Wednesday, June 10, 2009

why is sophia silent?

I am responding to Joel's posts here, here and here, excerpting passages from Wisdom literature and comparing them to John's prologue.

It doesn't bother me one bit that they are not in the original languages. They provide inspiration enough for the moment. But Doug mentioned the importance of the Septuagint for this purpose and I would like to show you something that you might not otherwise see. Here is Psalm 33:6-9,
    6. τῷ λόγῳ τοῦ κυρίου οἱ οὐρανοὶ ἐστερεώθησαν
    καὶ τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ πᾶσα ἡ δύναμις αὐτῶν

    By the word of the Lord the heavens were made firm
    and by the breath (spirit) of his mouth all their host (power)

    7. συνάγων ὡς ἀσκὸν ὕδατα θαλάςης
    τιθεὶς ἐν θησαυροῖς ἀβύςους

    He gathers the waters of the sea as a wineskin
    and places the abysses in the vaults

    8. φοβηθήτω τὸν κύριον πᾶσα ἡ γῆ
    ἀπ' αὐτοῦ δὲ σαλευθήτωσαν πάντες οἱ κατοικοῦντες τὴν οἰκουμένην

    Let all the earth fear the Lord
    and by him let all the dwellers of the dwelling be shaken

    9. ὅτι αὐτὸς εἶπεν καὶ ἐγενήθησαν
    αὐτὸς ἐνετείλατο καὶ ἐκτίσθησαν

    Because it was he that spoke and they were brought forth
    and he commanded and they were created

Here we can see that creation is brought about by the "word" and the "spirit", or the breath of God. God speaks and it is brought forth. If this is read in Hebrew then the pair, דְבַר davar and רוּחַ ruach, are masculine and feminine.

Some might say that this is the spoken word and the life-giving spirit, but I read this as "articulation" and "airflow," two mechanisms working in consort to express meaning.

Now let's come back to an earlier conversation. I wrote,

If the logos is the sophia, then we need to signal that sophia, the pre-incarnate “expression” of God is feminine; just as Jesus, the logos become flesh, is masculine.

And then Joel wrote,

    I believe that the Logos and the Sophia are uniquely connected, both coming from Jewish speculation about God. I believe, for now, that Wisdom is seen easily as feminine because she is the giver of life, while the pre-incarnate Word is seen as masculine because it is active apart from life. I may better say it such, that Sophia is the unseen creative force, while the logos is God speaking. Two sides of the same coin, whole, unique, of God, and God.

I can only ask why the feminine should be unseen and unheard. Why is sophia/wisdom silent? In my paradigm, true expression is when the masculine and feminine act in harmony.


PS For some reason I can't seem to comment on Joel's blog. It says I have an invalid email address.


J. L. Watts said...

Suzanne, thanks for the wonderful post!

First, I have no idea why you cannot comment.Can you email me so that I can see if there is something wrong with your email addy?

Second, perhaps unseen is not the best word that I could have used. Instead, perhaps I should have said heavenly verses earthly? By that, I mean, that John interacted on a very personal level with the Logos, while Wisdom has yet to interact with humanity on the personal level, as the Logos has.

Wisdom is heavenly force, while Logos is earthly force. When God sent forth His Word, it was to interact with humanity, or creation, on some level, yet we are told to seek Wisdom.

Am I confusing the situation even more?

John Starke said...

Sue - I think too much is being put into the gender of the nouns. In Hebrew and in Greek, interpreters should not put too much stock in the gender of nouns or pronouns, other than discussing antecedent parts of the argument (especially in Greek). The gender of sophia and logos has nothing to do with the Personhood of Jesus. Any Greek grammar will first warn students not to put too much emphasis on the gender.

J. K. Gayle said...

John Starke suggests that interpreters should not put too much stock in the gender of nouns or pronouns.

And yet how important those pronouns must become, for example, if all the English translations of the Greek that Suzanne gives in this post were "she" and "her." Yes, of course, these are references to the (male) God - and yet if "spirit," "breath," "wisdom," or (horrors) "word" were "she" or "her" - then in English suddenly there must be alarms going off. The feminine pronoun in the English bible is marked. (Which suggests that the masculine and neuter pronoun is default.)

believer333 said...

"Any Greek grammar will first warn students not to put too much emphasis on the gender."

If only we could take the 'wisdom' from that statement and apply it to our lives as well. Gender is far less important than some make it. It has a place of importance, but not in everything.

believer333 said...

and P.S., Sue, I find what you said in this post hugely insightful. It is interesting that where ever there is the feminine aspect of something, humans try to restrict it, even when it relates to an aspect of God.

Even though I don't believe that God is either male/masculine or female/feminine, I do believe that God embodies characteristics of both. We should not elevate one over the other in our respect and appreciation.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


I agree with you, of course. More later.


I think God is beyond gender but we can only relate to God out of our own humanness.