God’s Wisdom in Person (Proverbs 8:22-31)


 
Proverbs 8:1-9:16 personifies God’s wisdom as a woman. Some feminist theologians think that more than personification is at work in these verses. They believe that Woman Wisdom is in fact a feminine deity who exists alongside God, and they name her Hokmah (the Hebrew word for Wisdom) or Sophia (the Greek word for the same).
 
I have several problems with the feminist interpretation of this text. For one thing, biblical religion is monotheistic (Deut. 6:4). One of the key differences between Israel and the surrounding nations is that the latter had many gods, both male and female, while the former did not. The Old Testament is relentless in its criticism of polytheism. The feminist interpretation of Woman Wisdom does an end-run around this critique, and introduces pagan notions into the Bible.
 
For another thing, while Woman Wisdom is a personification of God’s wisdom, Jesus Christ is God’s wisdom in person. Personification is a literary technique by means of which abstract notions and qualities are given human form. Incarnation, on the other hand, is the miracle through which the person of God takes on a human nature.
 
In several places, the New Testament alludes to Proverbs 8:22-31 as it draws a theological portrait of Jesus Christ: John 1:1-14; 1 Corinthians 1:24; Colossians 1:15-17, 2:3; Hebrews 1:1-4). Of these passages, Colossians 1:15-17 contains the most obvious conceptual parallels with Proverbs 8:22-31. Here’s what it says:
 
He [i.e., Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
 
In Proverbs 8:22-26, wisdom is “the first of [God’s] works.” In Colossians 1:15, Jesus Christ is “the firstborn overall creation.” In Proverbs 8:27-31, wisdom is “the craftsman” at God’s side as he creates the universe. In Colossians 1:16, it is “by [Jesus Christ] all things were created.” In Proverbs 8:15-16, Woman Wisdom says:
 
By me kings reign
and rulers make laws that are just;
by me princes govern,
and all nobles who rule on earth. 
 
But according to Colossians 1:16, all things were created by Jesus Christ, including “thrones,” “powers,” “rulers,” and “authorities.” Although there is no direct quotation of Proverbs 8:22-31 in Colossians 1:15-17, it is hard to escape the conclusion Paul wants to draw: Woman Wisdom = God’s wisdom = Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God’s wisdom in person.
 
Now, this is all very interesting theology, but what—you might ask—is the practical value of this conclusion? Yesterday, I wrote that wisdom is the grain of the universe; if you work against it, you get splinters. The practical value of today’s theology lesson is that rejecting Jesus Christ is working against the grain of the universe. Accepting him is the beginning of wisdom, for he is in fact “the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24).

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