In the famous prologue to John’s Gospel, we read, “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Of course, John is referring to Christ. In some translations, a very similar statement is made of wisdom. “From that time on, Wisdom appeared on earth and lived among us.” (See Baruch 3:37).
In this paper, I will explore what the Bible says about wisdom and how it is often personified. Finally, I will discuss how wisdom is often associated with God.
Wisdom And Scripture
The Bible can be categorized along the lines of genre. This genre includes wisdom literature. The Catholic Church identifies seven books in the Old Testament as wisdom books. They are the Book of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Psalms, and the Song of Songs.
The books of wisdom literature share several characteristics, one of which is an interest in instruction or pedagogy. This instruction begins with the recognition that God is the source of all wisdom. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). Through Grace, people can gain a certain amount of wisdom about how to live in the world. God created the world, and only He can give a true insight into how the world works because His wisdom is seen in the light of eternity.
This view of wisdom is especially evident in the book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. It is less pronounced, however, in the book of Job. Still, in Job, wisdom can be seen in persevering in the presence of great suffering.
Wisdom is over above knowledge in the sense that wisdom is an insight into how to use knowledge properly. From a Catholic perspective, it can be said that wisdom is a result of Grace that allows one to see the world from the vantage point of God. Wisdom allows one a deeper insight and penetration of Divine truths.
As such, wisdom can be understood as a gift from God. Indeed, it is the teaching of the Catholic Church that wisdom is one of the gifts offered by the Holy Spirit (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1831). This fact lends significance to Baptism, for it is at Baptism that we receive the Holy Spirit.
Associating Wisdom With God
It is telling that the Biblical authors often personified wisdom. For example, in the Book of Proverbs, wisdom denounces those who fail to heed God’s voice (See Book of Proverbs, 1:20-33).
Beyond even personifying wisdom, wisdom can be understood as being Divine. Biblical wisdom works to bring people into the harmony of the created order as well as with God’s redemptive work.
Within a Biblical context, logos and wisdom may be used synonymously (as Wisdom 9:1-2 suggests). Doing so allows one to identify Jesus as the logos (reason of God) and the Holy Spirit as the wisdom of God. At this point, one may object to the claim that logos and wisdom are synonymous because they refer to different objects; Jesus as the Logos and the Holy Spirit as Wisdom. The answer to this objection lies in understanding the Trinity. While it is true that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are distinct Persons, they are one with regard to Divine essence.
Moreover, as the logos of God became flesh in the Person of Jesus, it can be argued that the Wisdom of God is personified in the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit As The Wisdom Of God
Saint Paul appears to identify the Holy Spirit as the wisdom of God. In 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 when he writes, “We speak of God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory, and which none of the rulers of this age knew; for, if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.”
Perhaps nowhere in the Bible is the Holy Spirit more identified as the wisdom of God than at Pentecost. At the Last Supper, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come to “teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles, and by extension, all Catholics, learn of things that human reason can not obtain.
Viewing the Holy Spirit as the wisdom of God is of central significance to the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. The reason for this lies in the fact that God inspires Scripture. In addition, this inspiration lends reliability to the teachings of the Apostles. The Apostles’ records of the life and education of Jesus Christ are entirely trustworthy because it is the Holy Spirit who works in and through the authors of the Bible.
The teachings of the Holy Spirit are not limited to the Apostles. As said above, all Catholics receive the Holy Spirit at their Baptism. As the Catechism states, “The Holy Spirit, whom Christ the head pours out on his members, builds, animates, and sanctifies the Church.”
Wisdom, as a product of the Holy Spirit working in and through the individual, is the knowledge of and judgment about Divine matter. It is the ability to judge and direct human affairs according to the will of God.
In the preceding article, I have sought to explain wisdom within the context of the Bible.
Wisdom, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, descended upon the Apostles at Pentecost to not only give the Apostles knowledge but to give them the wisdom to see the world as God sees and to love as God loves. Additionally, as the wisdom of God, the Holy Spirit teaches all that God intends for us to learn, and this is done in the most eminent way in the Catholic Church.