A Series of Answers to Common Questions
The New Testament applies to Jesus the language and descriptions which the OT Wisdom literature (i.e. Proverbs 8) and Apocrypha (i.e. Wisdom 7:22-8:1, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 24 etc.) apply to Wisdom. In fact, many of the early Christian writers such as Justin Martyr, Athanasius etc., believed these texts, specifically Proverbs 8:22, referred to Christ in his prehuman existence. Yet Proverbs 8:22 says that Yahweh created Wisdom. Since many Christian writers believed that this reference is about Christ doesn't this prove that he is not God Almighty, but the first creature that God made?
To begin with, even though the NT describes Jesus in language that is reminiscent of the Wisdom texts, with the early Church using Proverbs 8:22-36 to prove Jesus' prehuman existence and generation, the reference itself is not speaking of Christ. The context clearly shows that the passage is referring to God's own eternal attribute of Wisdom:
Does not wisdom call, does not understanding raise her voice? ... I, wisdom, dwell in prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion...The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth; before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabite world and delighting in the sons of men. And now, my sons, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Happy is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD; but he who misses me injures himself; all who hate me love death." Proverbs 8:1, 12, 22-36 RSV
Solomon is taking an impersonal attribute of God and personifying it, a common literary feature of Wisdom literature. The reason why Solomon personified Wisdom as a woman is because the Hebrew word for it, hokmah, is feminine in gender.
Moreover, the verb for create in verse 22 is qanah which can refer to acquiring, purchasing, getting etc., just as the following lexicon explains:
It is used throughout Proverbs to mean "acquire," "purchase," "get":
"the wise man also may hear and increase in learning, and the man of understanding acquire skill," Proverbs 1:5
"do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Get wisdom; get insight... The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight." Proverbs 4:5, 7
"He who ignores instruction despises himself, but he who heeds admonition gains understanding." Proverbs 15:32
"To get wisdom is better than gold; to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver." Proverbs 16:16
"Why should a fool have a price in his hand to buy wisdom, when he has no mind?" Proverbs 17:16
"An intelligent mind acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge." Proverbs 18:15
"He who gets wisdom loves himself; he who keeps understanding will prosper." Proverbs 19:8
"'It is bad, it is bad,' says the buyer; but when he goes away, then he boasts." Proverbs 20:14
"Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding." Proverbs 23:23
In the context of Proverbs 8:22 the verb is more literally translated, not as create, but as begotten or birthed, i.e. "Yahweh begot/ birthed me as the beginning of his ways." This can be readily seen from a more literal rendering of Proverbs 8:22-25:
"Yahweh himself begat me as the beginning of his way, the first of his acts of old. From eternity I was appointed, from the start, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no watery deeps I was brought forth as with labor pains, when there were no springs heavily charged with water. Before the mountains themselves had been fashioned, before the hills, I was brought forth as with labor pains."
The text is obviously speaking figuratively on how Yahweh acquired Wisdom, i.e. Yahweh got it by begetting or birthing it in order to use it to create everything. We know that it is figurative since Yahweh doesn't literally give birth in labor pains.
The following texts make it clear that Wisdom was birthed for the purpose of being used by Yahweh to create:
"Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding, for the gain from it is better than gain from silver and its profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy. The LORD BY WISDOM founded the earth; BY UNDERSTANDING he established the heavens; BY HIS KNOWLEDGE the deeps broke forth, and the clouds drop down the dew." Proverbs 3:13-20
David, in the Psalms, wrote that God created everything that has been made in Wisdom:
"He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved. You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they took to flight. The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place that you appointed for them. You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth. You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills; they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; they sing among the branches. From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man's heart. The trees of the LORD are watered abundantl, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. In them the birds build their nests; the stork has her home in the fir trees. The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers. He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. You make darkness, and it is night, when all the beasts of the forest creep about. The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God. When the sun rises, they steal away and lie down in their dens. Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening. O LORD, how manifold are your works! IN WISDOM HAVE YOU MADE THEM ALL; the earth is full of your creatures." Psalm 104:1-24 ESV
The fact that Wisdom was used by God to create every created thing shows that Wisdom itself is not created since it existed before creation. This leads us to our next point.
It is important to note that not every act of begetting or creation necessarily implies that the thing created or begotten didn't exist prior to that moment. For instance, the verb qanah is used in reference to Eve giving birth to Cain:
"Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, 'I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.'" Genesis 4:1 RSV
It is obvious that Cain didn't come into existence the moment that Eve gave birth or "produced him" since he was already alive and existing in his mother's womb for at least nine months. This demonstrates that the verb qanah doesn't necessarily refer to creating someone or something from nothing, but can refer to something or someone that already existed and was then brought forth or birthed.
In light of the foregoing, the question then becomes from where did Yahweh beget Wisdom? Did he beget it by creating it out of nothing, ex nihilo, or did he beget it out of his own Being, out of himself? Proverbs itself provides a clue:
"For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;" Proverbs 2:6 RSV
The Wisdom which Yahweh gives is the knowledge and understanding that comes from his mouth. The reference is essentially saying that Yahweh produced Wisdom out of his own mouth, which shows that Wisdom wasn't created from nothing since it existed with(in) Yahweh. In other words, Yahweh always had Wisdom as an attribute which he then produced or brought forth in order to create and to give to others.
Basically, what this implies is that Proverbs is using figurative language to describe how Yahweh birthed his own eternal attribute of Wisdom from Himself in creating everything. Thus, even if the text were referring to Christ this would only prove that the Creedal statements were correct in stating that Jesus was eternally begotten before all creation, begotten not made.
Yet, as it stands, this text isn't referring to Christ nor is it saying that Wisdom was created from nothing. It is simply a poetic description of how Yahweh used his own eternal attribute of Wisdom to create all things.
Also go to http://jude3.net/trinitytopicindex.htm and look for the specific section titled, A Dialog on the Son of God Created between Wrench in the Works (an anonymous, self-described Jehovah's Witness) and Ray Goldsmith (a Christian layman).
A Series of Answers to Common Questions
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