ARTICLES

Volume 45 - Issue 1

What Must She Do to Be Saved? A Theological Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:15

By Jared M. August

Abstract

In 1 Timothy 2:15, Paul asserts “the woman will be saved through the childbirth.” This essay asserts that this “woman” is Eve and that this “childbirth” is the birth of the Messiah. Although this interpretation is by no means new, the contribution of this essay rests in its proposal of the evidence for this view, namely, Paul’s use of the Adam/Christ contrast. This essay first analyzes the grammar and context of 1 Timothy 2:15 to assert that a messianic reading of this passage is an exegetically viable option. Subsequently, each instance in which Adam is mentioned by name in the NT is examined (Luke 3:38; Rom 5:14 [x2]; 1 Cor 15:22, 45 [x2]; 1 Tim 2:13, 14; Jude 14), thereby proposing a pattern for when to expect Paul to develop the Adam/Christ contrast.

It is no overstatement that 1 Timothy 2:8–15 is an exegetical battleground.1 There is no lack of opinion regarding this passage as a whole, nor is there a shortage of discussion on the fifteenth verse—the focus of this essay.2 Numerous views exist regarding whether Paul asserts that women are saved through “childbearing” or a woman is saved through “the childbirth,” what this “salvation” entails, and the meaning of the need for them to “continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” Despite the diversity of views, this essay proposes that τῆς τεκνογονίας should be viewed as a reference to a specific childbirth—not to childbearing in general—and therefore that Paul intended a messianic understanding of this passage.3 Although this interpretation is by no means new, the contribution of this essay rests in its proposal of the evidence for this view, namely, Paul’s use of the Adam/Christ contrast.

What is consistently overlooked in discussions of 1 Timothy 2:13–15 is the theological contrast built by the NT authors regarding Adam and Christ. This paper proposes that in every instance where Adam is mentioned by name in the NT (Luke 3:38; Rom 5:14 [x2]; 1 Cor 15:22, 45 [x2]; 1 Tim 2:13, 14; Jude 14), he is used as a direct contrast to Christ. In other words, every time Adam is discussed, it is always in reference to the expectation that one will come to undo what Adam did in Genesis 3. If this Adam/Christ contrast can be demonstrated as valid throughout the NT, it provides additional support to a messianic reading of 1 Timothy 2:15.

To accomplish this goal, Paul’s overarching purpose in 1 Timothy is first considered, along with a grammatical analysis of 1 Timothy 2:13–15. The purpose of this section is not to exegetically prove the veracity of a messianic approach, but rather, to simply demonstrate the grammatical viability of this view. Subsequently, each NT passage where Adam is mentioned by name is examined. Special focus is given to Paul’s letters, though each instance is still considered. Overall, the goal of this essay is quite modest. It does not attempt an exhaustive consideration of historical approaches to 1 Timothy 2:15, it does not focus exclusively on the grammar/context of the passage, and it does not synthesize the conclusions with the topic of the role of women in the church. On the contrary, it merely asserts that a messianic interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:15 fits with the Adam/Christ contrast developed throughout the NT.

I. Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:15

First Timothy was written as a personal and practical epistle, instructing Timothy how to organize the church in Paul’s absence.4 Specifically regarding the passage under examination, Paul writes in 2:8–12 about the role of men and women in the church.5 There is significant discussion regarding this passage, which is largely outside the scope of this essay.6 However, it is important to note that Paul’s discussion regarding Adam and Eve (2:13–15) is given as support to his assertions in 2:8–12.7 Evidently, Paul’s rationale for his position regarding the roles of men and women was the scriptural precedent of the Creation/Fall account of Genesis. Paul introduces this evidence with the conjunction γάρ (2:13), indicating that what follows serves as evidence for the assertion which precedes.

It appears that 1 Timothy 2:13–15 is one distinct discourse unit, which focuses on Adam and Eve. Paul begins by introducing his allusion to the OT in 2:13, and concludes in 2:15. Below, the text under examination is provided, along with the proposed translation (which will be defended below). In the following discussion, commentary is offered on the three underlined portions, demonstrating the grammatical and contextual reasons why a messianic translation is a viable option. Subsequently, a summary is given to discuss the emphasis Paul appears to have made in this passage.

Ἀδὰμ γὰρ πρῶτος ἐπλάσθη, εἶτα Εὔα. καὶ Ἀδὰμ οὐκ ἠπατήθη, ἡ δὲ γυνὴ ἐξαπατηθεῖσα ἐν παραβάσει γέγονεν, σωθήσεται δὲ διὰ τῆς τεκνογονίας, ἐὰν μείνωσιν ἐν πίστει καὶ ἀγάπῃ καὶ ἁγιασμῷ μετὰ σωφροσύνης· πιστὸς ὁ λόγος. (1 Tim 2:13–3:1a)

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (1) But she [Eve] will be saved through the childbirth, (2) so long as they [Adam and Eve] should remain in faith and love and holiness with self-control; (3) a trustworthy saying. (AT)

1.1. But She Will Be Saved through the Childbirth

In 1 Timothy 2:13–14, Paul alludes to the creation account of Genesis. He first makes a direct connection to Genesis 2:7, which reads “God formed the man” (ἔπλασεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον) in the LXX. Paul uses the same vocabulary as he notes that Adam “was formed [ἐπλάσθη] first.” Additionally, Paul alludes to the concepts presented in Genesis 2:18–25, in which the Lord declared, “It is not good that the man should be alone,” and announced that he would “make a helper fit for him” (2:18). Paul develops this account through his statement that Eve was formed after Adam. Overall, in 1 Timothy 2:13, Paul causes his readers to reflect on Genesis so that they might consider God’s creation design.8 As Paul continues in 1 Timothy 2:14, he builds upon the account of Genesis 3:1–7, where Eve was deceived by the serpent, ate from the tree, and gave the fruit to Adam.

