Women’s Salvation Dependent on Child Bearing?

My friend Emily will be doing a series of posts on women in ministry, or more particularly, women in scripture. You should check it out. She has started the discussion with a post on her presuppositions and experience. In the comments section this verse came up (1 Tim 2:14-15):

“Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”


This is my take on the verse (which I posted on Emily’s site). Let me know if this makes me a heretic:

Women, whether in the kingdom or outside of the kingdom, will bear children. That seems to be a given. So, there are women who will bear children, die, and and not know Christ (not ‘delivered’) and there are women who will bear children, die, and be in the presence of the Lord (or ‘delivered’).

In addition to being ‘delivered through childbearing’ Paul gives us a big ‘if’. That is, ‘IF she continues in faith and love and holiness with self-control’ (NET).

So, the constant seems to be bearing children while the determining factor of ‘being delivered’ seems to be faith, love, etc.

My guess is that ‘saved through childbearing’ is a reference to the line through which God’s promises and salvation came. God said to Eve after the fall “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and HER SEED; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Gen 3:15)

Moreover, through salvation history, time and again, God opened the wombs of BARREN WOMEN to fulfill and establish His covenants: Sarah (Gen 16:2), Rebekah (Gen 25:21), Leah (Gen 29:31-from which came the tribe of Judah> King David > Joseph the father of Jesus), And, last but not least Mary, the mother of Jesus, who having no sexual union with a man, gave birth to the Christ.

So, back to the verse you quoted: 2:14b-15, “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”

My dynamic equivalent (hopefully non-heretical) INTERPRETATION (I emphasize this word): It wasn’t Adam who was tricked, it was the woman, and because of this, she became a law-breaker. Don’t worry though, women aren’t stuck being law-breakers, they will be saved, because through their childbearing came salvation, which in turn comes by faith, love, holiness and self-control.

Paul is addressing women alone in these particular verses (for whatever reason that might be). We all know that Adam also sinned, but that’s not what Paul is addressing so he leaves it out. So, I think one could even possibly say that men too will be saved through [women’s] childbearing.


35 Responses to “Women’s Salvation Dependent on Child Bearing?”

  1. 1 Zach Lee January 16, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Paul is not referencing the birth of the savior through a specific woman (namely Mary, this is a rather “old” interpretation) but rather speaking of how women (plural) will be saved. Clearly he is not saying that squeezing a baby out saves you. I think that he shows the role of a Christian woman in v. 9-12 and then goes to contrast the evil that happened at the fall with how women will be saved. Salvation is a fiat moment, but it is also a process. As a woman is being sanctified, it is a blessing to her to fulfill her original intent (one of the intents of all mankind) to “be fruitful and multiply” See William Mounce, Word Biblical Commentary, et al. I may be wrong but the context of this passage is a woman’s “role” even if this is controversial.
    Thanks man

  2. 2 joelpatrick January 16, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Zach! Good to hear from you.

    You said, “Paul is not referencing the birth of the savior through a specific woman (namely Mary, this is a rather “old” interpretation) but rather speaking of how women (plural) will be saved.”

    I too am speaking of how women plural will be saved. I never mentioned that it was through a specific woman alone (reread my 7th and 8th paragraphs- especially reread my paraphrase)

    You go on to say “I think that he shows the role of a Christian woman in v. 9-12 and then goes to contrast the evil that happened at the fall with how women will be saved… Salvation is a fiat moment, but it is also a process. As a woman is being sanctified, it is a blessing to her to fulfill her original intent…”

    Forget the ‘role’ aspect for a minute. The question is: in what way does childbearing relate to salvation? You have either (1) answered this by saying that childbearing is a part of the sanctification- and barren women just miss the boat, or (2) you haven’t answered the question.

    I have tried to answer that question in particular in this post (though I may be wrong, I’m not sure that you are equating in your mind the same ‘old’ interpretation that I set forth in this post).

    Love you man,


  3. 3 Zach Lee January 16, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    Hey Joel,

    I say this whole passage tentatively because I’m know that this is a tricky passage.

    When you say that women (plural) are saved, you are still referencing the birth of the savior (singular) or through a covenant (singular idea). I don’t think that “women will be saved through childbearing” is meaning, “a women gave birth to the savior, so that both men and women can be saved.” See your quote “So, I think one could even possibly say that men too will be saved through [women’s] childbearing.” This whole passage pertains only to women and not just to the idea that barren women will pass on the holy lineage because Christ has already come and there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the Church.

    When I say that it is part of sanctification, I’m not saying that, “barren women have missed the boat” which is why I say “Clearly he is not saying that squeezing a baby out saves you.” The salvation idea here is clearly not justification. I’m simply saying that as a woman seeks our her role as a redeemed Christian, “continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control,” she will find her fulfillment as a wife and mother. It is the intent of her heart. Is she seeking to be a godly wife (Titus 2:5 and Prov 31) or is she some domineering woman.

    If your question means. Does a woman have to physically produce children to one day stand before God and be declared righteous? Then the answer is of course not. “Does a woman’s salvation depend on child bearing?” If this means, “Should a woman seek to be the kind of woman described by Paul in this context, a woman who submits to her husband, continues in faith, and seeks to be a godly mother and wife?” Then I would say that this is what she should seek for.

