It’s one of the weirdest verses in the entire Bible. The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy and reminds him to encourage women in Ephesus not to adorn their hair, or to wear expensive clothing, and then after saying he won’t permit a woman to teach drops this bomb:
“But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” [1 Tim. 2:15]
Before I go into what this verse actually means, I have to stop and point out that this verse does not mean that women who bear children will be saved. As if women who remain single or who are barren will not be. Believe it or not, I have heard some very smart Bible teachers use this verse to say exactly that. It’s totally false and completely ridiculous.
It also does not mean that men are saved by their faith in Christ and women are saved by bearing children. Again, I’ve heard that too.
And, this verse does NOT have anything at all to do with Eve and the prophecy about the birth of Christ and the snake biting your heel but your children crushing his head. Again, I’ve heard that one, too, and it’s totally bogus.
So, what does this verse mean?
Well, this is one of those verses that you simply cannot understand if you don’t pay attention to a few details. First, you need to notice that Paul is writing to Timothy who is in Ephesus. That’s the first clue.
The second clue is that the city of Ephesus was ground zero for Artemis worship. This detail is highly significant. We can see just how wonky Artemis worshippers in Ephesus were if we look at Acts 19:28 when the people get upset at Paul and the other Apostles for threatening the craftsmen who made a living thanks to the shrine of Artemis in that city and end up starting a giant mob, chanting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” for two hours. Yes. Two solid hours of chanting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” [See Acts 19:28-34] That’s pretty extreme.
Now, a little digging online will show you that Artemis worship was a female cultic religion. Women who worshipped Artemis did so by adorning their hair with ribbons and jewelry and dressing in expensive clothing. Hmm….kinda makes Paul’s statement to Timothy regarding this same detail a bit more relevant, no?
Then, you notice this about Artemis worship: Women who honored Artemis did so in order to seek protection for themselves and their unborn children through the childbirth process.
Aaahhhh…..get it now?
See, Paul was writing to Timothy, who was serving the church in Ephesus where many people – especially the women – came out of [or were otherwise influenced by] the female Artemis cult which dominated their city. [Note: The Temple of Artemis was once one of the Seven Wonders of the World]
Keep in mind that in ancient times childbirth was a bit more dangerous than it is today. Women and children sometimes both died in the birth process. At least one of them – the mother or the child – might not survive the experience in many cases. So, you can imagine that this brought a lot of anxiety to women at the time who got pregnant and were worried that they or their child might die during the birthing process.
So, Paul wants to assure the Christian women in Ephesus that they and their children will be saved through the childbearing process if they simply put their hope and trust in Christ – not Artemis. Therefore, they have no need to adorn their hair or wear elaborate clothing [to appease Artemis] for protection because Christ will be their protection.
For further information about this passage, and other difficult passages of scripture, you may appreciate my book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible” and an excellent book by Jon Zens called “What’s With Paul and Women?” which goes into even more detail about how many of Paul’s statements about women have been taken out of context or simply misunderstood completely over the years.
If you’d like to know about those specific verses where the Bible appears to forbid women to speak or teach in the Church, I’d love to share my 5 Minute Video Series on YouTube which examines each of them in detail.
Bottom line: There are some verses in the Bible that really don’t make any sense unless you take the time to dig a little deeper and look for the actual context. Plus, there are a few verses where some words were intentionally changed or left out to advance a Patriarchical or Anti-LGBTQ agenda.
Read carefully, my friends.
Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today, He and his wife are returning to El Paso, TX after 25 years, as part of their next adventure.