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.