“....Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control." (1 Timothy 2: 14, ESV)
Did Paul really say that women will be saved through child bearing? Readers who are already acquainted with the issue will know that Paul is addressing an issue relating to heresy in this epistle. Hence, i am going not going back to all those issues again but will focus mainly on this verse. The stated text (vs. 14) is shrouded with ambiguities, especially verse 13 and i guess it is one of the difficult verses in the New Testament. So what exactly is Paul talking about? Is Child bearing a means of salvation, if so what about single ladies? What about those who cannot conceive a child? Is it an antithesis to his (Paul) own other epistles like Romans and Galatians? From the past two years, from time to time, i read books and browsed the internet for answers on this subject, i had gone through some Greek parsing charts and translation provided by some websites and the different renditions of translations, but none of the theories seems to convince my mind.
Here are some of the theories in brief:
Ø Women will be saved only if they bear children.
Ø Women will be kept safe during childbirth.
Ø Childbirth refers to the birth of the Messiah through whom we are saved
.Ø "She" refers to a wife who was teaching false doctrine and who needed to repent and learn the truth.
Ø "She" refers to a single woman and "they" switches to women as a whole.
Ø They will be saved if they continue in faith, love, sanctity, and self restraint.
All these interpretations don’t make any sense to me especially when the text is taken together with the context (beginning from verses 11-15). For instance, how are all these interpretations related to the prohibition of teaching by women in the church as seen in verse 11. However, i would like to share what i came across from my latest readings. I came across two more interpretations which are quite compelling.
#1: Typological Approach (relating typology with ontology of women).
Type and Anti-type in the Bible are used as supporting references to support the interpretation. For example, Adam- Christ typology and other verses like “so must the Son of Man be lifted up" (the anti-type) (John 3:14; cf. Numbers 21:9). The Passover Lamb and the rock from which Israel drank in the wilderness were also types of Christ (Exodus 12:1, Exodus 12:49; Exodus 17:6; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3, 1 Corinthians 1:4 and Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9:24). Mary Kassian the proponent noted that Paul viewed Adam as a type of Christ, we also know for sure that he viewed marriage as type of the relationship between Christ and the church — in which the role of husband is a type of Christ and the role of the wife is a type of the Church. Thus, we can justifiably extrapolate that Paul also viewed Eve as a type of the Church. Hence, for Adam (type of Christ) was formed first, then Eve (type of Church) - and Adam (type of Christ) was not deceived, but the woman (type of Church) was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she (the Church) will be saved through childbearing (bearing fruit in Christ)—if they (man and woman) continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. In her conclusion, she wrote that Paul is saying that woman's ontology (her capacity to bear children) relates to her typology (the Church's ability to be fruitful in Jesus). She (the Church) is saved through childbearing. Paul reinforces the profound mutuality of men and women here. Both are church. Both are saved by the type of union that results in spiritual children—the union with our husband, Christ. Both must continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
#.2 Historical Approaches: I always love digging out the historical context in order to know the situation of the Church. And i really like this theory. The Proponent of this theory is Matt Slick of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (Carm.org). According to this theory, In Ephesus, where Timothy was when Paul wrote this epistle, the Greek goddess Artemis was the goddess of hunting, wilderness, wild animals, and childbirth. Ephesian women used to pray to Artemis so that they would be “saved” through childbirth. The word for Salvation in Greek is “soteria” and one of the other names of Artemis was “soteira” which is very close to the Greek word for Salvation. Paul may very well have been referring to this goddess by saying that the Ephesian women who were converts from the cult of Artemis/ Soteira were to trust in Christ to deliver them through childbirth instead of looking to the pagan goddess. This is why Paul then switch to “they” in reference to continuing in “faith and love and sanctify with self restraint” (v. 15). He first speaks of women as “she” by analogy in reference to Eve (she) and then moves to “ they” as he speaks for women in general, applying the principle of Eve’s “womanness” to them—especially in the area of them bearing children (see also Acts 19-27).
My argument against the two interpretations:
These two theories almost convince me to the depth of my soul, but on a second thought, when i put on my thinking cap, mist of doubts covers my mind. So here are some of my points. In fact, I really really appreciate the typological approach, drawing relationship between typology and ontology is a phenomenal idea. Somehow this interpreting is compelling me to say “yes”, especially when the text is dissected from the preceding text. (from verse 11). But part of me say “Wait A Second, It Cant Be” since the text cannot be dissected from the preceding text, on the contrary, it is a running text (see the connecting word between 11, 12, 13, 14 we see conjunctions “but”, “for”, “and” ) in which Paul used the later portion as a point to establish his argument against the former verses. So how can we relate verse 11 if the interpretation is legitimate? What the point telling someone to be silent just because they will be saved by this and that? Hence, i guess the conundrum is not yet solve. Furthermore, if it is a typology, why is it that Paul is silent in explaining the typology? For instance, see the other typological explanation in Galatians (Sarah and Hager) and Romans (Adam-Christ Type/Anti-type), they are quite vivid. Secondly, why Paul uses such vague and ambiguous expressions and that also without any vivid explanation? Furthermore, what’s the point of rebutting the disorder manner of worship in hard to construe language?
I think some of my questions and doubts can be clarified when we look at the historical approach. For instance, questions like “what’s the point of rebutting the disorder manner of worship in hard to construe language?” For us, it may be difficult to understand the language but for the intended audience it may not be because they are familiar to it. Now when the text is seen in the light of the historical context, the ambiguous expression “saved through child bearing” should not disturb us anymore as such expression is a familiar concept pertaining to their context. From the Christian context it is questionable as our doctrinal framework is completely different. But not to them due to the prevalent teaching of Artemis Therefore it has nothing to do with childbearing as means of Salvation. However, there are still uncertainties as the construction and the flow of thought as seen from verse 11 -15 seems odd. Hence, the historical approach is still unsatisfactory for me but i guess such approach indeed has opened a new vista.
If you have different ideas and interpretations please feel free to share your thoughts and understanding of this text.