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Women, Typology, and 1 Timothy 2:15

| June 7, 2011


There’s been more ink spilled over the doctrinal interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 than any other passage. It’s a controversial passage that evokes very strong emotional responses and reactions — particularly in this day and age.  And verse 15 is one of the trickiest passages in the Bible to interpret. Because of this, many pastors simply avoid teaching on it. So I give kudos to Tim Challies for preaching on the passage in a recent sermon, and having the guts to take a shot at explaining it in his blog post, “Saved through Childbearing?”

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, 1 Timothy 2:11-15 says,

“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. ” (1 Timothy 2:11–15, ESV)

Now that’s definitely not the passage you want to be teaching on if you’re trying to win a popularity contest! It sounds extremely sexist and abrasive to the modern ear. And the phrase “she will be saved through childbearing” seems non-sensical, if not downright outrageous. But I concur with Challies that “there is truth and freedom here if we are willing to go looking for it.”

An Epiphany

Reading Challies’ attempts to come to grip with verse 15 reminded me of my own attempts to wrestle with this passage over the years. The last time I studied the passage in-depth was a couple of years ago, while working on writing Girls Gone Wise. It’s interesting how we can read a passage a hundred times, and still notice something new when we return to it again. I had been studying Genesis, and was immersed in the concept of the typological symbolism of Adam and Eve. (Adam is type of Christ, Eve is type of the Church), when I turned my attention to 1 Timothy 2.

It was then that I had an epiphany that seemed to resolve many of the interpretive difficulties with the text. It struck me that approaching the passage typologically harmonized many of the issues that arose from approaching it from a merely ontological standpoint – which has been the normative way of viewing this text.  I was so excited about the idea that I called up Wayne Grudem, to pick his brain about the veracity of my thoughts. He encouraged me to write them up and present a paper at ETS (Evangelical Theological Society) or to publish an article in their academic Journal (JETS). I haven’t got around to doing that yet, but since Challies brought up the question, I’m itching to weigh in on the discussion.

So, for all you theological tall foreheads, here’s something for you to chew on. (Remember, you heard it here first!) For those who aren’t familiar with the theological terminology, don’t bail out. Bear with me… and keep reading. Theology is fun!

A Typological Approach to 1 Timothy 2:11-15

To begin, let me explain what the theological term “type” means. A “type” is person, thing, or event that foreshadows or points to something or someone else (the antitype). The type has a layer of intended meaning that is revealed by the antitype.  For example, Jesus told Nicodemus, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness” (the type), “so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (the anti-type) (Jn 3:14; cf. Nm 21:9). The Passover Lamb and the rock from which Israel drank in the wilderness were also types of Christ (Ex 12:1–13, 49; 17:6; 1 Cor 5:7; 10:3, 4) Types most frequently point to Jesus and the story of the gospel.

Paul was a big typological type of thinker. He taught, for instance, that Adam was type of Christ, and that marriage was type of the relationship between Christ and the Church.  He would have agreed with the writer of Hebrews that earthly, physical realities are but shadows—types—of true and heavenly realities (the antitypes) (Heb. 8:5; 9:24-25). The physical and temporal exist to point us to the spiritual and eternal.

Now before we go on, I’m going to teach you another big, daunting word: “ontology” (Just think how your opponent’s eyebrows will rise when you use up three o’s playing it in scrabble!) Ontology means “related to being or existence.” It has to do with the essence of who we are.

Woman is Type of Church

As I said before, 1 Timothy 2:11-15 makes a whole lot more sense when we understand it typologically rather than merely ontologically. That is, from the perspective of what woman represents (typology) rather than just who woman is (ontology). And it may be that this is just what Paul had in mind.

We know for sure that Paul viewed Adam as a type of Christ. We also know for sure that he viewed marriage as type of the relationship between Christ and the church — in which the role of husband is a type of Christ and the role of the wife is a type of the Church. Thus, we can justifiably extrapolate that Paul also viewed Eve as a type of the Church.

Assuming that Paul has typology in mind, let’s have a look at the passage again. First, Paul talks about how women and men are to conduct themselves in church: “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”  Don’t get caught up in what this means and how we apply it today. That’s a discussion for another time. For now, I just want you to consider how a typological approach helps explain this and the next few verses, and how it solves some interpretive conundrums.

If Paul was indeed thinking typologically (and I believe a good case can be made for it), that puts an entirely different spin on the following verses. Paul isn’t arguing that women are more gullible or that women need to bear children in order to be saved. No. He’s trying to point out that male female roles in the church exist to bear typological witness to the gospel.

For Adam (type of Christ) was formed first, then Eve (type of Church) – and Adam (type of Christ) was not deceived, but the woman (type of Church) was deceived and became a transgressor.

Yet she (the Church) will be saved through childbearing (bearing fruit in Christ)—if they (man and woman) continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Voila. This solves the conundrum of thinking that Paul is saying that women are saved by giving birth to biological children. If Paul is indeed thinking typologically, he’s not saying anything of the sort. Instead, he’s saying that woman’s ontology (her capacity to bear children) relates to her typology (the Church’s ability to be fruitful in Jesus). She (the Church) is saved through childbearing. Paul reinforces the profound mutuality of men and women here. Both are church. Both are saved by the type of union that results in spiritual children—the union with our husband, Christ. Both must continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

It’s not about us

Yes, Paul gives some pretty tough instruction about male and female roles in the Church. But then he elevates the discussion to an entirely different level. In his rationale, he mingles the imagery of Adam and Eve and woman and man together to make the point that in the end, how we conduct ourselves in church has much more to do with what we (typologically) represent than who we (ontologically) are. And that makes his directives on male/female roles in the church much easier to understand and swallow.

Ultimately, this is not about us. It’s not about man. It’s not about woman. It’s about displaying the glory of Christ’s story.

A typological approach to 1 Timothy 2:11-15 makes a lot of sense to me, and I’d like to throw it on the table for my fellow theologians to consider and discuss. We can’t say with absolute certainty what Paul had in mind in verse 15, but we can be absolutely certain that there is indeed truth and freedom here if we are willing to go looking for it.


A further note of clarification:

If Paul is thinking typologically, he is saying that “she” (the church, as typologized by woman and represented by Eve – I think all three are in view) will be saved through childbearing (a characteristic womanly function which typologizes the church bearing spiritual children in union with Christ– the child that was promised to Eve) if they (the church – man and woman) continue in faith, love and holiness. His argument brilliantly interweaves all the correlating pieces.

This interpretation supports Thomas Schreiner’s thesis that childbearing (childbearing capacity) is upheld as that which is distinct to womanhood, and that woman ought to embrace her God-given role. It merely suggests that there is yet another, deeper layer of meaning here – in fact, the typological approach allows for several layers of meaning:

  • Eve will be saved through the birth of THE Child that God promised to her
  • Woman will show that she is truly saved when she embraces, rather than rejects God’s created design for her.  AND…
  • The Church will be saved through union with Christ (bearing spiritual fruit/children)

Paul  is providing the ultimate reason along with the behavioral directive. He is saying that woman ought not to teach men in the church because our roles reflect the fact that Christ leads/instructs the church, and not the other way around.  And that is a reason that makes sense. This explanation logically answers the “why” question, makes the roles of men and women in the church defensible, and coherently/comprehensively harmonizes it with Scripture’s vision of the meaning of gender. It’s a brilliant and complex, yet profoundly simple explanation that connects all the dots for us.

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Comments (105)

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  1. Melissa says:

    That’s really thought provoking. Thanks for sharing. I’m sure I’ll be chewing on this one for quite awhile!

  2. This is the best explanation of this passage I have ever heard…and I have an MA in Biblical Studies.

  3. Arline Erven says:

    Wow! That is… I’ll just stick with, “Wow!” :)

  4. Jacki King says:

    Can you explain a little more how Adam is a “type” of Christ?

