Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wisdom of Solomon 7:12 - 14

    12 εὐφράνθην δὲ ἐπὶ πᾶσιν, ὅτι αὐτῶν ἡγεῖται σοφία,
    ἠγνόουν δὲ αὐτὴν γενέτιν εἶναι τούτων.

    I rejoiced in them all, because wisdom goes before them
    but I did not know that she was their originator

    13 ἀδόλως τε ἔμαθον
    ἀφθόνως τε μεταδίδωμι,
    τὸν πλοῦτον αὐτῆς οὐκ ἀποκρύπτομαι·

    I learned without guile
    and I communicate without grudging
    I do not hide her wealth

    14 ἀνεκλιπὴς γὰρ θησαυρός ἐστιν ἀνθρώποις,
    ὃν οἱ χρησάμενοι πρὸς Θεὸν ἐστείλαντο φιλίαν
    διὰ τὰς ἐκ παιδείας δωρεὰς συσταθέντες.

    for it is an unfailing treasure for human beings
    those who use it obtain friendship with God,
    commended for the gifts that come from learning.
I haven't changed much from the NETS translation of these verses. However, there are a couple of interesting features.

First, the word γένετις doesn't translate very well. It means "begetter" or "progenitor" in the feminine, possibly the "originator" of a family. It closely resembles the word γένεσις - origin or source, or beginning.

The verb ἡγέομαι (edited) means "lead" but, I think in this context refers to bringing something with oneself, or possibly preceding. Wisdom precedes, that is, goes before, all these good things, (see KJV for this) and it turns out that she is also their originator. From these lines ideas later arose that Wisdom was the divine mother, and for some the "consort of God." For others she was the manifestation of God.

It is particularly interesting to note that it is a male author, so it appears, who develops the notion of wisdom as the female progenitor, the imagery of a divine and powerful feminine ideal. She is spoken of in chapter 8 as a bride and counselor, "a comfort in cares and sorrow."

Women in Christianity have a masculine God, and historically for many nuns, a heavenly bridegroom. But men have a God in their own image, a masculine God for their masculine self. When Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit, if he spoke in Aramaic, he spoke of a feminine entity. The comforter he referred to was a divine feminine entity, and surely a much needed comfort in care and sorrow.

I believe that on the one hand, Jesus is wisdom, the manifestation of God. But, on the other hand, the Spirit is wisdom, the companion (spouse) of God. In writing this, I am not talking about theological truths, but about literary allusions. I am referring to linguistic cues which get picked up in later writings.

Here is a related article by R. R. Ruether. I haven't had a chance to read it yet.

King James
Liddel Scott Lexicon


ElShaddai Edwards said...

First, the word γένετις doesn't translate very well. It means "begetter" or "progenitor" in the feminine, possibly the "originator" of a family. It closely resembles the word γένεσις - origin or source, or beginning.

Just a quick idea that occurred to me as I read this - in this translation, instead of "begetter" or "progenitor", could γένετις be translated as "wellspring"? That would have more poetic effect with "brings them" and connect to γένεσις, as well as bearing a feminine connotation.

Carl W. Conrad said...

ἡγεῖται from ἡγέομαι (perhaps best here in the sense "govern") rather than ἄγω. The verb takes a genitive complement, and the antecedent of πᾶσιν, αὐτῶν, and τούτων must surely be τὰ ἀγαθὰ πάντα in verse 11.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


Thanks, of course. But, I wonder if the sense is govern, lead, or precede? What about "goes before" or is the "antecedent of?"

Wisdom precedes these good things and is also the originator of them?

Carl W. Conrad said...

Well, I don't think "goes before" is out of the question, but the more common sense is to govern, be a ἡγεμών. I really don't think it's "be the antecedent of."

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I am thinking that if wisdom comes before all these good things, the implication is that we have wisdom and then the good things follow wisdom, or come subsequent to having wisdom. It refers to how we perceive of good things coming into our life. First, wisdom and then the good things follow. Wisdom is the logical precedent that comes before good things.

But, if we use "govern" then the question is how does wisdom govern good things. Also, the notion of precedes seems to go well with genetis, the progenitor, originator.

I understand that the word hegeomai can mean govern or lead, and I was originally thinking of how the victor leads slaves in a parade, as a demonstration of victory.

But the word has the literal meaning of simply preceding also.

Anyway, that is what I was thinking.