When there were no depths I was brought forth. Proverbs 1:8- 1:19 XIV. CONTEXT: Proverbs 8-9 is an appeal to search diligently for godly Wisdom. You should be confused about the identity and role of Wisdom in Proverbs 8, because it is confusing. We find here the characteristics of wisdom that can become ours (vv. The encomium, one of the most beautiful and exalted types of literature used in the Bible, is a composition in praise of either an abstract quality or a general character type. … Wisdom’s Lecture 2: Wisdom Describes Her Benefits to the Gullible (8:1-36). 8, it is easy to see why some Church Fathers suppressed her per-existent origins; others did not, and those who most rely on the Hebrew language have done a much more fair job of relating her story (St. Jerome, Theodotian). In a Watch Tower tract entitled Should You Believe in the Trinity?2 the following verses from the Bible are strung together: • Colossians 1:15, which calls Christ “the first-born of all creation.”, • Revelation 3:14, which speaks of Christ as “the beginning of God’s creation.”. Is this a reference to God? • 1 Corinthians 8:6, where the italicizing in the tract shows the Jehovah’s Witnesses interpreta-tion that God the Father created Christ, who then created the world: “There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things,…and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things.”. 6. I am confused about the person of Wisdom in Proverbs 8. Proverbs 10:8 – What will the “wise in heart” recieve? (1-3) Wisdom cries out. For ecotheologians like Normal Habel, she is the voice of Earth, the main theologian of the interdependent web of creation who teaches us Deep Ecology, and the real hidden subject of Job 28. As we drove into the driveway of my parents’ home, they received a call from the superintendent of schools. 8:22–31). Proverbs 8:12 – What does wisdom dwell with? • Revelation 3:14, which speaks of Christ as “the beginning of God’s creation.”. Nearly 30 years ago, I had just completed my first year of seminary. 1 Does not wisdom call out? “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15 esv). These are seven characteristics of wisdom. The main subject of Proverbs chapters 1–9 is wisdom, which is an abstract quality or character trait rather than a person, but wisdom is treated as a woman from the first chapter right through chapter 9. Poets have always used personification, and biblical writers did as well. II. By full NT times in Paul's writings, Jesus Christ is now the 'Sophia' of God, in a way that both nods to the Hebrew tradition, but also normalizes the tricky issue of a pre-existent female figure. Their formulation located Christ, the Wisdom of God (I Cor. It is her desire that everyone seek her and hear her words (vs 17, 32). Wisdom’s Call Does not wisdom call out?Does not understanding raise her voice? A mature and seasoned teacher had literally been driven to distraction by her fourth grade class. 10. Taking all this together, for many she is the 'literary survival' of an original Hebrew goddess who was disappeared by orthodoxy (J. Hadley, D. Penchansky). Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. 1:24,30), in the Proverbs account of creation. Wisdom is portrayed as a woman of dazzling attractiveness and virtue, who teaches in the marketplace of the town (1:20), who is romantically embraced (4:8–9), who can be addressed as “my sister” (7:4), who utters a long speech commending herself to the public (chap. Wisdom is easily seen and heard 1. Proverbs 8:1-9:12 – Wisdom & Her Call . One biblical text that illustrates this principle is a famous poem that praises wisdom (Prov. It is this principle I propose to explain: literary genre should influence our interpretations, and an awareness of literary genre can spare us from misreadings of the Bible (though that is not its only usefulness). Click here for Professor Fontaine's book, Smooth Words. God endowed Solomon with great wisdom so he could rule justly 2. I was offered the job and … Proverbs 28:26 "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered." Is Proverbs 8 Literal Fact or Literary Fiction? 8. Proverbs 8:18, "Riches and honor are with me." First, all texts require interpretive decisions, and the more literary and more ancient the text, the more interpretive decisions are potentially required. 43:3). 1:1; 10:1; 25:1 2. Given the difficulty of her origins and duties in Prov. Solomon often makes reference to teaching his son in the passages in Proverbs. However, the Christological import of Proverbs 8 is not exhausted in the references to Christ as creator. 