    • Mary Kassian says:

      See Romans 5:14-21. That’s where Paul explains that Adam was a type that pointed to Christ. Again, “type” is a theological term. A “type” is person, thing, or event that foreshadow or points to something or someone else (the antitype). The word does NOT indicate that Adam is the same as Christ. The type does not equal the antitype. Rather, it simply indicates that God was using Adam as an object lesson to forshadows/point to Christ. Adam was firstborn of humanity. Christ is firsborn over all Creation… and Romans explains how Adam’s representation of humanity in sin is a type of Christ’s representation of humanity in redemption. Hope this helps.

      • Rue says:

        I’m new to your site and want to admit I have not yet read the entire post and comments. Please forgive me if this is a repeat. ~ It may be helpful to clarify that “type” is a shortened reference to the term “archetype.” An archetype is defined as a prototype, original pattern, or the first model. It has a Greek origin “arkhetypon” from which the Latin “archetypum” was derived. Both just mean “pattern” or “model.” With the prefix “Arkhe” or “archi” meaning “to be first.”
        ~ It seems so contrary to God’s Kingdom to think of Jesus as the “second” anything. It sure gets my attention to hear Adam referred to as “the first Adam” and Jesus as “the second Adam.” But thinking in terms of Adam being an archetype of Jesus helps me understand the term.

  5. Jessica says:

    I think this is an awesome view of this scripture. I am not a theologan. If I would have read this scripture face on I would have been put off by it b/c I don’t know alot about that time period. This has made me look at what would have been a yucky idea, (todays view) to one of great clarity. thank you so much.

  6. David says:

    Interesting and well written. Do you think there is any hint of Gen 3:15 in Paul’s mind when he begins the childbearing theme? It’s hard for me not to think of the words Adam, Eve, Sin, Childbirth without thinking protoevangelion (3:15)

    Maybe it’s not their, and I’m not sure what it would do for your type / antitype thesis.

    “He’s trying to point out that male female roles in the church exist to bear typological witness to the gospel.” – If this statement alone could be grasped by half the people (male and female) in the church it would be significant.

    • Mary Kassian says:

      Yes. Genesis in undoubtedly in his mind. As I pointed out in the article, it was when I moved from a prolonged, extensive study of Genesis to reading 1 Timothy 2 that this insight occured to me.
      And as I mentioned to another commenter, I think this might be a case of both/and rather than either/or.
      Paul could also have had the protoevangelion in mind. Multiple levels of meaning are often the case with God’s inspired Word.

  7. KimS says:

    This certainly makes the verse easier to cope with from a female perspective. I’d like to know how the New Testament scholars like Don Carson or Doug Moo would weigh in on an typological interpretation of that passage.

      • Dear Mary Kassian,

        Your are really beautiful woman and
        I, moreover, adore your heart for the
        women. I am one of those people who love
        to restore the real image of women who
        have been victimized through some man dominated
        traditional biblical interpretations.

        Wish you His wisdom and guidance.

  8. Anonymous says:

    (Yes, I’m a boy).

    I find your view as a very good approach to this passage. Praise God for your enlightened mind.

    I only find one small problem with this:

    The Church is not presented in the Bible as deceived. Humanity, the whole world, was deceived. In this view, you present the Church as equal to the sinning Eve. Following Paul’s typology, Christ is the sinless Adam, therefore I’d say that Paul also views the Church as the sinless Eve.

    The point that I want to make is that Adam is never presented as the perfect sinless Christ, but as His antagonist. The best example is Romans 5, as you said.

    So it would be the first time that Adam is presented as the sinless Christ, in contrast with the sinful Eve.

    However, It’s now when you say, “so what if it’s the first time?” And I would say that that’s why I said that it is a small problem. What’s more, typology is not perfect in presenting the type and the anti-type, right?

    In fact, this is the first time that Eve is presented as the only guilt one, which would make us think about the sin of Adam as something done purposefully, which would make us re-think the theory that bad actions come from a bad heart. Which would make us question the perfection of Adam before the Original Sin.

    This view solves all that.

    And I think that this complements Ephesians 5.

    Many blessings.

    • Mary Kassian says:

      You are quite correct that typology does not equate the type and anti-type perfectly. I would argue that the point is not how Eve fell into sin (deception) but the fact that she became a sinner. It’s also interesting that Adam became a sinner volitionally for his wife – and this may possibly point to the fact that Christ volitionally became sin for us. However, this is where the likeness ends. Adam choosing to sin brought a curse down on the entire human race, whereas Christ choosing to become sin/take the punishment of our sin upon himself brought redemption.
      The connection here with Ephesians 5 is very strong. In fact, I think the case could not be argued without the typology there.

      • Sori says:

        I thought that my comment would not be posted since my gravatar did not work.

        I’ve been thinking about this these days. There really is something beautiful, startling wonderful, in this thing.

        Thank you for sharing this Mary.

        Blessings from Spain!

  9. Andrew Wencl says:

    Thanks for the article. This passage will probably be up for debate until Christ returns, so it is good to hear another perspective.

    Unfortunately, I think your solution is actually one of the least likely. For one, I cannot recall ever hearing something similar being proposed for this passage. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but without anything in 2,000 years of history backing this interpretation, it needs more scrutiny.

    Secondly, just because Paul found a connection between Adam and Christ in another passage doesn’t mean that he is making that connection here. For one, he differentiated Christ from Adam in the other passage by calling him the “last Adam.” Paul makes no reference to the last Adam here and it is very taxing on his readers to make the connection. As my father might say, “Eval Knival couldn’t make that jump.” It seems more likely (and more natural) to see Paul making a connection between Adam and Eve and modern men and women. Additionally, it becomes very problematic if Christ must “continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”

    Thirdly, and stemming from point two, Christ was contrasted with Adam. Your explanation makes the Adam figure to be Savior and the woman figure to be sinner. This seems much more derogotory to women than most other interpretations of this passage, as though Adam were guiltless.

    Lastly, there is no biblical evidence linking Eve with the Church. Your argument seems to follow this kind of logic: 1) The church is called Christ’s bride, 2) Adam is an antetype of Christ, 3) Eve was Adam’s bride, 4) therefore Eve is an antetype of the church.

    In looking for a solution to a somewhat confusing passage it seems you’ve spiritualized and allegorized it. This kind of methodology would wreak havoc on other doctrines elsewhere in the Bible.

    I don’t think your proposal here deals fairly with the text.

    • Mary Kassian says:

      Thanks for your feedback. You make some valid points. I do agree that Paul is making a connection between Adam and Eve and modern men and women. I disagree that a type falls in the category of spirtualization and allegorization. I am not spiritualizing or allegorizing the directive here, I am merely trying to understand how Paul’s explanation relates to it. I believe that identifying something as a type is a valid hermeneutic. I also disagree that a type requires that all characteristics of the type are also characteristics of the anti-type. The type does not equal the anti-type. The snake raised up on a pole is a type, but that doesn’t imply that Christ is like one.

      • E says:

        I fully agree with Andrew.
        Actually, if you do the text exegesis correctly, you’ll find the meaning and context very “earthed” – woman is to be submissive because she came from man, and she fell first (order in creation and in redemption).

        You are indeed clever MAry but unfortunately these are not human theories and discoveries we’re making. I suggest you study the text in Greek, and come with a closer meaning to the text!

    • Mary Kassian says:

      One more quick comment. There are times in history when certain doctrines receive more attention than others. Because of the distortion of gender in our society, there has been an unprecedented historical focus on Scripture passages that relate to male-female distinctions and roles. For example, I don’t think theologians totally flushed out what the “desire” of woman in the curse of Genesis 3:16 was all about until 1978, when Susan Foh argued that it ought to be interpreted through the lens of Genesis 4:7. Hers is the interpretation that conservative theologians like Grudem and Piper now support. With her interpretation, as with mine, there is nothing that is out of line or departs from orthodoxy.

