Not Permitted to Teach? (3) The Child Bearing

1 Tim.2:11

11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

V15 The Childbearing

15 But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

Here we have one of those "because of the angels" kind of verses. There have been many suggestions as to what it means. Cleary it does not mean that women must have babbies to be saved! That interpretation isn't even worth refutting. Another possiblity is suggested by many that "bearing of children" should read "THE Childbearing" as a reference to the incornation of Christ. While that is possible, and has been my former position, I now reject it. It is linguistically possible, but not likely. The definate article equlas a designation of a quality so instead of "the child bearing" we should probably read "child bearing" or "bearing of children" as the NAS has it. An other reason is becuase Paul never mentions Mary, nor does incorporate her into his thoelogy. It seems unlikey that he would have as the only reference to her, this kryptic statment that only obliquely refurs to her. If he felt that she was influential enough to salvation to stand as some sort of Theotakus as in latter centuries, he would probably have mentioned it in a more direct way. Besides, it's just to ktrypic to deal with as an argument. There is a more practical solution.

Many urge that it means women will be kept safe through childbearing. Yet we know good Christian women have died the world over while giving birth. So this is probably not what he means. He probably does refur to actual soteriological salvation. He is of course, not saying that the act of giving birth is what brings a woman salvation, nor is he saying that women must give birth to merit salvation. The term "through" above, as in "brought through child bearing" is dia which does litterally mean "to bring through" as the children of Israel were broght through the red sea, or one brings a thread through the ey of a needle, or one goes through a painful experience, or women go through chld birth. The point is it is not saying she will be saved "by means of" childbirth. It is not saying that child birth is the means of her salvation, but rather that it is an ordeal through which her election to the Kingdom will reamin secure.

The Gnostics believed that childbrith was evil. Women who gave birth where bringing more spirit into the world to trap it in matter. They were doing the wrost thing, serving the evil demiurge the false god who created the world. Many Gnostics identified the God of the OT with the false god who mistook himself for the all powerful. The snake of the garden was the enlightener who came to help Eve remember her divine nature!

Dr.Fred LaymanWesley Center online

The Gnostics held a dualistic view that emphasized the perfections of the heavenly world while deprecating everything which belonged to this world. The world of matter is completely under the control of demonic forces and is beyond redemption.13 This cosmological dualism was paralleled with an anthropological dualism whereby man's spirit was exalted while his body was devalued.14 Man's spirit is actually a spark of the divine spirit which had become imprisoned in a material body. Baptism into Christ meant for these Gnostics that the spirit was set free from and enabled to transcend bodily existence. The spirit was no longer under the power of this world, the flesh, nor the demonic, but was fully possessed by the divine spirit.

For many Gnostic groups being born was a sin, and giving brith a bigger sin:

The Hypostasis of the Archons(The Reality of the Rulers)

Gonosticism Society
Nag Hammadi Library

Translated by Bentley Layton

And the carnal woman took from the tree and ate; and she gave to her husband as well as herself; and these beings that possessed only a soul, ate. And their imperfection became apparent in their lack of knowledge; and they recognized that they were naked of the spiritual element, and took fig leaves and bound them upon their loins. Then the chief ruler came; and he said, "Adam! Where are you?" - for he did not understand what had happened. And Adam said, "I heard your voice and was afraid because I was naked; and I hid." The ruler said, "Why did you hide, unless it is because you have eaten from the tree from which alone I commanded you not to eat? And you have eaten!" Adam said, "The woman that you gave me, she gave to me and I ate." And the arrogant ruler cursed the woman. The woman said, "It was the snake that led me astray and I ate." They turned to the snake and cursed its shadowy reflection, [...] powerless, not comprehending that it was a form they themselves had modeled. From that day, the snake came to be under the curse of the authorities; until the all-powerful man was to come, that curse fell upon the snake. They turned to their Adam and took him and expelled him from the garden along with his wife; for they have no blessing, since they too are beneath the curse. Moreover, they threw mankind into great distraction and into a life of toil, so that their mankind might be occupied by worldly affairs, and might not have the opportunity of being devoted to the holy spirit. Now afterwards, she bore Cain, their son; and Cain cultivated the land. Thereupon he knew his wife;...

William C. Robinson, Jr.,
in The Nag Hammadi Library

"According to Gnostic teachings "the soul is a female (the Greek word for soul, psyche, is feminine). Originally she is a virgin, androgynous in form, living in the presence of the heavenly Father. When she falls into a body, however, she is defiled; after abandoning her Father's house and her virginity, she falls into sexuality and prostitution, and is abused by the wanton adulterers of this carnal world. Desolate and repentant, she prays to her Father for restoration, and he hears her prayer. She is returned to her former condition, and restored to androgynous union with her brother. This union is achieved through spiritual marriage; the bridegroom comes down to the bridal chamber, and the soul and her bridegroom 'become a single life', inseparable from each other. Thus the ascent of the soul to the Father is accomplished, and the soul is again at home in heaven."