8), and who builds a house and invites people to an alluring banquet (9:1–6). In verses 5-11, we find that the words of wisdom are excellent, right, truthful, righteous, understandable and valuable. • Several verses from Proverbs 8, one of which speaks of how “Yahweh created me, first-fruits of his fashioning, before the oldest of his works” (njb). "By me kings reign" (Proverbs 8:15). This article first appeared in the Practical Hermeneutics column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 27, number 2 (2004). before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. After all, whether the speaker in Proverbs 8 is a personified wisdom and whether the passage is an encomium are decisions that the interpreter makes. EIN: 04-2104698, Wisdom is a way of speaking of God in God's relationship with humankind, The Confusing Role of Wisdom in Proverbs 8. Aid to Bible Understanding (Brooklyn: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 1989), 918. She has antecedants in Egypt (Isis, Hathor, Ma'at; B. Lang), some connections to Sumerian goddesses (where the figurations there cause her to be divided into Savior/Slayer or Madonna/Whore in the passages about her and Woman Stranger (C. Fontaine), and according to Gerhard von Rad, was the personified outreach of creation to humanity in order to teach them the ways of God and earth. • Colossians 1:15, which calls Christ “the first-born of all creation.”. Copyright Massachusetts Bible Society © 2020    Registered 501(c)(3). is an ancient question indeed. The call of wisdom. Proverbs 14:24, "The crown of the wise is their riches." Looking “Along” A Review of Moral Combat: How Sex Divided American Christians and Fractured American Politics by R. Marie Griffith. Similarly, in Proverbs 1–9, wisdom is not literally a woman who speaks eloquently about herself and prepares a banquet. 7. Proverbs 8:14, "Counsel is mine and sound the wisdom" Proverbs 8:12, "Wisdom dwells with prudence and finds out knowledge." Proverbs 1:20-33 A Lecture From lady Wisdom A. Job. Help us continue by donating here. Proverbs 8 is a speech of self-praise given by personified Wisdom, and it is addressed to all of humanity. As I said earlier, I will make the case for literary genre as an effective way to spare us from misreading the Bible. Christians believe that God's Holy Spirit helps them to know God, as does Jesus. I have written a whole book on Lady Wisdom in Proverbs 8! A classic patriarchal conundrum! (Brooklyn: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 1989), 14. We will look at Proverbs 8 in particular, since it seems to be a jumping-off point for some creative “proof-texting” by cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses to arrive … It is not complicated: whenever a poet attributes human qualities to some- thing inanimate, often an abstraction, he or she has used personification. Proverbs 8:22-31 is famous for its description of the wisdom of God as a person or entity—a deity-level figure who assists God in some way with the creation of the world. Likewise in "Sirach" (aka, "Ecclesiasticus") 24, the same motif appears of "lady" wisdom appealing to people to come and learn God's ways from her. So, I agree that Wisdom is a  way of speaking of God in Gods' relationship with humankind, very much as Logos is a way of speaking of God in god's relationship with humankind in other Jewish writings and in John 1. Proverbs 9:13-18 – Folly and Her Call. Scott). They know the world is empty, and true fulfillment can only come through the living God. In verses 22–31, we find the motif of the ancient and distinguished ancestry of wisdom, which was present from the beginning and even participated in the creation of the world. In any case, we aren't dealing with some sort of "intermediary being". (and THAT'S not even touching the Apocrypha!) I can imagine some readers questioning whether what I have said in this article introduces an element of subjectivity into the interpretation of the Bible. The fallacy is in thinking that the speaker in Proverbs 8 is Christ in the first place. Chapter 9 - Wisdom’s Invitation to a Banquet and Folly’s Invitation to a Banquet XIII. 8. This element of subjectivity, moreover, does not mean that all interpretive decisions are entirely subjective. Thoughtful “A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.” ~Proverbs 14:15. Verses 22-31. From Carole Fontaine, Taylor Professor of Biblical Theology and History, Andover Newton Theological School. Wisdom: can't make theology with Her; can't make theology without Her! This takes us back to Proverbs 8. Some scholars have located her 'geneaology' in the upper class women household managers of the Persian Home Rule period in Yehud (cf. The Integrity of Wisdom Lady Wisdom claims that everything she says is true. Get started with Bible study here. A Look at Virtue Signaling. He continues to personify wisdom as an elegant lady of virtue in Chapter 8. To decide that a statement in the Bible is figurative is no more subjective than to decide that it is literal. when there were no springs abounding with water. This is part of a broader principle of interpreting a text in keeping with what we know about its genre (what type of literature it is). Answer: In Proverbs 1:20–33 and Proverbs 8:1—9:12, wisdom is personified as a woman who has much to offer—including “enduring wealth and prosperity” and “life”—to anyone who would heed her words ( Proverbs 8:18, 35 ). It enables a person to have good old fashioned common sense and be able to give wise counsel. The writer of an encomium conducts the praise by using a standard set of literary motifs (elements): (1) introduction to the subject, (2) the distinguished and ancient ancestry of the subject, (3) a list of the praiseworthy acts and qualities of the subject, (4) the indispensable and/or superior nature of the subject, and (5) a conclusion urging the reader to emulate the subject. Wisdom, someone might protest, cannot speak. Does not understanding raise her voice? The Blessings of Wisdom - Does not wisdom call? In its usual pose, it asserts something that we know to be literally untrue and often openly fantastic. Good Steward “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.” ~Proverbs 13:11. 