Is Eve a Type in 1 Timothy 2:15? Some Thoughts on Typology and Biblical Theology

A colleague asked me about Mary Kassian’s post “Women, Typology, and 1 Timothy 2:15,” which has now been reposted at the CBMW blog. My colleague’s concern was whether the appeal to typology was fanciful or legitimate. Here’s my response:

Earle Ellis (in the preface to Goppelt’s Typos) states that typology consists of historical correspondence and escalation. If I’m trying to determine whether there’s a typological relationship, I’m looking to see if the later biblical author is making a comparison with something earlier in the Bible by pointing out items of historical correspondence. From there I’m asking whether there is some escalation of significance, some kind of fulfillment, that the later biblical author is highlighting by reusing the earlier Scripture.

In 1 Tim 2:13–15 Paul is not pointing to a pattern of historical correspondence that is having its significance increased because of what is happening in the church at Ephesus. He’s giving a reason for the prohibition in 1 Tim 2:12.

So Paul is not teaching that Eve is a type of the church in 1 Tim 2:15, though he may be assuming that she is. This assumption can, and I think does, inform what he says, and it’s these kinds of assumptions that biblical theology is seeking to uncover, exposit, and use to get at what the biblical authors meant.

Paul made a comparison between Eve and the church in Corinth in 2 Corinthians 11:3, “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” The typological connections in 2 Corinthians 11 include the church playing the role of Eve, while Satan’s servants play his role and disguise themselves as servants of righteousness the way he disguised himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14–15).

Paul’s point in 2 Corinthians 11:3 is that he doesn’t want the church in Corinth to fail the way that Eve did, and he is assuming they know the story from Genesis 3. So he makes these comparisons between Eve and the church and between Satan and his servants (historical correspondence), and the assumption is that by re-living the pattern the church will heed the gospel, stick with Paul rather than the “super-apostles,” and be saved. The escalation comes in the church’s experience of the realization of what was promised in Genesis 3:15.

In 1 Timothy 2, having just referenced Eve in verse 14 with the words “the woman, having been deceived, fell in transgression,” Paul continues first with a singular in verse 15, “but she shall be saved,” apparently referring to Eve, before switching to the plural in the next statement, “if they continue in faith . . .”

By maintaining the singular, “she shall be saved,” Paul keeps Eve in view, and I think this invokes the word about the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15, by whom Eve would be saved (if she embraced her role as a woman and gave birth to him). The switch to the plural indicates that what was true of Eve is true of all women. All women must embrace their role as women and bear children, and if they do so in faith they will be saved. The mention of salvation coming through childbearing may also invoke the OT theme of barren women giving birth to those who continue the line of promise.

Bottom line: while Paul isn’t teaching that Eve is a type fulfilled in the church, I do think (particularly on the basis of 2 Cor 11:3) that he is assuming that kind of relationship, and understanding that helps us see what he is saying.

And I agree with Schreiner and others on the point that Paul wants women to embrace what it means to be female, and he has chosen childbearing as an example of something that only women can do. This doesn’t mean that single women or barren women can’t be saved, but they should by faith embrace what it means for them to be women. If Eve and the other women in the line of promise had not borne children, the Messiah would not have come.

44 Responses to Is Eve a Type in 1 Timothy 2:15? Some Thoughts on Typology and Biblical Theology

  1. Marg June 16, 2011 at 2:26 am #

    “All women must embrace their role as women and bear children, and if they do so in faith they will be saved.”

    This doesn’t sound like the gospel of Jesus Christ that I know.

    • JMH June 16, 2011 at 8:05 am #

      Well, read 1 Tim 2:15 – Paul isn’t contradicting Jesus.

      Blessings!

      JMH

  2. Marg June 16, 2011 at 8:58 am #

    I think it is dangerous to add additional clauses to the gospel message.

    The gospel message is that Jesus died for our sins and rose again; and if we put our trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior we – men and women – share in his eternal life. This is the message of Salvation.

    I don’t recall any New Testament author saying or implying, “Oh and by the way, women must embrace their role as women and bear children if they want to be saved. Jesus’ blood spilled on the Cross wasn’t enough to save them.”

    I don’t think this was what Paul was saying in 1 Timothy 2:13-15. And it was most definitely not what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 7:34:
    “An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit.”

    Paul thought that celibacy and singleness was better than marriage.

