Saved Through Childbearing

This is part of a series on partriarchy, headship, authority, and submission. See this index.


In “Sanctified Marriage: Part 7“, I wrote about Paul’s cryptic remarks regarding women being saved through childbearing:

1 Timothy 2:15 (REV)
[Wives] will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in trust and love and holiness, with good judgment.

I explained that Paul could not have been referring to a woman gaining eternal salvation, sanctification, or regeneration because she bore a child. This is because Paul said that the best way for women to serve the Lord—just as with men—was to remain single. No path to salvation, sanctification, or personal regeneration could require childbearing if childbearing was itself inferior to remaining single.

It is absurd to read 1 Timothy 2:15 as if it meant that women should have children in order to receive eternal salvation. But this is a serious problem for Patriarchal proponents who interpret the wider passage to mean (paraphrasing):

“Women should not ever teach men, nor exercise any kind of authority over a man, but must learn quietly from men and be obedient. Women must, rather, marry and have children if they want to be saved.”

What do we do with women who are not wives? If unmarried women can be saved without childbearing, then so too can married women be saved without childbearing. So what is the point of telling women that they must bear children to be saved in contrast to teaching men and exercising authority[1] over them?

What, also, are we to do with 1 Corinthians 14:34-35:

Let the women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted for them to speak, but they are to be in submission, as also says the law. And if they want to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church.

Again we have the presumption that any woman speaking in church is married, for the solution is to ask her husband. But an unmarried woman—especially an older widow—can neither bear children nor ask her husband to interpret the scripture for her. This is an absurd premise, and it is not the only one.[2]

Timothy, travelling companion to Paul, would have already known if Paul forbid women in Corinth speaking was a matter of universal Christian law. Paul wouldn’t have needed to state more than the simple and more restrictive command—”women must keep silence”—to Timothy, let alone write such an obscure and difficult passage as we find in 1 Timothy 2. “Of course,” we might say, “women could not teach men, nor exercise authority, nor learn loudly, if they couldn’t even speak! Why would Paul even mention exercising authority and teaching if women were not to ever talk in the first place? Timothy didn’t suddenly forget a core Law of God.”

Altering the Role of Women

Contrary to the modern perception, Paul apparently thought women actively working in ministry was a good idea, especially unmarried women. In Homily 26 on First Corinthians, John Chrysostom noted that:

[Corinthian] women used both to pray and prophesy unveiled and with their head bare, (for then women also used to prophesy;

What an observation! Women in Corinth prophesied with the blessing of Paul. How then could women have been forced to remain silent (and covered)? Of course they were not silent. But something changed by the late 4th century that altered this. It was not the only alteration that attempted to minimize the role of women in the early church:

Mark 3:31: the “mother and brothers” was altered to read “his brothers and his mother”. The Byzantine texts upon which the KJV was written includes this alteration.

Acts 17:12: the text was altered in the Codex Bezae (5th century) to minimize the prominence of women.

Acts 17:34: the Codex Bezae does not include the line about the woman Damaris.

Acts 18:26: the names Priscilla and Aquila are swapped in some manuscripts to reduce her prominence.

Romans 16:7: The apostle[3] Junia (a woman) was changed to Junias (a man) in the manuscripts. Some argued that Junia is a man’s name.

Colossians 4:15: Nympha (a woman) was changed to Nymphas (a man) in the manuscripts and shows up in the KJV. The passage implies that Nympha was a leader in the church.


Having already rejected the notion of salvation as sanctification, eternal salvation, and personal regeneration, what then could Paul have meant in 1 Timothy 2:15? One popular option is that Paul was using a figure-of-speech to refer to the birth of Jesus. Another is that Paul didn’t mean salvation at all, but being saved in some other sense. Still a third is that the book of 1 Timothy is a forgery that was not written by Paul at all. Fourth, that the passage refers to a specific woman married to a specific man, whom she is depriving.

First, if 1 Timothy is a forgery, the Patriarchal interpretation falls to pieces. Since no proponent of the Patriarchal view is going to accept that the letter is a forgery, we can just ignore this possibility completely.

Second, if the childbearing referred to is a figure-of-speech referring to the Christ-child and the salvation on the cross, then what does this have to do with women teaching, exercising authority over men, or speaking? Men would also be saved through Christ if they continue in faith, love, holiness, and good judgment. This is not a coherent argument against women being active in churches. Thus many modern Protestants—both Complementarians and Egalitarians—who accept this interpretation of “childbearing” subsequently go on to reject the inconsistent strict Patriarchal interpretation of the earlier verses.

