What does it mean that women will be "saved" through childbearing (1 Timothy 2:15)?Question: "What does it mean that women will be "saved" through childbearing (1 Timothy 2:15)?"
Answer: This verse has been misinterpreted to mean that any woman who bears a child is automatically saved by virtue of the childbearing. First Timothy 2:15 is the conclusion of Paul’s teaching concerning the roles of men and women in the church which he began in verse 11. It is a notoriously difficult verse with a myriad of potential interpretations. “But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” As always, the immediate context should serve in determining the precise meaning of a text. The preceding verse speaks of Eve’s deception at the Fall and the subsequent consequences.
In Genesis 3:16, God curses Eve with, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.” This may seem to indicate that Paul meant that women would be physically preserved through the pain of childbirth. However, the verb used here in 1 Timothy 2:15 (soqhsetai) always carries the meaning of spiritual salvation in Paul’s writings. Further, Christian women still experience pain in childbirth, and sometimes die as a result of the childbearing process. If physical deliverance is the meaning of verse 15, then that would indicate that Christian women who die in childbirth perhaps did not “continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”
A second option would be that women are spiritually saved through childbearing. This obviously cannot be the case, for it would contradict the consistent message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8–9). A third possibility is that the word “childbearing” (teknogonias) refers to the birth of Christ, potentially a link to Genesis 3:15 and the promise of a Seed to come through the woman. This is unlikely, considering Paul nowhere else refers to the birth of Christ in this manner. A reference to the incarnation seems dubious, considering the context and the subject at hand.
The most likely interpretation that takes into account the immediate context is that, rather than abandoning their intended roles by demanding teaching and authoritative positions in the church, women will find true fulfillment through childbearing. Paul is saying God calls women to be faithful, helpful wives, raising children to love and worship God and managing the household wisely (1 Timothy 5:14; Titus 2:3–5). While this view is not without its difficulties, it appears to harmonize best with the context and with the remainder of Scripture.
Recommended Resource: Women and Men In Ministry: A Complementary Perspective by Robert Saucy & Judy TenElshof.
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Miscellaneous Bible Questions
What does it mean that women will be "saved" through childbearing (1 Timothy 2:15)?