Sophia: Wisdom of God — Center for Action and Contemplation

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See the schedule and event session details for the final CONSPIRE conference (Sep. 24 – 26)

Sophia: Wisdom of God

God as Us: Week 1

Sophia: Wisdom of God
Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Theologian Marcus Borg’s study of Scripture reveals many female metaphors for God. Here he shows how God’s wisdom was invariably presented as a woman:

The most fully developed female biblical image for God is in the wisdom literature of ancient Israel—in Proverbs and in two books of the Apocrypha [books included in the Catholic and Episcopal Bibles, but not in most Protestant versions], namely [The Book of] Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) and the Wisdom of Solomon. In these, “the wisdom of God” is often personified as a woman. Scholars now commonly refer to this personification as “Sophia,” the Greek word for wisdom.

In Proverbs 8, Sophia speaks of herself. She was with God before creation, and she was the master worker through whom God created (see especially 8:22-31). In Sirach 24, she is from eternity and fills all that is.

In the Wisdom of Solomon 7:22-27, she is “the fashioner” and “mother” of all good things and:

. . . a spirit that is intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen, irresistible, beneficent, humane, steadfast, sure, free from anxiety, all-powerful, overseeing all, and penetrating through all. (Wisdom 7:22-23)

These are, of course, attributes of God. Later, beginning in chapter ten, the author summarizes the history of Israel and uses the word Sophia/Wisdom where we would expect the word “God.”

In the first chapter of John, what the author says about “the Word of God” was said about Sophia in the Jewish tradition. Like the Word, Sophia was present with God before creation. Just as the Word was with God and was God, so Sophia was. And when John writes that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us as Jesus, he could just as well have said that Sophia became flesh and dwelt among us as Jesus. Jesus is the Wisdom/Sophia of God incarnate.

Richard here again: I would like to add that Jesus appears to directly claim this title in several places (see Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:35), and of course Paul speaks extensively of such “Wisdom” as the “mind of Christ” (see his Sermo Sapientiae, or “Sermon on Wisdom,” in 1 Corinthians 1:17-2:16).  

Gateway to Silence:
I am created in God’s image.

Taken from Marcus Borg, “Female Images of God in the Bible,” Radical Grace, vol. 24, no. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2011), 4. 

Image credit: Young Woman, Juarez, Mexico, 2009. CAC archives.
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