    I also want to say that I’m not some sexist tyrant but am just trying to be faithful to the text. I respect women immensely. In Paul’s mind (who says, submit to your husband, have a head covering, teach women to be homemakers, don’t speak in church, I don’t allow a women to teach or excercise authority over a man, etc.) Sets up what a godly woman looks like. I’m not saying a woman can’t have a job (the prov 31 woman sells belts) nor am I saying that a woman can’t be single (Paul says that this is better).

    I think that you have a great premise and I’m going to look more into it. I’m not trying to say “I’m for sure what this means” but rather to spark a conversation (which is what we have done). I think that your premise is valid and very good. You may be totally right but let me know what you think of this responce. I love you man,

  4. 4 bethduncan January 16, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    I thought of something I had never thought of before when I read this! See, women had always been unequal before God before Christ came. There was a women’s court in the temple, even, and they couldn’t mingle with the men in the temple. But, since Christ came from a woman, women were “saved”, in other words, made equal in front of God, through the birth of Christ. As in Galatians “…there is neither male nor female…”

  5. 5 Zach Lee January 17, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Hey Beth!

    Great comment. If I may. I would say that women are completely equal to men, even before Christ is born. They are both said to be made in the image of God. The passage you are referring to is saying the exact same thing. Whether you are Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female. There is no “better” or “more important.” The question here is not equality or imporatnce but role. If by equal, where you say “made equal in front of God” you mean no distinction then clearly this is incorrect because v.9-12 in this section show that a women submits to her husband and cannot teach men in the church. But if by equal you mean “equal in personhood” then I think that you’re right. The other entrance in the temple shows this distinction. Also, the “woman” is NOT MARY. Many take this interpretation which doesn’t make sense if you carry it out because the next phrase is “if she continues in faith…” This is pertaining to women today being saved today by childbearing today. Let me know what you think.

  6. 6 Joel January 17, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    Zach, thanks for a thoughtful answer man. Here are my thoughts: you said “This whole passage pertains only to women and not just to the idea that barren women will pass on the holy lineage”. I suggested that since these verses don’t talk about the fact that Adam sinned (and we know he did) then it is evident that Paul’s remarks about men are being withheld, which leaves the possibility of men, in a sense, being saved through childbearing too (he just wasn’t addressing the men, so he didn’t comment either way).

    You say “the salvation idea here is clearly not justification” but that is the whole point: showing WHY it is not justification. Your explanation is that “…a woman [should] seek to be the kind of woman described by Paul in this context… submits… continues in faith… godly wife/mother” but this in no addresses the strong language of the text: “Yet women will be saved THROUGH childbearing.” My answer is an attempt to take this segment of the verse very literally.

    Further, I take issue with what you are calling the ‘original intent’. In your first reply to the post you said that it was “to be fruitful and multiply”. I reject this for two reasons: (1) the command to be fruitful and multiply was given twice in scripture: once to Adam/Eve- when there was no one else on earth- and once to Noah and his family -when there was no one else on earth. I don’t think the command applies to us (the earth seems pretty populous). (2) Paul is very clear about the fact that it might be better to stay single then to get married. I think people often miss the ramifications of this. Wouldn’t this HAVE TO be a contradiction if THE ROLE of a woman was to seek to be a godly wife/mother? Single people by definition aren’t married and don’t have kids (in christian theology).

    Last, no offense, but I think your view of women sounds pretty narrow; “Is she seeking to be a godly wife (Titus 2:5 and Prov 31) or is she some domineering woman”. In my theology these aren’t the only two options…

    I have tried to stay away from the ‘role’ talk as much as possible to, for now, just address the question of salvation/childbearing.
    Thanks for interacting with me buddy. Much Love, Joel

  7. 7 Zach Lee January 18, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Hey Joel,

    We will continue our discussion, if we may and I really hope that you’re not getting mad because I just enjoy a good debate. If you ever do, let me know because I want to grow our friendship and not hurt it. I will continue.

    First, you say that this passage doesn’t rule out the possibility of men being saved through childbearing, just because Paul is speaking about women. True, but you usually don’t want to explain a very difficult passage with an answer from silence, especially when we believe that God (through Paul) is giving us enough information in the text to learn what he wants us to learn.

    Second, you say that you’re taking this verse very literally just because you take the “through” phrase (Gk: dia) as a being an objective preposition. How you interpret the verse this way is by saying, “a woman will be saved BY WHOM she produces through childbearing.” At least that is the implication on saying it is Christ. The more literal way is to say that the “through” is a preposition of means translated, “a woman will be saved by the process of bringing forth children.” I’m taking it to mean, “a woman will be saved by fulfilling her role as childbearer.”

    Thirdly, God’s original intent for man has not changed! We still cultivate and reproduce to the glory of God. Yes, that was a command given to Adam/Noah but there is still something unnatural about a woman who doesn’t want to produce children (hence my interpretation of this passage).

    Fourthly, you can’t divorce the idea of “role” away from this passage. Like I said, my goal is not to be some sort of heathen. THIS ENTIRE SECTION IS ABOUT THE ROLE OF A WOMAN, to try and “not talk about this idea” is to take Paul’s use of (Sodzo, his usual term for salvation) and take it out of context which is why even Gordon Fee (an egalitarian) agrees with me on this passage.

    My question to you specifically is who is the “woman” that is spoken about in v.15?

  8. 8 Emily Hunter McGowin January 18, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Hello everyone,

    Joel, you probably knew that by telling me about this conversation I would feel compelled to say something. I hope that’s not a problem. If I’m “butting in,” feel free to ignore what I have to say and come back to it later, if you want.

