The statement that woman “shall be saved in childbearing” has caused some great concern for diligent students of scripture. The statement is intended to be of great comfort, not consternation. Literally understood in the context, the promise is not only encouraging but humbling.
Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety (1 Tim 2:15).
It should be noted at the outset that the literal rendering of the Greek in this passage is “she shall be saved through (dia) the (one) childbearing. The Greek definite article is included before the word ‘childbearing’ and the word ‘childbearing’ is a singular noun, not a plural verb. If, as some believe, he referred to the fact that the women bear children, then the word ‘childbearing’ would have been a verb, ‘by bearing children.’ The Lord does not use a verb, but a noun, ‘the childbearing.’ The scriptures state that ‘they’ (women) will be saved through the (one) childbearing.
Why do almost all translators leave out the definite article before the word ‘childbearing?’ The reason is that a definite article is often left out of the English translation because it could confuse the understanding. For example: the definite article is generally found before proper names such as ‘Peter,’ ‘Paul,’ ‘Barnabas,” etc. It would not help our understanding in the English language to include the definite article because our language does not use the definite article before proper names. The translators chose to leave the definite article out before the word ‘childbearing’ as they did a multitude of other words.
The context of 1 Tim 2:15 is a comparison of the places of men and women in God’s plan. There are some things the man is authorized to do which the woman is not. In giving the reason for the difference, he notes two events of history in the Garden of Eden. After the two reasons, he notes that even though there are different places in God’s plan for man and woman, the woman has a reason for being saved which involves childbearing. As mentioned, ‘the childbearing’ is a singular noun referring to one birth. We cannot ignore this fact for a proper understanding of the reason for woman’s salvation.
Another passage with a similar context of the comparison of men and women’s place in God’s plan (1 Cor 11:11-12) gives further light on the topic. The man is described as the head of the woman (1 Cor 11:3) and he makes a similar point in that the man and woman are not the same because the man is the glory of God while the woman is the glory of man (1 Cor 11:7). However, to be certain that man did not imagine himself above what he should, he reminded the Corinthian brethren that the man is not independent of the woman, because he is born of woman (viz. his mother). The pattern in this passage is not to show the advantage of the man over the woman but to remind the man that he is very dependent on the woman. Man could not exist if it were not for woman.
Similarly, the teaching in 1 Tim 2:11-15 gives another comparison of men and women’s places in God’s plan. The woman is not allowed to teach the man, but to be in silence (1 Tim 2:11). The reasons are then given: 1) The man was created first (1 Tim 2:13) and 2) The woman was deceived, but the man was not. To keep the man from feeling superior or the woman from feeling inferior, he reminds them that the only way women will be saved is through woman. Were it not for Mary bearing Jesus, no one would be saved. This is both comforting to the woman and humbling to the man.
“Notwithstanding she shall be saved in the childbearing (singular), if they (both men and women) continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety” (1 Tim 2:15).
Unfortunately, the King James rendering misses two very important words, though it is faithful in the last one (1 Tim 2:15).
15. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
We all agree that the ‘she’ refers to the woman of the preceding verses–namely, women in general. Women in general will be saved “in childbearing.”
The expression: “in childbearing” has three essential parts for a proper understanding:
1) “in” is the Greek word for dia (Strong’s # 123) which literally is translated ‘through.’ In this sentence it is in the genitive case which allows for the meanings of a) place, b) time, or c) instrument (according to Thayer’s Dictionary).
2) The definite article is not translated in the English but is certainly included in the Greek. As in English, with only a few exceptions, the definite article demands its own special place in the sentence or phrase. It is unfortunate that the King James translators saw fit to leave it out.
3) “childbearing” is feminine, singular, genitive. Thus this particular expression “the childbearing” refers to one of a kind, not childbearing in general.
“…she shall be saved in childbearing” is literally, she shall be saved through the (one) childbearing (singular). The one childbearing that will save all people, both men and women, is Mary’s giving birth to Jesus.
This expression gives particular honor to women in the same sense that 1 Cor 11:11-12 reminds us that even though the man is the head of the woman (1 Cor 11:3), nevertheless, were it not for the woman, the man would not exist. Therefore, man is dependent on woman even though man is the head of the woman.