    • JMH June 16, 2011 at 9:32 am #

      So how about you tell me what you think 1 Tim 2:15 means?

      • Marg June 16, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

        Thanks Jim. You can find what I think Paul meant by this verse on my site here: http://newlife.id.au/tag/1-timothy-212-in-context/

        My thoughts here take into consideration Paul’s primary reason for writing his first letter to Timothy (clearly stated in the letter), the culture of Ephesus and also some writings of early Church Fathers who quoted from 1 Timothy in significant ways.

        I hope you will take the time to read it.

        • Marg June 16, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

          Just wondering . . .

          Do you think it is equally important for Christian men to have children? And that it somehow has a bearing on their salvation?

          I have heard Christians say that motherhood is the highest calling for women; but I have rarely heard people say that fatherhood is the highest calling for men.

          BTW, I love being a mother. Being a mother was very important to me. And I am very grateful I was able to have my sons easily and when I was young. However I have other abilities than just having children. Perhaps these other abilities are even more important than the ministry of motherhood, especially now that my children are grown. (Luke 11:27-28)

  3. RD June 16, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    I have to agree with Marg. In addition to the passages she references from 1 Corinthians there are also other instances in his authentic letters where Paul addressed the roles and position of women in the church and within the context of the Gospel. Paul clearly states in Galatians 3:26-28- “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ” Our salvation status has nothing to do with our position in this life, what our particular gifts or abilities are. We become children of God because of Jesus.

    However, the writer of 1 Timothy clearly seems to be stating that childbirth is, for women, a necessary function of their salvation. This is not Paul’s gospel. Another reason to confirm that Paul is not the authentic author of this letter.

    • JMH June 16, 2011 at 10:28 am #

      RD,

      You won’t be surprised that I think Paul wrote 1 Timothy. I would encourage you to consider what I say about that issue in GGSTJ – check out p. 500 n. 118.

      And it is possible to believe that Paul wrote it and to see that it harmonizes with his gospel.

      I think what I say above, and what others who hold the same view say, shows how.

      Blessings!

      JMH

  4. Don Johnson June 16, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    I think 1 Tim was written by Paul, just later than others and Paul use of a secretary can explain some differences with earlier letters, as well as being to his spiritual son, Timothy, who can be expected to have a large shared context with Paul, incidentally that we today do not have. So some things in 1 Tim are puzzling and I think at most tentative conclusions can be made, since we are not Timothy.

    Given that, I think 1 Tim 2:15 is referring to the birth of Jesus, due to use of the Greek article. I think Paul is using words familiar to Ephesians with the temple of Artermis of the Ephesians but using them in ways that are in the (true) faith, that is, Paul is stretching as far as he can go to be nice. Also, there is the change from singular to plural, so I emend “they” to “they each” when reading it, so it is consistent with the faith revealed elsewhere in the Bible.

    In English 1 Tim 2:15 1Ti 2:15 Yet she will be saved through the Childbearing — if they each continue in faith, love and holiness, with self-control.

  5. Brent Parker June 16, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    What Marg and RD fail to understand is that 1 Tim 2:15 does not teach nor does it result in a view that salvation is by works. Just as 1 Timothy 4:11-16 cannot be understood to be teaching salvation by works (Timothy, by paying heed to his teaching and in instructing the church will save both himself and his hearers), so it is with 1 Tim 2:15. What Paul means in 1 Tim 2:15 is that by adhering to apostolic instruction and continuing in godly virtures the necessary evidences of salvation are demonstrated. That good works are a necessary consequence of salvation is all over the Pauline literature (Rom 2:6-10, 26-29; 1 Cor 6:9-11; Gal 5:21).

    Already Paul has asserted in 1 Tim 1:12-17 that salvation is by grace and mercy. 1 Tim 2:15 does not mean that women merit salvation by bearing children. Schreiner (in his article in Women in the Church: An Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, 2nd Ed., Baker, 2005) rightly argues that what Paul means in 1 Tim 2:15 is “that they will be saved by adhering to their ordained role. Such a statement is apt to be misunderstood (and often has been), and thus a further comment is added for explanation. Women will be saved ‘if they remain in faith and love and sanctification along with discretion.’ Thereby Paul shows it is not sufficient for salvation for Christian women merely to bear children; they must also persevere in faith, love, holiness, and presumably other virtues . . . Paul does not imply that all women must bear children to be saved. His purpose is to say that women will not be saved if they do not practice good works. One indication that women are in their proper role is if they do not reject bearing children as evil but bear children in accord with their proper role” (p. 118). This also makes sense because the false teachers that Paul is contradicting prohibited marriage (1 Tim 4:3), and if marriage was forbidden, it is most likely that so was childbearing. The false teachers were likely usurping the proper biblical roles of men and women and Paul offers a specific response to this situation in 1 Tim 2:15.

