What does it mean to be saved through childbearing?

I have only heard anyone speak on this verse one time so I thought I’d see what others know about it. What is meant by this verse:

“But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”
‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭2:15‬ ‭NIV

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I’ve heard several theories on this, but I’ll just share what struck me as the most sensible one yet.

Paul has just said that Eve was the one who was deceived by the serpent into leading our race into the Fall - into death. Many have seen this as a stigma upon women.

But now Paul’s point is that the stigma is balanced out. Womankind who brought death into the world also brings new life into it through childbearing - thus saving the status and dignity of her gender.

So this restores womanhood to a level playing field, so to speak. How she proceeds now “in faith, love and holiness” etc. will make or break each woman’s own personal reputation.

Hope it helps!

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Hi Carrie,

Here is an answer that I found Nathan Rittenhouse (a speaker for RZIM) wrote to another person who asked the same exact question you did.

I hope it helps:

“Oh great, I was hoping someone was going to ask about that. This is the type of question where I usually ask someone what they would like it to mean and then suggest a commentary.:grinning: In all seriousness, when you crack open a commentary you will find statements about this section like, “This is the most discussed passage in the Pastoral Epistles today” (Mounce, 103). Let me try to summarize and comment on some thoughts from William Mounce’s commentary and from the NET translation notes (which point to Moo’s commentary) at https://netbible.org/bible/1+Timothy+2 , and then give my two cents.
First let’s look at what we can be sure that it isn’t saying:

  1. This isn’t saying that you need to have children in order to be saved. That would be a works- based salvation system that is contrary to everything else Paul teaches and his high view of singleness.
  2. This isn’t promising salvation from the dangers of childbirth. This doesn’t correspond to any strain of theology or our experience of Godly women dying in childbirth.
  3. It isn’t saying that Eve was saved through childbirth because she gave birth to humanity which would produce Jesus who would then save us all. The language is pretty clear that it is about the process of childbirth, not the child that is born.

It is more likely that this verse can’t be read in isolation from the previous 4 verses (It starts with “For” which is a good indicator that it is connected) and is part of a larger argument that Paul is making that there are genuine created differences between men and women and that those ultimately do impact the roles that we have. This statement will raise a whole host of other questions, but for this verse, and your specific question, Paul is seemingly drawing on parallels between Eve in Gen 2 and 3 and the Ephesian women with whom Timothy is working. The most succinct answer that I found was Mounce quoting Schreiner, who wrote about this passage:
“This does not mean that all women must have children in order to be saved. Paul is hardly attempting to be comprehensive here. He has elsewhere commended the single state (1 Cor. 7). He selects childbearing because it is the most notable example of the divinely intended difference in role between men and women, and most women throughout history have had children….To select childbearing is another indication that the argument is transcultural, for childbearing is not limited to a particular culture, but is a permanent and ongoing difference between men and women. The fact that God has ordained that women and only women bear children indicates that the differences in role between men and women are rooted in the created order.” (Mounce, Word Biblical commentary, 146-7 quoting from p151 of Schreiner).
I think that is the best summary of understanding the text and the argument that Paul is making. In short, Paul is arguing for a differentiation in roles within the church based off of creation order. He sees rebellion against God-ordained order as problematic in Ephesus and is reminding Timothy that compliance with God’s created order, which includes gender based differences- an example of which is childbirth, is a part of living out our salvation. However, I will point out that leaves a lot of room for you to figure out how what Paul wrote applies to you. (Here is where the homework for all of us really begins!) Also, I think it is worth looking at passages like 1 Tim 4:16 which give us some more context on Paul’s view of perseverance and salvation. I hope this gives a little more information and can help initiate a good conversation with your friend. I appreciate the question, it caused me to go back and do a little reading, re-reading, and reflecting myself. Thanks again ~ Nathan

P.S I got my wife to double check this answer for me.”

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In conjunction with these responses I have found Dr. Constables notes on this passage helpful:

Perhaps the best explanation of this difficult verse is this: God promised women a life of fulfillment as mothers in the home, provided they walk with the Lord, rather than as teachers and leaders in the church.

“The meaning of sozo [to save] in this passage is once again something like ‘spiritual health,’ a full and meaningful life. This fits the context quite well. Paul has just excluded women from positions of teaching authority in the church (1 Tim. 2:9-14). What then is their primary destiny? They will find life through fulfilling their role as a mother IF they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety. A salvation which comes only to mothers who persist in faithful service is not the faith alone salvation taught elsewhere.”

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Wow, I was just going to ask this exact question. God is good lol

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I wouldn’t see these two things as being mutually exclusive.

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@gchop This is a very hard text to understand. There are a number of interpretations I have heard. I do not know exactly which one is correct, but I know which one is not correct. Women are not saved by having babies :wink: They are saved through the death and resurrection of Jesus, as are all people.

It also does not mean women can only live a fulfilled life through having children and being a mother. Elsewhere, Paul said it is better for both men and women to remain single and devoted to Christ (1 Cor 7).

Here are the interpretations I have heard:

  1. This could be translated “women will be saved through the childbearing ” - the addition of the definite article would point to Jesus. Jesus was ‘the child’ - ‘the seed’ of Eve born to crush the serpent and set mankind free.
  2. Childbearing was a way to keep women in that context from becoming gossips / busybodies & straying away from God. Paul is basically telling the women to fulfill their societal role rather than being idle in the same way he told men not to be lazy but to work with their hands and earn the respect of outsiders.
  3. N. T. Wright takes the view that the point of this passage is that the woman, even though she has to give childbirth underneath the curse, will be ‘kept safe’ through childbirth. In other words, Christ has reversed the effects of the curse. His translation is below.

