Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Wisdom--Person or Personification?

Every time I think I have a theological question regarding the "gender" of God resolved, I get befuddled again by my continuous studies. In regard to the biblical Wisdom, there seems to be no definite answer. I took the question of the nature of Wisdom to my priest, who expressed that Wisdom is not a person/spirit, but rather an attribute of God and one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we receive at Confirmation. But he also said that he saw no problems with my theology of Wisdom as the feminine aspect at the heart of the Trinity, revealed through the Church and Mary.

Theologians over the centuries and into modern times have contemplated Sophia in the Wisdom books. Some see her only as a personification of an attribute of God. Some see her as the Logos, Son of God, and therefore she is divine. Others see her as a created spirit who is eternal. St. Augustine believed that there were two Wisdoms--one created and one uncreated.

The notes from the Catholic Bible on Sirach 1 say, "Wisdom: here the author speaks of true wisdom, namely God's external revelation of himself. Throughout the book he describes in great detail just what wisdom is; sometimes it is divine; sometimes it is a synonym for God's law; sometimes it is human. But the author makes clear that even human wisdom, properly understood, comes from God."

In no other instance is an attribute of God so personalized. Wisdom in the Old Testament may indeed prefigure Jesus, and so we see through her the feminine aspect of the Second Person of the Trinity, and we must in that case understand her as divine. For this reason some Church fathers argued that the word "created", which is at times used in reference to Sophia, cannot mean made in the strict sense of the word, as in the creation of the world, because that meaning would contradict other references to the begotten nature of Wisdom.

But is there additionally a created Wisdom? Such an idea might clear up some confusion on the one hand, while causing additional complications on the other. There are certainly multiple types of Wisdom, and indeed she is described as manifold. As an attribute of God, Wisdom is holy and eternal but is not a person. However, it seems sure that there is a Wisdom developed in the Bible as a divine, feminine spirit who is intimately linked to creation. A succinct summary of this theology is given in the caption for this Holy Wisdom icon by Zachary J. Roesemann:

He says, "The Holy Wisdom is one of the only ways traditional Christian art depicts a feminine aspect of God. Wisdom is mentioned several times in the Old Testament, always personified as a woman. The New Testament, in turn, teaches that Christ the Word is the Divine Wisdom. Icons therefore link the image of Sophia with the image of Christ to make clear that Holy Wisdom and the Word are two aspects of the same Person (my emphasis). This is further reinforced by the presence of Mary and John the Baptist, who appear in their traditional poses around the throne of Christ...Wisdom reveals that the transcendent mystery of God actually comes personally into our world. And we are reminded not to box God in through our language, but instead to rejoice in the many ways God manifests the Divine love for us."

And so today let us rejoice in our Wisdom Jesus!!

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