The Teaching of the Wisdom of God in the Holy Scripture

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only Holy True Savior,


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[source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Protopresbyter Michael Pamazansky]

The word sophia, "wisdom," is encountered in the sacred books of both the Old Testament (in the Greek translation) and the New Testament.

In the New Testament Sacred Scripture it is used in three meanings:

1. In the usual broad meaning of wisdom, understanding: "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature" (St. Luke 2:52); "But wisdom is justified of all her children" (St. Luke 7:35).

2. In the meaning of the wise economy of God expressed in the creation of the world, in His Providence over the world, and in the salvation of the world from sin: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!...For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been His counselor?" (Romans 11:33-34). "We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory" (I Cor. 2:7).

3. In relation to the Son of God as the Hypostatical Wisdom of God: "But we preach Christ crucified...Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (I Cor. 1:23-24); "Who of God is made unto us wisdom" (I Cor. 1:30).

In the Old Testament Sacred Scripture we find in many places statements concerning wisdom. Here also there are the same three meanings for this term. In particular, wisdom is spoken of in the book of Proverbs and in two of the Apocryphal books: the Wisdom of Solomon and the Wisdom of Joshua, Son of Sirach.

a) In the majority of cases, human wisdom is presented here as a gift of God which one must hold exceptionally dear. The very titles of the books, the "Wisdom" of Solomon and the "Wisdom" of Joshua, Son or Sirach, indicate in what sense--namely, in the sense of human wisdom--one must understand this word here. In other Old Testament books separate episodes are cited which specially depict human wisdom--for example, the famous judgment of Solomon.

The above-named books introduce us to the direction of thought of the God-inspired teachers of the Jewish people. These teachers inspire the people to be guided by reason, not to give way to blind inclinations and passions, and to hold firmly in their actions to the commands of prudence, correct judgment, the moral law, and the firm foundation of duty in personal, family, and public life.

A large part of the ideas in the book of Proverbs is devoted to this subject. The title of this book, "Proverbs," forewarns the reader that he will find in it a figurative, metaphorical, and allegorical means of exposition. In the introduction to the book, after indicating the theme of it, which is "understanding, wisdom, and instruction," the author expresses the assurance that "a wise man... will understand a parable, and a dark speech, the sayings of the wise also, and riddles" (Prov. 1:5-6, Septuagint)--that is, he will understand its figurativeness, its allegoricalness, its "hard saying" (Prov. 1:3), without taking all the images in a literal sense.

b) And where does wisdom come from? Like everything else in the world, it has a single source: God. "For the Lord gives wisdom, and from His presence come knowledge and understanding" (Prov. 2:6). God is the Guide even of wisdom and the Corrector of the wise" (Wisdom of Solomon 7:15).

A second group of utterances in Holy Scripture refer to this wisdom of God, which is "the wisdom in God Himself". Ideas of the wisdom in God are interspersed with ideas of the wisdom in man.

c) Finally, the writer of the book of Proverbs is prophetically exalted in thought to the prefiguration of the New Testament economy of God, which is to be revealed in the preaching of the Savior of the world, in the salvation of the world and of mankind, and in the creation of the New Testament Church. This prefiguration is to be found in the first verses of the ninth chapter of Proverbs: "Wisdom has built a house for herself, and set up seven pillars. She has killed her beasts; she has mingled her wine in a bowl..." (Prov. 9:1-6, Septuagint). This magnificent image is equal in power to the prophecies of the Savior in the Old Testament prophets.

Since the economy of salvation was performed by the Son of God, the Holy Fathers of the Church, and following them the Orthodox interpreters of the book of Proverbs in general, refer the name "wisdom of God," which essentially belongs to the Holy Trinity as a whole, to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God, as the Fulfiller of the Counsel of the Holy Trinity.

The Son of God, as a Hypostasis of the Holy Trinity, contains in Himself all the Divine attributes in the same fullness as do the Father and the Holy Spirit. However, as having manifested these attributes to the world in its creation and its salvation, He is called the Hypostatic Wisdom of God. On the same grounds, the Son of God can also be called the Hypostatic Love (see Saint Symeon the New Theologian, Homily 53); the Hypostatic Light (walk [in the light] "while you have the light"--St. John 12:35); the Hypostatic Life ("Thou has given birth to the Hypostatic Life"--Canon of the Annunciation, Canticle 8); and the Hypostatic Power of God ("We preach...Christ the power of God"--I Cor. 1:23-24).

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George