1 Timothy 2:15

"Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety"

What does this mean?

Dr. Homer Kent, in his book The Pastoral Epistles, has listed four views that have been suggested for this problem passage!  What makes the verse especially intriguing is the amazing shift in pronouns from "she" to "they."  Who does "she" refer to and what will "she" be saved from?   What seems at first glance to be a very awkward construction, is actually a beautifully symmetrical structure as seen in the following chiastic analysis:

A       Christian women--plural (verses 9-10)

B        the Christian woman--singular (verses 11-12)

Paul then gives two reasons why a woman is not to exercise authority over a man.  One reason is from creation (v.13) and the other reason is from the fall (v.14).

B        she--singular (verse 15a--referring back to the Christian woman in verses 11-12)

A         they--plural (verse 15b)--referring back to Christian women mentioned in verses 9-10     

If this is indeed an example of chiasmus, then the pronoun "she" in verse 15 does not refer to Eve (who is mentioned in verses 13 and 14), but rather to the Christian woman (the singular used in a generic sense, to refer to Christian women in general, who are the ones Paul is writing these verses to).  What then does the verse mean?

What is Meant By Childbearing?

The noun "childbearing" is found only here in 1 Timothy 2:15, but the verb also occurs in the New Testament in only one place, namely 1 Timothy 5:14.  Thus, 1 Timothy 5:14-15 gives us a hint as to the meaning of the noun in our problem passage.  Paul exhorted the young women to marry, bear children and to assume their proper place in the home, lest they should give occasion to the adversary.  Paul was grieved because many had already been deceived by Satan (1 Tim. 5:15).  Young women who do not assume their God-given place in the home could easily turn aside unto Satan.

What is Meant By "She Shall Be Saved"?

Most often in the New Testament this verb is used in a soteriological sense as in Acts 16:31:  "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved (from hell and eternal damnation)."  But here in 1 Timothy 2:15 Paul is talking to women in the church who are already assumed to be Christians and thus they are already saved.  But even in English the word "save" can be used in many different ways.  Sin and eternal condemnation are not the only things that a person needs to be saved from.  A similar non-soteriological use of this verb is found in the very next chapter of 1 Timothy (4:16).  In chapter 4:1 Timothy is warned about Satanic doctrine and deceiving spirits.  He is told in 1 Timothy 4:16 how to protect himself from such Satanic deception.  By living a pure life and by teaching pure doctrine, Timothy would save himself and his people from being deceived by doctrines of demons.  Certainly Paul was not telling Timothy to save himself in the usual sense of that term because Timothy was already saved (from eternal condemnation) and Paul referred to Timothy as "his genuine child in the faith" (1:2).  Thus, if Timothy and his congregation needed to be saved from Satanic deception, then it is not too difficult to understand that the Christian women mentioned in chapter 2 needed to be saved from the same thing, especially in view of 1 Timothy 5:14-15.

Paraphrase of 1 Timothy 2:15

"Notwithstanding she (the Christian woman, the singular used generically in the general sense of all Christian women) shall be saved from Satanic deception through childbearing (that is, through assuming her rightful place as a mother and wife in the home and by submitting to the authority and headship of her husband even as Eve failed to do), if they ("they" refers to Christian women in general and the third class conditional indicates that Christian women may or may not continue in these things, but if they do, then they will be saved from Satanic deception) continue in faith (rightly responding to God's Word, including 1 Timothy 2:9-15) and love (being willing to sacrifice themselves for the welfare of their husband and their children) and holiness (being set apart as godly women unto the Lord) with sobriety (good-judgment, giving careful thought to what they should wear and how they should live as Christian women).

For our detailed study on inverse parallelism see Chiasmus.

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