In contrast to the results of the Fall discussed in 2:13–14, Paul comments in 2:15, “But she will be saved through the childbirth.” The verb “she will be saved” (σωθήσεται) is singular. Contrary to translations such as the NIV, NASB, NLT, which translate this phrase as “women shall be saved,” Paul does not appear to be focused on women in general, but rather on a specific woman.9 The antecedent of σωθήσεται (2:15) appears to be ἡ γυνή (2:14), which again, is not “women in general,” but is simply another label for Εὔα (2:13).10 In this view, Paul’s point is that Eve “will obtain salvation” through τῆς τεκνογονίας.

Although it is possible that, as Köstenberger asserts, Paul’s use of the term ἡ γυνή points “to Eve’s representative role for womankind in general at the fall,”11 this position is not without its difficulties. On the one hand, it could be said that the mere reference to Adam and Eve points to the representative roles of men and women.12 This is true even in 2:13, where their names are given. Surely, Paul intended to draw general correspondences to his audience—after all, 2:13–15 is the evidence to support the roles of men and women in general (cf. 2:8–12). However, it seems that Paul is far more concerned with the specific Adam and Eve in these verses than he is with generalities. As Payne notes, “Verse fifteen should be understood in its context as a direct contrast to the negative statements about woman’s deception and transgression in verse 14.”13 Contextually, the focus seems to be on Eve throughout this passage.

Evidence for the position that Paul is focused on Eve includes the following: (1) It is the most natural reading. Adam and Eve are both mentioned specifically in 2:13, and there are no textual markers to distinguish a shift if subject. As such, the burden of evidence rests with those who propose a shift in subject. (2) Paul’s use of ἡ γυνή fits well with the Genesis account, especially considering that the woman’s name is not given until Genesis 3:20. Until that point, she is consistently referred to as ἡ γυνή, not as Εὔα. (3) As is argued below, the childbirth (τῆς τεκνογονίας) appears to be a reference to a specific childbirth expected by Eve, and promised to her while she was still referred to exclusively as the woman.14 Overall, it appears that the most likely position is that Eve was in view throughout 1 Timothy 2:13–15.15

Regarding the sense of the verb σῴζω, spiritual salvation seems to be in view (in contrast to physical deliverance).16 Porter rightly comments, “In virtually all authentically Pauline contexts, σῴζω denotes a salvific spiritual act, perhaps eschatological in consequence.”17 This verb is used seven times in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Tim 1:15; 2:4, 15; 4:16; 2 Tim 1:9; 4:18; Titus 3:5), each time denoting the act of spiritual salvation. The instance perhaps most pertinent to this discussion is 1 Timothy 2:4. This passage occurs in the context immediately preceding 1 Timothy 2:13–15. In 2:3–4, Paul writes of “God our Savior [σωτῆρος], who desires all people to be saved [σωθῆναι].” He then states, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (2:5). That is, Paul asserts that Jesus is the agent of salvation; he is the one “who gave himself as a ransom for all … at the proper time” (2:6). Given Paul’s developing argument in 1 Timothy 2, the most natural reading of σῴζω in 2:15 should align with the use of σῴζω in 2:4. If this is the case, spiritual salvation is in view throughout this section of the epistle.

Although it may appear odd that the future tense is used in reference to this salvation (especially in reference to Eve’s salvation), this is characteristic of Paul’s writing in the Pastoral Epistles. In both 1 Timothy 4:16 and 2 Timothy 4:18, σῴζω is used in the future tense, in reference to final salvation (or sanctification). In 1 Timothy 4:16, it is used to refer to the salvation of Timothy and his congregation through Timothy’s perseverance and proclamation of the gospel message (“the teaching”). In 2 Timothy 4:18, it is used in reference to Paul’s entrance into the Lord’s “heavenly kingdom.” This interpretation fits well with the argument of 2:13–15, where Paul references the Genesis account to provide evidence applicable to his readers (note the use of γάρ in 2:13). Eve is not merely mentioned for her own sake, but rather, to present the salvation accessible to Paul’s readers.

The text continues in 2:15 by describing how this salvation is realized: “through the childbirth” (διὰ τῆς τεκνογονίας). Given the context, it seems best to take διά as denoting means (or instrumentality), and therefore, as describing the manner by which this salvation (σῴζω) is accomplished.18 That is, this salvation is accomplished by means of τῆς τεκνογονίας.19

Part of the inherent difficulty of this passage is that 1 Timothy 2:15 contains the only occurrence of τεκνογονία in the NT. Various surveys of the use of this term in Greek literature are available.20 However, as Payne notes, “The scarcity of occurrences of the noun τεκνογονία prior to Paul precludes a dogmatic answer to the question of whether it refers to childbirth … or to the process of childbearing.”21 However, the use of the article does offer some assistance. Much has been made of Paul’s inclusion of the article τῆς in the statement τῆς τεκνογονίας. While this use of the article by no means demands that a specific childbirth is in view,22 it is certainly consistent with the OT expectation of a single childbirth.23 Had Paul wanted to communicate “the (singular) childbirth,” the simplest way to do so would have been to use the article to denote the definiteness of this specific childbirth—exactly the construction found in 2:15.24

Consistent with this view is (as above) the singular nature of σωθήσεται. That is, this “childbirth” will come from one specific woman. As Witherington states forcefully, “Last I checked multiple women cannot give birth to a single child. This means Paul is referring to a particular childbearing—namely the birth of Jesus.”25 Paul’s point is that a single individual (Eve) would obtain future salvation through the birth of a child. Again, this childbirth appears to be unique in that it is salvific in nature. This is consistent with the OT expectation of a coming Offspring who would bring blessing to all nations.26

1.2. So Long as They Should Remain in Faith and Love and Holiness with Self-Control

In the second half of 1 Timothy 2:15, Paul continues his argument by using the third-class condition (thereby expressing hypothetical fulfillment).27 In so doing, he connects the concept of “salvation through the childbirth” with the need (though uncertainty) of “continuing in faith and love.” Although it has frequently been assumed that “they” refers to women in general,28 this is not necessarily the case. Andrew Spurgeon has effectively demonstrated that Paul’s discussion of Adam and Eve continued from 1 Timothy 2:13 through 2:15. Spurgeon writes as his thesis, “Paul was still narrating Adam and Eve’s stories in all three verses (1 Tim 2:13–15), that is, Paul was retelling of Adam and Eve’s creation (Gen 2:13), fall (Gen 2:14), and restoration (Gen 2:15).”29 In this view, “they” (i.e., those who were “to remain in faith and love and holiness with self-control”), refers to Adam and Eve.30 Due to his use of the third-class condition, Paul is not necessarily commenting on whether or not this couple actually obtained this salvation, but merely noting that this salvation was offered to them, should they have “remained in faith and love.”