    Finally, I do not think we can say that singleness and celibacy is better than marriage. It is better to marry than to burn with passion (1 Cor 7:9). Singleness provides an excellent opportunity to be fully devoted to the Lord. On the other hand, marriage provides us with a picture of Christ and the church (Eph 5:22-33). In the end, we are to glorify God in our singleness and in our marriages. But even here, the gospel, once embraced, impacts how we live, and the gospel should shape us in accordance to God’s design associated with our gender. 1 Tim 2:15 is not inappropriate and indeed Schreiner makes a good case that childbearing is a synecdoche as representing the appropriate role for women (p. 119).

    I would commend you to read the book (Women in the Church: An Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15) before dismissing 1 Timothy as neither Pauline or offering very constrained and unstable interpretations of 1 Tim 2:15.

  6. Don Johnson June 16, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    Marriage is not a picture of Christ and the church, you are getting the mapping backwards, methinks. Paul is using an argument that SINCE Christ sacrificially loves the church, a husband is to sacrificially love his wife. This was important to state in 1st century, as the husband had essentially all the power in a patriarchal society. He is told specifically to law down that power and follow Christ. It is also true that all believers are to follow Christ, but this applies to a husband as a specific reminder.

  7. Brent Parker June 16, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    Don, I am not getting the mapping backwards. Marriage (see the citation of Gen 2:24 in Eph 5:31) points forwards to something more. In Eph 5:32 Paul says that this mystery (musterion – something that was previously hidden but now revealed) is great, but actually has reference to Christ and the church. As Frank Thielman notes in his article on Ephesians in The Commentary on the NT Use of the OT (editors GK Beale and DA Carson): “Paul’s primary reason for using Gen. 2:24, however, is to support his contention that Christ is one with the church and to introduce the new thought that marriage illustrates this unity” (p. 828). Now it may be true that husbands are to follow Christ’s example because Christ sacrificially loves the church, but throughout the Bible marriage points to God’s relationship with his people (sometimes Israel is presented as God’s unfaithful wife; Christ is presented as the husband to the church – 2 Cor 11:2). Gen 2:24 then does not just speak about human marriage, it speaks to something more – the deep union between Christ and his people. In this sense, to say that “marriage is not a picture of Christ and the church” is to completely miss the pattern of marriage across the storyline of redemptive history.

  8. Don Johnson June 16, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    The new covenant is like a marriage covenant in some ways, just like Moses covenant is like a marriage covenant in some ways; they are all covenants. The ultimate covenants are with God, a marriage is temporary.

    What one cannot do is what you are trying to do, extract something true about a covenant with God and backfill it into a marriage covenant without Scriptural warrant. Yes, there is a unity between church and Jesus in the new covenant and that kind of unity is to extend into a one-flesh marriage. This does not mean a husband gets to claim some properties in relation to his wife by taking properties of Jesus in relation to the church that are not mentioned in Scripture as being in the mapping. For example, Jesus is savior (of all believers), a husband is not savior of his wife; this takes the mapping in an invalid way.

  9. Brent Parker June 16, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

    Don, you are completely misreading my remarks and then you inappropriately read into my comments. Where do I “extract something true about a covenant with God and backfill it into a marriage covenant without Scriptural warrant”? Where do I claim that “a husband gets to claim some properties in relation to his wife by taking properties of Jesus in relation to the church that are not mentioned in Scripture”? That marriage is a picture or illustrates the relationship of Christ and the church does not necessarily mean that it does so in every specific detail! I never make that claim and Paul surely doesn’t either, you are completely reading into my remarks. For a Christian husband who loves and nourishes his wife, this provides a portrait of Christ and his love and devotion for the church. For a Christian wife who submits to and respects her husband, this provides a portrait of the church’s submission to Christ. Human marriage is temporary, but the union of the bride (church) to Christ in the eschaton (Rev 21:9) is permanent and unending. The imagery of marriage is employed, therefore, human marriage, though in a limited way, does point to and picture the greater reality between God and his people.