Third, perhaps childbearing refers to something else entirely: nothing at all to do with one’s salvation, regeneration, or sanctification. This declaws the passage. If the solution to the earlier verses is to focus on raising children, then the passage cannot be a universal condemnation of all women, which includes unmarried women. In short, it means that Paul was referring not to identity politics (women vs men) but concerned primarily with specific kinds of behaviors, not universal precepts. Applying this reasoning to 1 Timothy 2 means you have to apply it to 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 as well.

Fourth, Marg Mowczko, in “What does “Saved through childbearing” mean?” proposes that some women were teaching that not marrying or marital celibacy (for those who are already married) was the most righteous path to salvation. Consequently, Paul is reprimanded one of these married young woman, telling her to stop spreading such lies and further of depriving her husband and refusing to have children. He makes it clear that one will be saved in Christ even through her having a husband and children: having children does not hinder your salvation. This interpretation is patriarchal only in the sense that it mirrors 1 Corinthians 7:5, but it isn’t otherwise compatible with any standard Patriarchal interpretation.


I do not know which interpretation is the correct one, or even if it is none of them at all, but I do know that all of these possible interpretations are inconsistent with the standard Patriarchal view, no matter how one evaluates the evidence. No, the passage doesn’t say that women are not supposed to raise children as the most true and most godly alternative to being actively involved in ministry in the church (which the Patriarchal view says they shouldn’t have anyway).


[1] As described in my post “exousia vs authenein“, it is improbable that Paul was universally forbidding women to exercising authority over men, including universally forbidding women teaching men, and requiring universal silence.

[2] It is no wonder then that the authenticity of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is questioned. Some scholars who accept its authenticity still think the verses are a quotation that Paul must obviously be writing against (see v36), throwing quite a wrench into the above exegesis!

[3] History also records the women Mariamne, Irene, Nino, and Thecla as apostles.



  1. Lastmod

    Imagine walking up to someones house, knocking on the door. A person answers “Hello? can I help you?” You just stand there and ask “who lives here?” and they reply “Well, this is my house!”

    Millions of Americans today walked into a House that is for the worship of God and have no idea who lives there, zero respect or basic manners for this Jesus that “they love more than anything”

    About a year ago I was recommended to attend services at the Fuller Seminary right here in Pasadena by someone from SIgma Frame’s page. A bold and biblical “traditional” church. The message was about the “woman at the well” and she evidently was the first real Christian, and she “stood up to Jesus and posed tough questions to him! She was also a feminist” I got up and walked out when that statement was made.

    It was your typical evangelical church in every mid sized city in the USA today. Modern praise band. The “hip” pastor. I was the only one who bothered to show up in a tie…….I was a guest in a supposedly “holy” place. One of the younger guys said when greeting me “We always get a legalist here and there on Sundays…glad youre here” (how dare I show respect in a place like this to the god “most high”) . Lots of flip-flops. Shorts. Teenage girls in “pink” brand sweats and tube tops. Teenage guys wearing their baseball caps backwards. Pastors wife was one of the leaders in the praise team (perky, blonde, too much makeup….really too bad, she was actually pretty).

    People eating, drinking coffee during the service. Scrolling through their phone. It was a social club. I am convinced that day I was the only one who had been “convicted” by getting up and leaving. How many Americans took the “lords supper” today without any repentance of heart? How many swayed to music, hands in the air singing a modern praise song with seven lines and chorus repeated fifty times? How many left church today actually convinced that they had indeed missed the mark with their Holy Father and Jesus, “who they love more than anything?” How many left actually worried about their salvation or the crisis the world is moving towards? How much prayer in this house???? How much respect to a god in his own house?

    All convinced of their salvation, and I am the one with a problem evidently…….

    Having a baby doesnt make you a good person or a Christian. Even the female pagans, the buddhists, the muslims, the agnostics, and rastifarians have babies….

    1. Derek L. Ramsey

      “Having a baby doesnt make you a good person or a Christian. Even the female pagans, the buddhists, the muslims, the agnostics, and rastifarians have babies….”

      Correct. One’s marital duties do not save, but also do not prevent one from being saved. This was, apparently, Paul’s point. I think most people know this to be obviously true, but the woman who Paul was addressing was causing problems in the church by teaching otherwise and needed a stern reprimand.

