Saved Through Childbearing? -- By: Andreas J. Köstenberger

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 002:4 (Sep 1997)
Article: Saved Through Childbearing?
Author: Andreas J. Köstenberger


Saved Through Childbearing?

Andreas J. Köstenberger

A Fresh Look At 1 Timothy 2:15 Points To Protection From Satan’s Deception

But women will be saved through childbearing” (NIV): this simple statement has mystified average Bible readers as well as Christian scholars for centuries. Is Paul here suggesting salvation by works? In what sense can a woman be “saved” by bearing children? What would be so virtuous about bearing children that could become the cause of women’s salvation? And what about single women or married women who do not or cannot have children? Even apart from these interpretive questions, the passage sounds horribly sexist and out of date in the days of female Prime Ministers or Supreme Court Justices. How are we to understand this passage, and how are we to apply it?

Consulting The Translations

Turning to existing translations does not alleviate the difficulty. The NASB reads, “But women shall be preserved through the bearing of children”; the NIV has, “But women will be saved through childbearing”; the New Living Translation adds to this in a footnote, “Or ‘will be saved by accepting their role as mothers,’ or ‘will be saved by the birth of the Child.’” To which the Contemporary English Version adds, “Or, ‘saved by being good mothers.’” Clearly, there is no agreement on what this passage means!

Checking The Commentaries

Consulting commentaries likewise does not solve the problem. Indeed, the array of alternatives surely must cause most to throw up their hands in utter despair of ever arriving at the verse’s meaning. Some church Fathers, such as Augustine, thought Paul was here speaking of the bearing of “spiritual children,” that is, good works. Other ancient interpreters, such as Chrysostom and Jerome, thought women’s salvation was contingent on their (physical) children’s perseverance in holy lives of faith, taking the latter part of the verse (“if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint”) as referring not to the women themselves but to their offspring. Or perhaps Paul, as G. Knight claims, is here speaking of “the” childbirth, Mary’s giving birth to Jesus the Messiah, which became the cause of our salvation. But then why is 1 Tim. 2:15 merely referring to women and not also to men, since surely men are the beneficiaries of Christ’s saving work as well?

In light of the high rate of women dying in childbirth in the ancient world, some, such as C. Keener, have suggested that the verse speaks of women’s physical preservation through childbirth. But what of the Christian women who were not kept safe but rather died while giving birth? Non-evang...

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