      • Andrew Wencl says:

        I don’t think you’re suggesting something heretical here. I just don’t see any warrant for this interpretation either from historical or logical background.

        The connections here are non-apparent. Mixing and extending metaphors distorts the original meaning and purpose of those metaphors. Ephesians 5 compares the relationship between a husband and wife with the relationship between Christ and the church, but Adam and Eve are nowhere mentioned in that passage.

        Likewise, Adam, the first Adam, is contrasted with Christ, the last Adam, in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5, but neither of these passages have anything to do with marriage or Eve.

        Ultimately this interpretation isn’t supported by the evidence.

        • Mary Kassian says:

          I disagree. I think a very strong case could be made that these connections existed in Paul’s mind. Are you saying that there is no connection between Eve/woman and the Church anywhere in Scripture? I see a strong connection in Genesis, in Ephesians, and in multiple Old Testament passages equating the feminine with God’s People, and in the New Testament, with Christ’s Bride. It’s a consistent message from Genesis through to Revelation.

          • Andrew Wencl says:


            I don’t deny that there is a connection here between Adam and Eve and men and women. So I’m not against a typological argument.

            I also don’t deny that there is a connection between Eve/woman and the Church. Actually, I’m surprised you didn’t bring up 1 Cor. 11:1-3, which has a much stronger link between Eve and the church than any other passage referenced besides 1 Timothy.

            The problem is that Ephesians 6 is not trying to link Eve and the Bride of Christ. I think my last point in my original comment explains why I believe the connection is weak and ultimately artificial.

          • Mary Kassian says:

            I should have brought up 1 Corinthians 11. Makes the typological argument even stronger. :-)

          • Andrew Wencl says:


            A negative link between Eve and the Church in one passage does not establish a positive link between Eve and the Church in this one.

            Besides, your argument for a connection between Adam and Christ in this passage ignores the fact that Paul makes no such connection here or anywhere else in this letter and merely appeals to Paul’s other references to Adam in other letters.

            Who is the “they” in the end of the passage: “if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control”? Your post suddenly switches back to Adam/Eve being men/women. Where is the warrant for changing the interpretation of Adam/Eve back and forth between Christ/Church and men/women?

          • Mary Kassian says:

            1. The typological link between Eve/woman/church is clearly established throughout Scripture, and especially in Pauline writings
            2. As soon as Paul refers back to Genesis as rationale for his directives, one can infer that he may be thinking typologically, as this is an established pattern.
            3. Multiple layers of meaning may exist. If Paul is thinking typologically, then “she” may refer to Eve/woman and church.
            4. If so, verse 15 may mean that she (the church, as typologized by woman and represented by Eve) will be saved through childbearing (a womanly function which typologizes the church bearing spiritual children in union with Christ– the child that was promised to Eve) if they (the church – man and woman) continue in faith, love and holiness.
            5. This typological approach harmonizes this verse with the rest of Scripture, while an approach that fails to take typology into account is hard pressed to do so. A non-typological approach needs to tap dance around the idea that Paul is saying women should not exercise ecclesiastical authority because of some defect in woman (her gullibility) and that she is saved by popping out babies. (Both of these thoughts have absolutely NO support elsewhere in Scripture) … or that “saved” doesn’t refer to salvation, but to something else.

            When you approach the verse typologically, it’s easy to harmonize it and it makes perfect sense with the whole counsel of God. When you don’t, it becomes incredibly difficult to explain or understand.

  10. Melody says:

    Yes … this makes sense. ….

    …as I’m reading this article with my teen daughter … the question arises about “being saved through childbearing,” typologically. Is Paul saying one is saved by bearing fruit in Christ? … or that the evidence that one is saved is by their bearing fruit in Christ?

    Just wondering your thoughts here….

    • Mary Kassian says:

      Scripture equates the two. If you are in Christ, you will bear fruit. It’s inevitable.

      • Elisabeth says:

        I wondered about this too – and decided, in the end, weren’t suggesting that fruit = salvation but that salvation always, always, always = fruit. I’m thinking of James 2:18. Anyway … thank you for clarifying that point! :)

        I enjoyed this post so much – you’re right, theology IS fun! Thank you for digging into the text of the Bible and sharing your insights. Blessings!

      • erica says:

        I would not say that it is inevitable. i know someone who has “quenched the spirit” and are not bearing any fruit. but this does not mean that they are not saved because in order to starve the spirit, one must have it, and it only comes to live inside you when you are saved. People do not bear fruit to be saved they do it because they are saved and want to please God.

        • Mary Kassian says:

          You may be saved, but if you are not bearing fruit, then you are not “abiding in Christ”

          • erica says:

            Yes, i completely agree. i just wanted to make sure that you were not saying that to be truely saved you’ll be bearing fuit. You see my brother is saved and at one time was very spiritual and was even considering becomeing a pastor but sadly he has walked away from God, and is not bearing fruit. but i believe he is really saved and that God is working in his life. Pray for him if you think of him.

          • Mary Kassian says:

            I prayed for your brother just now, Erica. May he return wholeheartedly to the lover and redeemer of his soul.

  11. Mark says:

    I definitely like “she” applied to Eve specifically and not to women in general, and referring to Eve as a type sounds reasonable. I wonder though if there is a connection between “saved through childbearing” and God’s promise “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring;
    he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Eve was literally saved by faith through her biological descendants. If Eve had not borne children, she would not have been saved as salvation came through her offspring. I’m not sure what connection would be there for this text but that’s what jumps out at me.

    • Mary Kassian says:

      I believe “she” primarily refers to the church – but also to Eve/women. The amazing thing about prophecy, types, and other Scripture is that layers of meaning are often contained therein. I think this is a case of both-and rather than either-or. Thanks for your comment!

  12. Danielle says:

    Very good. . . I so appreciate your thinking and studying on this. I was reading 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 today and it did mention some of the elements of typology that you were talking about (v.7 man is the image and glory of God, and woman is the glory of man.). This passage to me seemed difficult to understand as well. . . want to tackle this one next? :)

  13. Carmen Yan says:

    You have put out a really interesting thesis, Mary! Thanks for sharing it here. God’s word is so incredibly rich. I actually just finished my first-ever dip into a hermeneutics course and my brain still contains echoes of Dr.Poythress’ teaching on types and anti-types (btw, he has a great book on this if you haven’t heard, “A God-centered Approach to Biblical Interpretation”). They are everywhere, to be sure! A question that just immediately jumps to my mind, though, is — Why didn’t Paul make this typological link more explicit, if that is what he really meant? As a previous commentor pointed out, all the other times Paul references Adam as a type, he makes it clear within the context of his sentence that he speaks of Adam as a type. But it does not seem at all clear in 1 Tim.2:13-15. If indeed Paul has types in mind, why did he choose not to make the reference clearer?

    This is just an off-the-top-of-my-mind observation. Maybe I am missing something obvious! In any case, I totally agree that “we can be absolutely certain that there is indeed truth and freedom here if we are willing to go looking for it.” :)

    May God bless your efforts to continue digging into Truth! Thank you for your service to the body of Christ.

    • Mary Kassian says:

      Good question. My thought is that since he was writing to his protege, Timothy, he assumed a level of knowlege/theological understanding that he would not have assumed had the letter been penned to the members of a congregation in general.

      • Andrew Wencl says:

        Perhaps, but the letter was most certainly intended to be read in public. He ends the letter with “Grace be with you,” you being plural.

        • Anonymous says:

          I know this reply almost 11 months later, but I can’t help myself. :)

          Andrew, the “you” in 2 Timothy 4:22 is plural; but the “thee” 1 Timothy 6:21 is singular.

          Mary, great article!

          God bless!

