1 Timothy 2:15

Monday, 4 December 2017

Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control. 1 Timothy 2:15

As noted in the previous verses of this particular subject, Paul has set strict boundaries on women in the church as to what is not permitted. The reason for his guidelines was then based on the pattern set at the very time of the creation of man on earth, and which was then highlighted by the fall of man. It was the woman, not the man, who was deceived. Both were disobedient, but the devil went to the one he knew was susceptible to deception. This nature remains, and it is a trait which thus excludes women from teaching or having authority over a man.

However, Paul next says something which seemingly makes no sense at all unless the context is maintained, “Nevertheless, she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” First to note here is that the translation is incorrect, and so no wonder it makes no sense.

There is an article in front of “childbearing” which is left out in almost all translations. A direct translation says, “She will be saved, moreover, through the childbearing.” Paul’s context is the creation and fall of man. From there, he immediately went to the idea of salvation – “she will be saved.” The Genesis account comes alive once again at the hand of Paul – Creation/Fall/ Salvation. It is all there waiting to be unpackaged.

What is Paul speaking of here? A woman will be saved in the childbearing? If they don’t have children, will they go to the fiery furnace forever? Will they be “more” saved if they have lots of children? Isn’t a woman saved in the same way as a man? Aren’t people saved by grace through faith​? Isn’t it a gift and not of works? How can Paul say that a woman is saved by doing certain things? That seems completely contrary to what the epistles say elsewhere. Such things are debated among scholars, and none of these things apply.

The second thing to notice is that the account goes from the singular to the plural. It says, “She (singular) will be saved, moreover, through the childbearing, if they (plural) abide in…” Obviously two things are on Paul’s mind, which are completely overlooked by angry women who want to be deacons and elders in the church, despite being told it is not allowed. Paul has explained why, and now he tells them that for them there is a great honor which they possess anyway.

In order to contemplate what is going on, let’s see how difficult this verse is when one is trying to force theology into it instead of drawing it out. Below are various translations of the verse. See how they attempt to translate their way out of a theological dilemma –

Women will be saved through childbearing.
She will be saved through childbearing.
Women will be preserved through the bearing of children.
Even though she will be saved through the birth of the Child.
She shall be saved in childbearing.
She will be delivered through childbearing.
She [and all women] will be saved through the birth of the child.
But she lives by her children.
She shall be saved through the childbearing. (literal)
Yet a woman will be brought safely through childbirth.

These pretty much represent all of the translations. Only one is literal, the one which includes the article before “childbearing.” A couple of them are so wrong it’s hard to imagine what they were thinking. Of the two paraphrases that get the intent of what Paul is saying, the ISV does the best job. It reads as follows –

“…even though she will be saved through the birth of the Child, if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, along with good judgment.” ISV

Paul has already taken us back to Genesis 3. He has shown us what happened at the fall, after the creation, and he then explains how that is corrected in the same passage. In Genesis 3:15, the Lord spoke to the woman. And then while cursing the serpent, He said what is now known as the Protoevangelium, or “the first gospel.” There, a promise was made that One would come who would destroy him and his works –

And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent:
Because you have done this,
are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:13-15

The Lord promises the woman will bear, and from her would issue the Messiah who would crush the head of the serpent. So who was Paul speaking of when he said, “and she shall be saved through the child-bearing,…” Who is “she?” The nearest antecedent is found in the previous verse when speaking of “the woman” who was deceived, meaning Eve. Therefore, Paul is referring to her. That is why it is in the singular. She, Eve, will be saved through the bearing of a Child. Not directly, but through her, because she stands as representative of all women.

That is why Paul then switches to the plural by saying “if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self control.” It is the call of the gospel – to live in faith. And in living in faith, the woman will be saved, just as the man will be saved. And this faith is based on the grace which was given to humanity in the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is nothing sinister here. There is nothing chauvinistic in Paul’s mind. There is the logical doctrine that women are more easily deceived and are thus not to be teachers of men. However, they have a great honor in being the gender through whom would come the Savior of the world! God has ordained all things according to His knowledge of what is right and proper. It is right and proper that Christ would be born of a woman. It is also right and proper that a woman is not to teach or have authority over a man.

Life application: It cannot be said enough that to stick to one translation of the Bible will normally end in very sad theology. In realizing that a single article is left out of a translation, and in noting a simple move from the singular to the plural, a complete change one’s understanding of what is being presented can come about. Further, to stick to the commentary of one individual is just as bad. We are to study, evaluate, contemplate, and decide. And we are to do so without injecting our emotions or presuppositions into the text. Let us stand approved in our study and application of the word of God.

Lord God! It is simply amazing to study Your word again and again, and to find new things each time we do. There is a seemingly limitless treasure of wonder in this precious word. And yet, how many of us avail ourselves of reading it daily, contemplating it always, and carefully applying it to our walk in Your presence? Help us to be sound followers of You by being well-informed in the study of Your word. Amen.

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