This approach fits the context well for several reasons: (1) There is no pronoun “they.” Rather, the verb μείνωσιν (aorist subjunctive of μένω) simply assumes a plural subject. The most natural antecedent, then, is Adam and Eve, from 2:13 and 2:14, as Paul does not shift from his focus on this couple. (2) In this view, Paul begins his discussion of proper male/female behavior in 2:8, and concludes in 2:12. The characteristics described in 2:15, then, (“faith and love and holiness with self-control”) may be understood as describing correct male/female behavior.31 (3) The statement πιστὸς ὁ λόγος in 3:1a serves as a summary marker, providing commentary on Paul’s discussion of Adam and Eve (this is discussed below).

One implication of this view is that if Adam and Eve were both the focus of 2:13–15—in contrast to the position that these verses focused exclusively on Eve—then Paul’s discussion is equally relevant for both men’s roles (2:8) and women’s roles (2:9–12). Additionally, here Paul seems to draw a direct contrast between Adam/Eve and Christ. In 1:14, Paul discussed the “faith and love” (πίστεως καὶ ἀγάπης) which were “in Christ Jesus,” and then in 2:15, he describes the need for Adam/Eve to have demonstrated the very same characteristics: “faith and love” (πίστει καὶ ἀγάπῃ). Paul’s point is not that these characteristics were salvific in and of themselves; after all, he already made it clear that salvation occurs “through the childbirth.” Rather, his point seems to be that these characteristics were the means by which one demonstrates faith, just as 2:8–12 was the means by which men and women might demonstrate faith through their distinct roles.

1.3. A Trustworthy Saying

It is suggested by UBS5 and NA28 that πιστὸς ὁ λόγος (3:1a) is best taken as a summary of what immediately precedes, and is therefore Paul’s commentary on 2:13–15.32 In this view, Paul understands the entire discussion regarding Adam and Eve—and the salvation which comes “through” (διά) “the childbirth” (τῆς τεκνογονίας)—as “a trustworthy saying.” This grammatical placement and textual understanding of πιστὸς ὁ λόγος fits well with Paul’s other uses of this same phrase throughout the Pastoral Epistles, all of which refer to the implications of Christ’s salvation. This phrase also occurs in 1 Timothy 1:15; 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11; and Titus 3:8. In each of these instances, it serves as commentary regarding the implications of Christ’s coming and the resultant salvation.33 As such, in 3:1a, this phase contextually better relates to the salvation accessible through “the childbirth,” as opposed to the typical understanding where it relates to one’s aspiration to serve as an overseer (3:1b).34

In 1 Timothy 1:15, the πιστὸς ὁ λόγος is “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” In 1 Timothy 4:9, 10, it is that “the living God … is the Savior of all people.” In 2 Timothy 2:10–11, Paul writes, “that even they might obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus.” In Titus 3:7–8, he states, “that being justified by his grace we may become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Since each of these instances appear to qualify the results of Christ’s coming as πιστὸς ὁ λόγος, it is best to view this phrase as a key word used by Paul to discuss the results of Christ’s salvation. Therefore, in 1 Timothy 3:1a, it appears that Paul regards his discussion of Adam and Eve as intrinsically related to the salvation achieved through Christ’s coming.

1.4. Summary

The above examination of 1 Timothy 2:13–3:1a demonstrates that a messianic interpretation of 2:15 is an exegetical possibility. Contrary to the prevailing opinion that this passage is exclusively about women in general bearing children in general, it has been proposed that it is about a specific woman (Eve) expecting a specific childbirth which was anticipated to have salvific implications. The flow of thought might be illustrated something like this:

Assertions: 2:3–12 (all pertaining to “living a quiet, godly life” [2:1–2])

  1. there is one mediator between God and men: Christ, the ransom for all (2:3–7)
  2. men are to pray, lifting holy hands (2:8)
  3. women are to be characterized by godliness (2:9–10)
  4. a woman is to receive instruction with submissiveness (2:11)
  5. a woman is not to teach/have authority over man (2:12)

Evidence: 2:13–15

  1. for support of (4) we see that God created Adam/man to lead (2:13; cf. Gen 2:18)
  2. for support of (5) we see that Eve was deceived by the Serpent (2:14; cf. Gen 3:1–6)
  3. for support of (1) even Eve will be saved through the childbirth (2:15b; cf. Gen 3:15)
  4. for support of (2), (3), (4), and (5) we see the importance of faith exhibited through obedience for salvation (2:15b). Indeed, had these characteristics been exhibited by Adam and Eve, they could have avoided (b), which would have allowed them to carry out Paul’s admonition in (2), (3), (4), and (5).