    First, I agree with Joel that the command to our first parents, “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” does not have the weight of command to married persons today. God’s words in that passage continue a pattern or rhythm: creating something, then filling it–creating something, then filling it. I think the command to the first humans to “fill” the earth is a continuation of God’s work in the world and an illustration to us of our “partnership” with God.

    That said, it is also worth noting that human beings are not the only ones given the command to “be fruitful and multiply.” In v. 22 of Gen 1, the birds and creatures of the sea are told the same thing (while, curiously enough, the beasts of the land are not). The only difference between the commands to the birds and sea creatures and that to humans is the command to “rule” and “subdue.” I think that’s the main point of Gen 1–that humans are God’s vice-regents on the earth–not the idea that pairs of humans must reproduce in order to be God-honoring human beings.

    Second, in 1 Tim 2:11-15, I’d like to suggest that it does not follow that because Paul is speaking of his expected behavior of women within communal times of worship, he must be speaking of the “role” of women in general (where “role” is understood to mean the universal will of God for women as women).

    Even with no outside information, it is clear that 1 Timothy is written by Paul to a younger church leader with instruction for shepherding the church and avoiding heresy and disorder. In chapter 2, Paul gives instruction on prayers for leaders of the land, his expectations of men in worship, and then his expectations of women in worship. It seems to me that giving exhortation on the behavior of women within worship services in Timothy’s church does not equate to giving instruction on the universal “role” of women.

    Also, Zach brought up the question, “Who is the woman that is spoken about in v. 15?” I would like to point out that the word usually translated “woman” or “women” in v. 15a (“but women will be saved through…”), is technically “she.” Most translations supply “women” as a “dynamic equivalent.” But, literally, the text says: “But, she will be saved through chilbearing.”

    Once again, the question arises: “Who is the ‘she'”? The best candidate is the nearest female noun from the previous verse, which, in our case, happens to be, not all women, but one woman: Eve. If we supply her name to take the place of “she,” then v. 15 reads like this: “But she (Eve) will be delivered by childbearing, if they (women of Timothy’s congregation) continue in faith, love, and holiness, with propriety.” Hmmm… That’s puzzling too, isn’t it?

    Thanks for letting me put in my two cents, Joel. I can’t wait to hear about Gabby’s trip to Malta. We’re going to get our passports today. Yay!

    Grace and peace to all,


  9. 9 Luke Britt January 18, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Joel & Zach,

    I’m hesitant to engage the conversation because of the arduous task of being faithful to hard texts, however, I may have something valuable to add to the conversation. I’ll leave that to you.

    Salvation in this passage needs to be taken seriously. This is where Zach’s argument may fall apart. There is consistent “role talk” in this passage because of a specific situation in Timothy’s church at Ephesus. The men and women there were probably very wealthy (hence, the command against gold, etc.)and held onto some status that may have distorted their view of the creation order and biblical roles for men and women. (I’m thoroughly complementarian and do not believe it is passe to discuss roles in the 21st century where women work in major corporations or even run for president. Assessing our culture through the lens of the Scriptures is of top priority and if there is a domineering man or a stay-at-home dad who leaves his role up to his wife who is the natural source of nurture, we as Christians should see that as a distortion of truth. Also, it is not hard to see in Scripture a theme of male leadership that is characterized by love and sacrifice and therefore rules out any talk of chauvinism.) Paul is correcting the faulty view of the roles of men and women (especially in the worship gatherings) and uses Adam and Eve as an illustration of the biblical truth of gender roles.. When Paul uses this illustration it would immediately bring the creation story to the minds of the readers. Along with the creation came the fall and the curse. Therefore, when Paul claims that salvation will come through the means of (dia) childbearing this points the reader to Genesis 3:16 where Yahweh promises multiplied pain in childbirth and a desire that is against her husband’s authority.

    This leads to my interpretation of the passage. Paul is speaking of a reversal of the curse upon Eve. Through the reversal of the curse salvation has come. I tend to agree with Joel in his thinking of the “line” of salvation. A cursory reading of the Old Testament will show you how important lineages are in the scope of biblical history; reading the genealogies of Matthew and Luke will show the sovereign hand of God over his plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. Childbearing is an instrument God has chosen to utilize in his plan and has brought his Son into the world through a miraculous birth.
    As we know, salvation is future-oriented though we see fruits and blessings of it now through the Kingdom breaking in the world in the person of Jesus Christ. This is why Paul says that “she will be saved.”

    As for the if clause: this clause makes perfect sense if you hold to my position because it is an exhortation like many of Paul’s & Jesus’ exhortations of right living and Christian duty. One example might be that you will be an heir with Christ, your brother, if you suffer (Romans 8:17). If you put to death the deeds of the body (8:13).
    The items Paul lists are attributes that must be in the life of the believer and function as evidences of their salvation.

    In summary, there may be a nuance of role language in the childbearing event, but the concept of salvation here must be taken seriously and refer to the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ who is born miraculously to a teenage virgin, Mary. Although the woman, Eve, trangressed in the garden there is hope in Jesus Christ who brings victory over pain and sin.

    By the way, here is my own translation:

    “yet she will be saved by the means of childbearing – if they remain in faith and love and holiness with soundness of mind.”

  10. 10 Joel January 21, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Zach, Emily & Luke,

    Thanks for the participation in the discussion.

