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

From: Carl William Conrad (
Date: Sat Nov 25 1995 - 18:21:46 EST

At 12:07 AM 11/25/95, Patrick J. Brennan wrote:
>On 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."
>On 11/13/95 Carl W.Conrad replied:
>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
>May I suggest that SWFROSUNH in this case is not applying to women. The
>first part of this sentence
>SWQHSETAI DE DIA THS TEKNOGONIAS would be more correctly translated with
>"woman" or "she" since SWQHSETAI is in the third person SINGULAR. However
>SWFROSUNHS follows the verb MEINWSIN which is third person PLURAL.Could the
>second part of this sentence refer to CHILDREN (plural) and not WOMAN
>In light of this might this be a better translation:
>However the woman (she) will be preserved through the bearing of children,
>if they (the children) continue in faith and love and holiness with
>Help me out on this one please.

This is certainly a POSSIBLE way of understanding the passage,
particularly a passage involving a rather weird sequence of shifts in
theme and construction, but there's no necessary reason to derive TEKNA
from TEKNOGONIAS to be the subject of MEINWSIN. Furthermore, if TEKNA
were the subject of MEINWSIN, it theoretically ought to have a verb in
the singular, since it is a neuter plural (but this is an old rule which
is sometimes observed and sometimes not). Finally, it gives an extremely
awkward explanation of the salvation of a woman--that it depends on the
moral stature of her children. I would rather assume that the plural
MEINWSIN is accounted for (however awkward) by a shift from a GENERIC
singular to a CONCRETE plural: GUNH --> plural subject of MEINWSIN.

It's a most puzzling passage, anyway you look at it.

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

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