St Epiphanius speaks of his own (second century) experiences with a certain Gnostic sect. There were two kinds of Gnostics, the docetists, who believed that matter is evil and so one must keep a strict assceticism, and the libretines, who believed that since we trapped in evil matter, we might as well enjoy it. Both kinds were apparently present at Ephesus, since some of the errant teachings include dietary ristrictions, and others seem to include sexual imoorality. I suspect,however, that this dichotomy is simplilstic, and both ideas were mixed in with many groups. Be that as it may Ephiphanius attests to the abhorance of birth and other practices. But of course this is a latter developed Gnosticism. Still, it will serve to isstrate the general breadth of Gnostic belief:

Paul Harrison,

Gnosticism releasing the light within

Ph. D. in environmental science from Cambridge University.
freelance journalist

The Gospel of Eve is known only from one or two short quotations from the great heretic-hunter Epiphanius (310/20 - 402), bishop of Salamis. He tells us that it was used by certain Gnostic sects with lurid and bizarre beliefs and sexual practices. Epiphanius' testimony carries weight, because he admits that he himself fell in among them. He reports that they shared their women in common. They celebrated sexual orgies in which partners were swapped. Coitus interruptus was the normal practice. Semen was collected and offered to the Lord as the body of Christ, before being consumed. The Gnostics also consumed women's menstrual blood.The theology behind the lechery was anything but world-affirming. It varied from one sub-sect to another. In outline the material world was ruled by an evil "archon" or intermediate deity. The bodily flesh belonged to this archon, and would not be raised up.

Harrision footnotes:

Wilhelm Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha, James Clarke & Co-Westminster/John Knox Press, Cambridge and Louisville, 1990, and Philip Amidon, The Panarion of St Epiphanius, Oxford University Press, 1990.)

Some of Epiphanius' descriptions of the rites of this cult are so grosteque I cannot reproduce them here,but they invovled canibalizing the unborn. Such was their lack of respect for brith.

Thus it is not a great streach to supposse that this group at Ephesus taught something along the lines that a woman is expossed to great danger in childbirth.Of course everyone knew that in that day, but this would include spiritual danger and the intervention of supernatural forces. Paul is simpley saying a woman's salvation is intact through the experience of childbirth. He dos add "if they continue in faith and love with sanctity and self restraingt." Now Paul is not saying that women must earn God's protection through holy living. But what else is going to say? He's trying to quealch a movment toward immorality in the chruch, and immoral living does open us up to spirtual dangers. He's just saying that if women stay in a close walk with the Lord they will be protected from the spirutal dangers. He's speaking of the consequences of immoral living, not of meriting God's protection. Nor is he saying that women die in childbith as a judgement form God, he's rebuking and refutting the Gnostic claims to that effect.

When we take account of the cultural context at Ephesus, we can better understand the cutlurally bound nature of Paul's words. Moreover, it's not just the sitaution with their foes that give us deepr insight into Paul's meaning, but better understanding of the Pauline circle itself.

the charactoristics of the oppents as mapped out by Paul are very reminicient of Gnosticism.I listed a chart of them on page 1. From that chart, all the charactoristics are imporant and point to gnsoticism, although most are so veg as to be meaningless. A couple of them, however, are just too obvious not to spell out a gnostic beilef.

Structure of Letter Indicates Concerns.

We can see that the letter is mainly concerned with combatting this group of would-be "teachers" in Ephesus. This can be seen from an examination of the letter's structure.

1 Timothy 1: 1 - 20

"remain in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach other doctrine 4 or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies. These promote empty speculations rather than God's plan, which operates by faith.

Myths and endless genologies are a definate sign of Gnosticism. Here in the 3d verse he states as his main purpose for Timothy to stay in Ephesus and combat those who are teachng these things. We can see from this stament, and the concerns voiced in the rest of the letter that this ist he point of the letter.

1:5 Now the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. 6 Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion.

Clearly he states "the goal of our instruction," and that goal (love) he connects to correction of those who have deviated from the path. If one were to try and think of how many groups he minght mean, the next phrase removes all doubt:

1:7 They want to be teachers of the law, although they don't understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.

Right here he basically says the purpose of this letter is to combat those who would be teachers, but who don't know what they are talking about. The prhases which have already been listed, and again refurred to below remove all dobut as to what that group was about: "knowlege falsely so called" ie Gnosticism. in v7 he basically says "they don't understand what they are insisting on." In other words, they are so ignorant, they don't know what's involved in Rabbinical study. They are so ingorant they haven't a clue as to what they don't know.

vv1-17 is an interesting passge. Given the prclivity of Gnosticism to rationalize immorality:

1:8 Now we know that the law is good, provided one uses it legitimately. 9 We know that the law is not meant for a righteous person, but for the lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinful, for the unholy and irreverent, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral and homosexuals, for kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and for whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching 11 based on the glorious gospel of the blessed God that was entrusted to me.

12 I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry-- 13 one who was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"--and I am the worst of them. 16 But I received mercy because of this, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate the utmost patience as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

In other words, they want to teach the truth of Gospel, but they aren't walking in the grace of God, they aren't even ready for the law. The true teacher of teh Gospel is beyond the law and living by Grace, but these guys aren't up to the law yet.

page 4 (final)