    First, Zach when I say that I am trying to take this verse literally, it isn’t merely the ‘through’ talk that I am addressing, it is the fact that there seems to be ‘justification talk’ that needs to be accounted for. That is the reason for this whole conversation. Further, I can see that with my interpretation of this passage, that the possibility that there is a sense in which men too are saved through this birth process, still bothers you. So, let us drop that from the discussion- it is more conjecture than exegesis anyway.

    You ended your last post by asking a specific question. Namely, “who is the ‘woman’ that is spoken about in v.15?” As I was reading, I came across the ‘she’ translation that Emily mentioned above. I didn’t have time to research it, but it looks like Emily already knew. So, as far as I know right now, that is who I believe the “woman” or “she” is (Eve).

    Concerning ‘original intent’ you say, “God’s original intent for man has not changed! We still cultivate and reproduce to the glory of God. Yes, [be fruitful and multiply] was a command given to Adam/Noah but there is still something unnatural about a woman who doesn’t want to produce children (hence my interpretation of this passage).” I have loads of questions about this, but I will restrict them to a few:

    (1) How do we extract “intent” from the command given to these two men? God never says, “this is my intent for man until the second parusia.” He also gave them the command not to eat the fruit. Should we then say, “Man’s original intent, since these are the command’s given in the beginning, is to be fruitful, multiply and not eat the fruit in the middle of the garden”?
    (2) Is there any New Testament passage that points to the fact that the intent of man and woman is reproduction (it has to be men too since the command was given to Adam and Noah- men)?
    (3) can you show me in scripture that it is unnatural for a woman not to want to have a baby -especially, as mentioned before, since Paul says that it is better to be single-? (I would think that even if she wanted to she could choose not to for the sake of the gospel)
    (4) according to the quote, your interpretation of this passage hinges upon the idea that women should want to have babies. If you can’t answer (3) affirmatively, does this change your interpretation?
    (5) Do you believe that cultivating and reproducing is the primary way that believers are to live to the glory of God? More so then, say, preaching the gospel of the kingdom? If your answer is no, does this change your view of ‘original intent’ and thereby change your interpretation of this passage?

    Luke, thanks for posting. I like a lot of what you have to say, but am also interested in what you meant by ‘their wealth may have distorted their view of the creation/biblical roles of men & women’ -what did you have in mind here?

    Emily, thanks for the insight. It was really helpful. I don’t think I have any questions.

    Again, thanks everyone. As far as the ‘role’ stuff goes, I am still thinking through exactly what I believe. And, as far as this passage is concerned, I stick with my original interpretation which involves the salvation lineage (as well as what Emily pointed out about ‘she’ being Eve).

  11. 11 Zach Lee January 22, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Hey Joel,

    Good response, let us drop two suppositions in this passage and just deal with grammatics. I will retract my “be fruitful and multiply” idea for the rest of this discussion as well as the “role of men and women talk” so we can get to the heart of the problem.

    Allow me to state your and Emily’s position.

    “Eve will be saved through child-bearing if women (plural) continue in faith, etc…”

    This is what you have given me here but I believe it is because it wasn’t communicated clearly. I asked who is the “she” (at the first part of the sentence) and both you and Emily said, “Eve.” Please explain how this makes sense.
    What you probably meant to say was that the “child bearing woman” later on in the sentece was Eve but then who is the fisrt woman and who are the plural women later on?

  12. 12 lukebritt January 23, 2008 at 9:50 pm


    I will answer your questions even though Zach hasn’t. I hope he doesn’t mind, but tough cookies.

    1)Your statement “God never says, “this is my intent for man until the second parousia.” is self-refuting. God also never says when that command will end. If Noah or Adam have one baby each is the command obeyed?
    Also, you can make this argument concerning many other commands of the Bible. It’s an argument that does not hold water because there is a particular section of redemptive history that it applies, but Scripture does not tell us when the command will cease either. Your
    argument concerning being fruitful can be compared to the issue of spiritual gifts like tongues and prophecy: the cessationist argument, which I believe you oppose, claims that because we have the full revelation of God, the Bible, we no longer need these ‘extra’ manifestations of God’s word. You and I know that the Scriptures do not teach this explicitly and although our experience may pervert the truth and power of the Holy Spirit, we agree that he is present in special gifts he has given his Church. Spiritual gifts, as well as the command to be fruitful, were provided for particular ages of redemptive history, but can still be applicable today because nowhere in Scripture is there a cessation of birthing children.

    This leads to #3 & maybe #2. First, the teaching Paul gives concerning singleness and the command of the Lord to be fruitful and multiply are not contradictory because the command to Adam and Noah is to men committed to women in a marital covenant; the Lord would never command a single person to reproduce with other single person(s).
    Second, your need for an explicit New Testament passage is not a good argument. I could return and say ‘give me a NT passage that proves it is natural for married women to abstain from having children.’ You could not, and I’m not sure if I could, honestly.
    A countering challenge to you would be to provide reasons for not having babies for the sake of the gospel. How does being unfruitful make one more ready for the sake of the gospel? (I’d really like for you answer to this challenge, because I think I could engage you on that topic.)

    #4 & #5: Zach will have to answer these.

    A short question: Is #5 a fair question? I’m not sure Zach intends to say that being a good family is more crucial than preaching the gospel. It may be good rhetoric, but also may be a straw man that holds no weight.