5:6–8). Proverbs presents Wisdom as a woman prepared to offer instruction and guidance for those who will seek her diligently. What does Wisdom Look Like? She is like the Queen on the chessboard of Renaissance Europe: she moves in every direction and is the most powerful player that protects and connects to the king--but neglected in every 'official' description of the power-players of Bishop, Knight, and Domain (castle). Wisdom Shouts – Proverbs 1:20-33. Songs 1:5; 3:7, 9, 11; 8:11, 12 (Song of Songs may be better classified as love poetry rather than wisdom literature) IV. Romans 1:22 "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" D. The speaker is wisdom personified. 3. The imagery seems to have been adapted further in "Wisdom of Solomon" (OT "apocrypha"), 7:22--11:14, esp. Well, yes she can if she is a personification of an abstract concept. But briefly, here are the relevant options: Simply put, Lady Wisdom is someone who existed BEFORE creation, to whom God gave birth (in a female way, not a 'begotten' way), who both plays in creation, delighting in humanity, but also served as a 'master craftswoman' assisting the Hebrew God with the actual 'floorplan' of creation (R.B.Y. With this context as your guide, you would probably not find the passage difficult, but what would you say if someone rattled off proof texts to support the belief that the speaker of the poem is really Christ and that the passage, moreover, shows that Jesus is a created being? The book of Jobdeals with the problem of evil and the justice of God. Prov. 1. Humble – Wise people don’t constantly brag, boast, or display a prideful attitude. Interpreters have done a lot of mischief by taking figurative language literally. 8. We noted that wisdom is the speaker in Proverbs 8. Proverbs 8 has all of these familiar motifs. So, I agree that Wisdom is a way of speaking of God in Gods' relationship with humankind, very much as Logos is a way of speaking of God in god's relationship with humankind in other Jewish writings and in John 1. The Proverbs 8 Woman–Wisdom’s Call What we need to combat the lies of the culture around us is the wisdom from God’s Word to walk a different path. Some scholars of the Nag Hammadi Gnostic Gospels see her as the Speaker in the disturbing little treatise, "Thunder, the Perfect Mind" (G. McCrae; A. Bach). Solomon continues to use “ personification ” as he showed his son how to discerningly follow the way of God’s Wisdom and to avoid the path of the Foolish. 2. This is exactly what Jehovah’s Witnesses claim regarding the passage. 2 At the highest point along the way, 1. 24–25 esv), moreover, this same Christ must be a created being and not an eternal member of the Trinity. Again, I think nowadays most scholars see this too as vivid personification. Why Do I Call Myself Good? Gentle – Wise people treat others with care and respect. Good deeds – Wise people live an upright and moral life. And in the coda of verses 32-36 wisdom assures that those who heed wisdom are happy and have life. Is the Incarnation Logically Incoherent ? 23 Ages ago I was set up, Wisdom in Proverbs 8 is a way of speaking of God that shows how deeply and eagerly God wishes to be known and tended to. With practice we can learn to recognize what kind of literature we are reading and let that influence our interpretation. 11. My personal favorite is Zechariah’s vision of a woman named Wickedness sitting inside a cereal container (Zech. Solomon became famous for his wisdom C. Solomon’s names are attached to several wisdom books 1. Who Is Wisdom in Proverbs 8? If an interpreter begins with the premise that Proverbs 8 is talking about Christ, then certain references can be (incorrectly) interpreted as implying that Christ is a created being. Prov 31, 'Woman of Worth') (C. Meier, C. Yoder); others see her as an amalgam of all female roles of the Second Temple period when neither prophet nor king any longer provide direct link between the people and the divine (C. Camp), and yet others see her as a 'scribal goddess' who is patron to the intelligentsia of the Second Temple period (Lang). No less a literary giant than C. S. Lewis expressed that same reservation when he accused those who read the Bible “as literature” of reading the Bible “without attending to the main thing it is about.”1 Two sentences later, however, Lewis asserted unequivocally, “There is a saner sense in which the Bible, since it is after all literature, cannot properly be read except as literature; and the different parts of it as the different sorts of literature they are.”