  14. I certainly appreciate this way of viewing the text in this circumstance. That is not to say I’m totally sold on it.

    It seems like in an effort to solve the issues we have with the text, you are grasping for any and all literary functional stances–which I take to be a wise move. However, typological/metaphorical/parabolic readings of Scripture need to be tended and cultivated with much care, so as not to make the mistake of dismissing ontological claims that might also be in such-and-such a text that we prefer to take typologically (I’m certainly not accusing you of haphazardly applying typological claims to the text, just offering a warning.)

    Instead of offering an argument against your thesis, I just want to express a concern: It seems like this application of typology in these specific circumstances of male/female Adam/Eve relationships can very easily, if not immediately, lead us to reject an historical Adam. I’ve only just caught wind of this blog and so don’t know a terribly large amount about the author’s thoughts on this subject. But, if I may just assume that the author does at least value the idea of an historical Adam, I would just warn against too hastily applying principles of typology and metaphor, even though they produce so beautiful a story when applied correctly.

    Once again, I’m not knocking the idea, only warning against jumping into any text with typological guns blazing to perhaps miss the ontological claims also present–which is something I’ve been guilty of in the past.

    Thanks for the great read.

    • Mary Kassian says:

      Paul’s use of these same images (man, woman, Christ, Church) typologically elsewhere (Eph 5) justify the thought that he might be thinking typologically here. With regards to your concerns, I believe in a historical Adam. I also believe that typology does not negate ontology, but can work alongside it in multiple layers of meaning.

  15. Richard Morley says:

    Does the context of the passage really support a type of Christ and the bride of Christ? If so, then verse 12 would become nonsense.

    Might I suggest that as stated, the woman was deceived and brought sin into the world. But woman also brought the Savior into the world, something no man could ever do. And it is by faith in the one Mary birthed as Savior through which both equally men and women are saved.

    • Mary Kassian says:

      As I said in the post, I believe this interpretation supports and explains verse 12 beautifully. It is because male and female typologically display the story of the gospel that man and woman are to follow Paul’s directives in the context of the assembly of believers. Our behavior in the assembly reflects the fact that it is Christ who leads/directs the Church, and not the other way around. I do agree with your observation that woman bringing the Savior into the world is something a man could never do. This interpretation does not detract from that. It simply adds another layer of meaning that clarifies Pauls directives in verse 12.

  16. Mary Kassian says:

    The biggest argument for a typological approach, in my mind, is that it harmonizes the import of this verse with the rest of Scripture — while an interpretation that fails to take typology into account is hard pressed to do so.

    • MikeB says:

      Thanks for sharing your views on this difficult passage. It is interesting and having written a paper on this recently not one I have come across before. However I think I have to agree with others that the typology does not seem to fit the overall context of the letter – setting the church in order – or the immediate context – the role of men and women in the church.

      A non-typology view can certainly be harmonized with Scripture. While not popular a sound case for the interpretation that women should not exercise ecclesiastical authority over men can be made. Also saved can have an eschatological meaning and not just the moment of conversion. Certainly Timothy does not have to preach the Word so that he can be saved. See 1 Tim 4:15-16 and comments in Challies posting for more details.

      Thanks for sharing your views.

  17. e-Mom says:

    When I read this text onotologically (1 Tim 2:11-15) I get a very clear message. In this passage, Paul is making the distinction between spiritual “fruit-bearing” in the church versus spiritual “fruitbearing” in the home.

    Paul says women are not to teach or exercise authority over grown men in public. That job is for reserved for male leadership. However, Paul is reminding women that their most compelling opportunity for discipleship/leadership is not publically at church, but privately at home. (Presumably, some of their disciples would be men-in-training, ie. BOYS.)

    We tend to forget that in biblical times–before birth control–virtually every married woman was a mother. I think some confusion over the meaning of this passage is due to the fact that today, most modern western women have the choice not to marry, not to concieve children, and even to abort. We forget that originally, every woman’s job was homemaking; it was full-time and all-consuming. In this passage, Paul appears to be addressing his readers with that assumption in mind.

    Biblical typology is rich and plays a very important role in Scripture. However, I don’t think it’s the best way to interpret this passage.

    Sorry to disagree!

    • Mary Kassian says:

      This explanation doesn’t take into account women who are called to be single and women who are infertile.

      • erica says:

        Yes, it is true. but i think that it is simply refering to the fact that women are not to rule over grown men, but thy work best with children. Although single and infertile women do not have their own children, they still most likely have the special “motherly” way of careing. They could help the children who maybe don’t have a mother, or have one who is not a christain.
        as a side note i am not saying that your interpritaion is wrong but that God wants all christains to understand his word. This does not mean that there is no deeper meaning, but that God’s word is usually simple because he wants us to read it.

        • Mary Kassian says:

          He wants us to read it. And His Holy Spirit gives each and every believer assistance in understanding. I definitely agree with that!!

          • Adelowo says:

            I am not against this interpretation. In fact, it makes a logical sense that I have to write NEW translation of this passage somewhere. But, (I do love to ask this when it comes to the thing of GOD) are u led by by the Holy Spirit?

  18. Anonymous says:

    I really like the way the typological framework you’ve suggested draws a connection to Christ and the church.

    My question is: how does one know when to apply the typological framework to the text and which portions of it?

    • Mary Kassian says:

      We know we can apply it when Scripture makes such a connection – in the text, in the context, or in a pattern that is consistently established.

  19. Kevin says:


    Thank you for all of your efforts.

    Here, I cannot affirm your pursuit to typify this passage. Nothing in the passage itself hints at this interpretation. Nothing. To depart from its most natural, literal context should be the default. Man means man, woman means woman, Adam means Adam, unless there is something in the text to give indication otherwise.

    The beginning of the context is not “Adam,” but “men.” (v. 8) This pluralism does not mesh with singular Adam. “Men” is a word that relates to adult males, not a type, but a gender. It also commands the men to pray in accordance with specific guidance that would not make sense if seen in some way as a type of Christ.

    In the next two verses (9-10), the context addresses “women,” not “Eve.” Again, it is a plural term of gender, not type. These verses address specific behaviors for women in the church AS women in areas that relate to women (clothing, hair), not the church as the church (if words mean anything).

    Verses 8 and 9/10 compare the two genders and their roles. These contrasts provides the bases for the gender-directing comments that follow regarding teaching (still using “men” and “women).

    Adam was created first. That needs no deeper meaning, and makes sense in the OT context of “firstborn,” etc. Order means something in God’s eyes.

    The prohibitions of vv. 11-12 build off of the existing context, still discussing gender roles and responsibilities. Verses 11-12 are not outside the bounds of Genesis 1-3 in the God-assigned, God-designed gender roles.

    Verses 13-14 simply give reasons, beginning with “For…” as to why this is true: (1) Adam was created first [on purpose, as the leader of the “family,” as seen in God giving the prohibition to Adam regarding the tree before Eve was created], and (2) Adam was not deceived (which was true also – it needs no metaphor).

    Launching into types just makes a disconnect of this passage, and turns it into metaphor that is unnecessary and unsupportable. Verse 15, as hard as it is to interpret, needs to be taken in light of the context of the immediate passage first. If it warrants typology from that context, then so be it. It just seems to me to require nothing but forced interpretation to make what you say work, and it breaks other things in the process.

    With the utmost respect.

    • Mary Kassian says:

      Thank you so much for your comment. I appreciate your careful approach to Scripture. I agree that as a rule, typology must be evident in a text for us to view something typologically.
      You are correct that Paul does not explicity mention the typology here. But he does elsewhere. It is definitely part of his theological framework regarding male/female. And if viewing the verse from Paul’s elsewhere-established typological viewpoint harmonizes it with Scripture, while failing to do creates an apparent disconnect with the whole counsel of God, I think we must at least concede the possiblity that Paul may have been thinking typologically here.

      I am not insisting that this is the case. I am just pointing out that typology resolves the difficulties with the passage. Yes, one might argue that typology is not clearly indicated here. And that fact is indeed problematic. But the other explanations for 1 Timothy 2:15 that have been proposed are equally, if not more problematic.