  10. Don Johnson June 16, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    No, you are still getting it backwards.

    • John Thomson July 5, 2011 at 4:52 am #

      Don

      Surely Paul’s ‘this is a great mystery, I take it to mean Christ and the church’ implies that marriage is intended as a model of Christ and the church, that the creational marriage was always intended as a type of the new creational marriage between Christ and his people. The creational ‘type’ comes first chronologically but is not ‘first’ teologically or in terms of God’s purpose.

      Thus Adam ids a type of Christ; the first man images the second, however, the ‘second’ was always ‘first’ in God’s purpose. God’s ‘Man’ was not Adam but Christ and ‘Marriage’ was not ‘Adam and Eve’ but Christ and his Church. The first adumbrates the second.

      • Don Johnson July 5, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

        On mystery, there are 7 uses in Ephesians, I see the other 6 referring to the perhaps surprising (to some) idea that gentiles are fellow heirs, included in the body of Christ; so I see this ref. in Eph 5 to be consistent with that, a mystery that is no longer mysterious in any way, but revealed by the time Paul wrote Ephesians.

        Paul uses the head/body metaphor (of unity, one flesh) to describe how being united with Christ and united in marrage are intended by God. The ultimate is being united with Christ in his body (and Gal 3:28 can be read for its implications at this point, Jew and gentile, slave and free, man and woman, all united in Christ as part of one unified body across barriers of culture, wealth and gender). Who would have thought this even possible?

        And from this ultimate example, Paul highlights sacrificial love as the characteristic that a husband is to emulate in a marriage. Just as Christ sacrificially loves his body (or his bride in the marriage metaphor), so a husband is to sacrificially love his wife in a marriage in the world. So as a husband practices sacrificial love there could be considered a revealing of an aspect of being with Christ, just as any believer practicing sacrificial love could be said to be doing this revealing.

        But to map other aspects of how Christ relates to his body/wife to a husband is very problematical and can easily result in idolatry. This is why I claim the mapping is one-way and not two-way. That is, as Christ sacrificially loved, go and do likewise, for believers this is a general principle, per Eph 5:1-2, and husbands in the 1st century have a specific application of this general principle in relation to their wives, to serve them sacrificially in love. Or to put it another way, if Christ can do this, you husbands can do this also.

        But we know that other aspects of how Christ relates to his body/bride/church (1) was not discussed by Paul in this section, (2) are not appropriate for a husband to try to emulate, certainly no one else but Jesus can save is an obvious example, but this idea carries forward.

  11. Don Johnson June 16, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    The church submits to Christ is an example for us, in a similar way a wife is to submit to her husband (specific 1st century application), as all believers at to submit to other believers (general Kingdom principle). But there is no mapping from wife to church, that is getting it backwards.

    Christ sacrificially loves the church is an example for us, in a similar way a husband is to sacrificially love his wife (specific 1st century application), as ALL believers are to sacrificiailly love following Christ’s example (general Kingdom principle Eph 5:1-2). But there is no mapping from husband to Christ, that is getting it backwards.

    • Brent Parker June 16, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

      Don,

      It is no longer fruitful to continue this discussion. Perhaps I can commend a few resources for you. Vaughan Roberts’ Life’s Big Questions: Six Major Themes Traced through the Bible (IVP, 2004) has a chapter on marriage traced through the storyline of the Bible. Further, see PT O’Brien’s Commentary on Ephesians in the Pillar New Testament Commentary (Eerdmans) and specifically his treatment of Ephesians 5:21-33. See Raymond C. Ortlund’s fine treatment of marriage in the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (eds Brian Rosner, T. Desmond Alexander; IVP, 2000), p. 654-57.

      In fact, Ortlund sums it up well: “The overall pattern of biblical teaching on marriage discloses typological symmetry from Genesis to Revelation, as the ‘one-flesh-ness’ of human marriage, sacred but provisional, points forward and upward to the eternal spiritual union of Christ with his bride, the church. The symbolism inherent in earthly marriage lends the relationship greater dignity; its significance goes beyond the human and temporal to the divine and eternal” (p. 657). Consult these works, they would offer a good start.