Paul’s point, then, is that 1 Timothy 2:13–15 is “a trustworthy saying” (πιστὸς ὁ λόγος) because it pertains to the salvation accessible through τῆς τεκνογονίας, i.e., the coming of the Christ. This reality was presented by Paul first in 1 Timothy 1:15, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” and again in 2:4, “God our Savior … desires all people to be saved.” Paul is clear that this salvation is only accessible through the “one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus” (2:5). Therefore, in 2:13–15, after discussing the roles of men and women (2:8–12), Paul returns to this same concept of God’s “saving” action. His point appears to be an argument from greatest to least: If even Adam and Eve were offered salvation after plummeting the world into the cursed state, this salvation is offered to everyone else as well. In this view, the passage might be paraphrased: “But Eve was promised future salvation through the childbirth, so long as Adam and Eve should live in response to this promise by remaining faithful, loving, and holy through self-control. This is a trustworthy saying” (2:15–3:1a).

In this view, Adam and Eve serve as examples of those to whom salvation is offered. This argument is very characteristic of Paul; even he acknowledged just a few verses prior, “I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost sinner, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who believe in him” (1:16). His point is that salvation hinges exclusively on the revolutionary nature of τῆς τεκνογονίας, “the childbirth.” Even the transgression of violating God’s ordained male/female roles can be redeemed through Christ. It is this event—the birth of Christ—that is contrasted from Adam’s sin. One brought death, the other brought life. Far from being an obscure passage about motherhood, this passage appears to be a striking recognition of the ramifications and implications of Christ’s coming.

2. New Testament Passages that Discuss Adam

Up to this point, the proposed understanding of 1 Timothy 2:13–3:1a as a messianic passage has been considered. Admittedly though, the above summary has not sought to definitively prove this reading. On the contrary, it has merely offered a (hopefully) viable proposal that deals with the grammar, syntax, and context of the passage. The purpose of the remainder of this essay is to offer theological evidence in favor of the above proposal: Every time Adam is mentioned in the NT, it is always in reference to the expectation that one will come to undo the curse.

Adam is mentioned by name nine times in the NT, in five separate passages.35 He is mentioned in Luke 3:38; Romans 5:14 (2x); 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45 (2x); 1 Timothy 2:13, 14; and Jude 14. Two instances are brief, possibly incidentally references (Luke 3:38; Jude 14), and three are more substantive, theological arguments based upon Adam’s role in the OT (Rom 5:14 [x2]; 1 Cor 15:22, 45 [x2]; 1 Tim 2:13, 14). However, in each of these five instances, Adam’s role is consistency contrasted with the accomplishment of Christ. In each case, Adam is viewed as the one who brought the curse upon creation, and Christ is understood as the one who brings salvation.

If this theological Adam/Christ contrast can be maintained in each of these instances, it should perhaps likewise be applied to 1 Timothy 2. If this is the case in 1 Timothy 2, it provides support to a messianic reading of 1 Timothy 2:15. Rather than viewing τῆς τεκνογονίας as the general bearing of children, it would be understood as the antithesis of Adam’s transgression. That is, Adam (and Eve’s) transgression—which brought judgment—is directly contrasted with God’s promise of one whose coming would bring salvation.

2.1. Luke 3:38

The Gospel of Luke records Jesus’s genealogy in 3:23–38. The verse under examination notes that Jesus was born “the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God” (3:38). This is the only mention of Adam by name in any of the Gospels.36 In the context of Luke, the genealogy appears immediately subsequent to Jesus’s baptism and God’s declaration, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (3:22) and Jesus temptation in the wilderness (4:1–13).

Through this structure, Luke develops the contrast between Jesus and Adam.37 About the genealogy, Liefeld and Pao assert that Luke’s point was to contrast “Jesus, the obedient Second Adam … with the disobedient first Adam.”38 This contrast between Jesus and Adam is perhaps made most clear in Luke’s statement that Jesus was God’s “beloved Son,” the one with whom God was “well pleased” (3:22), and the statement that Adam was “the son of God” (3:38). Both Jesus and Adam are said to be God’s son; though one failed when tempted by the Serpent in the Garden (Gen 3:1–7), and the other was victorious when tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Luke 4:1–13). One has brought the curse upon creation, and the other brings salvation to all people. About this, Geldenhuys asserts that Luke “draws attention very expressly to the fact that Christ (through Adam) is … related to the whole human race. As the second Adam … His coming and appearance have a universal significance.”39 This same theme of salvation for all is developed substantively throughout Luke-Acts.40 Luke’s inclusion of the name Adam evidently served an important function with his audience, reminding them of God’s plan throughout the ages, from Genesis to the present time. Luke’s message of hope stems from the reality that Jesus, as the obedient Second Adam, has come to offer salvation to those under the curse of the first Adam’s disobedience.

2.2. Romans 5:14

The book of Romans focuses extensively on the accomplishment of Christ. In Romans 5, Paul writes about the “peace we have with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:1). In the verses that follow, Paul discusses the manner of love which was demonstrated by God in Christ (5:1–11). Then, as Paul begins his discussion regarding the Adam/Christ contrast, he writes about how “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin” (5:12). Moo argues that 5:12–21 is best viewed as the “basis for what has been said … in 5:1–11.”41 In this understanding, the Adam/Christ contrast bears direct implications on the “peace we have with God” (5:1).

In 5:14, Paul writes, “But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.”42 The point of comparison is that the actions of both individuals had universal implications. Adam was a “type” or “pattern” (τύπος) of the one to come, in that his disobedient action brought death to all, while Christ’s obedient action has brought life to all.43 By using the term τύπος, Paul developed a strong correspondence between the actions of Adam and Christ.

In his discussion, however, Paul is clear that there are major distinctions between Adam and Christ. He writes, “the free gift [of Christ] is not like the result of [Adam’s] sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification” (5:16). Paul’s point is that Christ’s obedience is far superior in both power and effect to Adam’s disobedience. Bird summarizes this argument well, “In Christ we have a story of a world put right, as Christ is faithful where Adam was faithless, and is obedient where Adam was disobedient. Through his act of righteous obedience, Jesus overturns the transgression of Adam and so is able to deliver and transform the fallen progeny of Adam.”44 Overall, Paul’s reference to the disobedience of Adam serves to significantly develop the theological Adam/Christ contrast.45 Adam’s action brought death; Christ’s action brought life.

