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Luke 11:49:

διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡ σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ εἶπεν· ἀποστελῶ εἰς αὐτοὺς προφήτας καὶ ἀποστόλους, καὶ ἐξ αὐτῶν ἀποκτενοῦσιν καὶ διώξουσιν, (NA28)

Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’(ESV)

I’m not finding this phrase ‘the Wisdom of God’ anywhere else in the gospels. The parallel passage in Matthew (23:34-36) omits it, leaving the following words (and the sending therein) as Jesus’ own (ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω πρὸς ὑμᾶς προφήτας...), spoken in the present rather than future tense. There are several references in the epistles to the 'wisdom of God' (e.g. Rom 11:33, Eph 3:10), but nowhere does it speak.

  • What does the ‘Wisdom of God’ refer to?
  • Is the saying that follows (either the rest of v. 49 or vv. 49-51) a quote from something?
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  • you might want to add this to your question: 1Esdr. 8:23 καὶ σύ, Εσδρα, κατὰ τὴν σοφίαν τοῦ θεοῦ ἀνάδειξον κριτὰς καὶ δικαστάς, ὅπως δικάζωσιν ἐν ὅλῃ Συρίᾳ καὶ Φοινίκῃ πάντας τοὺς ἐπισταμένους τὸν νόμον τοῦ θεοῦ σου· καὶ τοὺς μὴ ἐπισταμένους δὲ διδάξεις. Ezra 7:25 καὶ σύ, Εσδρα, ὡς ἡ σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν χειρί σου κατάστησον γραμματεῖς καὶ κριτάς, ἵνα ὦσιν κρίνοντες παντὶ τῷ λαῷ τῷ ἐν πέρα τοῦ ποταμοῦ, πᾶσιν τοῖς εἰδόσιν νόμον τοῦ θεοῦ σου, καὶ τῷ μὴ εἰδότι γνωριεῖτε. May 12 '15 at 20:04
  • I performed a search on: wisdom christology james dunn; found a recent paper on it which might provide some useful bibliography: The Wisdom Christology of Paul - Academia.edu academia.edu/531500/The_Wisdom_Christology_of_Paul May 12 '15 at 21:05
  • Although it's a different genre of NT literature, 1 Cor. 1:24 identifies Jesus Christ as the "wisdom of God."
    – user862
    May 13 '15 at 7:35
  • "of God" means infinite.
    – R. Emery
    Feb 18 at 23:43
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Jesus is quoting himself...reminding his listeners what he has said in the past about those who killed the prophets. He spoke similar words in Matthew without referencing another source. In Matthew, he is simply speaking his own words. In another instance we read a similar line of reasoning when he presents the parable of the vineyard. The prophets were like those who checked on the vineyard after the owner went away on a long trip. The keepers of the vineyard beat and killed the servants, the prophets, until they finally killed the owner's son (Jesus). So, this subject of Israel rejecting the prophets appears to have been something Jesus spoke of from time to time. In Luke, he is simply recalling the words of Wisdom...which are his own words. He is referencing his own earlier remarks on this topic. This is not his only time refering to himself as Wisdom. He once said "Wisdom is vindicated by her children," meaning "I am vindicated by my words and deeds." In Proverbs, references to Wisdom are sometimes apparantly speaking of the Messiah. St. Paul calls Jesus "the Wisdom of God."

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In Luke 11:49, Wisdom is personified: "The Wisdom of God said ..." To understand more of what the author of Luke understood about Wisdom, it is useful also to refer to Luke 7:35:

But wisdom is justified of all her children.

Once again, Wisdom is personified, as a female and having children, whether in the normal sense or allegorically.

Burton L. Mack says in Who Wrote the New Testament,page 264, that according to Philo, Logos was God's son, a second god, through whom the world was created as a rational and ordered universe. Born of mother Wisdom and appearing in the world, the Logos was the agent through whom the great leaders of Israel learned what God expected of them. As far as we know, Philo did not see the Logos ('Word')as a reference to Jesus, but a few decades later the author of John's Gospel had made that connection, referring to Jesus as the Word.

Jewish veneration of Wisdom, often referred to as 'Lady Wisdom', long predates Philo, as we can see in the Book of Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus and other books of Wisdom literature. 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.