      We will likely never resolve all the interpretive challenges with this verse. I may be wrong in this approach, and I would be the first to concede that. But I stand with you in loving and valuing the Word of God and in believing that its directives are not only right, but also good and beautiful for women.

    • Mary Kassian says:

      One more thing, Kevin. You say that nothing in this passage hints at typology. I’m not sure that’s entirely true. I think that as soon as Paul turns to creation to support his argument, he is thinking/arguing typologically. He is certainly arguing that Adam typifies man and Eve typifies woman. So typology is indeed present. The question is whether he also had the typology of Christ/Church in mind.. this is what he does not directly address.

  20. Andrew Wencl says:


    I agree with Kevin here. Perhaps we’ll have to part ways on this issue, though I want to affirm that I see you as a sister in Christ, and I hope you can say the same about me. I maintain my stance that your interpretation here is incorrect, but I don’t believe this passage is a major issue. My concern is that the logic doesn’t add up and could lead to a faulty interpretation of other, more important, passages.

    I admit I could be totally misunderstanding your logic on this issue. Have you explained it elsewhere or does someone else have a similar view?

    • Mary Kassian says:

      Thanks Andrew. I think we are all landing in the same place with regards to the veracity of Paul’s instructions. I take no offense at all when brothers wrestle alongside to come to an understanding of Scripture. I welcome it! I think I could make a compelling argument for the overarching nature of Paul’s argumentation with regards to Adam/Eve Man/Woman being typological with regards to Christ/Church. Whether that argument would be strong enough to warrant a typological approach in this verse would undoubtedly remain a question for debate. It is indeed a difficult passage. If you are interested, I would suggest that you read Girls Gone Wise to see how the imagery of manhood and womanhood seems to be woven throughout Scripture’s directives on gender roles. At some point, I may write an academic paper setting forth detailed reasoning for the points I make in this particular post. But again, I am simply throwing a thought on the table to further the discussion and bring increased clarity on the matter. I see this interpretation as a possible one among many. Because of the difficulty of this verse, I would never insist that it is the only, or even the best interpretation. I could be absolutely wrong. I concede that. My point here is that the verse is easily harmonized with typology. Whether Paul was indeed thinking typologically in verse 15 is a question that we could never answer affirmatively with absolute certainty. On the other hand, because typology does harmonize the verse so well, and is in line with Paul’s thinking elsewhere, I think we may be advised to take into consideration the possiblity that he was.


      • Kevin says:


        I think Andrew and I would say that typology does NOT harmonize the verse well, because of the obvious, clear context of the passage. ;>D It has to ignore the context to make any effort at this interpretation.

        Press on with the challenge of interpretation.


        • Mary Kassian says:

          Thanks for engaging in this discussion, Kevin. I want to make sure I clearly understand you. Are you saying that the context of 1 Timothy 2 indicates that the role of men and women in the church has everything to do with the relationship between Adam and Eve and nothing to do with the relationship between Christ and the Church? … and that Paul did NOT have Christ and the Church in mind when he gave instructions regarding the role relationship between male and female?

      • E says:

        And could I suggest to leave this “interpretations of biblical texts” to God’s people called to do that? I.E. MEN with the spiritual gift of teaching, knowledge, discernment, wisdom etc?
        On what biblical basis do you feel, Mary, that you are called by God to give your own interpretations on biblical texts, since you are not a scholar or a theologian, and most likely don’t know any Hebrew and Greek, haven’t study the “text criticism” and consequently are unable to make sound exegesis of the texts?

        Sorry to be so direct, hope you’ll reconsider.

  21. I’m loving the concept.
    I’d need to be convinced that Paul is actually thinking about types and anti-types here. The one thing that I really like is the way that it explains how the woman will be saved through childbearing. I wouldn’t put it to the church bearing fruit in Christ but rather Christ Himself. It was her offspring that saved her.

    Application wise though, I want to say the way we figure out gender roles is, “Would the church ever do this for Jesus?” – is that a valid means of figuring out application? It would need to move from the abstract to specific examples to thrash it out but it certainly is something I’m going to be thinking about.

    Thank you very much!

  22. Mark says:

    I believe there is much truth to what is fueling your typological interpretation. Indeed, everything you said about Christ, the Church, being deceived, and bearing fruit is all true. It is also very true Paul had typology in mind when thinking about Adam and Eve.

    Still, I can’t say that this typological view is even needed for this passage. While your view may helps us think through God’s plan of redemption, it does not necessarily help us understand the text itself.

    The answer is not in typology but in parentheses. Just put verse 13 and 14 in parentheses and then… voila! Paul is simply trying to say that a woman’s call to remain quiet/submissive is rooted in creation (as we all seem to agree). He communicates this by adding in verse 13 and 14 as a side note reminder. He then continues and finishes his main point in verse 15. So without the parentheses included, Paul is saying “…she is to remain quiet, but she will be saved through childbearing.” This interpretation I am arguing for harmonizes that fact that he is talking about Christian men and women in verse 12 and 15. After all, this passage is about men and women roles, not about (despite being relate to) typology and God’s overall plan of redemption.

    There may be a temptation to add verse 15 into the parentheses but we may be cutting off Paul from finishing his thought about women being submissive. I say it’s tempting because the words “transgressor” and “saved” are so close to each other.

  23. John Thomson says:

    I’ve not yet read the discussion above so my comment is in reference to the post alone.

    I agree typological allusions can be seen yet I am not at all sure they are foremost in Paul’s mind here. Actually I think he is simply making the most obvious interpretation – she will be physically preserved in childbirth if she is godly in character.

    I appreciate this seems to fly in the face of reality. Many godly women have died bearing children. Yet does this not fall into a similar category as James – the prayer of faith will save the sick? Is it not an encouragement to see godly living as bringing the blessing of God in other realms of life.

    Specifically is it not the promise of gospel grace reversing the judgement of the fall? Eve’s judgement was pain in childbirth. Childbearing, creationally her greatest delight and blessing, was now mingled with judgement bringing pain and threat. The gospel reverses this judgement promising mercy and succour.

    Typologically we may add that Eve was literally saved through childbearing – the seed of the woman was her salvation.

  24. Fred says:

    Mary, I, too, have a background in theological studies and typology, and I think this is a plausible approach to this very difficult verse – it’s certainly not out of the question that Paul could have had typology in mind. His view with regards to the typology of male/female had been well established prior to the time he penned this letter – “a priori”
    I’ll have to think about it some more. But I disagree with the other posters here that this interpretation is untenable. Here, you are merely ascribing typology to a type that has already been well established. So… your argument is definitely reasonable.

  25. erica says:

    i hope that everyone remebers that God wants us to understand his word.
    After reading all of 1Tim. chapter 2. and scaning the rest of the book. i must say that it is only refering to the order of the genders in the church. The main theme in 1 timothy seems to be the way that the church is to be set up, especially in light of the fact that right after it finishs talking about women, paul adresses the office of the bishop or pastor. i must cunclued that when it says “saved in childbearing” it is either refering to the fact that womens’ main job is to raise children or to the fact that it is by womens seed that the world was saved. i think it is the first.

    God bless in our quest for understanding.

  26. Joe says:

    I encourage you to do an academic paper on this. It’s a fascinating idea, and I don’t think a blog post does it justice.

  27. Gladys says:

    WOW! An epiphany here too! This takes the verse from sounding abrasive to sounding beautiful.

  28. Amy says:

    I appreciate so much this discussion and I imagine I’ll be chewing on it for a while. This verse has always bothered me but not because of what it may mean about the relationship between men and women. My husband and I chose to adopt rather than having biological children because we were convicted by James 1:27. We don’t believe that everyone must make the same choice, but we felt led to this. If we take this verse at face value, where does that leave me? I’ve actually had other women tell me that I’m eschewing my duty as a Christian woman by permanently avoiding pregnancy and childbirth. I can’t believe that God would see it this way, and I pray that they’re wrong.