. Since the speaker in the Proverbs 8 passage speaks of being “brought forth” (vv. How to Recognize Personification. She makes a special appeal to the inexperienced and foolish (verse 5). They argue that because the speaker in Proverbs 8 is described in the same terms as are used for Christ elsewhere, that speaker, therefore, must be Christ. Certainly, for her ancient authors, She is a 'Tree of Life' to those who hold on to her, which might lead to discussions of the outlawed tree goddess of Israel, Asherah (legal at first, but debased by Deuteronomists' attempts to link her to Ba'al; S. Olyan, M. Smith). Someone else? We all know that blood does not literally cry from the ground (Gen. 4:10) and that light and truth are not literally travel guides to Jerusalem (Ps. Wisdom summons human beings--all of them!--to "learn prudence, acquire intelligence"--that is, pay attention! For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org. Some believe (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) that study of God's word in Scripture also allows them to know and be known by God. In conducting this praise, the writer invents a fictional creation story in which wisdom, as an attribute of God, was actually present at creation. "Not only in the common lives of common men, but also in the exercise of the very highest sovereignties, men must have this Wisdom in order to succeed." — Leland Ryken. All Literature Requires Interpretation. A Christian Perspective, Bespoke Religiosity and the Rise of the Nones: a review of Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World by Tara Isabella Burton, Perspective Matters: Looking “At” vs. The lead-in to the speech answers the question: “Does not wisdom call?” (v. 1); and in verse 12, we read, “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence.” The repeated first-person references (my lips, my mouth, etc. Lady wisdom of chapter eight is a stark contrast from the adulteress of chapter seven. Surely personification illustrates this in its pure form. What Lewis meant is that the Bible is composed of different kinds (genres) of literature — narrative, poetry, prophecy, epistle (authoritative teaching in the form of a letter), and so on — and each part of the Bible must be read according to the kind of literature it is. The specific hermeneutical principle that I have applied in this article is the need to read figurative speech in a nonliteral sense. Those who press for a literal interpretation of Proverbs 8 face the daunting task of explaining why the pronoun and language used for wisdom are feminine — is Christ feminine in His true essence or does He have a female counterpart in heaven to whom this passage refers? Second, all interpretive decisions involve an element of subjectivity. Yes, they are, but two things need to be asserted in regard to this. Lest we think that the Jehovah’s Witnesses thought this up on their own, they correctly adduce “Christian writers of the early centuries of the Common Era” as having also believed that the speaker in Proverbs 8 is really Christ.3 Indeed, the view that the speaker of Proverbs 8 is Christ continues to make the rounds in some evangelical circles. Does not understanding raise her voice? Lady wisdom is out in the open; she stands proudly in … Appreciate these answers? [11] " Proverbs 8:17-21 teach men how to make life a success, in the worldly sense." The Social Dilemma and What it Means for Christians, The Historical Uniqueness of Jesus Christ Among the Founders of the World’s Major Religions, Do I Drink Virtuously? How can you know when a poet has used personification? The person of Wisdom in Proverbs 8 is the personification, portrayal in personal form, of God's way of interacting with human beings. " Proverbs is a fitting textbook for parents to teach wisdom. ), therefore, are to wisdom. Just recall some famous examples: “Sin is crouching at the door” (Gen. 4:7 esv). Wisdom is a quality of the soul. As we saw last week, Proverbs 1:1-6 is both the actu al title of the book and its purpose statement. 9 They are all plain to him who understands, And right to those who find knowledge. 7:22--8:1. Wisdom’s Call. FOr the author of Proverbs, "Lady" Wisdom seems to have been a strong personification of God's attribute of wisdom. 1. 8 Characteristics of Wisdom. 85:10 kjv). God is finally none and all of these; each metaphor opens a different door into the divine palace, the houses of the holy. It is as simple as that. “A scoffer seeks wisdom and finds none [for his ears are closed to wisdom], b ut knowledge is easy for one who understands [because he is willing to learn].” (Proverbs 14:6, AMP) “ The mind of the prudent [always] acquires knowledge, a nd the ear of the wise [always] seeks knowledge.” (Proverbs 18:15, AMP) Seekers of wisdom & wise counsel G. Campbell Morgan on Proverbs 8: “There is nothing greater or grander in all the Biblical literature, as setting forth the beauty and grace of that wisdom which has the fear of Jehovah as its chief part.” A. In Proverbs can be summarized in seven categories first place 2004 ) I will characteristics of wisdom in proverbs 8..., truthful, righteous, understandable and valuable needed someone to finish out the year, and who a. But a prudent man gives thought to his steps. ” ~Proverbs 14:15, understandable and valuable a mature seasoned! 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