1 Timothy 2:15 - She will, however, be kept safe through the process of childbirth , if she continues in faith, love and holiness with prudence. –N. T. Wright’s Translation

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I’m not sure exactly what you mean.

One explanation that I’ve heard is that Paul was addressing a problem with religious syncretism. We know from the opening verses of I Timothy that Paul had instructed Timothy to stay in Ephesus to preach against false teachings that were circulating among the Ephesians. One issue in particular that may have been a problem was an attempt by the Ephesians (and especially the Ephesian women) to be Christian while continuing to pay homage to Artemis, the patron goddess of Ephesus and a goddess of childbirth and midwifery. Given how dangerous bearing children was at that time, it would have been very tempting for Greek Christians to continue to appeal to Artemis as a way of “hedging their bets” during childbirth. Paul, then, is simply telling Timothy to remind the women that it is God, not Artemis, who is their protector during childbirth. This would also explain Paul’s policy against letting women teach in church; because women were generally less educated and therefore prone to being led astray (like Eve in the garden of Eden), their proper place at that time was as students, not teachers.

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Thank you so much brothers! This is a scripture that I’ve always wondered about when I read it but never remembered to find out more when I had the time. I had heard a pastor say he believes it means a faithful woman will not perish during childbirth but I never really knew what to make of it. Your ideas have given me some things to think about for sure! Isn’t it interesting how we can really struggle over some little portions of scripture like this? And at the time of Paul it would have been completely understood by those who read this letter written to Timothy. And we are often left scratching our heads. :joy:

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I also was not sure what @Joshua_Hansen meant. :blush:

Don’t you just love it?? I love this forum too. :smile:

My apologies to you and @gchop! My intended meaning was that I do not see a life of fulfillment as a mother in the home and being a teacher and leader in the church as a mutually exclusive vocation. It seems to me that someone could be both. I understand that this brushes up against the theology of some. But, I wanted to point out that this explanation would go against an interpretation of Scripture which does allow for the women church leaders found in Scripture as well as not account for those women who either remain unmarried or are married but unable to have children. For those reasons I would have to disagree with that particular explanation for this Scripture.

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I would not disagree that women can study, teach and even hold positions of leadership. Nor would I argue that they can’t do both teach and be a mother. And I do not see where this is stating that women would not be fulfilled doing both. That being said it does mean (in my observation) that women who choose to be mother and home keeper alone would experience a different kind of fulfillment. I would disagree that there is a correct biblical view that women are told that they can be in positions such as elder. Pastor. Deacon. Respectfully.

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The only issue I have with that is that Priscilla is in charge of a church with her husband making her a pastor and potentially a presbyter, and Phoebe is named as a deacon. Both of these women are named by Paul. This is why I was careful to point out that most interpretations of Scripture which argue against women in ministry, at least in my experience, fail to account for the women who are named church leaders and who, in fact, did ministry work.

It seems to me, and I could totally be wrong because I obviously have not read everything, and I am not saying that this is your argument, that most of these arguments say, “This scripture here and that scripture over there say women can’t be leaders, never mind that women are leaders in the church during the time these Scriptures are written.” I have a hard time reconciling that argument in my head.

It makes me think the interpretations which appear to forbid women from participating in church leadership are at least incomplete.

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I love your points. I certainly do not claim to be the authority nor have I read everything. Always seeking truth in love. There must be some consideration of Paul’s comments in this part of scripture as well.

My wife works a full time job. Has/is mothering 2 teenagers. Has served in women’s ministry as well as mentored college women. She is certainly fulfilled. Despite being married to me.

There are other scriptures I would consider with your views.

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For clarification this seems to harmonize with Paul’s views elsewhere the best for my interpretation

Romans 16:1-2

Phoebe was evidently the woman who carried this epistle from Corinth to

She was a “servant” (Gr. diakonon ) of the church in her hometown, “Cenchrea,” the port of Corinth (Acts 18:18; 2 Cor. 1:1). It is unclear whether Phoebe held office as a deaconess or whether she was simply an informal servant of the church. Paul stressed her service, not her office.

“The word itself ( diakonos ) does appear to have been on the way to technical use by the time this epistle was written, but whether it was so used of women is not certain.”

The Greek word prostatis , “helper,” occurs only here in the New Testament and probably means a helper in the sense of a benefactor or patron. She was his “sister … in the Lord,” as seems clear from his reference to her as “our” sister. Letters of commendation were common in Paul’s day (cf. 2 Cor. 3:1). Paul’s words here constituted such a letter for Phoebe.

Notice that the ministry of women in the Roman church is quite evident in this chapter. Paul referred to nine prominent women: Phoebe, Prisca, Mary, Tryphena, Thyphosa, Persis, Rufus’ mother, Julia, and Nereus’ sister.

The word deacon derives from this word diakonos (just using the lexical form). If this only ever means servant then the office of deacon loses all meaning. By delivering the letter she is fulfilling the office of a deacon. In fact, she was probably charged with reading the letter to the Romans and was responsible for explaining and teaching what it meant. If the Romans had questions who could they ask other than Phoebe? He uses the phrase “of the church of Cenchrea” to designate the official capacity in which she served as a deacon.

Helper, as you mentioned, would be the gloss of the word while the definition has a wider meaning of patroness or protectress. This word is used to designate her as a leader in her church.

He was commending her so that the church in Rome would listen to her. She had very important information contained in the letter to the Romans to teach to them.

I agree women played an enormous role in the early church. However, I noticed you left out Junia! Of course, there is a debate around this name but there are many scholars who believe this is a reference to a female apostle.

The interpretation of these verses can be tough due to some ambiguity.

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Thank you for sharing your knowledge and understanding on this. I enjoy your responses.

Challenging passages for sure. And we press on for the purpose of the Cross my brother

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Amen!