Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Show Stoppers – 1 Timothy 2: Universal Restrictions or a Specific Remedy (Verse 15)

…continuing breakdown of 1 Timothy 2:11-15

(Please make comments on the concluding post)

In order to fully address this section of 1 Timothy and adequately demonstrate the translational problems with it, I need to go into a very detailed, sometimes word for word, breakdown of the text. This will be tedious but necessary. Suffice it to say that ALL English translations of this passage contain translational errors. Yet, most get some things right as well. What I propose to do is take the translation that is the most flawed and use it as a template. I do this not only because it will provide the starkest comparison to what I believe is the correct translation of the text but also because it highlights all of the various subsequent interpretational errors. So, here is 1 Timothy 2:11-15 from the Contemporary English Version:

[11] and they [women] should learn by being quiet and paying attention. [12] They should be silent and not be allowed to teach or to tell men what to do. [13] After all, Adam was created before Eve, [14] and the man Adam wasn't the one who was fooled. It was the woman Eve who was completely fooled and sinned. [15] But women will be saved by having children, if they stay faithful, loving, holy, and modest.
Verse 15 – “But women will be saved by having children, if they stay faithful, loving, holy, and modest.”

We now come to the end of the passage. Paul is giving a remedy for the situation that confronts Timothy. As we have learned, this situation is far different than the one traditional teaching presents. Still, verse 15 holds even more clues that confirm this fact.

15a “But women” – Verse 14 proved beyond doubt that false teaching of a specific Ephesian woman is the subject of Paul’s instructions. Again, as it is throughout the passage, the grammar here is singular.

A Proper Translation – is simply “But she”

15b “will be saved” – Note that the salvation comes in the future. Any doubt about whether or not the woman is Eve should now be removed.

15c “by having children” – This is the point where many complementarians tie this passage into marriage. To paraphrase, a woman’s place is “barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen”. Complementarian authors use this little phrase in 1 Timothy 2:15 to define the female’s “role” as domestic helper and to exclude her from both church and home leadership. Frankly, they get a lot of mileage out of “she will be saved by having children”.

There are two disturbing results with such an interpretation and application of this text. One – it creates a works based salvation. Two – it provides no guidance for single and infertile women. On the basis of these difficulties alone, we should dismiss such a notion. But, the situation gets worse, for, as has consistently happened throughout this passage, a translation that suggests “having children” is actually wrong!

In the Greek, the word translated “having children” is not a verb as the translation implies, but a noun. Moreover, it has the definite article with it. The correct translation is “the childbirth”. The source of salvation for this woman who is in error is not her act of having children, but the birth of the child who brings salvation to all! Matthew 1:21 says “And she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Paul has already referenced the saving power of Jesus birth in chapter 1, speaking of his own state of “having fallen into sin”: “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost.” Paul is continuing on the same theme when dealing with this particular sinning woman.

Why Does It Matter – More damage has been done by the mistranslation and misapplication of this passage, and particularly this verse when it comes to marriage, than possibly any other in scripture. 1 Timothy 2:15 has no more to do with a woman’s “role” or “position” or “nature” than the whole passage has to do with the conduct of worship services. A specific woman has fallen into sin and Paul is prescribing a specific remedy to that specific situation, nothing more.

A Proper Translation – As pathetic as the scarcity of proper translations of verse 14b is, the situation here is even worse. There are only 2 translations that get this completely right (focus on a single woman, salvation as the result, identification of the birth of the child). The better is Young’s Literal Translation. The best to highlight the birth of Jesus is God’s Word Translation. It falters in the verse as a whole because it carries through the notion that all women are being addressed, but since I am cherry-picking, I will bypass the erroneous and extra-biblical text it introduces and simply take “through the birth of the child”.

15d “if they stay faithful, loving, holy, and modest.” – The various translations of the multiple states “they” should “stay” in are all reasonable. The key to the final part of the verse is “they”. It should be clear by now that “they” are not all women, but are the specific couple being addressed. Indeed, it now becomes overwhelming clear that a married couple have been the subject all along.

A Proper Translation – At this point, (and in prior verses where applicable), it should now be reasonable to use a translation that points out the obvious fact that a married couple is in view. As has often been the case, few translations do so (most are still obsessed with women even at this late stage). One that blatantly states it, albeit as a paraphrase, is the Weymouth New Testament which reads “if she and her husband continue to live…” The remainder of the verse can be selected from any source. My default choice is the New American Standard Bible, which has “…in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.”

Here, then, is verse 15 from our template and with our multi-translation version:

Template: “But women will be saved by having children, if they stay faithful, loving, holy, and modest.”
Multi-version: “But she will be saved through the birth of the child if she and her husband continue to live in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.”

Show Stoppers - 1 Tim 2 Series:
Verse 11
Verse 12
Verse 13-14
Verse 15

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