Wisdom: a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgements and actions in keeping with this understanding. It often requires control of one’s emotional reactions (the “passions“) so that universal principles, reason and knowledge prevail to determine one’s actions. Wisdom is also the comprehension of what is true coupled with optimum judgment as to action.
Today more and more women – and men – are questioning traditional biblical teaching about deity. Although many people will assert that God is beyond gender, yet long centuries of referring to “Him” as masculine and addressing Him as Lord, King, Father etc have been a strong conditioning factor in our lives, whether we are “religious” or not. Sacred duties and religious rituals have been largely in the hands of men, and a hierarchy has been put firmly in place, constructed on the base that only men in themselves portray the image of God. For many years, it appeared that this view was the only one available, and is still “natural” and enshrined in many religious traditions.
No one can dispute that most biblical teachings come directly, or indirectly, from God, so thus it would stand to reason that wisdom, as defined above, would be a blessed by-product of this knowledge. Yet, in Hebrew apparently, wisdom is a feminine noun “sophia”, and as such, it is referred to as a “she.”
Therefore, the writer of Proverbs personifies her as “Lady Wisdom”. Many have speculated that this use of such a feminine noun, clearly shows that God is both male and female. Of course no one can say this for sure, but in the following passages, we learn that calling wisdom a “she”, certainly makes her easier to understand. That it actually makes us want to have a more personal relationship with such an interesting person as “Lady Wisdom”.
“Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Give heed to my reproof; I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused, have stretched out my hand and no one heeded, and because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you,
when panic strikes you like a storm, and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel, and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way and be sated with their own devices. For waywardness kills the simple, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.”
As we can see by today’s Bible reading, Wisdom is presented as more than an abstract concept like justice. By personifying wisdom as a woman, the abstract idea becomes more immediate and attainable. And the description, beautiful and poetic as it is, makes Lady Wisdom someone you want to know and know well. As described, wisdom becomes someone whose company you enjoy and look forward to. She is approachable to anyone and everyone. The goodness of your heart and purity of your spirit — not your I.Q. — is what attracts wisdom. The desire and resolve to do what is right and just in the eyes of God are the first steps toward wisdom that anyone and everyone can take, if they so choose. This is never more plainly stated than in the following passages:
Wisdom of Solomon 7:26 – 8:1
“For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness. Although she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets; for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom. She is more beautiful than the sun, and excels every constellation of the stars. Compared with the light she is found to be superior, for it is succeeded by the night, but against wisdom evil does not prevail. She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and she orders all things well.”
I think the following quote clearly explains how important wisdom was to early Christian Fathers. Portraying this crucial concept in the feminine voice, allowed anyone who wished, the ability to attain a personal relationship with Lady Wisdom.
“Everything to do with her is mysterious and paradoxical. In the Bible she is always female… She is continually being sought and found, lost and found; she ascends and descends; she finds her place in Israel, she can find no place in Israel. She is the divine female companion of God, eternal with Him before creation, and is herself involved in the cosmos as creator, nurturer, teacher and artificer. She acts as intermediary between God and humans and is willing to share herself with them and with the world. She may be married to God or to selected men, and she may be the mother of the created world. Human beings must follow her rules if they are to succeed in this life and also possibly partake in an afterlife with God. It was she who helped God create the universe and she knows all its secrets. She moves through it and orders it well”. (A. P. Long. in: Pirani. A. (ed.) The Absent Mother (1991:46))
I feel that by portraying Wisdom as such an enticing, intelligent, exciting female, the Early Christian authors of the Bible were saying many things:
1. One must strive to learn, and keep wisdom.
2. That such a worthy concept is attainable to all, male and female.
3. Just as with babies, our Mothers fed us, clothed us, and taught us, such is the Wisdom of the Lord.
4. It will nourish and sustain any who seek, and find her, this Lady Wisdom.