    Also, there seem to be some sort of natural law that should govern us as common grace from God to us. These natural laws are able to teach us things about God and can hold us responsible for neglecting the truth.(Rom. 1:20) One of these natural laws is that it is unnatural for one man to create avenues of having sexual intercourse with another man; it is only natural for men to have sexual intercourse with women. This is why Paul tells us that the reprobates ‘exchanged natural relations for those contrary to nature” and ‘dishonored their bodies’. (Romans 1:18-32)

    This being said…it is natural for sex to lead to babies. Onan was even cursed for creating some sort of contraceptive action when he was asked by Judah to conceive a child with Tamar (Genesis 38).

    Furthermore, Jacob calls his children ‘gifts of God’ (33).

    And one last thing, there are twelve times total that “fruitful and multiply” have been used in the OT.

    I got distracted…I may come back later and add to this.

  13. 13 Joel January 24, 2008 at 10:44 am

    #1. Something is self-refuting if it establishes some sort of rule or premise that it itself is contrary to. For instance, ‘only those things proven by science can be verified as being truthful’ or ‘only self-evident and incorrigible beliefs are basic’. These statements don’t live up to their own standard and are thus self-refuting. My statement is not self-refuting. The fact that God never says when this command ends still gives us no reason to believe that it hasn’t- though we do have an empirical observation that tells us the the earth is pretty populous (in fact maybe the reason he repeated it for 3 people was because it was primarily for them. You said, that fruitful/multiply was used 12 times, true. Only three of the times, though, was it given to humans: Adam, when there was no one else on earth, Noah, when there was no one else on earth, and Jacob- who is Israel- when the nation of Israel was being formed). Either way, it is a position from silence. So, you, just like me, make a decision based on the evidence of scripture. You believe based on these instances of the command that we are to apply them to ourselves. I don’t. Are we to make a principle that all commands given in scripture that don’t seem to have an end (as you say) need to continue to be followed?

    The reason my statement cannot be compared to the passage in 1 Corinthians regarding spiritual gifts is because of my interpretation of ‘the perfect’ in that passage- so, it is not an argument from silence and, therefore, not analogous.

    #2/3. Maybe I didn’t make myself clear in these two questions (sorry if that is the case). I will try to clarify: what you are presenting as my dilemma is not the dilemma I presented. I am not saying that these passages contradict one another as you state that I am. What I am saying is in regards to the role of a woman that Zach has presented. If Zach, or whoever, presented motherhood/producing babies as ‘a’ role of a women, then that would be perfectly understandable. However, he (and possibly you- and a lot of people in complementarianism) present this as ‘the’ role of a woman (the article implies uniqueness and singularity as Bertrand Russell has pointed out). This is important. If there is a primary function or role for a Christian women, and that role is to be mother/baby-maker, then when Paul says that it may be better to be single is he not contradicting the idea of ‘the role’ that has been established? So, when a woman stays single for the gospel’s sake, she is not fulfilling her role as mother/baby-maker. Don’t you see this as a problem? Take Lottie Moon as an example- she stayed single for the gospel and she did not get married or have babies. Did she act according to the way a Christian woman should act or should she have fulfilled her role as a wife/baby-maker?

    Concerning the need for an explicit NT passage- Again, I don’t think what you are presenting is what I have presented. I am not merely talking of married women. We are talking about Christian women in general (married and unmarried). Therefore, as you seem to believe, I am not making an argument for married persons not to have babies.

    However, since my interpretation of the Genesis command(s) is different then yours, I would not charge a couple that is childless as being sinful on these grounds alone. Yes, I believe that sex leads to babies. Yes, I believe that that is how God created it. Yes, I believe that life is a gift from God, etc. No, I do not believe that the sole purpose of sex is to produce offspring (and neither does anyone else. I think if men were polled and asked: ‘is it the case that every time you have sex it is for the purpose of conception?’ we would here a resounding ‘no’)

    #5 A straw man is when the position is misrepresented and that misrepresentation is attacked. I am not misrepresenting him, I am drawing the implications of his position and asking if he would agree with those implications (the lottie moon example above illustrates the question I asked him). So, yes I do think it is a fair question.

    I am still working on what I believe about men and women in scripture. However, I am sure that I do not believe that ‘the role’ of a woman (married/unmarried) is to be a housewife/baby-machine even if ‘a role’ (meaning ‘function’) is to have babies.

    Zach, I am not neglecting your question. I am still thinking and working on what I believe about that passage.

  14. 14 Zach Lee January 24, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    Hey Guys,

    I wouldn’t mind laying aside the “be fruitful and multiply” stuff right now and just doing exegesis. I will continue to say, “who is the ‘woman’ that is being saved?” If you say Eve then you translate the passage as follows.

    “Eve will be saved through child-bearing if women (plural) continue in faith, etc…”

    This passage makes no sense. The objection to my premise is as follows, “I already know that a person is justified by faith and therefore this can’t possibly be the meaning of the text.” What you’re really saying is, “I already have my system and I’m viewing all things in scripture through my paradigm.” That is backwards. I’m not saying that a person is justified by faith plus anything. I’m simply critiquing your argument. The reason that you don’t hold my interpretation seems to be, not because it is grammatically or culturally improbable, but rather because it bothers you.

    That’s O.K. but please answer the question. Who is the women at the beginning of the sentence and who are the women at the end of the sentence?

