9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; 10 but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness. 11 Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression. 15 But women shall be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self restraint. --1 Timothy 2:9-15, New American Standard Bible.
Disclaimer: I originally wrote what follows based on the wording of an older edition of the NASB, which appears above. I probably picked that translation because of its literal approach. As you'll figure out from my comments, I certainly don't think it's a superior translation of this passage.
I know, everyone wants to know the meaning and proper application of especially 1 Timothy 2:11-12. Maybe someday I'll talk about those verses here at "Frankly Speaking." For now, I'm content to deal with another not-so-easy part of this passage: verse 15.
Because he has spoken of Eve's transgression in the previous verse, in verse 15 Paul names the specific way by which women can gain salvation: they can do it through the bearing of children. What does that phrase and the rest of the verse mean? Of course, there's a lot more to be said than I'm going to say here. Feel free in the comments to add what you'd like. For the sake of simplicity, I'm going to quickly sketch the three main interpretations and then ask you what you think.
1. Some interpreters say that Paul meant that Christian women, in giving birth to children, will be kept physically safe. Apparently, this is the view taken by the translators of the New American Standard Bible quoted above. The translation of the NT by James Moffatt clearly supports this view: women will get safely through childbirth. The problem here is that not all Christian mothers have been preserved in giving birth. Tragically, many thousands have lost their lives. A second point against this interpretation is that Paul consistently uses the word translated preserved in the NASB to speak not of mere physical safety but of personal salvation (see, for example, 1 Timothy 1:15 and Titus 3:5). Because of this, most other translations use the word saved instead of preserved. I agree. I think saved is the more-accurate word here.
2. A different view suggests that verse 15 is pointing back to the birth of Christ. According to this interpretation, Paul is saying that when Mary gave birth to the Messiah, the transgression which was introduced by Eve began to be reversed. Salvation entered the world in the person of Jesus. The wording in the margin of the Revised Standard Version reflects this view: woman will be saved by the birth of the child. But this view also has its problems. For one thing, the verse never specifically mentions Mary or Jesus. And, as many of the commentaries point out, if Paul had wanted to make such a statement, he would likely have been much more specific and would have chosen different words.
3. A third view, and one that I think has the most going for it, takes the word translated preserved or saved as a reference to final, personal salvation. It's no promise or guarantee of physical safety in childbirth. Instead, this view understands childbearing as a reference to what might be called "raising kids." That is to say, the phrase refers to all of a woman's duty, especially to her children. The rendering of the Twentieth Century New Testament expresses it well: women will find their salvation in motherhood. The salvation of women, says Paul, comes as a result of fulfilling their God-given role in bearing, nurturing, and teaching children, a major part of what Titus 2:5 speaks of as being workers at home. Of course, simply doing her duty will never save a woman. No Christian lady is going to be finally redeemed simply because she was a good mother. According to this interpretation, that's exactly why at the end of the verse Paul insists that women must continue in things like faith, love, holiness, and good judgment.
So what is this verse talking about? What do you think?