      What I have presented is not backwards but the actual biblical portrayal – marriage (again, Paul uses Gen 2:24 in Eph 5:31 and he then reflects on it in v. 32) points to and is a temporal picture of the union between Christ and the church. You have offered absolutely nothing for me to even remotely think otherwise, nor have you ever seriously looked at my arguments and the passages I have cited.

  12. Don Johnson June 16, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

    Brent,

    Wrong again. Your thinking is distorted by your masculinist bias in reading Scripture, as I see it.

  13. Don Johnson June 16, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

    It is your attempt/desire to map a husband to Christ in a way that a wife does not map that is the cause of your mistakes. That others may make this mapping in error is no excuse for you to do it.

  14. David June 16, 2011 at 9:13 pm #

    After reading a lot about this, I have concluded the word saved doesn’t have anything to do with forgiveness of sins. It has to do with being saved from the stigma of the fall and the deception of the woman, Eve, and that having children and the curse of increasing her pain are to be seen as both a negetive and positive…Paul’s words indicate he is speaking ot an already saved person, ie if they continue in…….can only mean they already are. So to wrap it up, she isn’t saved from the curse of the law but from the stigma of the fall. In the greek an emphisis and extra meaning apply to her being deceived, the word indicates she was beyond, deceived more, plus etc Raising Godly children removes the stigma of the fall. Thus saved from..

  15. Don Johnson June 16, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

    Except this would be the only use of sozo in that way, in other words, it relies on special pleading. If you read it as The Childbearing referring to Christ being born, then there is no change of the meaning of sozo, just an unusual way to phrase it.

  16. David June 17, 2011 at 9:05 am #

    Sozo is used around 51 times, and is usually used in the sense of saved from sin and damnation however Paul uses sozo in Acts 27:20 and Acts 27:31 to refer being saved from harm due to the storm while at sea. And in this case…………………………………….
    According to Wuest (word studies in the Greek NT) the word is used in the sense of being saved from something other than from an unsaved condition. It should be clear, that salvation in the latter sense can only be had through faith in the atoning work of the Lord Jesus, never from good works, or by anything which the sinner might do. Wuest refers to the Expositor’s Greek Testament; ” (breif) the penality was for the man to work and in the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat bread, in the womans case greatly multiplying her sorrow, ie pain in childbearing. So St Paul, taking the common sense view that childbearing is the womans primary function and increased pain her sentence, so by both her and man carrying out their duties and function “work out their own salvation” not to receive it but because they are saved and do their diligence to their normal and natrural duties. “To breifly state the matter, the interpretation is as follows: Just as hard labor is the man’s salvation in a set of circumstances and surroundings that without it, would cause him to deterioate instead of making progress in character, so the pains of childbirth become the salvation of the woman, and in the same sense and for the same purpose, that of inabling the woman to adjust herself in her circumstances and surrondings so that she too will do the same.

  17. David June 17, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    to continue from Wuest: As to the Greek exegesis involved, we submit the following: The words “in childbearing” are the translation of dia testeknognias. the preposition dia which ordinarily has the force of “by means of” and denotes intermediate agency, Expositors says “here has hardly an instrumental force: it is rather the dia of accompanying circumstances, as in I Cor 3:15 (yet so as through fire)”.
    As to the plural pronoun “they” the same authority says “the subject of ‘continue is usually taken to be the woman, but inasmuch as St Paul has been speaking of women in the marriage relation, it seems better to understand the plural of the woman and her husband’
    Translation. “for Adam first was molded, then Eve, and Adam was not decveived, but the woman, having been completely deceived, has fallen into transgression. Yet she shall be saved in her childbearing if they continue in faith and love and holiness accompanied by sobermindedness”.

  18. David June 17, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    Don I am not saying your statement “Except this would be the only use of sozo in that way, in other words, it relies on special pleading. If you read it as The Childbearing referring to Christ being born, then there is no change of the meaning of sozo, just an unusual way to phrase it.” is completely wrong, except for your statemant of sozo being only used in the sense of salvation from sin, I do disagree with that, but the rest of your statement is very acceptable.
    However there is another way of looking at it and thats what I have presented. God Bless

  19. Don Johnson June 17, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    I think I may have read that Paul always uses sozo in a salvation way and over-stated it as being the NT, which is clearly not true, as you helpfully pointed out as how Luke uses it in Acts. Thanks for that.