    As far as what Paul meant. He is a Jew who living in the first century saw a great contrast between men and women. There was a different entrance in the temple for them, etc. Show me where in the Old Testament having children is not thought of as a blessing. A woman who was barren was looked on as a disgrace. Now, I know that God seemed to bless and have pity on such women, and praise Him for that. But what Luke is saying is that you can either be a single woman and serve God or a married woman who raises up children for the kingdom and serves God. It is similar to men in this sense. Men are commanded to provide for their families. I can either remain single and serve God, or I can get married and provide for the woman and serve God. The option of getting married and not providing for her is incorrect. Now you could say, “how then does Paul say that it is better to remain single if he wants husbands to provide for their wives.” This is the same argument that you have for the women. You don’t see that a person has two choices and not just one.

    I love you Joel and you have a sharp mind. I’m having fun with this debate and it’s making me think. Let me know when you know which two sets of women Paul is talking about in this passage. Much luf to ya hommie

  15. 15 lukebritt January 24, 2008 at 2:28 pm


    Good critique of my answers. I’ll probably just drop all philosophical argument jargon for now.

    I think I may have misunderstood what you are arguing. Therefore, I will be as simple as possible:

    1. Single women, who are able, should stay single and sacrifice marriage and motherhood for the sake of the gospel (1 Corinthians 7)

    2. Married women have particular functions. First, women are to be ‘helpers’ to their husbands (Genesis 2:18-25). Second, they are to take care of the matters of the home (Titus 2). Third, they are to train other women in the beauty of womenhood (Titus 2).


    Sorry for getting off topic. I will interact with your comment later.

  16. 16 Emily Hunter McGowin January 24, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Joel and Luke,

    I don’t have time to address all the salient points right now, but I would like to offer a perspective on Luke’s definition of the “particular functions” of married women, notably caring for matters in the home. I understand Luke to be saying that, based upon Titus 2:3-5, married women have as a primary (if not the primary) function, being a good homemaker. Here are my thoughts:

    In Titus 2:3-5, older women are exhorted to teach younger women “to love their husbands and children, to be…good homemakers…” (HCSB).

    The content of this verse is undeniable, but I don’t think the interpretation Luke is employing (along with other complementarians) gives proper credence to the motivation behind Paul’s instructions. Notice that Paul clarifies exactly why such instruction is needed at the end of v. 5: “so that God’s message will not be slandered.”

    Now this is a strange reason to teach women to be homemakers, isn’t it? Why would Paul say this? The answer, I believe, is in the missional, Kingdom-focused direction of Paul, who reads all things through the lense of proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom (including marriage, women’s roles, eating habits, and slavery). Paul understood that the homemaking skills of the women in Titus’ congregation were essential so that the good news would not be slandered by outsiders.

    In the Roman world, the wife’s vital role was as administrator of the husband’s (pater familias) household. This doesn’t just mean cooking and cleaning, either. She oversaw slaves, financial books, entertainment, and the education of the children. Roman wives were expected to fulfill these tasks as a duty both to her husband and to the Roman Empire. In the mind of most Romans, the security of the Empire rested upon the faithful administration of the home. The stability of Caesar’s power was only as stable as the power of the pater familias.

    So, if a non-Christian Roman encountered a household like mine, where the husband and wife shared responsibilities, it is certain that the non-Christian would assume, not only that the couple is treasonously out of sync with Roman society, but also that the Christian message is simply backward nonsense. Therefore, in order to be sure that the good news is not slandered and the Kingdom is not thwarted, Christian wives in Titus’ assembly must be faithful to do what is culturally necessary.

    I think a comparable situation is found in the roles of missionary wives in middle eastern countries. For a Christian family living in Syria, it is essential that the wife learn to adopt the patterns of wives in Muslim households so that the witness of the couple is not hindered by her apparent lack of homemaking skills. In some situations, the husband truly cannot help his wife with dishes or clothing or cooking because such actions on his part would shame her and bring reproach on him as a man. For the sake of the good news, therefore, the wife and husband adopt the appropriate cultural roles and perform them to the best of their ability.

    For this reason, I think the use of Titus 2:3-5 as a support for the universal axiom that homemaking is a primary role of married Christian women is sorely mistaken. As I see it, Paul is not teaching the universal, inalterable responsibilities for all women at all times. (If it were so, surely they would have shown up in more places than Titus.) He is teaching the right way to submit to the expectations and practices of the surrounding culture in order for the good news to be advanced. This is not uncommon for him, as you know (see esp. 1 Cor 9:19-23; cf. 1 Cor 10:23-33; 1 Thess 4:11-12; 1 Tim 6:1).

    In fact, I think an argument can be made that the view of women’s roles and homemaking propogated by complementarians may actually do more to hinder the reception of the good news in the Western world than help it [albeit, in a relatively limited way]. Think about the status of women in the US and the new cultural norms that have developed in the past fifty years. Paul’s principle is that things like occupations, household roles, food choices, etc, are to be submitted to the mission of the good news. Is it possible that in our context, the insistence on a very “traditional,” 1950s-style model of the family is serving to drive some young women away from the Kingdom? Would Paul intend for us to slavishly repeat the culturally-rooted model of the family present in the NT when we have the good news to preach and people to disciple? I don’t think so.

