Who is (or isn’t) Wisdom in Proverbs 8

Proverbs chapters 1-9 discuss the Lady Wisdom. From her calling out in the market place in chapter one to her building her house and inviting people to her banquet in chapter nine, Wisdom is seen as a lovely female personality. The proverbs are written in a poetic literary style, and as personification is often used in such, Wisdom is personified as a lady. This does not imply that Wisdom is female or that she stands as an actual person calling out in the streets. While that would be a literal interpretation, it would be an incorrect one. Wisdom is described as a personification of one of God’s eternal traits. God is Wisdom, and throughout history God has called to us in the midst of our busy streets and he has prepared a place for us and he is ultimately calling us to his banqueting table.

In chapter 8, starting in verse 22 and ending in 31, we find the following poem (or stanza of the larger poem):

The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.
I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:
While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.
When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:
When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:
When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth:
Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;
Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.

Throughout all of chapter 8 Wisdom is the one speaking. She is the “I” throughout the whole chapter. In the verses above, the I of wisdom is often compared to Christ. I think it’s here where some issues in interpretation arise. Wisdom can certainly be compared to Christ, but is the Wisdom of Proverbs 8 the Christ, and if so, what would that mean?

Proverbs 8:22 says “The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.” (KJV). Other translations read:

“The LORD formed me from the beginning, before he created anything else.” (NLT)

“The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old;” (NIV)

“The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.” (RSV)

“The LORD possessed [Or fathered; Septuagint created] me at the beginning of his work, [Hebrew way] the first of his acts of old.” (ESV, Footnotes inline)

The word translated “possessed” or “created” or “fathered” is Strong’s H7069 – qanah. In the King James Bible, this word is translated as the following: Buy (46x), get (15x), purchased (5x), buyer (3x), possessor (3x), possessed (2x), owner (1x), recover (1x), redeemed (1x), and miscellaneous (7x).

So here, it would be safe to say that Wisdom was the first thing God incorporated in the design of creation. In a sense, wisdom is the personified blueprint of all of creation, an interpretation that would align with the whole of scripture.

It is interesting that some people go beyond this and say that this Wisdom IS Christ. They then use verse 22 as a proof text that Christ was created and is therefor, not eternal and not God. This leaves many problems though. First, Since this speaker IS Wisdom, to say this speaker is also the created Christ is to say that God had to create wisdom. This makes no sense as God is wisdom (as one of his many eternal attributes)… God wasn’t unintelligent and unwise and one day said, “I need to create Wisdom so I can then have Wisdom.” 1 Corinthians 1:24 says referring to Christ, “Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” These are eternal attributes that God always had. God did not one day create these things, suggesting he did not have these things (power and wisdom, which is Christ) before that time.

Often, those who argue verse 22 proves Christ is Wisdom in Proverbs 8 and therefor was a created being and is not God also use 1 Corinthians 8:6 to show that God created Jesus who then created the world. 1 Corinthians 8:6 says “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” They also use Colossians 1:16, which states that all things were created “by him” (him being Jesus).

However, this doesn’t work with the very poem in Proverbs 8 that they use to tie everything together. Consider the verses from Proverbs 8 (italics and parenthetical additions mine):

While as yet he (God) had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.
When he (God) prepared the heavens, I was there: when he (G0d) set a compass upon the face of the depth:
When he (God) established the clouds above: when he (God) strengthened the fountains of the deep:
When he (God) gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he (God) appointed the foundations of the earth:
Then I was by him (God), as one brought up with him (God): and I was daily his (God’s) delight, rejoicing always before him;

Here, Wisdom is clearly described as a personification, as a child (and a female child at that) who grew up with God and watched, rejoicing as God created the world. It is clear from these verses that the Wisdom of Proverbs 8 did not actually create or do anything. She was just there, rejoicing always before God. If this female wisdom is Christ, then Proverbs 8 conflicts directly with 1 Corinthians 8: 6 (see above) and Colossians 1:16 (see above). This also would be in conflict to Hebrews 1:10, which clearly states that it was the Son who created. The Son can’t create and also sit idly by and watch the Father create. It simply doesn’t work. In isolation, the argument could be made that this Wisdom might be the actual Christ, but when you consider the whole of the Bible, the argument fails and contradicts the whole of the Bible. The Bible does not contradict itself when read correctly as a whole. We must be careful not to follow doctrines that must be read and interpreted only in isolation from the rest of scripture.

The better translation of these verses in Proverbs 8 would be of the personified blueprints – the wisdom brought forth and planned in creation. The blueprints, personified, are excitedly watching her plans come to fruition as God creates the world. This brings continual rejoicing before him.

We get ourselves into trouble when we falsely claim that the speaker in Proverbs 8 is Christ and not simply the personification of Wisdom. With this false assumption, we can then tie other scriptures to the falsehood to make them say things they don’t imply in the first place. This then takes all of the associated scriptures out of alignment with the whole of scripture. This is done regarding Jesus being the “firstborn.”

What does it mean, Jesus being the firstborn? Colossians 1:15, speaking of Jesus, says “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:” Verse 17 adds, “And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” To correctly interpret these verses, we need to remember how “firstborn” is used in scripture. Paul was a man of strict Jewish heritage. In his writings, we see his accurate use of the term with it’s connection to the old testament. Paul used the term “firstborn” just as the Bible does throughout. David is described in Psalm 89:27 with the words “Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.” Yet David was not the firstborn son – in fact, he was the last born son of Jesse. He was also not the first or last king of Israel, but despite this he was the “firstborn.” This refers to David’s (and Jesus’) preeminence – his superiority and surpassing of all others. Jeremiah 31:9 does the same thing when it says “Ephraim is my firstborn.” Ephraim was not a firstborn son, but he was the preeminent one. Jesus is the image of the invisible God – the God who became flesh and dwelt among us, and he is superior and preeminent over all creation.

Note carefully the wording of Colossians 1:17 – “And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” Jesus is before all things (as any eternal God would be). In many translations, “and by him all things consist” is translated “and in him all things hold together” (NIV/ESV/RSV) or “he holds all creation together.” (NLT) Jesus is before and outside of this world, having created it (as God – as shown in our Proverbs verses and Genesis) and is holding it together. Some translators, though, add to this text words that are not found in the original Greek. For example, the New World Translation says “Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist,” This version’s readers would say that the “[other]” additions are there to clarify the meaning – but it does not clarify – it completely changes the meaning. Paul could have added the word other if it were needed, but it was not, and adding it then brings this scripture into conflict with the whole of the Bible. For this translation, in adding “[other]” here, they had to change John 1:1 to match, making Jesus an “other” god separate from God the father, but then you’re stuck with two gods when you are only permitted one, and it just gets more difficult to keep things tied together as you continue. Eventually, you are left with a different, inconsistent faith that has numerous points of internal conflict which can’t be reconciled in accurate translations of the original scriptures. We must be careful to not fall into these sorts of traps.

The Wisdom of Proverbs 8 is just that – wisdom. She is personified as a virtuous woman in Proverbs, and in a literary poetic style, she is shown rejoicing watching her wisdom unfold as the founding blueprint of creation. While there may be likeness, she is not shown as Christ, for if she were, as some assume, then there would have to have been a time before Christ when God did not have wisdom or power (as Christ is the wisdom and power of God). And a God without wisdom or power wouldn’t have the wisdom or power to create Christ in the first place. Christ had to always be.

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