Sunday, June 23, 2013

Jon Zens

Jon Zens is editor of Searching Together, and the author of many books on ecclesiology and women's issues including With Paul and Women?: Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2 and A Church Building Every 1/2 Mile: What Makes American Christianity Tick? 

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Certainly one of the most puzzling remarks in Paul's writings is found in 1 Timothy 2:15, "But women will be saved through childbearing -- if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety" (TNIV). This verse has spawned a host of widely divergent interpretations.

A pledge by church leaders from diverse theological and political beliefs who have come together to form a Circle of Protection around programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world.
Is there any hope for recovering what Paul had in view regarding this phrase, "saved through childbearing"? Absolutely! It is safe to say that he did not have female salvation from sin in view, for we know that the forgiveness of sin comes because of Christ's finished work through grace, not by the labor of mothers giving birth to children!

It is better to see the phrase as referring to temporal deliverance -- "women will be kept safe through their pregnancy and labor." This is likely the case because Paul brings up the topic in a literary unit dealing with prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-15).

The Ephesian culture was saturated with the worship of the goddess Artemis, called Diana by the Romans (cf. Acts 19:17-41). The historical setting of 1 Timothy is the city of Ephesus. Paul wrote to Timothy and asked him to stay in Ephesus to deal with some serious problems (cf. 1 Timothy 1:3-5).
In first-century life, the event of childbirth came with many dangers for both mother and child. Obviously, after the fall of Adam and Eve, difficulty in childbirth had been predicted (Genesis 3:16). The non-Jewish women in Ephesus who became followers of Jesus came out of a culture where
Artemis was fervently petitioned as a "Protector" when the pangs of labor drew near.

This cultural background, then, provides the key for comprehending Paul's words about childbirth in 1 Timothy 2:15. Paul's encouragement in this verse confronted dependence on Artemis and pointed Christian women to seek Jesus Christ during pregnancy.

Read the rest of the article by Jon Zens on Soujourners