    Grace and peace to all,


  17. 17 Luke Britt January 24, 2008 at 9:08 pm


    I am preparing a response…I’ll be back either Friday or Monday

  18. 18 Emily Hunter McGowin January 24, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    There’s no rush, Luke. Followers of Jesus have been debating this issue for over 1500 years. I think I can wait a few days. 🙂

    I hope you have a blessed Lord’s Day,


  19. 19 lukebritt January 28, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Quickly (I plan on preparing a more thorough response), Emily, do you think that the modern American family should be altered according to cultural expectations?
    That seems to be your interpretation of Titus 2.
    If that is the case, what do you see as the ideal marital relationship in light of the passage?

  20. 20 lukebritt January 28, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    I should have said, “modern Christian American family”

  21. 21 lukebritt January 28, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    The following is my thoughts on the flow of Titus:

    Pastor Titus is a new church pastor who is to oversee the work through preaching and teaching and delegating some of his responsibilities to other pastors. Paul left him there during his missionary tour to “put what remained into order.” This included the appointing of elders according to the prescribed moral and leadership qualifications.

    One thing that was crucial for Titus was to appoint men to pastoral roles who were able to speak strongly to those who are of the ‘circumcision party,’ rebuking them for their spread of heretical teaching.

    In Paul’s mind the best defense is a good offense (much like Mike Martz). Titus is to teach correct doctrine. Paul gives an exhortation to teach men and women and for them to train the younger generations in the practices and theology of the faith community. In this exhortation Paul exhorts Timothy to lead by example. “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works.”

    It is at this point (after a mention of the behavior of servants) that Paul gives us a basis for this teaching to the men and women of the church: the grace of God. This saving grace trains us to live godly lives. Working at home, being submissive and loving to your husband, kinds, pure, of a sound mind, are qualities of godly women. Being sober, dignified, revered as holy, of sound mind, sound in faith, love and perseverance are the qualities that define godliness in men. This grace that produces godliness was given by God though Christ who is preparing a holy people for himself ‘who are zealous for good works.’ Titus is to teach these things to his people.

    Paul continues with exhortations on life in relation to government and to others, which finds its basis in a recognition of our sinful past and the righteousness that we have in Christ and his gift of his Holy Spirit. This gospel message leads to holy living.

    These are my specific interpretations regarding our conversation:

    The main controversy over this passage is the mention of the quality of a godly woman (at least in Titus’ church) is that she is a home-steward, or a worker at home. It is a hard teaching to swallow because of the way things have turned in the century or two with women becoming a strong voice in culture. Women have become CEOs, managers, salespersons, and so on. The roles have seemed to change. But should this alter our interpretation of Paul’s command in light of the contrasting cultures?

    I think not. ‘Working at home’ and ‘being submissive’ seem to be attributes of godliness for Paul. Paul wouldn’t mind if unbelieving Romans thought that things in the Christian home were backwards, but for a different reason than the one you provided. You would agree that these Romans who saw men loving their wives sacrificially as Christ does his church as backwards in a culture where divorce was much like today in its consistent occurrence. The Christian life is counter-cultural, not culture friendly. Therefore, I see your interpretation of the passage wanting.

    The point of Paul’s reason for women living godly lives is so that the word of God will not be reviled. I think his reason lies more in the fact that living contrary to Paul’s teaching would be inconsistent, rather than women who aren’t submissive fall short of Roman standards. Paul is more concerned with how the men and women in Titus’ church live in regards to godliness instead of fitting in a godless Roman culture.

  22. 22 Emily Hunter McGowin January 29, 2008 at 3:13 pm


    You asked: “Do you think that the modern Christian American family should be altered according to cultural expectations?” The interesting thing about this question is that you are assuming that there is an ideal model or structure called “Christian family.” I have a fundamental dispute with this assertion, so I cannot answer the question.

    When I read the NT, particularly the letters of Paul, I do not encounter an Apostle giving universal axioms about the structure and function of Christian families. (He gives universal axioms about other things, for sure, but not social structures like families.) Instead, I see an Apostle teaching in a variety of situations how first-century Christians can live godly, Christ-like lives, within the social structures of the Greco=Roman world. These teachings have important implications and applications for us, but they do not make for direct one-to-one correspondance.

    The reason that a one-to-one correspondance fails, I think, is that we must take seriously the fact that the “family” or “household” of the first century Greco-Roman world does not equate to the family of today. As I said in my earlier post the pater familias was not the traditional “head of the household” that we speak of today, but the authoritarian ruler of his domain. Normally, he had a wife with whom to make children, a concubine with whom to enjoy sex, and possibly even young male lovers. Although affection between spouses was possible, the wife was little more than a slave, bound to perform the wishes of the pater familias and duty-bound as a Roman citizen to honor the order of the household. Maybe I’ve missed something, but this isn’t quite the situation of the “nuclear family” today.

    In your interpretation of Titus, I think that you’ve missed Paul’s overarching theological-missiological method, which interprets proper, godly behavior in light of the imminent Parousia. I encourage you to read carefully Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians about marriage (ch. 7), because it is a clear picture of the way the Apostle Paul thought about godly living as we await Christ’s return. Let me explain what I mean.

    In light of the imminent return of Christ, Paul instructs that it is better to remain single. But, if one is unable to remain single, because of betrothal obligations or inability to control one’s sexual urges, Paul suggests marriage. His reason for this is not that it is God’s universal design for Christians to procreate and not that it is God’s best for men to be heads of households and women to be submissive followers. Instead, he bases his teaching on the fact that the End is near and the spread of the Kingdom of God is foremost.

