"Second century Christians...continued to recognize that the teachings of Jesus--not Paul--were the central tenets of Christianity." (Bercot, Theologians (2010) at 51.)

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Salvation By Giving Birth to a Child

One of the strangest statements by Paul is: 

"Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.“  (1 Tm 2:15 KJV)

"But she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety." (1 Tim 2:15 NIV)

As one Nigerian pastor puts it: "This is a most bizarre doctrine of salvation."

First, please notice that WORKS play a role in this method of salvation, thereby contradicting what Paul teaches elsewhere, e.g., Eph. 2:8-9. So what happened to faith alone?

And this contradiction is not Paul simply affirming childbirth saves. Other numerous actions are required (whether from her or her children) -- "charity, and holiness with sobriety." 

Is there any escape from this reading? From admitting Paul contradicts himself? No.

The Greek verb sothesetai (“will be saved”) denotes “salvation” and not simply 'preservation.' The mention of charity, holiness and sobriety as other virtuous deeds make this clear. Payne agrees in context that this is speaking of "spiritual salvation," as it comes on the heals of Paul talking about the Fall. And Paul never uses the word "saved" for anything but spiritual salvation in every other use Paul employed in the NT. Paul used a different word when he meant physical preservation. See Philip Barton Payne, Man and Woman: One in Christ (Zondervan: 2009) at 418-422.

Second,  the Greek says a woman is saved dia tes teknogonias (“through the childbirth”). Pretty unambiguous stuff. But some contend this means women are saved by means of the birth of Jesus. ("How are women saved?"; Payne, id., at 422.) Yet, this does not fit the rest of the sentence, which again extols other acts of virtue that are necessary for salvation, whether by her or her children.

This passage is a true dilemma.

In my view, what it really says is that a woman is saved by childbirth if her children exhibit faith, charity and holiness with sobriety. For the subject is singular feminine with sothesetai -- "she will be saved" and then "childbirth" arises, and the subject changes to "they," implying the children she produces. Thus, Paul teaches a woman's salvation hinges upon the obedience of her children -- their faith, charity, holiness and sobriety.

Very strange stuff indeed for Paul who elsewhere teaches salvation is by faith alone! See Romans 3:4-5; Eph. 2:8-9. P.C. Spicq found this passage so "bizarre" he said Paul could not have uttered it. See Philip Barton Payne, Man and Woman (Zondervan: 2009) at 417.

Thus, Paulinists have a very strange hero -- self-contradictory and bizarre unless they edit him down to tolerable limits, or distort his words to avoid their plain meaning.


NOTE: PAUL REPEATS THIS BIZARRE IDEA OF SALVATION BY FAMILY RELATIONSHIP + FAITH OF ONE

 

Paul's personal view of salvation similar to that in 1 Timothy is in line with 1 Corinthians 10:10-14. Paul will teach a child is saved by its mother or father's faith. (And the non-believing spouse is saved by the believing spouse's faith.) The Disciples Literal New Testatment reads:

But Do Not Divorce Your Christian Spouse

 

10 But to the ones having married I command (not I, but the Lord),that a wife not be separated from her husband— 11 but if indeed she is separated, let her remain unmarried or let her be reconciled to herhusband— and that a husband not leave[a] his wife.

 

Do Not Divorce an Unbelieving Spouse Who Chooses To Stay

 

12 But to the rest I say, not[b] the Lord— if any brother has anunbelieving wife and this one consents to dwell with him, let him not leave her. 13 And if any woman has an unbelieving husband and this one consents to dwell with her, let her not leave her husband. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified[c] by his wife. And the unbelieving wife has been sanctified by the brother. Otherwise then your children are unclean, but now[d] they are holy. (1 Cor. 10:7-14 DLNT.)

 

Clearly, Paul is off again on the same theory as 1 Timothy that contradicts his faith-alone doctrine. Here, Paul ascribes the cleansing of a sin for one parent to not only automatically apply to their spouse but also to their children. See1 Cor. 7:10-14. Paul had the good sense not to attribute that idea to God that one's salvation is through close blood-relationships within a single family unit without faith. John the Baptist decried the same idea in Matthew chapter 1 -- the Jews who thought their relationship with Father Abraham saved them.

But if you put this idea together with the idea about a mother being saved by her child's faith in 1 Tim. 2:15, the only way to reconcile both passages is that each person in the chain is sanctified by the other: the mother by the child's faith (1 Tim 2:15); the child by his mother's faith (1 Cor. 10:14); and the unbelieving spouse by the believing spouse's faith. (1 Cor. 10:12-14.)