Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Lady Wisdom

Probably the most significant Old Testament influence on the doctrine of the Trinity is the idea of Lady Wisdom. This may not be obvious to Protestant readers because Lady Wisdom only appears in a single book of the Protestant Bible, but the idea is developed further in the deuterocanonical books used by Catholics and Orthodox Christians, and it provided an important point of contact with Greek philosophy.

Proverbs describes Wisdom as a woman crying out in the streets, calling God's people to come to her and learn from her. Wisdom reaches out to people, but the people reject her.
To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.
O simple ones, learn prudence;
acquire intelligence, you who lack it.
Hear, for I will speak noble things,
and from my lips will come what is right;
for my mouth will utter truth;
wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
-Proverbs 8:4-7
Wisdom is described as being present with God in creation. Wisdom was there when God made the skies and the sea, beside God "like a master worker."
then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.
-Proverbs 8:30-31
Even within the writings of the New Testament we can begin to see Jesus being identified as God's Wisdom. For instance, when Luke's gospel records Jesus pronouncing woe on the scribes and the Pharisees, he records Jesus as having said, "the Wisdom of God said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles'" (Luke 11:49), But in Matthew's parallel account Jesus says, "I send you prophets, sages, and scribes" (Mt. 23:34).

Early Christian teachers continued to draw on this connection as they struggled to understand who Jesus was. For instance, Tertullian (who died about AD 225), writes:
This power and disposition of the Divine Intelligence is set forth also in the Scriptures under the name of Sofia, Wisdom; for what can be better entitled to the name of Wisdom than the Reason or the Word of God? Listen therefore to Wisdom herself, constituted in the character of a Second Person: "At the first the Lord created me as the beginning of His ways, with a view to His own works, before He made the earth, before the mountains were settled; moreover, before all the hills did He beget me;" that is to say, He created and generated me in His own intelligence. ... Thus does He make Him equal to Him: for by proceeding from Himself He became His first-begotten Son, because begotten before all things; and His only-begotten also, because alone begotten of God, in a way peculiar to Himself, from the womb of His own heart -- even as the Father Himself testifies: "My heart," says He, "has emitted my most excellent Word."
Against Praxeus, 6-7

Continue to "Deuterocanonical Wisdom"
Go back to "God as Father


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