well in the context. However, there are several problems with it: [a] The future tense (σωθήσηται, sōthēsētai) is unnatural if referring to the protevangelium or even to the historical fact of the Messiah’s birth; [b] that only women are singled out as recipients of salvation seems odd since the birth of the Messiah was necessary for the salvation of both women and men; [c] as ingenious as this view is, its very ingenuity is its downfall, for it is overly subtle; and [d] the term τεκνογονία (teknogonia) refers to the process of childbirth rather than the product. And since it is the person of the Messiah (the product of the birth) that saves us, the term is unlikely to be used in the sense given it by those who hold this view. There are three other views that have greater plausibility: (4) This may be a somewhat veiled reference to the curse of Gen 3:16 in order to clarify that though the woman led the man into transgression (v. 14b), she will be saved spiritually despite this physical reminder of her sin. The phrase is literally “through childbearing,” but this does not necessarily denote means or instrument here. Instead it may show attendant circumstance (probably with a concessive force): “with, though accompanied by” (cf. BDAG 224 s.v. δία A.3.c; Rom 2:27; 2 Cor 2:4; 1 Tim 4:14). (5) “It is not through active teaching and ruling activities that Christian women will be saved, but through faithfulness to their proper role, exemplified in motherhood” (Moo, 71). In this view τεκνογονία is seen as a synecdoche in which child-rearing and other activities of motherhood are involved. Thus, one evidence (though clearly not an essential evidence) of a woman’s salvation may be seen in her decision to function in this role. (6) The verse may point to some sort of proverbial expression now lost, in which “saved” means “delivered” and in which this deliverance was from some of the devastating effects of the role reversal that took place in Eden. The idea of childbearing, then, is a metonymy of part for the whole that encompasses the woman’s submission again to the leadership of the man, though it has no specific soteriological import (but it certainly would have to do with the outworking of redemption).
1 Timothy 2:15tn There is a shift to the plural here (Grk “if they continue”), but it still refers to the woman in a simple shift from generic singular to generic plural.
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