    This makes his teaching somewhat pragmatic (and perhaps uncomfortable for those of us who want universal axioms) and rather unchallenging to the social structures of the day. For him, there is no time to address social evils like slavery, Jesus is coming back soon and he will set all things right at that time. Instead, we must learn to live within the structures in ways that honor Christ and the Kingdom of God. You see the same attitude in the way Paul deals with government.

    And so, Luke, the “ideal marital relationship” is one in which Christ is the head and husband and wife submit their lives to him. Both seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit and, therefore, put the other before themselves. The “ideal marital relationship” means that husband and wife spur one another on to godliness, producing the fruit of the Spirit.

    This means that in a patriarchal culture, where the Gospel would be hindered by women taking visible, active roles in the church, the women choose to let the men lead, remaining silent and talking with their husbands at home, knowing that the Kingdom of God comes first and their “rights” must be yielded for the sake of the Good News. In a more open culture, like ours, where the Gospel would be hindered by women not having the freedom to lead and serve visibly, the women and men choose to partner to together in the church, knowing that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, and that the gifting of the Spirit is not dependent upon gender (see 1 Cor 12).

    I hope this is helpful to you, Luke.

    Joel, I’m sorry to take this off track from 1 Tim 2. But, I do think what I’v said here does apply to the discussion of Paul’s instructions in 1 Tim 2.

    Grace and peace to all,


  23. 23 lukebritt January 30, 2008 at 2:27 pm


    I appreciate your comments. I agree with your emphasis on the imminence of Christ’s coming being our motivator for godliness. This seems also to be the motivation of the moral exhortations in the Olivet Discourse.

    However, I simply do not see your jump from a so-called closed culture to a so-called open culture. This view seems to place an unwarranted weight on culture.

    On your interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7 you and I would agree that Paul wants the Corinthian believers, and us by extension, to see the Kingdom as primary and forego our desires for marriage, if possible. However, you do not seem to think this is can be applied as a universal rule. I would highly disagree. I would teach this passage to a group of Christians in a 21st century culture in a way that would celebrate singleness for the advancement of the kingdom of God and would (as you would probably say) ‘interpret’ marriage in light of the coming consummation of the reign of God. If you are married, do not fall into the luxuries of the suburban lifestyle that is full of 3,000 square feet and SUVs; that is not your purpose; that does not advance the Kingdom…(you get the picture).

    Thanks again for the response.


  24. 24 Lin February 5, 2008 at 3:12 am

    Hi everyone, Hope you don’t mind me putting a few cents in. I have not been able to read all the comments after Emily’s so I hope I am not repeating what has been written! I believe Emily is correct because Paul changes from plural to singular in verse 11. Since the topic of the whole book is false teachers..those who are deceieved like Paul was and those who deceive on purpose…Paul is speaking about a specific women whom Timothy would know about. And Paul does not name names of those who are deceieved but he does name names of those who are deceiving on purpose: Hy and Al referenced in chp 1.

    Emily wrote: “Once again, the question arises: “Who is the ’she’”? The best candidate is the nearest female noun from the previous verse, which, in our case, happens to be, not all women, but one woman: Eve. If we supply her name to take the place of “she,” then v. 15 reads like this: “But she (Eve) will be delivered by childbearing, if they (women of Timothy’s congregation) continue in faith, love, and holiness, with propriety.”

    I would argue that the “she” in verse 15 is referring to the singular woman who was “deceiving’ her husband with false teaching… because it is written in future tense. “She WILL be saved….” Eve is dead at this time.

    Paul is using an analogy (is that the right word?) here to teach that the deceived woman teacher (using ‘gune’ and ‘aner’ which is usually used to mean husband and wife. Paul is using singular for both a man and a woman) will be saved because Eve was deceived, too and Messiah came through a woman. This is significant because the woman was deceived. Adam was not deceived…he sinned. It gets tricky here so bear with me. Adam had ‘knowlegde’ Eve did not have as he saw some of creation in the Garden, etc. It is clear that in Genesis we see that Adam sinned but Eve was deceived and became a transgressor. I think Paul is using the Genesis account as an analogy to encourge Timothy to help them continue in faith, hope, holiness and self control.

    Also Paul uses a curious choice for the word we see translated as ‘authority’. He uses authenteo. Here are the 4 possible uses (in order) for authenteo:
    1.one who with his own hands kills another or himself
    2.one who acts on his own authority, autocratic
    3 an absolute master
    4. to govern, exercise dominion over one

    If Paul meant it to mean authority over, why not use Archon as he does elsewhere? Authenteo is not used anywhere else in the NT.

    It is as if Paul is saying, ‘she is killing him with wrong teaching’ and I would not allow ‘this woman’ to teach ‘this man’ wrong doctrine.

    To even think that child bearing, even as an analogy, is being taught here as the role for women to be saved would negate the NT! It would be a ‘work’ and we know that cannot be. Where is the ‘Grace’ in that for so many who have been barren?

    Just some thoughts…


  25. 25 Josh McDonald August 4, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Thank you guys for this article and discussion. My pastor preached on these very same verses last night. He and I sat and talked about how no commentator seems to cover this topic nor is there a lot on it. Thanks again Joel.

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  1. 1 1 Timothy 2:15: Saved through Childbearing? « Trackback on January 18, 2008 at 5:41 pm
  2. 2 Titus 2: Working at Home « Trackback on January 28, 2008 at 4:58 pm
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