The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Jun 8, 2023

Another article on "saved through childbearing"!!? (R. Gregory Jenks in the latest JETS)

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This will be my last blog entry before my marriage and honeymoon (so, for anybody attempting to post a comment, I won't be able to moderate it for a while), but I noted with interest the latest issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 66, no. 1 (March 2023). R. Gergory Jenks' article "Eve as Savior of Humanity? From the Genesis Narrative to Paul's Comments on Childbearing in 1 Timothy 2:15" adds to a constantly growing list of articles dealing with this crux interpretum

Jenks' basic premise is that the 3rd person pronoun derived from sōthēsetai should not be translated "she" as most translations have it, but rather "he," in reference to Adam (and thus all of humanity), and the "they" refers to both Adam and Eve. Thus, Jenks writes, "Humanity is saved from extinction through the woman's role of mother with the condition that the couple, that is, men and women in the church, maintain the godly attributes listed."

The benefits of Jenks' article is that it avoids the knotty, and greatly understated, problem of having the Apostle Paul promote a works-salvation based on a lifestyle that is not even meant for every woman (1 Cor 7:8, 25–40), even if it is more of a "eschatological-judgment-salvation," or whatever. More on this below (see especially Knight's apropos quote). Also, Jenks does well to dig deep in the OT background here (as does Andrew Spurgeon's article back in 2013).

The million dollar question, of course, is whether or not the fact that "Adam is the subject of the previous passive verbs in verses 13–14" (p. 156) would mean that he would also be the subject of sōthēsetai. I remain skeptical, and I wish Jenks had spent more time developing his argument here. Nonetheless, the possibility is worth considering. 

[One more caveat: I'm surprised to read that, in Jenks' words (page 138), "The idea of postmortem existence or judgment is foreign to the Genesis narrative and to the Hebrew Scriptures as a whole. Apart from the rare and obscure mentions of Sheol; the story of Samuel, . . .; and images of collective salvation of the nation of Israel as a whole, the Hebrew Scriptures do not speak of a postmortem existence, and certainly no postmortem judgment." I beg to differ; Daniel 12:2–3 clearly speaks of postmortem existence and judgment, as well as resurrection, and there are some passages in the Jewish Scriptures that seem to point towards a resurrection, e.g., Hannah's prayer, 1 Sam 2:6 (specifically how "causes to come up" is in contrast to "causes to go down to Sheol/the grave").

So where does this now leave us among the various positions held to within evangelical circles? I'm glad you asked! Here's a summary (and feel free to recommend other perspectives that I might have missed; I'm only concerned with perspectives that take seriously 1 Timothy as inspired Scripture, however):

Position #1: A woman is saved spiritually by adhering to her God-given role. This view can be found in many conservative commentaries, e.g., William D. Mounce's World Biblical Commentary (p. 146, emphasizing the role of "perseverance"). I am least favorable towards this perspective, as I believe the theological issues raised are insurmountable. In the words of George W. Knight III, in his NIGTC, "It would be contrary to Paul's teaching elsewhere and to the emphasis of this letter and the other PE (1:15, 16; 2:3–6) to understand sōthēsetai as referring to spiritual salvation if dia tēs teknogonias is taken as referring to childbearing in general. This would make salvation for women conditional on a work, and specifically a work not all are able to perform."

Position #2: Physical deliverance through the difficulty of childbearing. This view is well-articulated by Moyar Hubbard, "Kept Safe through Childbearing: Maternal Mortality, Justification by Faith, and the Social Setting of 1 Timothy 2:15," JETS 55, no. 4 (2012): 743–62. This position is strengthened by the excellent and fascinating background work done by Sandra L. Glahn on Artemis in the 1st century in Ephesus (BibSac 172, no. 687–688; also a forthcoming monograph), though I do not remember if Glahn herself takes this position.

Position #3: Teknogonias ("childbearing") is actually referring to the Childbearing, i.e., the Incarnation. Knight, in his NIGTC, holds to this position, as well as the recent article by Jared M. August, "What Must She Do to Be Saved? A Theological Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:15," Themelios 45, no. 1 (2020). A very attractive position, IMO, though weakened a bit by the notorious scarcity of teknogonia in Greek literature before Paul wrote 1 Timothy.

Position #4: The "she" is Eve, the "they" is Adam and Eve, and they are reconciled together through the promise of Gen 3:16, which prevents the extinction of the human race. This position is defended by Andrew B. Spurgeon, "1 Timothy 2:13–15: Paul's Retelling of Genesis 2:4–4:1," JETS 56, no. 3 (2013).  I like this position because of Spurgeon's exegesis of Genesis 3, but I am skeptical that sōzō can be stretched to mean "restore." Nonetheless, Spurgeon's article is a very interesting read.

Position #5: The woman will be rescued from Satan's snares, by embracing her role of as mother and steward of the household. This position is articulated by Andreas J. Köstenberger, in "Ascertaining Women's God-Ordained Roles: An Interpretation of  Timothy 2:15," BBR 7 (1997). I am open to this possibility (and I greatly respect and admire Köstenberger, a former prof. of mine at Southeastern), but I think it's too much to smuggle in an implied "from satan."

And to that, of course, we can now add Jenks' article. "Of the making of articles about 1 Tim 2:15, there is no end" (with apologies to Qoheleth).