Proverbs chapter 8 uses a personification of Wisdom. Some people take this personification as a description of God, or of the Messiah. Is there any textual justification for this?
Throughout much of the Book of Proverbs we see 'Wisdom' as a female personification. Since God has always been referred to by male terms, and since Jesus was a man, we must look elsewhere for an explanation of who Wisdom was.
She appears in Proverbs 1:20ff:
In some places, material about the personified Wisdom is intermixed with philosophical wisdom and in other places, either meaning could be construed. An ambiguous passage that nevertheless tells of Lady Wisdom is Proverbs 3:13-19:
Consistent with the above, we find in Proverbs chapter 8 that she was with God when he created the world:
1 Clement mentions Wisdom as a female personification in a late first-century Christian context, and she is also mentioned in Luke 7:35, in terms that seem to rule out any confusion with the Holy Spirit:
Sophia (Wisdom) is found as a Gnostic Christian goddess, and we find a complex (and boring) book(s) of instruction now known as Pistis Sophia. The Catholic Church also adopted Wisdom and her daughters, Faith, Hope and Love as saints, but they are almost certainly mythical.
Proverbs was written in the form we know it around the time of the Babylonian Exile, some time after fertility figurines believed to represent Asherah ceased to be used. This could suggest that Wisdom represents an aniconic evolution of Asherah, or a replacement figure more acceptable to the theocracy. Mark S. Smith says in The Early History of God, page 13, that scholars such as G. Bostrom, H . Ringgren, W. F. Albright and others have compared the figure of Wisdom to the Canaanite goddess Asherah. If Wisdom was not the post-Exilic understanding of Asherah, she was certainly a female spirit/goddess who was revered in Judaism, and apparently in early Christianity, up until the end of the first century CE.
The bible in Isaiah 11 describes 7 spirits(the spirit of the Lord,wisdom,understanding, counsel,power,knowledge and the spirit of the fear of the Lord). So the fullness of the spirit refer to the completeness of these 7 spirits that characterize the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. so the personification of wisdom in the proverbs 8 refers to the Holy Spirit. We understand that in the days of the old testament, the Holy Spirit was not yet revealed to Men.
The key to understanding Wisdom's identity lies in both the genre of the book itself and the textual clues within the book.
The Book of Proverbs is classified as wisdom literature. This genre existed prior to the generation of the proverbs or the compiling of the book itself. The society into which these proverbs were written was already familiar with the concepts of "wisdom" and "proverbs," and they sought for wisdom and valued it dearly. No one wanted to be a fool. Everyone wanted to be wise and successful.
The Book of Proverbs presents the wisdom of God as the true wisdom. Essentially, its function is to point the wisdom-seeker back to God. Thus, the function of the Book of Proverbs in the canon of Scripture is (...no surprise here...) redemptive in nature. (And so we discover that the book is not so out of place in the canon as scholars have traditionally thought.)
Throughout the book the term "wisdom" is used interchangeably with "righteousness", and likewise, the term "foolishness" is used interchangeably with "wickedness." For example, Proverbs 10:18-21:
(Notice that hatred, lying, and slander in the first verse would normally be characteristic of the "wicked," but here the wise man names the "fool." In the second verse, the man of transgression is contrasted not with the "righteous," but with the "wise." In the third verse we might expect the tongue of the "wise" to be as choice silver, but he instead names the "righteous." In the fourth verse, righteousness is explicitly contrasted -- not with "wickedness," but with "foolishness.")
This is why the wise woman of Proverbs 31 is characterized by the fear of the Lord, and why the wisdom of Proverbs so often points us in the exact same direction of the rest of Scripture: to humility, ministry, love, Godly character, compassion, etc.
It isn't hard to see during a quick read through the book of Proverbs that true "wisdom" is to walk in God's ways.
Who would qualify as the "personification of God's ways"? Well, God, I suppose. It isn't hard to make the connection to Jesus, the perfect God-Man. The following verse comes to mind:
The question in my mind is whether Wisdom is Jesus or the Spirit, but I suppose I'm splitting hairs at this point.