Summary: Year C. The Holy Trinity Sunday Proverbs 8: 22-31 June 10th, 2001 Title: “Wisdom is the intermediary.”
Year C. The Holy Trinity Sunday Proverbs 8: 22-31 June 10th, 2001
Title: “Wisdom is the intermediary.”
If Genesis 1-4 contains two “creation narratives, Proverbs 8: 22-31 contains a pre-creation narrative. It sings the praises of Wisdom by answering two questions: what is Wisdom’s origin, that is, where did Wisdom come from? And what is Wisdom’s role in creation, that is, what does Wisdom do? The answers come in the form of poetry, not philosophy or theology, with Wisdom speaking for herself?
Herself? Yes, Wisdom is depicted as a woman. Wisdom is, then, personified. Personification is a literary device which represents abstract ideas, inanimate objects, and even animals as if they were human beings. This is done to enliven an otherwise dull presentation, to create an atmosphere, to get the reader’s attention, or to bring an otherwise distant topic close to home. Thus, Wisdom is pictured as a woman, a teacher, a prophetess, a hostess, a bride, and a faithful lover.
In verses twenty-two to twenty-six, Wisdom describes her origin as lying in remotest antiquity, even before the creation of the world. In verses twenty-seven to thirty-one, she moves on to describe the part she played and continues to play at God’s side when he created the world and continues to create it. She is an ambivalent figure who is at home with God, coming from him and ever at his side, delighting him and delighting in him. She is also at home with humans, taking delight to be their playmate and delighting them with her gifts, teaching them a better way to live, a way she learned from the Creator. Wisdom, as a result of her bi-polar experience is the meeting place between God and humans, the way by which these two realms can understand each other and communicate with each other.
It is easy to see the development of the notion of Wisdom and especially its “personification” being the forerunner of Christ, especially in John’s way of putting it: “the Word, read Wisdom, became flesh and dwelt among us,” according to John 1: 14. What is said here and read here of Wisdom certainly describes Christ’s origins and role.
In verse twenty-two the Lord begot me: The Hebrew verb, qanah, can mean “create,” “acquire,” “beget,” or even “procreate.” Here it means either “beget” or “create,’ indicating that Wisdom is distinct from God, though his own “issue” in some mysterious way. The ambiguity of this word, qanah, has given rise to great controversy regarding the Trinity and the natures of Christ. Was Wisdom created or begotten? We must remember that this is poetry and should not press for too precise a meaning. We are dealing with metaphorical language here. In fact the ideas of creation and birth are not so diametrically opposed in the Old Testament as one might suppose, given their dissection by later Western non-poetical thinkers. In the Old Testament birth can be described as an act of creation Psalm 139:13; Deuteronomy 32:6, and an act of creation can easily be described as birth Psalm 90:2. The language is, in any case, metaphorical and poetical, and the choice between “created” and “begot” is not of great importance.