Thursday, February 17, 2011

Week Six: What simlilarity, if any, do you see between “the word” in John 1 and “wisdom” in Proverbs and Wisdom of Solomon?

In the beginning was the Word” (John 1.1a NRSV).
“The LORD created me at the beginning of his work” (Prov 8.22).

            In order to explore the similarities between the Word (Logos) and Wisdom (Sophia), it is important to start at the beginning, where were both present with the Creator God. The Gospel of John proclaims that in the beginning, the Word was, and was with God (John 1.1). In Proverbs 8, Wisdom is created “before the beginning of the earth” (Prov 8.23), indicating that Wisdom, like the Word, was present in the beginning. Further, “all things came into being through [the Word]” (John 1.3), much like Wisdom is portrayed as a co-creator (Brenneman 2/16/11), a “master worker” beside God (Prov 8.30). Both Wisdom and Word are God’s partners in creation, not only present alongside the Creator but helping to craft the cosmos (Prov 8.30). Also, the Word’s role as “the life…the light of all people (John 1.4, emphasis mine) echoes Wisdom’s proclamation that at the beginning of creation, she was “rejoicing in [God’s] inhabited world and delighting in the human race” (Prov 8.31). The image of Word/Wisdom as light in John 1.4 also reflects Wisdom of Solomon’s proclamation that Wisdom “is a reflection of the eternal light” (Wis 7.26). John 1, Proverbs 8, and Wisdom of Solomon 7 all present Wisdom/Word as present with God from the beginning of time, creating alongside God (Prov 8.30), and proclaiming God’s life and light (John 1.4) to all humanity, in whom Wisdom/Word takes great joy (Prov 8.31).
            Because Proverbs 8 is among my favorite chapters in the wisdom corpus, I especially enjoyed making the connection between Sophia in Proverbs 8 and Logos in John 1. The similarities between the passages are striking, and it is exciting for me to use my knowledge of wisdom literature as a framework for thinking about who Jesus is. Just as Wisdom cries out to all people, calling them to the way of life (Prov 8.35), Jesus becomes the Word made flesh (John 1.14), life and light shining in the darkness (John 1.4-5). Through the incarnation, God becomes flesh for the same reason that we turn our thoughts into words— so that the message might be understood by all people (Augustine 13-14). And as we come face to face with the Word made flesh, we receive “grace upon grace” (John 1.16), the gift of God’s light and life permeating our world.

Augustine, On Christian Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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