  29. April says:

    When I was younger, I would have seen this verse differently. But now I am 38 and have 7 children. And I can honestly see the wisdom in this verse. All scripture is consistent with itself, and so we can see that women are not saved from hell or from death by childbearing. We must take the verse literally, because the context is literal. So what are we saved from, then, by bearing children? We are saved from self. We are saved from our flesh. We are saved from selfishness and the maximizing of our priorities. By bearing and raising children, we are forced to pour out ourselves (as is typified in the descriptions of godly women in 1 Timothy 5:9-10) in ministry to our children. How does this apply to single and infertile women? They must also pour out their lives in ministry, but they will have a more difficult time in making themselves sacrifice. Simply having a home of children forces us to grow closer to the Lord. Children are often the tool the Lord uses to sanctify us :-).

    The interpretation offered in the above post is very comforting to many women today, much more palatable, because it does not call for following the roles God has for us as mentioned in Titus 2, 1 Timothy 9, etc. But it simply defies common sense that God would speak in riddles. He means what He says. We are saved through child-bearing.

    • Mary Kassian says:

      I think an understanding of how our womanhood contributes to displaying the story of the Gospel strengthens, rather than lessens woman’s desire to live by God’s design.

      • April says:

        Possibly, if you could view it symbolically and literally simultaneously. But to view the verse as a type removes its practical instruction and imperative nature. Simply put, it lets women off the hook. Just by reading through the comments above, you can see how relieved many women are to hear that they don’t have to consider this verse literally. Our roles can be considered a burden, until we begin to understand how freeing they are.

        • Mary Kassian says:

          I don’t think it removes the practical instruction in any way at all. The directive in verses 11-12 stands as is. All that changes is how we view Paul’s reason for it. If we use an ontological approach, Paul is saying that women should not exercise ecclesiastical authority in the church because they are gullible (deceivable, like Eve). If we use a typological approach, he is saying that it is inappropriate for women to exercise ecclesiastical authority in the church because our roles display the fact that Christ leads/directs the Church – and not the other way around. It seems to me that a typological approach strengthens, rather than weakens, the impetus to display God’s design through our roles.

  30. Rachel Goode says:

    Wow wow wow. Loved this post. This is my first time to read your blog, but I am definately going to start following it. And I’m going to get your book. Although I have been a Christian for years, I am only recently falling in love with theology, doctrine, and deep study of Scripture. This post encourages me to continue. In fact, it makes me want to take courses! Thank you!

  31. Marg says:

    I can’t see that the context of 1 Timothy has been taken into consideration with this typology hypothesis. 

    Paul’s main concern, when writing his letter to Timothy, was the male and female false teachers in the Ephesian Church.

    Paul’s begins and ends his letter stating his concern about the false teachers with their myths, “profane, foolish-talk” and “falsely-called knowledge” (1 Tim 1:3-6; 6:20-21); and he continued to refer to the false teaching several times throughout the letter (e.g. 1 Tim 4:7). 

    Also the Greek word “authentein” (used only in 1 Tim 2:12 in the NT) is a harsh and selfish kind of authority.  The word is very similar to “authades” which means arrogant and self-willed.  Paul used the word “authades” in reference to overseers in Titus 1:7. Christian leaders and teachers must not be self-willed or arrogant.

    Paul was prohibiting arrogant and ignorant false teaching given by a woman (or women) in his instruction to Timothy.  He was not prohibiting sound teaching from a humble, knowledgeable teacher. 

    I also have a hypothesis on Paul’s meaning in 1 Timothy 2:12 on my website if anyone is interested. Search for “1 Timothy 2:12 in Context” (esp. Part 3). 

    • Mary Kassian says:

      Authentein refers to authority in a general way, not to harsh and selfish authority. That is a construct of egalitarianism. If you are interested in the meaning of authentein, I would suggest you read “A Semantic Study of Authentes and its Derivatives” JBMW 11/1 … It’s available online:

      • Marg says:

        Thank you so much for this link! 

        I have been spending this afternoon looking at some of the Greek texts mentioned in this study.  In particular I have been looking at the texts by the Early Church Fathers, as well as the two occurrences of “authentēs” in the Septuagint. 

        I am very interested in the connection of “authentēs” with early Gnosticism, which Professor Wolters mentions at footnote 88.  This ties in nicely with my hypothesis.

        Still learning . . .

  32. TL says:

    Not finished reading but this statement caught my eye.

    “He taught, for instance, that Adam was type of Christ, and that marriage was type of the relationship between Christ and the Church.”

    I wonder if you could post the Scriptural references that say these things so that I can see where you are coming from.

    • Mary Kassian says:

      1 Corinthians 11:1 ff (wife/woman to husband/man relationship is type of relationship b/w Christ/Father God)
      Ephesians 5:23 ff (husband/wife type of Christ/Church)
      Romans 5:14-21 (Adam/Christ typology)
      Also this is consistent throughout other OT passages with imagery woman/church (people of God)

      I will be covering all this in the True Woman 101 Bible Study which will be published early in 2012.

  33. TL says:

    “He’s trying to point out that male female roles in the church exist to bear typological witness to the gospel.”

    How exactly do gender roles of male leadership and female followership show anyone anything at all about Jesus Christ as Savior to the world, suffering death so that we might have life, giving us the Holy Spirit to empower us to be like Him, etc. Forgive me, but I just don’t see it. Can you give some examples.

    • Mary Kassian says:

      Paul’s line of argument here is that male and female display realities about Christ’s relationship to the Church. In the relationship between Christ and the Church, it is Christ who provides leadership and direction, and not the other way around.
      The relationship between Christ and the Church is the beautiful love relationship to which marriage and male/female roles point. If we are following Jesus – and minding the Lord’s directives about who we are as male and female, then our lives will reflect the beauty of that.

  34. Mary Kassian says:

    Here’s what William Mounce (New Testament Greek Scholar – Author of Word Biblical Commentary/Epistles) says: ” Throughout the paragraph Paul has been shifting back and forth between the Ephesian women and Eve in the Garden, between the plural and the singular, and between present, past, and future tenses… Because the analogy between Eve and the Ephesian women is complex, the grammar of the argument becomes complex: but Paul is saying that there is an analogy or typological connection between Eve and the Ephesian women.

    Hence, typology is already contained in Paul’s argument. Therefore it makes perfect sense that Paul would also have the typology of the church in mind here, since the woman/Church type had been so clearly established by this point.

    I believe I can make a very strong argument for the typological approach. I agree with an earlier commenter that an academic paper would be required to present all the supporting theological evidence, and that a blog post is woefully inadequate in this regard.

  35. Just scanned through the comments above. Nice work, Mary!

    Not only is Paul’s theology operating along typological lines…so is his entire reading of Scripture (from Old to New…from shadow-ectype to substance-archetype).

    To miss this is to read all of Scripture through a veil, “typically” a biblicistic one. (:

    Nice work!

  36. Angie says:

    All OT types are explicitly identified i.e. Adam>Christ; rock>Christ; Passover lamb>Christ; tabernacle>Christ; the veil>Christ, etc. Christ is always the one thing to which something in the OT foreshadowed. I am not aware of anywhere in scripture where an author identifies Eve as a type or a foreshadowing of the church. Could you please provide the text that states this explicitly as all other instances of OT types pointing to Christ are done?

  37. juelyn says:

    Hi Mary,

    I thought you did a great job on explaining the text! Thanks for teaching on “typology” and “ontology”.. that really helps me to grasp what the Scripture is saying. I’ve been redefining my faith with these type of ways in learning the Scriptures, and I’ve become more interested in God’s precious Word. Thanks again! May you continue to glorify Christ in this ministry. You’re right without a doubt – it’s ultimately not about man or woman, it’s not about us, but about displaying Christ’s glory!!

    Greetings from Malaysia,
    Jue Lyn.