    My basic point is that we are not Timothy, we are far away from being a spiritual son of Paul in 1st century Ephesus and need to read the text with humbleness, accepting our limitations. We can make plausible guesses that fill in the gaps of our knowledge, using the defaults from our worldview grid when something is not stated but known to both the sender and recipient but for which we today may not know. There are simply so many debateable questions about the 1 Tim 2 pericope that my take is that anyone that claims to KNOW what it means is being arrogant and in effect claiming to know what cannot be known for sure. I have a preferred way to read it in an egal way and there are many such egal ways to read it. I cannot prove my way is correct, but I claim it is A faithful way to understand the text.

  20. John Thomson July 5, 2011 at 4:37 am #

    I agree typological allusions can be seen yet I am not at all sure they are foremost in Paul’s mind here. Actually I think he is simply making the most obvious interpretation – she will be physically preserved in childbirth if she is godly in character.

    I appreciate this seems to fly in the face of reality. Many godly women have died bearing children. Yet does this not fall into a similar category as James – the prayer of faith will save the sick? Is it not an encouragement to see godly living as bringing the blessing of God in other realms of life.

    Specifically is it not the promise of gospel grace reversing the judgement of the fall? Eve’s judgement was pain in childbirth. Childbearing, creationally her greatest delight and blessing, was now mingled with judgement bringing pain and threat. The gospel reverses this judgement promising mercy and succour.

    • JMH July 5, 2011 at 8:41 am #

      Great observations, John! I think your other comment above indicates that there’s some “both/and” at work.

      Gratefully,

      Jim

  21. D January 15, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    expect you forget the childbirth also not all women were married and not all women can have kids.

    Also dia tes is thought the childbirth.

    What is Paul saying about women and salvation in 1 Timothy 2:15? Is this a reference to a women’s preservation, as the translators of the NIV imply (“but women will be kept safe through childbirth”)? Other commentators argue that phrase should be translated “women will be saved through childbearing,” arguing that evangelical translators are prone to soften the wording because of their reluctance to accept that the Bible would say women were saved (from eternal death) through childbearing. Since this would seem to implicate Paul in a works-righteousness scheme, most Evangelical commentators opt for softening the meaning of the Greek verb sozo to signify “preserving” or “keeping safe,” which, it should be acknowledged, is indeed an appropriate use of the word. Any standard Greek lexicon will provide numerous examples of sozo being used to denote a “salvation” from something less than eternal death. Unfortunately, the debate often not only focuses on the wrong word, but fails to take the larger biblical-theological context into account.

    First of all, consider the redemptive historical context of 1 Timothy 2:15. Paul is not discoursing on the fundamental nature and calling of man and woman in the abstract, but rather he is reviewing the history of the creation, fall, and the promise of salvation in Genesis 2 and 3. Moreover, Paul follows the flow of these two chapters in Genesis rather closely. He is giving an inspired commentary on that passage as it pertains to women’s role in church worship. Earlier in 1 Timothy 2 he gave instructions concerning the duties of men (v. 8). He then proceeds to discuss the function of women in the Church (vv. 9-15). After ruling that a woman may not “teach or have authority over a man; she must remain silent,” Paul seeks to justify this command by appealing to the Genesis narrative, especially the woman’s role in it. Both the creation order (“Adam was formed first then Eve”) and the way in which sin entered the world (“Adam was not deceived, it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner”) teach us that women are to be in submission to men in the Church.

    Second, I believe that the Greek verb sothesetai (“will be saved”) denotes “salvation” in the strong sense and not merely “preservation.” Most commentators make the mistake of interpreting tes teknogonias (“the childbirth”) as a reference to “childbearing” in general, an activity which pertains to all women. But this should not be assumed. Is Paul referring to all women in general when he speaks of being saved dia tes teknogonias (“through the childbirth”)? Having pointed out that it was through the deception of the woman that sin entered into the world, and having said that the woman “became a sinner” (the very end of v. 14), Paul immediately feels constrained to remind his readers of the remedy for sin and the central role that Eve (in fulfillment of “the woman” theme in Old Covenant typology) played in this redemption. Verse 15a would be better translated: “But she will be saved through the childbirth. . . .” The plural “women,” is often inserted as the subject of the verb sothsetai. Nevertheless, in the Greek there is no stated subject. The verb sothesetai is feminine singular, not plural as many translations have inaccurately rendered it (singular: KJV, NKJV, NEB, etc.; plural: NIV, NAS, etc.). Who is the subject of this verb? It seems very likely from the context and all the explicit references to Genesis 3 that it is “the woman” (Gen. 3:15, fulfilled in Eve). Salvation will come through the childbearing of “the woman.” It is “the woman” who will be saved in this way.