2.3. 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45

In perhaps the clearest example of the Adam/Christ contrast in the NT, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15 about the expectation of future resurrection. In a manner similar to Romans 5, Paul offers two parallel statements in 1 Corinthians 15:21–22:46

For as through a man came death, also through a man has come the resurrection of the dead. (15:21)

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. (15:22)

Paul’s point in these verses is to directly contrast the “death” resulting from Adam’s transgression with the “life” resulting from Christ’s victory.47 Mare comments on the similarity between Paul’s argument in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, “These verses sound like Paul’s two-category contrast in Rom 5:12–21. The man who brought death is Adam, and the one who will bring about the resurrection of the dead is Christ.”48 Paul’s point in mentioning Adam in this context appears to be to provide a theological contrast for his readers to better understand the victory accomplished by Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 15:45, Paul continues his discussion regarding resurrection and again mentions Adam by name. He states, “So it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”49 It can easily be overlooked that Jesus Christ is actually referred to as “Adam” here, albeit “the last Adam.” Paul could not be clearer: For life to come forth out of death, another individual in the likeness of Adam was needed. About this, Gardner comments, “Paul sees Jesus not only as starting something new and making resurrection possible but also as being part of the old order of things. Jesus becomes truly ‘Adam’—not only in the sense of heading a people but in becoming truly human.”50 Again, by discussing the OT individual Adam, Paul enables his readers to understand the victory of the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, the one who came to undo the curse brought about by the first Adam. Overall, throughout both Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, Paul makes the Adam/Christ contrast to draw a strong distinction between the results of the actions of these two individuals.

2.4. Jude 14

Of all the NT passages that mention Adam by name, Jude 14 focuses very little on his OT role, and is therefore of minimal importance to this study. In each of the other eight times Adam is mentioned by name, he is developed substantively by the biblical author. Here, however, he is merely mentioned to give a chronological perspective on the OT individual Enoch who received a prophecy of the Lord’s return.51 That is, the Enoch of Genesis 5:22 is distinguished from the Enoch of Genesis 4:17. However, in a minor way, even this passage focuses on the expectation of God’s future victory over the wickedness first brought about by Adam’s transgression (cf. Jude 16), and is therefore still relevant to the thesis of this essay.

Although Enoch is never officially referred to as “the seventh from Adam” (Jude 14) in the OT, he is recorded as the seventh in order in Genesis 5:1–24 and 1 Chronicles 1:1–3 (counting Adam as the first). In Jude 14, the epistle cites 1 Enoch 1:9, a prophecy given to Enoch which develops the general expectation of the Lord’s future victory over evil. Since this prophecy describes the Lord’s future judgment, it is relevant to this essay in that Adam’s name is mentioned in the context of God’s future victory over the sinful world.

3. Summary and Implications

As has been demonstrated through the brief survey of the above NT passages, in every other instance where Adam is mentioned by name, the biblical author sought to demonstrate an Adam/Christ contrast. Luke 3:38 presents Jesus Christ as the Second Adam, the one who has come as the true “Son of God.” In Romans 5:14, Paul presents an Adam/Christ typology, demonstrating the universal scope of death brought by Adam and life brought by Christ. In 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45, Paul again develops this concept that death has come into the world through Adam’s sin, yet Christ’s accomplishment has brought life. Although Jude 14 merely mentions Adam in reference to Enoch, even this passage presents the anticipation of God’s coming judgment of evil. To summarize, in every instance where Adam is named in the NT, he is always mentioned in reference to the expectation that a future individual will come to undo what he did.

Given this consistent Adam/Christ contrast, the only remaining passage in the NT where Adam is mentioned is 1 Timothy 2:13–15. The first part of this essay sought to demonstrate the validity of a messianic understanding of 1 Timothy 2:15 through a grammatical and contextual analysis. The second part of this essay has proposed that in every instance where Adam is mentioned, the victory of Christ is also mentioned. Taken together, these two pieces of evidence serve to bolster the claim that this passage may be understood messianically. That is, the childbirth (τῆς τεκνογονίας) that offered salvation to Eve is the birth of the Second Adam, the birth of Christ. Not only does this interpretation deal with the textual evidence in 1 Timothy, but it also deals with the theological evidence throughout the NT.

To summarize, in this view 1 Timothy 1:12–2:7 presents Paul’s understanding of Christ’s salvation. In 2:8–12, Paul offers a brief excursus on the roles of men and women in the church. Then, in 2:13–15, Paul offers the Scriptural support for these roles. His presentation of this support is very fitting, and centers around Adam and Eve as examples to whom salvation was offered (a return to his central point in 2:3–7). Paul’s assertion is that salvation was offered to Eve through τῆς τεκνογονίας (the birth of one who would undo the curse), despite her violation of the ordained male/female roles. Had this couple adhered to the male/female roles from the beginning, the curse could have been avoided. However, in an unexpected twist, Paul reveals in 2:15 that even amidst Adam and Eve’s transgression, God was still working redemptively to bring about salvation through τῆς τεκνογονίας, the coming of the Christ. In turn, this serves to exhort Paul’s readers on two accounts: (1) they were to adhere to the ordained male/female roles, and (2) they were to rejoice in God’s salvation offered to all. This, Paul states, is truly “a trustworthy saying” (3:1a).


[1] For a survey of historical perspectives on this passage, see Andreas Köstenberger, “Ascertaining Women’s God-Ordained Roles: An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:15,” BBR 7 (1997): 107–44. Köstenberger classifies the various interpretations into seven major views: 1) the bearing of “spiritual children” (i.e., good works), 2) perseverance in the faith of physical children, 3) messianic typology, 4) literal preservation through physical childbirth, 5) women saved through bearing of children, 6) child-bearing is a synecdoche, and 7) adherence to God-ordained domestic role. Others combine the interpretations into fewer, broader groups. For example, Ralph Earle divides them into three interpretations (1 Timothy, EBC [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978], 362–63); Gordon Fee, discusses four views (1 & 2 Timothy, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011], 74–76). Also, see Jay Twomey, The Pastoral Epistles through the Centuries (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 47–48.