  38. David says:

    Here’s what William Mounce (New Testament Greek Scholar – Author of Word Biblical Commentary/Epistles) says: ” Throughout the paragraph Paul has been shifting back and forth between the Ephesian women and Eve in the Garden, between the plural and the singular, and between present, past, and future tenses… Because the analogy between Eve and the Ephesian women is complex, the grammar of the argument becomes complex: but Paul is saying that there is an analogy or typological connection between Eve and the Ephesian women.
    According to the above the analogy is between Eve and the Ephesian (all) women. To take it from there and go to an anology of the Church is further than the text allows. I feel we have to stop where the scripture’s stop, and it surely seems to stop at the analogy between Eve and all women.
    I checked most of the reformed commentaries I can find and even listened to John MacAurther’s on line teaching on this passage, (I feel he has done an excellent job of taking the difficulty of the passage and making it easy to understand) my pastor and I discussed this and considered the greek and I feel what you propose is an interesting concept of the passage, and doesn’t fall into an essential doctrine which makes it easier to consider alternative views, however in keeping as close to what the writter intended, I don’t feel the analogy of the church is in mind here. That said you have sparked my interest in continueing to look this passage up wherever I can find a comment on it and even digging deeper into the greek, as I find oppourtunity. Thanks God Bless

    • Mary Kassian says:

      Bernard Ramm, in the classic “Protestant Biblical Interpretation” points out that types can be of two sorts: innate and inferred. “An innate type is a type specifically declared to be such in the the New Testament. An inferred type is one that, not specifically designated in the New Testament is justified for its existence by the nature of the New Testament materials on typology.”

      As I said before, I believe a strong case can be made for this interpretation based on the latter argument. And, given Paul’s typological thinking with regards to gender – which has been clearly established in earlier letters, I think it’s entirely reasonable to assume that his typology here extends to the church.
      I’m glad this has stimulated your thinking.

      • Andrew Wencl says:


        I think the problem in equating Eve with the Church is that she is clearly connected to the Ephesian women, not the men. If anything, Paul is trying to keep men and women distinct in this passage, and by equating Eve with the Church that distinction is lost.

        While the concept of equating Eve with the Church elsewhere may prove an interesting research project, I think that was not Paul’s intention here.

        • Mary Kassian says:

          In the verse in question, verse 15, Paul is providing the reasons for his directive in 11-13. He is not so much giving the “what” here, as the “why.” And the why is that male-female display the relationship between Christ and the Church.

  39. Charis says:

    I find your application of Eve as church typology to 1 Tim 2:15 intriguing but I disagree with your use of this to restrict women’s roles in the church. Do you realize that your restriction on women based on their ontology matching the female Eve rather than the male Adam/Christ sounds very like how the Catholics support the practice of male only priesthood?

    Please take a hard look at Gal 4:19 where Paul speaks of himself as a woman in labor, pregnant with spiritual offspring. Could this Child Birth metaphor of spiritual formation also be what Paul has in mind in 1 Tim 2:15?. Note that in Gal 4:19, Paul speaks of himself as the one in the travail, so these “pangs of childbirth” are not limited to flesh and blood women only. Paul’s use of Child Birth echos Jesus use of the metaphor (“proverb”)- see Jesus’ words to His (male) disciples in John 16:16-25

    A Reading of 1 Timothy 2:13-15 through the grid of Paul’s metaphors.

    For Adam (Jesus) was formed first, then Eve (the church/you and I whether male or female).
    And Adam (Jesus) was not deceived, but Eve (you and I whether male or female) having been deceived, into transgression came,
    and she (you and I whether male or female) will be saved through the child-bearing (the formation of Christ within) if they remain in faith, and love, and sanctification, with sobriety. (Read “they” as the union with the second Adam, so if Eve/church/you and I remain united with CHRIST “in faith, and love…”, she/Eve/church/you and I will be SAVED)

  40. dreamer says:

    Mary – i got a headache reading all of this. I just wanted to point out that God does not make mistakes. He made each one of us the way he did for purpose. So the single, infertile, childless women are no mistake. Are some of these guys saying that those of us that fall into that category are unsavable? I can’t see it. Does that also mean that the single, infertile, childless men are also unsavable?
    whew….. You are a peach Mary – Thank you for all that you do.

  41. Nichole says:

    I have a word of caution/clarification about the possible larger ramifications of this kind of thought, specifically for the 1st Timothy passage. Verses 11-15 are controversial, I’ll definitely give you that. Verse 15 specifically seems completely confusing and mind-boggling as to what could possibly be meant/inferred by a statement that “women will be preserved through the bearing of children”. And I absolutely agree that your idea of using typology to make the passage be about the church and spiritual fruits removes the controversial nature and gives us all something that we can agree on.

    However, this passage is not found in the context of teaching on the church. It is found in a section of Scripture when Paul is addressing women specifically. 1st Timothy 2:9-10 talks about how women are to dress modestly and you used this passage in a blog entitled “What Not to Wear” on May 17th to talk about…how women should dress modestly. Why are verses 9-10 allowed to speak on women while verses 11-15 not?

    Paul gives no indication in these verses that he has started out speaking directly to women and then proposes to switch over to the church as a whole. Moving away from these verses to the larger context of 1st Timothy as a whole, we can see it as a very practical book. Paul is instructing Timothy on how to handle the Ephesian church. He is providing practical instruction on how a church is to act and present itself.

    I am not debating the presence of types in the Bible. Paul mentions that Adam is a type of Christ and that marriage is also a type. We can see many other parallels throughout Scripture in addition to these (David, Joseph, Noah and the Ark, etc.)However I am debating that we should reinterpret the meaning of this passage based on those types. If we can use it here then why not in verses 9-10? Why not say that women’s modesty is not taught here but it is actually saying that the church should clothe herself with the fruits of the spirit rather than the fruits of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-23). That also sounds pretty great and it gets rid of that “controversial” (though much less controversial perhaps than verses 11-15!)command for women to be modest. We can look at verses 11-12 and say that they are simply instructing the church to submit to Jesus and His teachings.

    Or we can look at verses 9-15 and see that they are Paul instructing women. We can accept that what is written is controversial and difficult (especially verse 15) but we can seek to exegete the passage to determine the meaning based on what is written rather than by similarities that we can see in other areas of Scripture (type/antitypes).

  42. Amy says:

    I know that I am late to the “party” here, and that my thougth may not be taken, but I did want to share it. I confess that I have not read through all of the dialogue — but about 1/2, so forgive me if this is a repeat thought.

    I am reminded of a quote by Richard Wurmbrand (founder of Voice of the Martyrs) as I read through all of this: “God is TRUTH. The Bible is the Truth about the TRUTH. Theology is the truth about the Truth about the TRUTH. Sometimes we get so caught up in the truth that we miss the TRUTH.” (Note the emphasis on the capitalization — it’s kind of important:-))

    I love and enjoy a good doctrinal/theological conversation very much. And I relish times I that can share in these. Not many today have dedicated themselves to such endeavors as to understand these. So, reading through all of this was very satisfying to me. It is with that in mind, that I suggest a, perhaps, more “simplistic” idea regarding this passage. When I think of understanding difficult passages — especially ones related to gender roles — I always try to return to the character of God in the passage. His WORD reflects His character. So, as I read this (again), the first thing that stood out to me is the portion “women shall be saved through childbearing.” Someone may have already mentioned that in early church history, some assumed this to mean the virgin birth of Christ through Mary — we were saved through the act of bearing the Christ child. (I cannot recall the commentary at the moment, forgive me). Also, the term “saved” in the NT many, many times refers, not to the regeneration of our unconverted souls, but to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Any mom can tell you that having children will definitlely be used to sanctify you! So, in simple terms, the verse could mean that. It would also follow the previous verses regarding the behavior of women in church — which are consistant with all of Paul’s other teaching on women. The goal here, as in ALL of Scripture is to provide the BEST environment for men and women to be further transformed into the image of Christ. With regard to women speaking/teaching in church over men: most women I know are domineering in this area naturally and I don’t think that many of us would disagree that un-timely-tongued women cause a great deal of heartache in the church (I am a woman, and I am not suggesting that men have no responsibility). God’s way is for men to lead women. It’s just the way it is. And when we come to terms that it is that way, not because of His preference to men over women, but becuase of His desire to protect women and to advance the cause of Christ according to how we were designed, these types of Scriptures may become less and less of stumbling blocks.

