1 Tim. 2:15, She, They, and Salvation through Child Bearing
"Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression. 15 But she shall will be saved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint," (1 Tim. 2:12-15).
One of the arguments from the egalitarians use to deny Paul's prohibition against women being in positions of spiritual authority in the church is that "she" (in v. 15) refers to the same "a woman" (a particular individual) mentioned in verses 11 and 12. This specific women had been deceived by someone and had been teaching false doctrines to her husband. So, Paul, to be polite, didn't name her and just said "a woman." Therefore, he was not forbidding all women to teach men authoritatively, but just this particular woman from teaching her husband. In addition, when this woman learns the truth, then she will be allowed to teach him. So, when we get to verse 15, it is still speaking of this particular woman which is why it says, "she" will be delivered through childbearing if "they" continue in faith." The "she" refers to this woman and the "they" refers to she and her husband. Does this theory work? No, it doesn't.
First of all, the position that the text is referring to "a woman" who was a particular individual has been refuted in the article "a woman" is a specific individual Paul had in mind. If "a woman" is not a particular individual, then the argument that the "she" is the same individual would not follow. Instead, it would appear that the "she" is in reference to women generically. In the article The use of the phrase "a woman" in the entire New Testament there is a listing of all the appearances of the term "a woman" in the New Testament with charts showing how Paul used the term "a woman" a majority of time as a reference to women in general. So, the "she" of v. 15 probably is reference to women in general, as well. Still, the switch from "she" to "they" is interesting. Let's examine the text more carefully below.
|Literal Translation||"but she will be delivered through childbearing if they stay in trust"|
|Literal Greek||she will be delivered||but||through||the||child-bearing||if||they might stay||in||trust, faith|
3rd, person, sing.
noun, fem., sing., genitive
3rd, person, plural
fem., sing. dative
Different bibles translate verse 15 differently. Here are fifteen bibles and how they render the verse.
|Darby, ASV, ESV, KJV, NKJV, NSRV, YLT||she, they|
|HCSB, NCV,||she, she|
|ISV, NASB, NIV, NLT,||women, they|
|RSV, GNB||woman, she|
Alright, from the above you can see what the Greek literally says and how different translations have rendered the verse 15.
Without a doubt, this verse has been difficult to interpret and different theories have been offered. Here are four of them.
- Women will be saved only if they bear children.
- This position cannot work because if a woman does not have a baby, she can't be saved.
- Women will be kept safe during childbirth.
- But since women die during childbirth, this cannot mean that women will not die during childbirth.
- Childbirth refers to the birth of the Messiah through whom we are saved.
- But the future "she will be saved" is future tense and the Messiah had long ago come and gone. So, the future aspect of bearing the Messiah doesn't fit.
- "She" refers to a wife who was teaching false doctrine and who needed to repent and learn the truth.
- But how are "they" saved if "she" learns the truth? Does it mean that if she learns the truth then she and her husband will be saved? That doesn't make any sense.
- "She" refers to a single woman and "they" switches to women as a whole.
- This is dealt with in this article, "a woman" is a specific individual Paul had in mind
- They will be saved if they continue in faith, love, sanctity, and self restraint.
- If "saved" means forgiveness of sins, this would imply that salvation is attained and maintained by good works. This, of course, cannot be the case.
As you can see, interpreting the text is difficult. But, not impossible. Let me offer another explanation.
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.1 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"2 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. 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 19-27).
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.
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