Wisdom as Faith


The Old Testament in some texts clearly presents Wisdom as something akin to faith, a pure gift of God. In these texts Wisdom is often understood in terms of the human activity involved in acquiring or possessing “wisdom”, but at other times in terms of the transcendent object that is thus acquired or possessed. First, then, in terms of human activity Wisdom is presented as a unique divine gift that Solomon received (1 Kings 3: 3-14). It is more than human talent (2 Sam 14: 17; 16: 23; 19: 27). It is rooted in, or equivalent to, the “fear of the Lord”, which in turn is akin to what we would call faith (Prov 1: 7; Sir 1).

Second, as transcendent object Wisdom is perhaps most clearly presented in the book of Wisdom where Wisdom is defined as a spiritual being that is understood as the world soul pervading all creation (Wis 7: 22-24) or as the breath of God (Wis 7: 25-26) or as present in human spirits (Wis 7: 27-28) or as consort of God (Wis 8: 3-4). This teaching is an elaboration of the simpler expression of the same ideas in Prov 8: 22-31. Similarly, Wisdom is presented as a spiritual woman in the heavenly court in Sirach 24.

Proverbs 1 – 9 repeatedly presents Wisdom as the object of desire in the form of a voice of a woman crying in the streets, inviting all to seek her and learn from her. Job 28 depicts the search as a successful activity in terms of technological advance (Job 28; 1-6) and yet one that is ultimately frustrated., and he recommends that one abandon the search for Wisdom as transcendent object and revert to Wisdom as a divinely graced but human activity: “the fear of the Lord, that is Wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28: 28). Whether Wisdom is understood as a divinely inspired human activity or the divine object of that activity, in all these texts we see Wisdom as a reality that relates to human reason but remains divine in origin.

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