    But the text is even more specific than that. Not just generic “childbearing,” but “the childbirth” (tes teknogonias) saves the woman. In the history of the exegesis of this passage essentially two views have emerged as interpretations of dia tes teknogonias: 1) it has been understood as a reference to the birth of the Messiah, translated as “through the childbirth” or “by means of the childbearing,” and 2) the phrase has been interpreted to be a reference to the bearing of children in general, variously translated as “through childbearing” or “through the bearing of children.” I agree with George Knight, who notes in his Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles that many Bible scholars “have rejected the understanding of spiritual salvation through the birth of the Messiah (Alford, Bernard, Guthrie, Ward) and have done so virtually out of hand and without giving reasons for this view as unlikely.” (p. 369). The noun is definite, and surely refers to the childbirth of the Christ promised to Eve in Genesis 3:15.

    Knight observes: “How is salvation promised in Genesis 3? In the protoevangelium of Gen. 3:15 which speaks of ‘her seed’ and says ‘He [the seed] shall bruise you [the serpent=Satan] on the head,’ salvation is announced in terms of a child to be born by the woman. Furthermore, this understanding fits the flow of the argument. Paul points out that Eve (he gune) brought herself into transgression by abandoning her role and taking on that of the man. But by fulfilling her role, difficult as it may be as a result of sin (‘To the woman he said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you shall bring forth children; yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you”,’ Gen. 3:16), she gives birth to the Messiah, and thereby, ‘she’ (he gune, fulfilled of course in Mary; for this understanding on the part of Paul cf. Gal. 4:4, ‘God sent forth his Son, born of a woman’, genomenon ek gunaikos) brings into the world salvation” (Knight, Commentary, 369, 370).

    Notice how closely Paul is following the text of Genesis 3:

    1 Tim. 2:14 “It was the woman who was deceived”

    Gen. 3:13 “The serpent deceived me”

    1 Tim. 2:15 “She will be saved through the childbirth”

    Gen. 3:15 “I will put enmity between your seed and her seed.”

    It would be Eve’s seed (the childbirth = Jesus) that would save men, by crushing the head of the deceiving serpent. Paul has shown how Eve has been instrumental in bringing about the fall into sin, but he does not stop there. He shows how indispensable she will be in the history of redemption. For from the fruit of her body will come the Messiah, who will save both her and all of mankind. In fact, this is how every woman in particular is saved, for Paul switches to the plural in the last half of verse 15 and makes application to women in general. There is then a definite transition from Eve (“The woman”: the singular he gune, Gal. 4:4) back to women in general (“women”: the plural meinosin, “if they continue”). They will be saved “if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with submission.” Women in general are not saved through bearing children, they are saved through faith in the fruit of “the childbirth,” Jesus Christ.

    This Messianic interpretation can be found in some modern (Ellicott, Lock, Oden, von Soden, Wohlenberg) as well as ancient commentators (Ignatius, Eph., 19; Irenaeus, Haer., III.22, V.19; Justin, Dial., 100; Tertullian, De Car., XLCI, 17). Thomas Oden comments: “Eve is the referent of the phrase, ‘woman will be saved.’ In the pre-gospel (Protoevangelium) of Genesis 3:15, it was prophesied that the tempter’s temporary victory was ultimately to be thwarted. The Lord said to the serpent: ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.’ The seed of Eve was understood by virtually all classic Christian exegetes as the coming Christ, who would crush the serpent’s head, bind up the demonic powers, and bring salvation to Eve’s descendants. Hence Paul was not referring to childbirth generally but to a particular Childbirth, that of the Lord, a man born of a woman, the promised seed. The woman (Eve) will be saved by the Childbearing (of Christ by Mary). Using Eve as a prototype for all women, the import is that all women are intended recipients of the salvation offered in the birth of Jesus” (Thomas C. Oden, First and Second Timothy and Titus [Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1989], 101; see also Thomas Oden, The Word of Life: Systematic Theology: Volume Two [San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1989], 148ff

  22. D January 15, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    Also you forget that paul said celibate is better than marriage that its best not to marriage. Again you can’t said childbirth is to saved women because even today some women can’t have babies.So how does this harmonize if he tell people its best not to marriage unless you can’t control yourself. Also there are many powerful women in the bible thats calling go beyond childbirth. Deborah the judge of Israel, was prophetess and we never heard of her husband again. ruth worked. Lydia worked phoebe was coworker with paul. Priscilla taught.

