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 geeky 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.