of Ben Makuh


Book Reviews


Nobody's Mother [a review]

When you hear "1 Timothy 2," that either evokes nothing in you, or it raises strong feelings about how to interpret an incredibly confusing passage with regard to women and their role in the Church. If you're in the first category, don't buy this book. Even if you're in the latter category... honestly I have a hard time knowing exactly who this book is aimed towards. On the one hand, the subtitle is actually pretty accurate to what the book is: "Nobody's Mother: Artemis of the Ephesians in Antiquity and the New Testament." This is a book mostly concerned with Artemis, not any intramural theological debates that come to mind when you think of 1 Timothy 2.

On the other hand, I took the marketing material (the graphic design and the description) to be aimed at a lay Christian audience. Consider the lede of its description: "Some Christians think Paul's reference to 'saved through childbearing' in 1 Timothy 2:15 means that women are slated primarily for delivering and raising children. Alternate readings, however, sometimes fail to build on the best historical and textual evidence." I understood that to mean that the book was going to take the gleanings of current scholarship about the ancient city of Ephesus and its cult of Artemis and then mostly read 1 Timothy 2:15 through that lens. That's kind of true, I guess, but fully two-thirds of the book is a focused survey of current Artemis scholarship and what can be known about her from various sources and artifacts. There is a somewhat cursory final chapter that applies all this scholarship to how 1 Timothy 2, and particularly 2:15, is read, but it is more an afterthought than what the book's description might lead you to believe.

The giveaway that this is aimed at a more technical audience is that basically every blurb for it is written by an academic or at least individuals who tend toward the academic. And once you have that in mind, the reality is that it's really not a bad book! It's short, concise, and to the point, namely that Artemis was very likely not a fertility goddess as many have imagined. Indeed, the best scholarship suggests that she's a virgin, and that her temple was most likely not filled with salacious indecency as some have supposed. The takeaway, then, is that rather than being some kind of mother goddess, she's instead the opposite: nobody's mother. Think of her as a kind of divine midwife to whom women would be inclined to pray for deliverance from their potential deaths in childbirth.

The contention in the book is that when Paul says women will be "saved through childbearing," he's not capital-S Salvation to eternal life, but rather that praying to Artemis is not what will save her from death in the delivery room. Any woman facing her own (possibly imminent) death might be strongly tempted to go back to praying to Artemis "just in case," but Paul is instead urging them to stay the course and "continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control" (2:15b, ESV).

Though I'm not in a position to evaluate the veracity of her research and scholarship, I can say that I think the book is interesting and worth reading for pastors who believe either that 2:15 teaches women must get married and bear children in order to be saved, or that it means something more theologically abstract like that Eve would eventually receive her salvation through her distant offspring, Jesus. You can evaluate the merits of Glahn's argument for yourself, but I at least find it to be thought-provoking, plausible, and straightforward.

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of a fair, unbiased review.

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