In Proverbs 8:22-31, a figure known as "Woman Wisdom" is described as being present when G-d was creating the world. Obviously, "Woman Wisdom" serves as a great personification to teach about the importance of learning Wisdom for the purpose of fearing G-d, but did some early Jewish sects believe in an actual divine being known as "Woman Wisdom" -- possibly G-d's wife? What piques my curiosity is the reference to "I was beside him, like a master worker." Much later during Hellenistic times, there was a Jewish-Christian concept of "Sophia" (Greek for Wisdom) being G-d's wife. Is this concept traced back to Proverbs 8:22-31?

I have pasted the passage below (Proverbs 8:22-31):

22 The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. 23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. 24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth— 26 when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil. 27 When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, 29 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, 30 then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, 31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

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    (1) I haven't checked the passage, so this comment is based only on your quotation thereof: Where are you getting your claim "a figure known as 'Woman Wisdom' is described" from ? I don't see any such terminology in the quotation. (2) "Much later during Hellenistic times, there was a Jewish-Christian concept of 'Sophia' (Greek for Wisdom) being G-d's wife. Is this concept traced back to Proverbs 8:22-31?" (a) Can you clarify what you mean by "Jewish-Christian"? Do you mean Christianity as practiced by Jews? (b) Asking the source of a Christian idea strikes me as off-topic. How would we know?
    – msh210
    Jul 26, 2016 at 21:51
  • @msh210 , I was reading Proverbs in the NRSV. I don't have the JSP on me, but I know that Woman Wisdom/Lady Wisdom are what scholars refer to this entity. jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/woman-wisdom-bible . 2) Gnostic Jews and Christians in Egypt during Hellenistic period would be a better description than "Hellenistic Jewish-Christians" -- though the description you gave would be a legitimate perspective too, as was very common in the first few centuries. Jul 27, 2016 at 7:22

1 Answer 1


The biblical commentator Rashi begins Proverbs 8 by explaining that the word "chochma"/"wisdom" in verse 1, "Will not wisdom call out, and understanding give forth its voice?" is referring to the Torah:

Will not wisdom call out: Does not the Torah announce for you the things mentioned below in this section?

All the statements below are made by the personified Torah, and in fact, the Torah makes a statement in verse 31 which Rashi explains as

and [having] my delights: I waited until the generation of the desert came and accepted me.

  • Thank you very much! Biblical Hermeneutics also provided an answer from the historical perspective of early Jewish-Christians, prior to Rashi's time. Here is the answer they provided: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/23518/15877 Jul 26, 2016 at 6:49
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    @ButterflyandBones The link you provided showed that the source cited did not know what they were talking about and would be considered avodas zarah (idolatry. Jul 26, 2016 at 18:13
  • @sabbahillel , I don't think "did not know what they were talking about" is a fair assessment at all. The scholars & citations are experts in historical biblical interpretation & the listing of multiple theories does not equate to "not knowing." And its true that it could and is very well considered avocado zarah, but I don't know that we should project our feelings/morals onto history. I wasn't asking how it is interpreted now, but how it was interpreted historically, & their perception of idolatry is not the same as ours today. Even if it was, it was a historical question -- not a moral one Jul 27, 2016 at 7:30
  • @ButterflyandBones If you read the citations in that answer, the conjecture is not well supported. Consider, for e.g., the following quote from Hadley (omitted in the BH answer): "Ḥokmâ is not listed in any onomastica or extra-biblical literature as a goddess." The fact that proverbs in Mishlei personify wisdom is what you'd expect from, well, a proverb. There's no need to draw theological implications from a hyperliteralist view of a proverb, much less to view the personification of wisdom as a deity, unless you take the unwarranted maximalist view of intercultural religious appropriation.
    – Fred
    Jul 29, 2016 at 7:59
  • @Fred I'm sorry, I think there is some confusion. I'm not asking about modern interpretations Or even conventional understandings. Or how the author of Proverbs intended to represent Lady Wisdom. I'm asking how it was perceived over two thousand years ago by some... the fact is, there is both archaeological and textual evidence that at least some early Jews interpreted Lady/Woman Wisdom as an actual divine being. By no means am I saying this is the norm or correct, I'm just saying there is evidence attesting to this historical thought. Jul 29, 2016 at 9:05

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