Something that has utterly fascinated me in my wife’s pregnancy is the healing effect it has had on her. She was both lactose and gluten intolerant before she became pregnant, but she can now eat things that have both dairy and gluten in them! Some of you, if you’ve spoken with me about this, know that one biblical text came to my mind. 1 Timothy 2:15 is instruction on how women are to act in the church who Timothy oversaw. It deals with how women are to have quiet spirits, kindly learning and asking their questions in a non-disputive way; many of these women were no doubt influenced by the Temple cult of Diana (Artemis), which was in Ephesus and functioned with women priests as overseers of the cult’s activities. Paul then points out the circumstances that led to the fall included divisiveness between the man and woman (vv. 13 – 14), which leads him to say, “But [woman] will be saved through childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” Unless you’ve studied NT Greek for some time, it is unlikely that you’d be aware of the fact that the Greek word for “saved” (σωζω) can and is translated into English in a number of ways. The most prominent among them are saved, preserve, deliver, and healed. The authors of the Gospels use σωζω frequently with the meaning of “healed” (Mt. 9:21, 22, Mk. 5:23, 28, 34, 6:56, 10:52). This list of verses is not exhaustive, so we are well within our interpretive rights to question whether or not σωζω in 1 Tim. 2:15 might have the meaning of “healed.” 1 Tim. 4:16, just two chapters after 1 Tim. 2:15, does not use σωζω with the meaning of “saved” either. It reads, “Give attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in practicing them. For by doing this you preserve yourself and those listening to you” (trans. mine from Greek NA 27 ed.). Now, if the part of the text with σωζω in it read, “For by doing this you save yourself and those listening to you,” we’d have a real problem on our hands since Paul would essentially be saying that we can save ourselves, which is clearly contradicting the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I am the first to admit that my opting for “healed” is derived from my experience of my wife’s healing, but I hasten to add that every interpreter is influenced by his experience. The one who thinks he or she is not influence in this way is deceived and in danger of thinking s/he has an objectivity that could only be true of God — who we most certainly are not. It is not unimportant that the translation of “saved” doesn’t make much sense in 1 Tim. 2:15. What does it mean, after all, to say that women will be “saved through childbearing?” Women are most certainly “healed” through childbearing in psychological ways as are men. I am already starting to experience the opening of my own spirit to warmer expressions as I think about this little girl on the way. I’ve watched the transformation of many women when children are coming; it’s staggering! I want to understand σωζω as referring to biological healing — as in my wife’s case and other women with similar stories during their pregnancies — and psychological healing, drawing out that inherent tenderness of women so clearly manifest when children are on the way. I think the meaning of “preserved” for σωζω might be a helpful understanding too in 1 Tim. 2:15. The innocence of children is truly a marvel in this world of sorrow and pain, a glowing gem in murky woods. This beauty has a way of drawing out what is beautiful in us, both women and men — as Jesus said, parents know how to do good to their children (Lk. 11:11 – 13). Thus, the procreation process, from sex to pregnancy to birth and thereafter, all seem to “preserve” humanity both in its biological continuation and in “healing” the many damages we experience while journeying through the darkness of this world, whether biological issues (like my wife’s intolerances) or psychological issues.
My wife’s pregnancy has made me rethink this text: “But [women] will be healed through childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” I contend that the healing refers to biological healing and psychological healing as well as having a preservational effect on family and, through family, on the rest of humanity.