[2] The interpreter runs the risk of showing his hand merely through his choice of translation. For example, compare the ESV, “she will be saved through childbearing,” with the NASB, “women will be preserved through the bearing of children,” or the Twentieth Century New Testament, “women will find their salvation in motherhood.”

[3] This interpretation has received significant discussion throughout the centuries. Some of the more prominent commentators who have advocated this view include George W. Knight, Donald Guthrie, and Charles J. Ellicott. George W. Knight writes, “The most likely understanding of this verse is that it refers to spiritual salvation through the birth of the Messiah” (The Pastoral Epistles, NIGTC [Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1992], 146). Charles J. Ellicott states, “It seems difficult to avoid deciding in favour of it” (The Pastoral Epistles of St. Paul [London: Longmans, Green, Reader, & Dyer, 1869], 39. Donald Guthrie opts for this view, though he acknowledges, “If that were the writer’s intention he could hardly have chosen a more obscure or ambiguous way of saying it.… This suggestion is attractive in spite of the obscurity involved” (The Pastoral Epistles, TNTC [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990], 89). Köstenberger disagrees with this view yet provides a valuable survey of past advocates (“An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:15,” 117–18).

[4] Following the lead of numerous evangelical scholars, Pauline authorship of 1 Timothy is assumed. See, among other resources, D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 331–53, 554–70.

[5] In 1 Timothy, Paul reminds Timothy to “remain at Ephesus” (1:3), to instruct the church according to sound doctrine (1:4–5), and to rebuke false teachers (1:6–11). After reflecting on the accomplishment of Christ (1:12–17), he charges Timothy to “wage the good warfare, by holding faith and a good conscience” (1:18b–19a). He urges Timothy to pray diligently (2:1–3) and to instruct men and women to live wisely (2:8–12). Throughout this passage, he focuses extensively on the reality that Jesus Christ is the “one mediator” (2:5) who gave himself as a ransom for all people (2:6). In essence, 1:12–2:7 presents Paul’s understanding of Christ’s salvation. Subsequently, Paul details specific qualifications for church leaders (3:1–13) as well as various instructions for the church (5:1–6:2). Although it is true that, as Earle notes, “the pastoral Epistles are primarily practical rather than theological” (1 Timothy, 345), this by no means diminishes the theological basis from which Paul argues for practical action. Paul is clear that he toils and strives because he has his “hope set on the living God” (4:10).

[6] Related to the role of women in ministry, there is significant discussion pertaining to this passage. From a complementarian perspective, see Andreas J. Köstenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner, eds., Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9–15, 3rd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), as well as several of the essays in John Piper and Wayne Grudem, eds., Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, 2nd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006). From an egalitarian perspective, see several of the essays in Ronald W. Pierce, Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, and Gordon D. Fee, eds. Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2005).

[7] As is proposed below, it appears that 2:13–15 serves as evidence for 2:8–12, not only as evidence for 2:12 (“I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; rather, she is to be quiet”).

[8] Regarding Paul’s development of the Genesis account, this essay follows the proposal of Andrew B. Spurgeon, “1 Timothy 2:13–15: Paul’s Retelling of Genesis 2:4–4:1,” JETS 56 (2013): 543–56. Spurgeon’s proposal is discussed below.

[9] About the plural rendering “women shall be saved,” Robert W. Yarbrough notes, “The outcome obscures something important: the individuality of the woman envisioned in vv. 11–15a” (The Letters to Timothy and Titus, PNTC [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018], 186).

[10] An alternative reading understands the subject to be “a woman” (γυνή, singular), from 2:11, 12. In this view, Paul returns to his discussion of the role of women in general and thereby applies the Genesis text to his present audience.

[11] Köstenberger, “An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:15,” 122.

[12] This is true throughout the NT, both of Paul’s discussion of Adam in Rom 5:14 and 1 Cor 15:22, 45, as well as Jesus’s reference to Gen 2:24 in Matt 19:4–6.

[13] Philip B. Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 417.

[14] Among those who hold that 1 Timothy 2:15 refers to Genesis 3, there are differing views. For example, Royce Gordon Gruenler, holds that these verses allude to Gen 3:15 (“The Mission-Lifestyle Setting of 1 Tim 2:8–15,” JETS 41 [1998]: 215–38; cf. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 146). On the other hand, Andrew Spurgeon views them as referring to Gen 3:16 (“Paul’s Retelling,” 543–56; cf. Anthony Daw, What Is “the Childbearing” in 1 Timothy 2:15? [MA thesis, Western Seminary, 2016], 33–34). For a general discussion of the various views, see Stanley Porter, “What Does It Mean to Be ‘Saved By Childbirth’ (1 Timothy 2:15)?” in Studies in the Greek New Testament: Theory and Practice, Studies in Biblical Greek (New York: Peter Lang, 1996), 258–60. Porter writes, “Since no explicit subject of the verb is designated, it makes best exegetical sense in the grammatical context to begin from the assumption that the subject of the verb corresponds in some way with the last mentioned possible antecedent, ‘the woman’ (ἡ γυνή) of v. 14. But who exactly is this woman?” (p. 258). Porter concludes favoring a focus on women in general, but provides a valuable discussion as to the exegetical options.

[15] As Andrew Spurgeon states forcefully, “Paul was still talking about Adam and Eve: Eve was the subject of σωθήσεται” (“Paul’s Retelling,” 555). Yarbrough agrees that Eve is the focus in 2:15; however, he views this as a reference not to Gen 3:15, but rather to Gen 3:16. He states, “In light of the proximity of mention to Eve in vv. 13 and 14, and with Gen 3 being the contextual background to Paul’s reference to Genesis in v. 14, it is reasonable to suggest that in v. 15 Paul has in mind, not Gen 3:15 and the seed of woman, but Gen 3:16 and the curse of pain in childbearing” (Timothy and Titus, 188).

