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

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun Nov 26 1995 - 08:00:09 EST

At 10:46 PM 11/25/95, Patrick J. Brennan wrote:
>I assume you sent this to me instead of to the list? Do you want me to
>forward it to the list? Let me know. Thanks for all your input on this
>digest, I am learning a lot from you and others. One question for you on
>your comment to my posting ---- you mentioned that it would be ackward for
>salvation to depend on the moral stature of her children. It would be
>ackward for salvation to depend on anything apart from believing and
>walking with Jesus. Could SWQHSETAI be reffering to preservation and not

(1) In fact, I DID cc the message to the list and got a confirming copy
back, so there's no need to forward it (if there would have been anyway!);
(2) Yes, indeed, SWQHSETAI can be referring to
preservation/safekeeping--and not to salvation. That's precisely the point
of the original post by Bruce Terry to which I responded (almost two full
weeks ago!) that I was very impressed with Moffat's way of reading the
verse, the more so because the verb SWZEIN in classical Attic and still in
Koine does have the common regular meaning of "preserve, keep safe, bring
safely through." It would appear that you got focused on the other problems
in this very tricky verse and missed the original points raised in the
thread. But your question certainly was worth asking, because the sentence
is itself awkward and the whole passage in which it is set is awkward. I
think that when we read the NT with theological glasses on we are likely to
assume that SWZEIN must have the sense of eschatological salvation from
condemnation at the last judgment, despite the fact that this is not its
NORMAL or COMMON sense in Greek of any period. In fact, if I understand the
earliest OT usages of YEHOSHUAH, "salvation," they refer to the concrete
historical deliverance of Israel from a very concrete bondage in Egypt and
to the historical deliverance of Israel from threatening marauders in the
period of the tribal confederation. And indeed, if I may make one brief
theological comment here, one of the things I'm very thankful for at this
season is God's very concrete safekeeping of my own loved ones and of all
at peril, remembering that even this safekeeping is a matter of grace
rather than something earned.

>>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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