    I would certainly consider myself “complimentarian” although I loathe the idea of assigning any type of “label” to my beliefs. Still, becuase there is so much confusion and dissension on this issue, I understand the need to place a “name” on the belief.

    This is going to send some reeling, but ultimately, I think a life lived lead by the Holy Spirit will nullify such issues. (Profound, right?) But, in saying that, I give this example: My husband and I attend a co-ed SS class. If I take literally and face value this passage, I am NEVER allowed to speak in that setting — or contribute to the discussion or share Biblical insight that God has given me. However, I do not at all believe that is the intention of the passage (going out on a limb here). I beleive, again, that God was putting forth the standard: Men lead. Women follow that lead. So, when I prayerfully and conscientioulsy consider my commentary in SS and ask the Holy Spirit to guide me so that I do not put any person — especially the male teachers and members — in a less than honorable light, then my wisley and aptly and timely spoken Word is simply the edification of the Church body with the leading of the Holy Spirit. (I recognize that some may use the “leading of the Holy Spirit” as a license to do what they like, but I think we all know that is not the point being made.)

    Just my 2 cents. I appreciate the chance to read and participate:)

  43. Hi Mary,
    I only just read this via a link Sarah Flashing posted via the CBMW website, and I tried to submit the following via the feedback link there, but it bounced back:

    This piece is the BOMB. (That’s a theological term, right?? 😉 )

    Seriously, sister, this was tremendously helpful. I think you are totally onto something with the ontology/typology connection.

    One possible clarification or question for further thought:

    Is the “childbearing”a reference to simple spiritual fruit bearing, or actual spiritual life-bearing? IOW, is not the church the means through which Jesus brings spiritual lives into being and causes them to grow? That would make Paul’s proviso even more clear and critical: churches who do not continue in faith, love and holiness will not be places where spiritual life can be borne. Churches where these characteristics are present will be places where new spiritual life is borne, and all spiritual life is nourished.

    This ties into womens’ physical capacities as life-bearers and nourishers, and even gives encouragement to women who aren’t called to physical life-bearing or nourishing (through singleness, widowhood, menopause, etc.) All women are called to the essential work of spiritual life-creation and nourishing. Teaching one another, and teaching children, all of God’s Word, is precisely this essential spiritual-life nourishing work. All physical life nourishing – making meals, creating welcoming home environments, ministering to the orphan and the widow – become other expressions of and means to spiritual life nourishing.

    There is an entire generation that has been lost because women have been taught to see the physical work of their role as an end in itself, utterly disconnected from its true end (bearing witness to the spiritual life to be found in Christ). We lost that connection because a generation of women has been fed nothing but flannel graph Sunday school lessons and endless lectures on salvation through obedience to Proverbs 31. We have been kept away from seminaries, and taught that the only degrees we need are in Home Ec or maybe Education. That’s why I’m praying so many pastors will see the need to financially support their women’s ministry leaders to attend TGC2012. We need a generation of women who are just as excited to learn and teach 1 Timothy 2 (including this verse!!), as they are Titus 2.

    Anyway, I’ll stop before I go into full on preaching mode, but thank you again. I’m with Grudem – you must write this up and present it anywhere you can get an audience!

  44. Martha Macomber says:

    This is interesting. The only flaw in the argument is that man cannot be at the same time a type of Christ and a type of the church. You said, “The Church will be saved through union with Christ (bearing spiritual fruit/children).” But how could we say of Christ that he (“they”) needs to “continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”

    And this still does not do away with the ontological aspect. I have seen this passage as “she will be saved in childbearing”, i.e., saved in that somewhat risky process of bearing children.

  45. Pat Smith says:

    I think there has been much contributed here.What I would like to contribute is that as a man lays down his life for the wife/ bride.So does the bride everytime she consents to bear a child and deliver a child.Now I am sure that is why many are willingly contracepting,putting off marriage etc.The church as a body does go through the pains of childbearing (persecution,martydom (blood shedding). Teaching/doctrine needs to be been seen through the males/female eye i.e the Church.I have been thinking alot on the subject of purification.(another subject).This verse has been laying on my mind..Thankyou for shedding some light on it.

  46. zeek says:

    Mary, good stuff here and certainly thought provoking. When I taught this in Sunday school a few weeks ago I said that we must interpret the unclear in light of the the clear. Scripture is clear that we are saved by grace alone, so we cannot conclude that a women is automatically saved if she gives birth. With that said, we then discussed the common interpretations. I want to ask you this, whose job is it ti bear spiritual children? Is it the church or the parents(the father) that does the bearing. Looking at places like Ephesians 6:4, Hebrews 12:9, it is clear that the father bears the primary responsibility in raising spiritual children, not the church. Does your premise, about the church bearing spiritual children, line up with scripture? Does your interpretation of the 1 Timothy 2:11-15 passage break down if your premise is false? Right now I am not sure exactly what the text means, but I am so excited that some people are not afraid of tough passages. Now, somehow, I have to teach on what biblical womanhood is, which is why I am here (on your site), so I really should stop getting side tracked and get studying . . . .

  47. Melissa H. says:

    I found this a good read…but it left me with a raised brow. I have never heard that “they” refers to Adam and Eve, but to the fruit that Eve bears–their children. I have always read this verse to refer to Eve being “saved” (one translation reads “preserved”) through childbearing to mean that she will have a heavenly reward for her works, which is promised to us as we will be judged and rewarded according to our works. I do not believe it means she will earn salvation by bearing children–but that her reward will be based on abiding as God commands her to, and in Titus 2 we can see that her husband, her children, her home, and her character are her priorities.

    Another thought actually came to me this morning as I was reading this very scripture–that if it truly means “preserved”, might that also mean that she will “make it through” the process of childbearing…which at many times seems to be a never-ending process? :)

  48. Don Smith says:

    What an enjoyable read, comments included. Thanks for showing clearly that a lady with solid biblical understanding relishes her God-given role rather than thinking it a burden. Many believe male ecclesiastical leadership is an unfair burden that must be thrown off or “brought into 21st Century.”. You remind my of my talented and very humble wife. May your tribe increase.

  49. Elizabeth R says:

    Interesting! I don’t find the typology interpretation as out of range: the many layered idea; but I do think think the context is more ontological as a whole.

    I think the immediate verses before this help the most- women will be saved from usurping men’s roles through childbearing. I realize there are single women and infertile women, but most women are married with children. Ie normative. We should consider that reproductive choices were limited then, and that motherhood was valued then, as well as large families. Thus I think the passage is teaching that as we women fully embrace what is uniquely female, bearing children, we will be saved from trying to embrace what is uniquely male, leadership.
    Thank you for loving God with all your mind! Your blog is waterin a weary land. :)

  50. Casie says:

    Thank you for this post. I read a lot of the initial comments/discussions as well. I appreciate this interpretation/explanation and have a few questions/comments.

    1 – What were the general local/social gender views of the people in this scripture time frame/geographical area?

    2- Didn’t Paul mention several women in his various writings that were very important in his ministry?

    3 – To me, the “traditional” interpretation of this scripture (that definitely paints a picture of women being the lesser/weaker gender) does not hold up when compared to the women of influence and authority throughout the OT or witb the fact that Jesus himself valued women throughout his ministry.

    Your theory actually helps me put this verse back into the “whole picture” of scripture.

    Thank you.