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.

The Book of Proverbs tells us a great deal about Lady Wisdom, for example:

Proverbs 1:20ff: "Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets:She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity..."

Sophia is found as a of 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.

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It is entirely possible that "the wisdom of God" could be wisdom personified as we read of in places like Prov 1:20-33 & 8:1-36 however several other suggestions have been made in respect to what this could mean:

1) A saying that was recorded in literature or tradition that has not survived.

2) A lost book called "The Wisdom of God"

3) It has been translated "God in his wisdom has said'1

4) Jesus himself prophesying

It should be noted however that no book called "The wisdom of God" has been found, nor any other reference to such a book. Hendriksen also notes that "none of the usual quotation formulas occurring in the New Testament is here used." 2

The NAC commentary notes the following:

Selecting among these conflicting interpretations is also influenced by how one interprets the tense (past, aorist) of the verb “said” (Luke 11:49), “this generation” (11:50), and the reference to “Zechariah” in 11:51. If this Zechariah is the Zechariah of 2 Chr 24:20–22, how could the present generation be held responsible for martyrdoms occurring centuries before?3

Lange rules out option 1 & 2, whilst seeming to support option 4 when he says:

The Lord appears hereby to mean that through Him the wisdom of God speaks personally to the children of men. The view that the Saviour here cites an ancient declaration of God, lost to us (Paulus, Von Hengel), is inadmissible, as “contrary to the analogy of all other citations of Jesus, as well as to the evangelical tradition itself, which attributed these words, with Matt. 23:34, to Jesus.” Meyer. Perhaps we have here to understand a former declaration of the Saviour Himself, and to compare Matt. 11:19. As the Son of the Father, who spoke what He had formerly seen and heard with the Father, the Saviour could with the best right name Himself ἡ σοφία τοῦ Θεοῦ, and perhaps it is the recollection of similar declarations which has given John occasion to designate Him decidedly as the λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ. That here only a ὕστερον πρότερον of form occurs (Neander, Twesten, Meyer), has no proof. It was certainly not unworthy of the Saviour to cite His own formerly-uttered word as that of the Incarnate Wisdom of God, and if He did this we cannot then assume that He understood by the prophets and apostles any one else than those of the New Covenant now soon to appear in His place, and by whose rejection the measure of wickedness should be fulfilled, and the murder of the prophets reach its culmination.4

Hendriksen presents the following case:

The question arises, “But why make mention of this divine wisdom at all in the present connection?” Could it be because God’s wisdom is “that divine quality or attribute which reconciles seeming irreconcilables”? In verses 49–51 Jesus speaks about the rejection of “this generation.” But Paul makes clear—see Rom. 11:25–36—that the very rejection of carnal Israel, by means of several steps, which he enumerates, would result in the salvation of all God’s true people. When that apostle meditates upon this he exclaims, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!” There is that word wisdom again. It is true that in our present passage (Luke 11:49–51) that end result is not mentioned. However, an important link in the chain of causes is definitely in view here, namely, the rejection of carnal Israel (“so that the blood … may be exacted from this generation”).5

It seems to this writer that evangelical scholarship shies away from the idea of this being wisdom personified and tends towards this statement simply meaning "God, in his wisdom, has said...' however this conclusion will be based upon the presuppositions of the exegete as there is no clear and obvious single answer to the question based simply upon analysis of the text in isolation. As Evangelical scholarship is not the only bible scholarship out there, doubtless others will have different frameworks in which the text is understood which will give more weight to the other options listed, e.g. Wisdom Personified.

In this writers opinion the opinion of the exegete should be in the lines of "This is what I believe it is mostly to mean because of X and Y" rather then a dogmatic statement.


Notes

1 NIV(84) reads, "Luke 11:49 Because of this, God in his wisdom said,`I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.'"

2 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke (Vol. 11, p. 642). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

3 Stein, R. H. (1992). Luke (Vol. 24, p. 342). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

4Lange, J. P., & van Oosterzee, J. J. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Luke. (P. Schaff & C. C. Starbuck, Trans.) (p. 191). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

5Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke (Vol. 11, p. 642). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

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