[16] Moyer Hubbard argues against this view, claiming that σῴζω should be understood as denoting physical deliverance in 1 Tim 2:15 (“Kept Safe through Childbearing: Maternal Mortality, Justification by Faith, and the Social Setting of 1 Timothy 2:15,” JETS 55 [2012]: 744–49).

[17] Porter, “Saved by Childbirth,” 260. Porter continues, “σωθήσεται is virtually guaranteed a salvific sense (the passive voice is probably a divine or theological passive, that is, God is the agent of salvation” (p. 261).

[18] The phrase σῴζω διά + genitive is used seven times in Paul’s epistles: Rom 5:9; 1 Cor 1:21; 3:15; 15:2; Eph 2:8; 1 Tim 2:15; Titus 3:5. Of these instances, only 1 Cor 3:15 uses this phrase to indicate attendant circumstance. The other five (or six, including 1 Tim 2:15) all use the phrase to indicate instrumentality. This does not prove that 1 Tim 2:15 indicates instrumentality, but it certainly provides evidence in favor of this understanding.

[19] Hubbard argues that here, “διά with the genitive … indicates attendant circumstance: saved in the circumstances of childbearing” (“Kept Safe,” 756). He proceeds to argue that this passage refers to physical salvation during the process of bearing children. Hubbard’s evidence, however, is lacking. He claims that instrumentality “leads to an impossibly un-Pauline reading: saved by means of childbirth” (p. 756), yet his reason that this is an “impossibly un-Pauline reading” is that it “conflicts with the doctrine of justification by faith” (p. 761). It does not, however, conflict with the doctrine of justification by faith if “the childbirth” is understood as the birth of the Christ, a view which Hubbard dismisses out of hand as “special pleading” (p. 751).

[20] For example, see Payne, Man and Woman, 431–33; Köstenberger, “An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:15,” 140–42.

[21] Payne, Man and Woman, 433.

[22] See Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 227–29. Köstenberger, arguing against a messianic understanding of this verse, writes, “The presence of the definite article in the original Greek (τῆς τεκνογονίας) merely indicates the generic nature of childbirth rather than pointing to a specific birth of a child” (“An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:15,” 118). Although this is possible, Köstenberger’s evidence in favor of this assertion is minimal. He concludes, “An elaborate salvation-historical typology would be unexpected in the present context, especially in the light of the sparse use of the OT in the Pastorals in general” (p. 118). However, the assertion of this present essay is (in Köstenberger’s words) that a “salvation-historical typology” should be expected in the present context, due to the use of the Adam/Christ contrast throughout the NT. This is argued below.

[23] This expectation of a coming singular offspring who would accomplish the promises given in Genesis is certainly not foreign to Paul. See Jared M. August, “Paul’s View of Abraham’s Faith: Genesis 22:18 in Galatians 3,” BibSac 176 (2019): 51–61.

[24] In 1 Tim 5:14, Paul used the related verb (τεκνογονέω) as an infinitive in reference to younger widows “marrying and bearing children.” Both these terms (τεκνογονέω and τεκνογονία) appear to be related, as both refer to the birth of a child/children (BDAG 994c). Porter devotes significant discussion to the denotation of this term (“Saved by Childbirth,” 262–63). He concludes, “Apart from later Christian writers, in all four [extrabiblical] contexts in which this word is used, where the meaning can be determined with any degree of certainty it denotes the specific act of bearing children” (p. 263). The only difference is that Paul uses the verbal form (τεκνογονέω) in 5:14 and the articular noun (τῆς τεκνογονία) here in 2:15.

[25] Ben Witherington III, “Literal Renderings of Texts of Contention—1 Tim. 2.8–15,” Ben Witherington, 25 February 2006, http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2006/02/literal-renderings-of-texts-of.html.

[26] Köstenberger dismisses this view with little interaction. He states, “While verse fifteen may allude to Gen 3:16, there is absolutely no hint in the text that the author of the Pastorals intends to refer to a Messianic rendering of Gen 3:15, the so-called ‘proto-evangelion.’ It must also be noted that the presupposed understanding of Gen 3:15 as the ‘proto-evangelion’ is found only in the second century and nowhere occurs in the NT” (Köstenberger, “An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:15,” 118). On the contrary, when Gen 3:15 is exegetically considered in light of the broader context of Genesis (especially Gen 22:17b–18), the expectation emerges of a coming individual who would restore creation and bring blessing to all nations. This is argued extensively in Jared M. August, “The Messianic Hope of Genesis: The Protoevangelium and Patriarchal Promises,” Themelios 42 (2017): 46–62; and “The Toledot Structure of Genesis: Hope of Promise,” BibSac 174 (2017): 267–82.

[27] Wallace, Greek Grammar, 696–99. Additionally, Porter devotes considerable discussion to the implications of the use of the third-class condition in 1 Tim 2:15 and concludes that this condition “makes no implication whether in fact ‘they remain,’ only that ‘they might remain’” (“Saved by Childbirth, 266).

[28] Among the numerous interpreters who hold this view, see Köstenberger, “An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:15,” 132; Fee, 1 & 2 Timothy, 76; Earle, 1 Timothy, 362.

[29] Andrew Spurgeon, “Paul’s Retelling,” 543.

[30] Spurgeon proposes to read 2:13–15 as follows: “Adam was created first; then Eve. His wife [Eve], being deceived, fell into transgression [with Adam and with God] but would be restored [to fellowship with Adam] through bearing children, provided they [i.e., Adam and Eve] remained in faith/faithfulness, love, and holiness with clear-mindedness [and thus restored to fellowship with God]” (“Paul’s Retelling,” 545–46). Spurgeon does not, however, understand 2:15 to be messianic in focus.

