Tuesday 11 September 2012

Bible Book:

"The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth ... when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 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." (vv. 22-23, 29-31))

Proverbs 8:14-31 Tuesday 11 September 2012


The passage from Proverbs concerning Woman Wisdom has been oneof the more controversial texts in the entire book. The passagepersonifies divine wisdom in a style similar to Hellenistic (Greek)praise of the goddess Isis, and here Wisdom is seen as underlyingpolitical power. The gift of wisdom to Solomon (1Kings 3), who was not the son expected to succeed David,legitimises his reign, and the book of Proverbs is closely relatedto Solomon in Israelite thought, although the book was composedmuch later, in the post-exilic period (6th century BC).

In Proverbs 8, Wisdom's role in creation is explored. The Hebrewverb for "created me" (v. 22) is normally understood as 'begot me',but it might better be translated 'conceived me' because the clausefollowing ("I was brought forth"verses 24 and 25) refer to thefemale act of giving birth. But another equally valid translationmight be 'The Lord God acquired me at the beginning of hisway'.Both are metaphorical images meant to be understood together,but the problem is to avoid the understanding of wisdom as asexually conceived child of God on the one hand, and wisdom as somesort of pre-existent entity acquired by God in order to begincreation on the other. Both nuances are possible understandings ofverses 30-31, where wisdom was "beside"God during the act ofcreation, and where the image of wisdom as "master worker" can alsobe translated 'darling child.' Wisdom as a pre-existent entity orattribute, with God before creation, and participating in God'slife-giving power ("whoever finds me finds life", v. 35) is animportant source for the theology of the Word ("In the beginningwas the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John1:1)).

However we understand this image of Wisdom, she is the source ofhuman pleasure and prosperity for those who love her. As Goddelights in her, she delights in humanity. She is at home in theworld, a link between heaven and earth who brings divine blessingto humankind.

To Ponder

  • How does the Old Testament understanding of Wisdom compare withthe New Testament understanding of Christ and the Holy Spirit? Howimportant to you is the female image provided here?
  • Wisdom 'rejoices' in the world and delights in the human race.To what extent should this be the Church's position? How does itreflect your own views?
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