Re: 1 Tim. 2:15--"get safely through"

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Nov 13 1995 - 17:21:51 EST

At 4:38 PM 11/13/95, Bruce Terry wrote:
>A belated comment on 1 Tim. 2:15:
>I have for a number of years been intrigued by James Moffatt's translation of
>this verse:
>"However, women will get safely through childbirth, if they continue to be
>faithful and loving and holy as well as unassuming."

Wow! This is fascinating. For clarity's sake in comment, let me cite (noch
wieder einmal!) the Greek:


Outside of its context (which, quite frankly, is itself not exceptionally
helpful toward the interpretation of the verse), this translation cannot be
faulted, I think, as a reading of the possible meaning of the Greek text.
In fact, although we do find DIA + genitive to express instrumentality, an
instrumental dative would (from my admittedly Attic perspective) be
preferable by far; and, in view of the fact that ancient childbirth is by
no means without risk of life (Euripides' Medea, remember, says she'd
rather face the foe with a spear on the battlefield three times to giving
birth once!), and given the fact that, outside of the theological sphere,
SWZEIN most normally DOES mean "bring safely," "preserve through peril,"
"keep intact" (as in the parable of the wine and wineskins; I tend to think
of getting safely through a semester!), the first clause of Moffat's
translation seems very natural.

Much as I like the whole version, however, I must admit that I have not
seen SWFROSUNH applied to women anywhere in Greek texts I've studied in a
sense other than sexual purity. When referring to a male, of course, it's
always the rational control of one's appetites generally rather than

This raises another question to my mind. There may be a stock answer to it,
but in view of the fact that the cardinal virtues in the "secular" Greek
tradition are SOFIA, DIKAIOSUNH, ANDREIA, and SWFROSUNH, do we have a
corresponding set of cardinal "Christian" virtues in the NT? I think of
Paul's PISTIS, ELPIS, AGAPH in 1 Cor 13, of course, but it seems to me
(judging off the top of my head, as usual, when this is probably a
well-researched topic) that different virtues get mentioned in different
lists and there's not even the degree of agreement that the lists of
disciples/apostles afford.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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