The midwifery of God: tokological deliverance in 1 Timothy 2:15 in light of early Jewish and Christian readings of Genesis 3:16

Gathergood, Emily J. (2022) The midwifery of God: tokological deliverance in 1 Timothy 2:15 in light of early Jewish and Christian readings of Genesis 3:16. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This study seeks to elucidate the enigmatic promise that woman “will be saved through childbearing” (σωθήσεται διὰ τῆς τεκνογονίας) in 1 Timothy 2:15. The idea is notoriously difficult to interpret within existing conceptions of Pauline soteriology due to its distinctively gendered horizon. What is the relationship between salvation and childbearing? Is the soteriology of 1 Timothy gender-differentiated? The central thesis is that being saved διὰ τῆς τεκνογονίας is about the divine preservation of women’s bodies during childbirth. “Tokological deliverance” from the pain and danger to life normally associated with childbearing is, however, part of a wider soteriological scheme which culminates in the eschatological salvation of body and soul.

The project is introduced with a history of the interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:15, which delineates the various grammatical, linguistic and theological points of contention. Part I examines the construals of childbearing-related salvation in an assemblage of early Jewish and Christian renarrativisations of Genesis 3:16: Apocalypse of Baruch (2 Baruch) 72–74, the Greek Life of Adam and Eve 25, in the Ascension of Isaiah 11, the Odes of Solomon 19, the Protevangelium of James 11, 17–20, and the Latin Acts of Andrew 25. I argue that in each case, Eve’s paradigmatic maternal judgement is mitigated by the midwifery of God, who safely delivers the parturient.

Part II interprets 1 Timothy 2:15 in light of these pseudepigraphical reworkings of Genesis 3:16, through the lens of the midwifery of God motif. The expression is conceptualised as the climax of the author’s haggadic reworking of the myth of Eve’s creation and transgression in Genesis 2–3, which subverts her sentence of difficult childbearing. This redescription of maternity as an occasion for “tokological deliverance” serves the polemical goal of the letter, namely to refute the sexually ascetic teaching of rival Torah-teachers, by marking procreation as a divinely blessed endeavour. In conclusion, I draw some wider implications for research on salvation and gender, and the positioning of 1 Timothy “within Judaism.” Finally, in an appendix, I establish the sociological circumstance behind the concept of divine midwifery by estimating the prevalence of maternal death in the Graeco-Roman world.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Bell, Richard H.
Parks, Sara
Keywords: God, divine, midwifery, salvation, Genesis, women, gender, New Testament
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BS The Bible
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 68341
Depositing User: Gathergood, Emily
Date Deposited: 03 Aug 2022 04:40
Last Modified: 03 Aug 2022 04:40

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