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1 Timothy 5:14 (ESV),

So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.

The four emboldened phrases above, in Greek, are four different verbs all conjugated as Present Infinitive Active according to the Interlinear text at www.biblehub.com.

I have three questions:

1.) From what I have read, present infinitive active verbs are obviously verbs that are in the present tense, the infinitive mood, and the active voice. Generally, I understand what each of these things mean by themselves, but what does it mean when a verb is all three of these things at once?

2.) If marriage is understood to be a lifelong contract, barring death (Romans 7:2) or due to sexual immorality (Matthew 19:9), and it would be expected for the νεωτέρας (neōteras - young widows) to manage their households for the duration of their lives, presumably barring serious injury or illness, and it would likewise be a given that they should not give the adversary any occasion to slander for their entire lives, it seems to me that verbs that are in the Present Infinitive Active indicate an expected permanence (that is, have no end to) in their activity (For example, in 1 John 4:8, the phrase "God is love", shows ἐστίν [estin - is] conjugated as Present Infinitive Active. And God, being eternal and immutable, is eternally, that is, permanently, love).

Is this then so of all Present Infinitive Active verbs, or at least for the four verbs found in 1 Timothy 5:14?

3.) And finally, if that is in fact the case, then does τεκνογονεῖν (teknogonein - bear children) mean that the (neōteras - young widows) are expected to bear/beget children for the rest of their lives so long as they have the natural ability to do so (e.g. barring infertility and before menopause)?

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What does it mean when a verb is all three of these things at once?

1 Timothy 5:14

So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.

In this sentence, Paul used Greek infinitives because of the modal verb "would have". One can rewrite it without the infinitives or subjective. Paul would have younger widows act as follows:

  1. They marry (present indicative active).

  2. They bear (present indicative active) children.

  3. They manage (present indicative active) their households.

  4. They give (present indicative active) the adversary no occasion for slander.

You can now read 1 Timothy 5:14 without the infinitives.

it seems to me that verbs that are in the Present Infinitive Active indicate an expected permanence (that is, have no end to) in their activity

That may be a bit too much. It may or may not have an end to it. Paul expects them to follow these 4 activities as a state of regular routine.

Does τεκνογονεῖν (teknogonein - bear children) mean that the νεωτέρας (neōteras - young widows) are expected to bear/beget children for the rest of their lives so long as they have the natural ability to do so (e.g. barring infertility, reproductive organ injury/illness, and before menopause)?

It is too much to use just this verse to prove a doctrine against contraception. A doctrine should be supported by a direct incontrovertible general statement.

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  • Hi, Tony. You wrote, "It is too much to use just this verse to prove a doctrine against contraception", but don't fully explain the comment. Would you care to say more as to the reason why you think it is "too much"? If the other activities are expected to be regular, sustained, lifelong practices, bearing of children seems to follow suit in that regard. Thanks. Mar 5 at 14:16
  • Good point. I added.
    – Tony Chan
    Mar 5 at 15:33
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Paul here is talking about young widows as a group or as a class and not about each individually. Therefore, he expects the young widows as a class to continue until Christ returns doing the four things listed. There is no expectation that each individual young widow will bear children without ceasing.

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  • Hi, Austin. That, that Paul is addressing a group or class of people, sounds like a reasonable explanation. Is there more in the way of proof, that that is what Paul was doing, that you can demonstrate, as opposed to just asserting it is so? Thanks. Mar 5 at 14:18
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The Greek present tense shares with the imperfect tense the linguistic quality of imperfective aspect. This means that the event is not seen as a single, completed and specific event. One aspect under the imperfective is the iterative or repeated action. The present tense is often as here used with plural subjects. It is not a question of one woman marrying repeatedly, but one woman marrying and another woman also marrying. You can find similar examples of the present tense of "marry" in verses like Matt 22:30, 24:38. Present tenses are common in general statements that apply to many different people.

And the word τεκνογονεῖν is better understood as childrearing or parenting. The focus is not on getting children, but taking care of the children that they are expected to get. The NET translation is therefore better here than ESV:

1 Tim 5:14 So I want younger women to marry, raise children, and manage a household, in order to give the adversary no opportunity to vilify us. (NET)

The text implies nothing about how many children or for how long women should have children.

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  • Hi, Iver. You wrote "And the word τεκνογονεῖν is better understood as childrearing or parenting. The focus is not on getting children, but taking care of the children that they are expected to get." But doesn't rendering τεκνογονεῖν as merely "raise children" take away from the intended meaning? τεκνογονεῖν is a compound word, from τέκνον, meaning children, from τίκτω, to bring/bear forth, produce, yield, or beget, and the verb γίνομαι, meaning to come into being, to be born, to come into being. It seems like the verb literally means to produce children, not just raise them once born. Thanks. Mar 5 at 14:29
  • You probably know that γονεύς means a parent and you may have heard of the etymological fallacy. You may also see some more arguments in this paper: academia.edu/37244044/… Mar 6 at 19:11

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