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Is Sophia/Wisdom a feminine Spirit? If so, what is its relationship to Christ? (Solved)

Discussion in 'The Ancient Way - Eastern Orthodox' started by rakovsky, Apr 16, 2019.

  1. rakovsky

    rakovsky Newbie

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    As I understand it, in Orthodox theology, Christ is the Word, the Logos, Begotten of the Father "before all ages". Also in Biblical thought is the concept of Holy Wisdom, Sophia. Hence in Exodus and in the Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom has or is called a "spirit". In Hebrew and Greek, Wisdom is a feminine term ("Sophia" being the Greek word).
    Here is Exodus 28:3: "And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom".

    In Proverbs 8, Solomon describes wisdom as speaking and as saying that the Lord possessed her before the creation of the earth.:
    In comparison, Gnostic writings taught that Sophia was a feminine Spirit united with Christ, thus forming an androgynous being. Philip Harland explained that according to the 1st-mid 2nd century Gnostic "Epistle of Eugnostos" and "Sophia of Jesus Christ", in the super-celestial realm,
    SOURCE: Sophia’s mistake: The Sophia of Jesus Christ and Eugnostos (NT Apocrypha 16) | Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean

    Here is how the Epistle of Eugnostos talks about the relationship between the Begotten Perfect Mind who is full of light and Sophia, which reminds me of the question of the relationship between The Word - Logos and Wisdom - Sophia:
    You can read The Epistle of Eugnostos in The Nag Hammadi Library in English:
    The Nag Hammadi Library in English

    Maybe one can say that Proverbs was just using allegorical language when it talked about Wisdom as a Spirit. However, I think that some early mainstream Christian writings also identified Christ/the Logos with "Sophia"/"Wisdom". And so if it's true that Sophia or Wisdom is feminine and a "Spirit", then what becomes the relationship to Christ the Logos, which is masculine? Are they consorts that are united into one being, or is the whole "feminine" aspect really purely an issue of Hebrew and Greek grammar that the Epistle of Eugnostos and other Gnostic writings took too far?
     
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  2. HTacianas

    HTacianas Well-Known Member

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    Actually, the Holy Spirit is spoken of in feminine terms on occasion.

    Wisdom as a feminine entity is found oftentimes among some early writers here and there. Philo of Alexandria had it that wisdom itself was masculine though with a feminine name if I remember right.
     
  3. rakovsky

    rakovsky Newbie

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    St. Irenaeus in Against Heresies noted how there were gnostics who wrote about Christ as having Sophia as his consort:
    This shows up in gnostic writings that we have:
    Here is what Wikipedia says about the Pleroma mentioned in the quote from the Valentinian Exposition above:
    The Pleroma "(Greek πλήρωμα) generally refers to the totality of divine powers. The word means fullness from πληρόω ("I fill") comparable to πλήρης which means "full",[1] and is used in Christian theological contexts: both in Gnosticism generally, and by St. Paul the Apostle in Colossians 2:9".
    Colossians 2:9 uses the word Pleroma this way: "For in Christ all the fullness [Pleroma] of the Deity lives in bodily form"
     
  4. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    the Wisdom of God is Christ Himself, so not feminine.
     
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  5. Pavel Mosko

    Pavel Mosko Arch-Dude of the Apostolic Supporter

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    I've read some interesting writings on the general OP.

    Here the Bible book of Proverbs chapter 8 comes to mind. There the verses 22 to 31 read:

    “The LORD [Hebrew: YHWH] created me the beginning of his works, before all else that he made, long ago. Alone, I was fashioned in times long past, at the beginning, long before earth itself. When there was yet no ocean I was born, no springs brimming with water. Before the mountains were settled in their place, long before the hills I was born, when as yet he had made neither land nor lake nor the first clod of earth. When he set heavens in their place I was there, when he girded the oceans with the horizon, when he fixed the canopy of clouds overhead and set the springs of ocean firm in their place, when he prescribed its limits for the sea and knit together earth’s foundations. Then I was at his side each day, his darling and delight, playing in his presence continually, playing on the earth, when he had finished it, while my delight was in mankind.”[15]

    In these verses the quality of wisdom is personified. As the gender of wisdom [in Hebrew: ח֗כְמַה: ḥoḵmah] is feminine, some claim that the agent I question is a feminine being. However, it should be remembered that there is a difference between sex and gender. This is also the case in other Semitic languages that Hebrew. For instance, the Arabic word for Caliph (خليفة: ḵalīfe) is a word in the feminine gender although it always refers to a male.[16]



    Hellenized Christians

    With the second century Christians the wisdom personified in Proverbs chapter eight was believed to be Jesus in his pre-human existence. In his book The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1-15, Bruce K. Waltke writes: “Beginning at least as early as the apologist Justin Martyr (A.D. 125), Christians, almost without exception, identified Sophia (the Greek equivalent of Heb. ḥoḵmâ) in Proverbs 8 with Jesus Christ.”[17]

    Of Justin Martyr, who is famous for his logos-theology, the theologian Henry Chadwick writes:

    “Justin’s debt to Platonic philosophy is important for his theology in one respect of far-reaching importance. He uses the concept of the divine Logos or Reason both to explain how the transcendent Father of all deals with the inferior, created order of things, and to justify his faith in the revelation made by God through the prophets and in Christ… It is implicit in Justin’s thesis that the distinction between ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ corresponds to the distinction between God transcendent and God immanent.”[18]

    This was an idea inspired by Greek philosophy. In Hellenistic Greek the primary meaning of the word logos is the intelligent order of or reason displayed in the universe while certain philosophers regarded it is as a sort of person, the ‘world soul.’ This philosophical approach was taken up by later Christian writers, where some, such as Theophilus of Antioch (d. 181), preferred to regard the logos as God’s thoughts.[19] “ In Stoic thought the Word is reason expressed in voice or word, and in Theophilus we find a distinction between the Word of God residing in the Deity and the Word of God uttered or expressed in divine activity.”[20] Others, such as Origen (d. 234) regarded the logos as a sort of mediator between a transcendent God and the physical universe.[21] Interestingly, most of the Christian writers of the second and third centuries did not regard the logos as equal to God.[22]

    But Hellenized Christian writers were not the only ones who took up the philosophical denotation of the word logos. So did the Gnostics.

