Jul 15, 2008

1 Timothy 2:15: Are Women Saved Through Childbirth?

Brent Nelson has a nice post on the notoriously difficult 1 Timothy 2:15. Brent is mainly interacting with Douglas Moo's discussion on the passage. I have included below a portion of the post below, but read it in its entirety

Moo outlines four basic views on the meaning of this verse. What each of these views has in common is that none suggest that women are saved differently than men. Each view affirms that all persons are saved by grace through faith, “And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV). Neither manhood nor womanhood is ever a ground for boasting.

First, some take it that Paul is teaching that women will be kept physically safe during childbirth. The NIV translation, “women will be kept safe through childbirth…” seems to reflect this view. This view however doesn’t fit well with the rest of the verse which describes faith, love, holiness and self-control as spiritual realities in which she must continue. These terms along with Paul’s custom of using the term “saved” to refer to ultimate salvation hamper this view.

A second view is that the “childbirth” Paul has in mind is THE childbirth of Christ. This view draws a link to the mention of Eve in verse 13 and refers to the promise of Genesis 3:15 that a “seed” promised to the woman will crush the serpent. Though this fits with the context better, it still isn’t clear that Paul would use the generic term ‘childbirth’ to refer to Christ, if he didn’t say so explicitly.

Third, Moo outlines the view that women will be saved through childbearing, as if the bearing of a child hinders their salvation. This idea is similar to Peter saying that Noah was saved through water (I Peter 3:20). This view suffers the same problem as the first view in that it takes salvation to be mainly physical. Childbirth isn’t best conceived as an impedance to a woman’s salvation in Christ.

Lastly, (and my preference) Moo thinks that childbirth for Paul “designates the circumstances” in which Christian women will work out their salvation. It is the sphere in which God-given evidences of their salvation are seen in a way that is distinctly feminine. Though salvation is all of grace, it must be worked out with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Men will express faith, love and godliness in a distinctly masculine sphere.

Similarly women will express these same qualities in a way that marks their femininity. For Paul, this is, in a general sense, through the precious calling of childbirth and maternity. I say 'in a general sense' because even young girls, single and elderly women can affirm these virtues in a maternal and feminine way.

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