      Treating Christ’s message as being about strictly following—or strictly not following—rules and regulations completely misses the point. So, I think it is interesting that you were accused of being a legalist, when you used your discernment to show proper respect to God. You were, perhaps, the only one who wasn’t being a legalist.

      This is like when tattoos are supposed to be a sign of individuality and rebellion, so everyone gets one to fit in. It’s just legalism to the other extreme.

      Paul was writing to legalists who didn’t understand that when Paul told them not to get married, he wasn’t banning marriage, but helping people discern the best way to serve God.

  2. Perhaps I should explain 1 Timothy 2:15 for you since you seem perplexed:
    Christ had already been born, died, and risen again, when the letter to pastor Timothy was written. So, it could not have been speaking of looking forward in hope to some woman bearing the Messiah. And you are right that women don’t have to bear a child to be shown God’s grace unto salvation.

    You seem to feel that the Bible has been altered to diminish women. Well, I think our English translations have been de-sexualized or bowdlerized. So that sometimes our English translations turn verses dealing with sexual topics into riddles, to avoid plainly and openly speaking about sex.

    The Greek word “teknogonias” that is so often translated as, “childbearing”, is also defined as meaning “the performance of maternal duties”. That would include everything from having sex to raising the resulting children to adulthood. If you look at what the verse claims saves women, it is remaining FAITHful, performing their wifely duties, performing their maternal duties, and performing their Christian duties. In effect It is nothing that hasn’t been said before, that we are saved by grace through faith, which is shown by our works. As James also said, “faith without works is dead”.(James 2:20,26)

    A woman who in faith, FAITHfully performs her maternal, wifely, and Christian works, the duties in all the relevant areas of her life, as a Christ follower and possibly a wife and a mother, is redeemed. Her good works, in fulfillment of her duties, which flow from her genuine faith, justify her.

    James 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

    Salvation isn’t by some magic words we say while believing in them with maximum mental concentration. 1 Timothy 2:15 teaches us that women are not saved merely by having the faith to say the sinner’s prayer, but by also living out a faithful life of good works in fulfilling their roles as wife, mother, and Christ follower, as all redeemed woman will. Her works will ultimately show the veracity or falseness of her professed faith.

    I don’t presume that God will judge our faith by some faithometer, but by our words and by our works. Paul was just reminding women of the areas in which their good works needed to be appearing.

    1. Derek L. Ramsey

      “You seem to feel that the Bible has been altered to diminish women. Well, I think our English translations have been de-sexualized or bowdlerized.”

      Sharkly, it’s not a matter of feelings, and you should know that. That the Bible was altered to diminish women is a factual matter of the historical record. Christian patriarchy—the subjugation of women under authority—was a result of the late 4th century Roman Catholic corruptions that permanently established an all-male priesthood under the guise of administering this new thing called sacraments. Those who altered the Bible deemed it necessary because the Bible speaks of women leaders of the church—disciples, apostles, deacons, prophets (as Chrysostom noted), teachers—and that was incompatible with an all-male priesthood.

      Modern English translations have been slowly fixing those corruptions. You’ve fallen into thinking that the corruptions are correct.

      For example, we know that at the end of the 2nd century—in the “fan-fiction” work the Acts of Paul and Thecla— that Paul was being interpreted in two ways.

      First, that women should not get married. This view is unsurprising and fairly obvious from any reading of Paul’s genuine 1st century letters. Paul said that women (and men) would be better off not marrying if they could, by dedicating their life in service to Christ. This is little different than what Jesus said in his discussion on marriage.

      Second, that people believed that Paul taught that women should preach and teach. This too should be obvious from Paul’s letters, but later sensibilities did not like this, and so attempted to alter scripture in ways that make obvious why they were changing it.

      “And you are right that women don’t have to bear a child to be shown God’s grace unto salvation. [..] The Greek word “teknogonias” that is so often translated as, “childbearing”, is also defined as meaning “the performance of maternal duties”. That would include everything from having sex to raising the resulting children to adulthood.”

      Yes, this is precisely what the fourth possibility is saying.

      Marg Mowczko argues that it means that the woman being addressed was teaching the other women that depriving their husbands was holy and required for salvation. So Paul instructed the woman to stop teaching false doctrine loudly to whoever would hear, but to be taught correct doctrine in silence, to stop usurping the authority that Paul gave to husbands (i.e. 1 Corinthians 7). And he concludes by saying that a wife’s marital duties—abandoning marital celibacy—do not prevent one from being saved.

  3. Pingback: 1 Corinthians 14:34-35

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