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In Proverbs 8:22-31, a figure known as "Woman Wisdom" is described as being present when God was creating the world. Obviously, "Woman Wisdom" serves as a great personification to teach about the importance of learning Wisdom for the purpose of fearing God, but did some early Jewish sects believe in an actual divine being known as "Woman Wisdom" -- possibly God's wife? What piques my curiosity is the reference to "I was beside him, like a master worker." Much later during Hellenistic times, there was a Jewish-Christian concept of "Sophia" (Greek for Wisdom) being God's wife. Is this concept traced back to Proverbs 8:22-31?

I have pasted the passage below (Proverbs 8:22-31):

22 The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. 23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. 24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth— 26 when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil. 27 When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, 29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30 then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, 31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

marked as duplicate by Dɑvïd, James Shewey, Nathaniel, Dan Jul 29 '16 at 6:31

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  • 3
    Potential duplicate? "Why is Wisdom personified as a woman?" – Dɑvïd Jul 26 '16 at 10:39
  • I'm not asking "why" Wisdom is portrayed as a woman, but whether or not early Jews & Christians ever took it as a literal person. Quite a bit different. – Butterfly and Bones Jul 26 '16 at 18:59
  • I think you'll find that your interest is part of the other question, too. Did you read over the answers in the other question? – Dɑvïd Jul 26 '16 at 21:09
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Mark S. Smith says in The Early History of God, page 133, that scholars such as G. Bostrom, H . Ringgren, W. F. Albright and others have compared the figure of Wisdom to the Canaanite goddess Asherah. On page 201, Smith says that Wisdom perhaps included some features of Asherah, and that she is a dramatic example of an originally polytheistic motif that changed into a form deemed compatible with monotheistic Yahwism. He points out (page 134) that Ecclesiasticus continues and amplifies the female personification of Wisdom.

If Wisdom was not the post-Exilic understanding of Asherah, she was certainly a female spirit or goddess who was revered in Judaism, and apparently in early Christianity, up until the end of the first century CE. Judith M. Hadley ('Wisdom and the goddess' page 236, published in Wisdom in Ancient Israel, edited by Day, Gordon and Williamson) says in her view, the apparent apotheosis of Lady Wisdom in the biblical literature is a literary compensation for the eradication of Israel's former goddesses. Hadley concludes (page 242) that in several places in Israelite wisdom literature, Lady Wisdom is described as a person and even seems to have divine attributes, although scholars have been reluctant to give her full divinity.

Lady Wisdom is mentioned in the gospels at Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:35:

But Wisdom is justified of all her children.

Theophilus, bishop of Antioch from 168 until 180, was the first Christian writer to use the word 'Trinity', but for him the Trinity consisted of God, Logos (Jesus) and Wisdom (Sophia), who was co-created with the Logos.

  • Dick, do you feel it worth including a reference to the book of Wisdom (OT) and its frequent reference to Wisdom as being in female form. – KorvinStarmast Jul 26 '16 at 17:53
  • Hi @KorvinStarmast Thanks for the tip - I'm not sure, as the question seems to be about whether Wisdom was actually divine. Do you have a passage in mind? – Dick Harfield Jul 26 '16 at 21:38
  • @DickHarfield Will have one soon, need to review. – KorvinStarmast Jul 27 '16 at 1:41
  • @DickHarfield Wisdom 6:12-22, as well as Wisdom 1:6 embodies Wisdom in a female person. (At least, it seems to). Ther is some cross reference to Jeremiah as well. In Wisdom 7: 7-12 Solomon addresses Wisdom as a woman. I think these might fit your answer. – KorvinStarmast Jul 27 '16 at 19:21

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