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Topic 16: 1 Timothy 2:8-15: Part 10: “saved through childbirth…”


This is the tenth part in a brief series on 1 Timothy 2:8-15.  This, passage, “[vs. 15]… women will be saved through childbirth,” is admittedly a most difficult passage

(A) “Three possible meanings of this verse are: (1) It speaks of the godly woman finding fulfillment in her role as wife and mother in the home; (2) it refers to women being saved spiritually through the most significant birth of all, the incarnation of Christ; or (3) it refers to women being kept physically safe in childbirth” (Concordia Self-Study Bible, pg. 1852).

(B) To begin to understand this passage, remember that Gnostics taught that the physical was evil.  Note Saturnilus (ca. 130 A.D.), a gnostic teacher, as described by St. Irenaeus:  “The Savior he [Saturnilus] assumed to be unbegotten, incorporeal, and without form, but appeared in semblance as a man.  The God of the Jews, he says, was one of the angels; and because all the archons wanted to destroy the Father, Christ came for the destruction of the God of the Jews and the salvation of those who believe in him; these are they who have the spark of life in them.  He was first to say that two kinds of men had been molded by the angels, the one wicked, the other good.  And since the demons helped the wicked, the Savior came for the destruction of the wicked men and demons, and the salvation of the good.  Marriage and procreation, he says, are of Satan [emphasis added].  Many of his followers abstain also from animal food [emphasis added], and through this feigned continence they lead many astray” (quoted in Karris, The Pastoral Epistles, pg. 68).

(C) In response, Paul is contradicting the Gnostic view by saying that what happens in the physical realm is not evil: “[vs 15]…through childbirth…“: dia with the genitive (“in the state of child bearing”) — even as mothers…

(D) Beck translates this, “But women, having children, will be saved if they live in faith, love and kindness, and use good judgment.”

(E) “[vs 14] … the woman (singular) was deceived … [vs 15] Yet woman (singular) will be saved … if they (plural) continue in faith …”

(1) “…will be saved…” is passive, indicating salvation comes from someone other than herself.

(2)  The outlines of Pauline salvation through faith are still evident in the text (“…if they continue in faith…”).

(F) If we take verses 13-14 at surface literalism without historical context and interpret them as “order of creation” material, then we should do the same for verse 15:

(1) For example, we should argue that salvation is denied to all infertile women.

(2) Then we should deny Jesus’ and Paul’s assertion that salvation is by grace through faith.

(3) Then we should relieve Adam of his responsibility for sin.

(G) Another view:

“There is probably a play on words occurring in the Greek in v. 15  when it says ‘she will  be saved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith…” 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 would pray to Artemis so that they would be ‘saved’ through childbirth.  Now, the word for  salvation in Greek is “soterias” 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 switches  to ‘they’ in reference to continuing in ‘faith and love and sanctiity 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 to women in general, applying the principle of  Eve’s ‘womanness’ to them — especially in the area of them bearing children.

“This gains weight as an argument when we note that Artemis was referenced  in the New Testament and Paul was trying to dissuade people from following this  false goddess.

And about that time there arose no small disturbance  concerning the Way. 24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith,  who made silver shrines of Artemis, was bringing  no little business to the craftsmen, 25. these he gathered together  with the workmen of similar trades, and said, ‘Men, you know that our prosperity  depends upon this business. 26 And you see and hear that not  only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and  turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with  hands are no gods at all. 27 And not only is there danger that  this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the  great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless  and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship should even be dethroned  from her magnificence’  (Acts 19:23-27).

“So, we see that Paul was working against the false goddess Artemis, also  known as Soteira and it would make sense that he would reference her in passing  in 1 Tim. 2:15” ( Tim. 2:15).