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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Annie Cressman: Not "Saved by Childbearing"

While I want to address some issues brought up in the comment section of yesterday's post, I would like to look at another detail first. One of the first things I like to look at in a Bible is how 1 Tim. 2:15 has been translated. Here is this verse in Worldwide English.

    But anyway, the women will come safely through the time of delivering a child, if they keep on believing and loving God, and if they live a clean life and keep humble.
I feel this shows the women's touch. She is preoccupied with the comfort needed in a time and place where childbearing threatened women's lives as a matter of routine. She has good company in Darby and Moffat. I don't mean to argue the correct interpetation of this verse - I do not know it, but I simply want to demonstrate a feature of this Bible.

Some other interpretations of this verse surprise me, since I see them put against a significant amount of Paul's teaching in other passages. For example, here is a post which I was shocked to read last March. Will Women be "Saved by Childbearing?"

    My conclusion: In 1 Tim. 2:15, Paul says that women will be spiritually preserved (from Satan) by adhering to their God-ordained role related to family and the home. This is contrasted with Eve, who transgressed those boundaries and fell into temptation (v. 14).

    The way I construe the logic of 1 Tim. 2:12–15 is as follows. In v. 12, Paul sets boundaries for women in the church. In vv. 13–14, Paul gives two reasons for this: (1) creation order: the man was created first, then the woman (v. 13); (2) the scenario at the Fall: rather than God-man-woman-Satan, a complete reversal had taken place: Satan-woman-man-God. [BTW, Does this make sense to anyone?] In v. 15, Paul addresses the question, “How can women today avoid the mistake made by Eve?” The answer: By adhering to their God-given boundaries and tending to their God-given responsibilities.
Köstenberger (PDF) elaborates here,

    ...the underlying norm of this passage is of permanent validity: women’s central domain, as established by creation and confirmed negatively by the fall, is to be found in her involvement in the domestic and procreative sphere, in the natural household. p. 34
    We may therefore conclude that 1 Tim 2:15 may best be rendered in the following way: “She (i.e., the woman) escapes (or is preserved; gnomic future) [from Satan] by way of procreation (i.e., having a family).”83 Moreover, in line with 1 Tim 5:14, one should view procreation as merely the core of the woman’s responsibility that also entails, not merely the bearing, but also the raising of children, as well as managing the home (synecdoche; cf. also Titus 2:4–5).
    The sense of the injunction in the present passage is thus that women can expect to escape Satan under the condition of adhering to their God-ordained role centering around the natural household. page 39
That would keep women out of hospitals and Bible schools, business and politics. That might even have kept Florence Nightingale home from war.

But what does the Bible say to this? 1 Corinthians 7:32 - 36.

    I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.
    And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
Astonishingly Köstenberger does not even refer to this passage in his full length paper (PDF).

What does Jesus himself say? Luke 11:27-28

    As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!" But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"
Many years ago a women came to me with a serious question. She was the mother of 6 adult children, two of whom were single women. She asked me how it was that the women in my family who were not married demonstrated equal personal fulfillment to the ones who were married. My jaw dropped - this had never been an issue for us. Who were our models? Grace Irwin, Helen Roseveare, Catherine Booth and many others. What was this women thinking!

But now I see a teaching creeping into the church that would undermine women like Annie Cressman, a single woman Bible teacher, translator of God's word, writer of books like The Pastor. Didn't she know that if she could not marry that she would be preserved by remaining within domesticity? Had she not been taught her boundaries?

If women had been properly taught their 'boundaries' this would have depopulated history of women like Deborah, Huldah, Phoebe, Olympia, Paula, Hilda, Selina Hastings and every other woman on this page.

Don't people know that in God's economy to be married is nothing, to be single is nothing, to bear children or not to bear children, we derive our worth from our submission to God's will and calling.

Annie Cressman and other single women Bible translators - not saved by childbearing.


At Sun Jun 18, 08:26:00 AM, Blogger Glennsp said...

"Here is this verse in Worldwide English.

But anyway, the women will come safely through the time of delivering a child, if they keep on believing and loving God, and if they live a clean life and keep humble."

Surely this translation is nonsensical. It would appear to guarantee safe delivery as long as you met the conditions outlined.

At Sun Jun 18, 08:53:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Glenn said:

Surely this translation is nonsensical. It would appear to guarantee safe delivery as long as you met the conditions outlined.

You raise a good point, Glenn. I have often wondered about similar statements throughout the Bible that sound, to our modern ears, like they guarantee something, when I suspect they are stating a general principle. One that comes to mind at the moment is "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." That sounds like proper child-rearing will guarantee that children will turn out right as adults. But I think most of us know of sad cases where children were taught godly living but turned away from it as adults.

I'm not suggesting that the Worldwide Bible interpretation of 1 Tim. 2:15 is correct (although it has been supported by many competent Bible scholars). I'm just noting that an absolutist understanding of any Bible teaching may bring us great disappointment when there are exceptions to the teaching.

At Sun Jun 18, 10:06:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks Wayne, I see it this way too.

Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord. because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Cor. 15:58

I know some missionaries who have worked in Moslem countries who have never seen a convert. They have given themselves fully to the work of the Lord and they do not, at any rate, see, the fruit of their labour.

1 Corinthians 11:27 and following presents another such example. Do we really believe that when someone falls ill, it is a judgement from God. Think of missionaries acquiring malaria and other diseases as a result of their faithfulness.

I would defend the possibility of this reading of 1 Timothy 2:15, even though I cannot say that I have the 'mind of Paul' - I do not. But think of all the men who have lost their beloved wives and friends through childbirth. We live in such a different age now, we cannot imagine how this fear would dominate one's life.

When I was young, another story, forgive me. In Switzerland, I used to walk over to a cemetary and sit beside the grave of Hudson Taylor's second wife. (There is a great view of Lake Geneva from there.) She had not died in childbirth, but of cancer, but the enormous toll on life and health of the mission enterprise in the last century was devastating.

Somehow we have to factor into our hermeneutic the sorrow of real life.

Around the time that Taylor's first wife Maria died in childbirth, Taylor's closest friend and spiritual support was John McCarthy, my husband's great great grandfather.

The China Inland Mission also had the greatest respect for the single woman missionary, earlier than many other missions.

I am trying to bring into the Christian blogosphere something of the 19th century, not the 21st century.

At Sun Jun 18, 12:06:00 PM, Blogger Ruud Vermeij said...

As soon the child the womb out plops,
The soul into the heaven hops...

Ummm, haven't we heard something like that before?
(Hint: Johann Tetzel "For every coin that in the coffer rings, a soul to heaven springs")

This smells like believe in magic...
(in reference to the teaching that shocked Suzanne)

At Sun Jun 18, 07:58:00 PM, Blogger codepoke said...

This smells like believe in magic...

Amen, Ruud!


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