  23. Vicki June 22, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    It is only the birth of One Child that is necessary for *any* woman’s salvation, but that it is also for the deceived Eve as well as the deceived woman in 2:15 is the important part of this passage that some here seem to miss.

  24. Retha Faurie June 23, 2013 at 6:03 am #

    “This doesn’t mean that single women or barren women can’t be saved, but they should by faith embrace what it means for them to be women.”

    Can you explain to me what you mean here? One woman may say: To be a woman mean I cannot go out freely in my dangerous neighbourhood, as I fear rape.” Should she say: “Oh, I love fearing rape! I love not being free to go and buy groceries! My womanhood is fabulous!” The next single woman may say: “Womanhood means menstrual cramps.” Should she embrace and enjoy menstrual cramps?

    Or is there some gender role single women should all live by? If so, what is that role? http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/question-to-complementarians-what-is-my-gender-role/

    • Helen Davis July 13, 2013 at 11:41 am #

      Retha, I do not think anyone said that. But I do think much of complementarianism is very unfair to single women and those who cannot have children.

      It’s not about being a Christian woman or Christian man. It’s about following Christ regardless of gender. And I dislike the cultural expectation that femininity means being weak. I am very feminine and very strong.

      Salvation comes in Christ alone.

  25. Helen Davis September 16, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    Where does this leave unmarried and barren women?

  26. Marg October 14, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    Hi Jim, taking another look at your article.

    You close your article with, “If Eve and the other women in the line of promise had not borne children, the Messiah would not have come.”

    The Messiah had already come when 1 Timothy was written. So why is childbirth still necessary for a woman’s salvation?

    • JMH October 16, 2013 at 8:51 am #

      Because male and female sexes are still part of God’s good creation!

      • Marg July 15, 2015 at 1:56 am #

        Hi Jim,

        For some reason I’m getting extra visitors to my blog post which links with yours here, and I saw your answer to the question I posted a while ago.

        I don’t doubt that male and female in humans and animals, and even in some plants, is part of God’s good creation – God’s creation is wonderful! – but I still fail to see how bearing children has any bearing (no pun intended) on the Salvation that Jesus offers us.

        And if child-bearing does indeed somehow affect our salvation, why doesn’t this include men? Both men and women were spoken to by God and given the exact same command to procreate, amongst other things (Gen. 1:26-28).

        Is a man or woman’s salvation in jeopardy if they fail to subdue the earth or rule the animals. These things were surely part of the purpose of our creation according to Genesis 1.

        • JMH July 15, 2015 at 8:36 am #

          The idea is to embrace your sex as created by God.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Typology in 1 Timothy 2:15, or an Allegorical Interpretation of Eve and the Church?- Credo Magazine - September 25, 2011

    […] creation account serves only to ground the prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12 (see James Hamilton’s post as he rightly recognizes this).  That Adam is a type of Christ (Rom 5:14) and that the roles of […]

  2. What must a woman do to be saved? - June 23, 2013

    […] I was reminded of an old post of Jim Hamilton’s by a reader who visited my site via Jim’s […]

  3. What must a woman do to be saved? | Different and Equal - October 9, 2013

    […] I have heard several well-known ministers teach this faulty interpretation.[1]  For example, Jim Hamilton, (an associate professor of biblical theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a […]

  4. Desiring to be God – Part 8 | bWe Baptist Women for Equality's Blog - February 10, 2014

    […] Hamilton says, “All women must embrace their role as women and bear children, and if they do so in faith they will be saved.” Hamilton continues, “And I agree with Schreiner and others on the point that Paul wants women to embrace what it means to be female, and he has chosen childbearing as an example of something that only women can do. This doesn’t mean that single women or barren women can’t be saved, but they should by faith embrace what it means for them to be women.” Thus, these words by Hamilton make a woman’s salvation dependent upon a human male, because it is only human male sperm that can impregnate a woman. The woman also has to put aside her so-called yearnings to be a male and accept the fact that she doesn’t measure up. […]

Leave a Reply