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Chapter One: Introduction to Interpretaion of 1 Timothy 2:15

The Need for the Study

The message of 1 Timothy 2:15 is notoriously enigmatic and has generated numerous interpretations. Found at the end of a passage which has been surrounded by increasing scholarly debate and examination, this verse closes Paul's thoughts on women in a manner most unusual to the modern-day reader and in apparent contradiction to his own teachings on salvation. A wooden translation reads, "But she shall be saved through childbirth, if they remain in faith and hope and love, with self-control" (swqhvsetai deV diaV th'" teknogoniva", ejaVn meivnwsin ejn pivstei kaiV ajgavph/ kaiV aJgiasmw/' metaV swfrosuvnh"). A cursory reading reveals some of the issues surrounding this verse and many questions arise at first glance. Does this statement contradict the repeated teaching of the New Testament, including Paul's writings, on salvation through faith alone? Put more bluntly, must a woman experience labor to attain salvation? This apparent theological contradiction is the major cause of attention and concern surrounding the interpretation of 1 Tim 2:15. Second, there is some confusion over the subjects of each verb in the sentence. The main verb is singular while the verb in the conditional clause is plural. Are the subjects of these verbs different and if so, or if not, to whom do they refer? A closer study of the verse yields more questions on the lexical, syntactical, and contextual levels. What is the sense of the main verb swqhvsetai and what is the significance of the future tense? Does it refer to physical deliverance or spiritual salvation? What relationship is implied by the preposition? The precise understanding of teknogoniva", a hapax legomenon, is also difficult to identify. Finally, what is the significance and relationship of the conditional clause and how does the entire structure relate to the immediate context of 1 Tim 2:8-12? Adding to the confusion created by this verse are the numerous interpretations found in commentaries and other literature concerning 1 Tim 2:15. Which, if any, of these ideas are viable options for the reader, and can any claim to be the best interpretation?

The Purpose and Methodology of the Study

Certainly the scope of this paper does not allow for an exhaustive examination or definitive answer for each of the questions above, however the following sections do address these issues. The general aim of this study, then, is to discover the best possible interpretation of 1 Tim 2:15 in light of lexical, syntactical, and contextual analyses. The study begins with a review and critique of proposed interpretations to this verse. Several interpretations of 1 Tim 2:15 are described in chapter two and then critiques of each of these are enumerated in chapter three. Chapter four presents the results of a lexical and syntactical analysis of this verse, and in chapter five, important aspects of the literary and theological context are examined. The concluding section in chapter six presents and defends the most likely view or combination of views in light of the study of the previous chapters.

Related Topics: Grammar

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