[31] In this view, the act of “remaining in faith and love and holiness with self-control” (2:15) provides the concluding commentary to 2:8–12. Men were to remain in their God-ordained roles (cf. 2:8), and women were to remain in their God-ordained roles (cf. 2:9–11).

[32] In both UBS5 and NA28, the statement πιστὸς ὁ λόγος concludes the paragraph from 2:8–3:1a. The next paragraph begins in 3:1b and reads Εἴ τις ἐπισκοπῆς ὀρέγεται (“If anyone desires to be an overseer”). In contrast, the Tyndale House and SBL Greek New Testaments both take πιστὸς ὁ λόγος as introducing the first paragraph of chapter three.

[33] This understanding of πιστὸς ὁ λόγος has been argued extensively by L. Timothy Swinson, “Πιστὸς ὁ λόγος: An Alternative Analysis,” Southeastern Theological Review 7.2 (2016): 57–76. Swinson argues that πιστὸς ὁ λόγος serves “as a concise summation and commendation of the apostolic proclamation of the gospel and … relates to the basic content of that proclamation while permitting the content to assume various forms” (p. 60).

[34] The clause πιστὸς ὁ λόγος may occur either prior to or subsequent to the statement Paul comments upon. In 1 Tim 1:15, Paul writes πιστὸς ὁ λόγος prior to introducing his statement (the statement which follows is introduced with ὅτι). In 1 Tim 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim 2:11; and Titus 3:8, Paul first offers his statement and then writes πιστὸς ὁ λόγος (Paul uses γάρ subsequent to πιστὸς ὁ λόγος in 1 Tim 4:9 and 2 Tim 2:11; he appears to refer to the prior statement in 1 Tim 3:1 and Titus 3:8).

[35] Additionally, Eve is mentioned by name one additional time in 2 Cor 11:3, which describes her deception as an illustration for Paul’s reader’s being “led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

[36] Jesus is recorded as having cited Genesis in both Matt 19:1–12 and Mark 10:1–12. However, neither Adam nor Eve were mentioned by name in these passages.

[37] Walter L. Liefeld and David W. Pao write that Luke focuses on Jesus “as a member of the human race, a son of Adam” (“Luke,” in Luke—Acts, EBC 10, rev. ed. [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007], 99).

[38] Liefeld and Pao, “Luke,” 99.

[39] Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 153. Similarly, Darrell L. Bock states, “The account concludes with the name Adam and then mentions that Jesus is the Son of God. This connection indicates Jesus’ relationship with all humankind as their representative. The universal perspective fits very nicely with the Lucan emphasis on salvation for all” (Luke 1:19:50, BECNT [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994], 348).

[40] For a discussion against this Adamic connection in Luke, see Marshall D. Johnson, The Purpose of the Biblical Genealogies: With Special Reference to the Setting of the Genealogies of Jesus, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 233–35. For an argument specifically against Johnson, see Bock, Luke, 348–49.

[41] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 2nd ed., NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018), 345.

[42] Of importance to the comparison between Romans 5:14 and 1 Timothy 2:13–15, is the repeated use of the word παράβασις (“transgression”) in both passages, a word that is used only seven times in the NT. In Romans 5:14, the “transgression” is committed by Adam, whereas in 1 Timothy 2:14, the “transgression” is committed by Eve. This serves to build the concept that both were responsible for this disobedience against God.

[43] There is much discussion regarding the concept of “typology” that is outside the scope of this essay. See, among numerous resources, the discussion on typology in Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Uses of the Old Testament in the New (Chicago: Moody, 1985), 101–41; as well as the essays on how the NT authors used typology in G. K. Beale, ed., The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 311–71.

[44] Michael F. Bird, Introducing Paul: The Man, His Mission and His Message (Downers Grove, IL, InterVarsity Press, 2008), 42.

[45] Additionally, this concept of Christ’s coming undoing the curse is also extensively discussed in Romans 8:18–25. Although Adam is not mentioned by name here, the concepts mentioned in Romans 5:12–21 are developed in greater depth. In this passage, Paul states that the creation “was subjected to futility” (8:20), yet that creation and those who trust in Christ “wait eagerly” for the coming restoration, “the redemption of our bodies” (8:23). This is yet another instance where Christ’s accomplishment is directly contrasted with the results of Adam’s disobedience and the results of the fall.

[46] Paul Gardner, 1 Corinthians, ZECNT (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018), comments, “It is noteworthy that the typology of Adam and Christ seen in 15:21–22 and here in vv. 45–47 points toward the development of the them in Romans 5:12–19” (713).

[47] Gardner writes, “Paul uses the phrase ‘in Christ’ on a number of occasions in this epistle and regularly throughout his epistles. His expression ‘in Adam’ is by analogy. Christ stands as the head of his people. They are represented by him as their king” (1 Corinthians, 675).

[48] W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians, EBC (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 285. Gordon D. Fee comments that Paul’s “varied use of this theme suggests that it is a commonplace with Paul, for whom Christ stands at the beginning of the new humanity in a way analogous to, but not identical with, the way Adam stood at the beginning of the old order, both temporally and causally” (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 2nd ed., NICNT [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014], 832).

[49] Compare the citation from Gen 2:7 with the text of 1 Cor 15:45: ἐγένετο ὁ ἄνθρωπος εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν (Gen 2:7); Ἐγένετο ὁ πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος Ἀδὰμ εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν (1 Cor 15:45). Paul cites this passage carefully, yet adds πρῶτος and Ἀδάμ to reenforce his emphasis.

[50] Gardner, 1 Corinthians, 713.

[51] Jude 14–15 states, “It was also about these that the seventh from Adam, Enoch, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their acts of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

Jared M. August

Jared August is a PhD student at Clark Summit University’s Baptist Bible Seminary in South Abington Township, Pennsylvania, USA.

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