    The Gnostics were “a number of unorthodox sects that flourished in the Roman empire and western Asia in the first few centuries of the Christian era. Its chief diffusion centre was Alexandria.”[23] Unlike the early Christians, the Gnostics were rabid dualists. According to them, the world was split up in two opposites: the good and the bad. The good was all what is spiritual and the bad all what is physical, the visible world and everything related to it. They believed that this world originally was created, not by God Almighty, the loving Father, but by some malevolent demiurge. Consequently some of them believed that Jesus was the logos, but not with a human body. He just looked like a man, they said.[24]



    Logos and Memra
     
  6. icxn

    icxn Bραδύγλωσσος αἰπόλος μαθητεύων κνίζειν συκάμινα

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    As far as Christ being Wisdom, scripture states so explicitly:

    1 Corinthians 1:23-24

    But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

    Also, as some have already said, wisdom is (grammatically) a feminine word in Hebrew and in Greek, hence the female article and personification used when referring to it/her (Him).
     
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  7. Grumman Tomcat

    Grumman Tomcat Perspicacious Staff Member Administrator CF Staff Trainer Supporter

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    All posts within this faith community must adhere to the site wide rules. In addition, if you are not a member of this faith group, you may not debate issues or teach against it's theology. You may post in fellowship. Active promotion of views contrary to the established teachings of this group will be considered off topic.

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  8. buzuxi02

    buzuxi02 Veteran

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    Theophilos of Antioch and Irenaeous used the term Sophia as a name for the Holy Spirit. A common formula was to say God (the Father) created all things through His Word (Son) and Wisdom (holy Spirit). Most other Church Fathers ascribed the title to Christ. Christ himself used feminine imagery to describe his mission (Luke 13:34) and message (Luke 7:35)
     
  9. Knee V

    Knee V It's phonetic.

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    English seems to be one of the few western Eurasian languages that doesn't inflect for gender (very much), so perhaps seeing gendered nouns can lead some people to think of those nouns as particularly masculine or feminine. I have always understood "sophia" to simply be a noun with grammatical gender like so many other nouns in so many other languages.
     
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  10. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Handmaid of God † CF Senior Ambassador Supporter

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    Very good point. When you're used to seeing EVERYTHING gendered, from pencils to furniture to plants, and often not the anticipated gender when there is a slight expectation, gendered nouns mean a lot less.

    And it's good to see you!!!!!
     
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  11. rakovsky

    rakovsky Newbie

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    This is a pretty interesting observation.
    Good answers in this thread.
     
  12. Euodius

    Euodius Are you kitten me right meow? Supporter

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    The Hagia Sophia (The Holy Wisdom) refers to Christ, not to another entity. The only times where 'sophia' is depicted as feminine in context of relation. There is an essential masculine and feminine relationship which inherently exists - hence male and female, both having equal human nature, but they exist in relationship with one another (not a dialectic opposition.) The feminine is often used, in regard to many things, when describing the relationship of that thing to something else. A brief example might be that the feminine closes gaps and is invitational, wheras the masculine is leading and boundary setting.
     
  13. rakovsky

    rakovsky Newbie

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    I appreciate everyone's replies. What I am hearing you saying is that Wisdom/Sophia is Christ. However, I am also reading online that supposedly Wisdom/Sophia is sometimes the Holy Spirit, or that the Holy Spirit imparts "wisdom" as a gift like other gifts, which would seem to make Wisdom not Christ, Who actually is supposed to be the One who imparts the Holy Spirit, sending it down.

    Wikipedia's article on Sophia (Wisdom) notes:
    St. Irenaeus wrote:
    The website for St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Modesto, CA, notes:
    Maybe the solution to the relationship of wisdom as one of the Seven Gifts to Wisdom as the Logos/Christ is that there are different sense of the concept of wisdom- it can either be a gift like a phenomenon (eg. strength), or it can be Wisdom, the name of a Spirit Who is Christ/Logos.

    In The Pillar and Ground of the Truth: An Essay in Orthodox Theodicy in Twelve Letters, Pavel Florensky writes: "And since purification occurs through the Holy Spirit, Who reveals Himself to creation, Sophia is the Holy Spirit to the extent that He has deified creation."
    However, the Introduction to Florensky's book says:
    All4Christ identified Sophia as sometimes referring to the Holy Spirit on another thread:
    But unfortunately I have trouble finding very much online about identifying the Holy Spirit as Wisdom or vice verse.

    One suggestion that I read online is that the Wisdom of Solomon, Chapter 1 equates Wisdom with the Holy Spirit in verses like:
    I have also heard this about Wisdom 9:17:
    But the identification is less clear there. The verse could be saying that God gave both wisdom AND God's holy spirit, not that they are both the same thing.

    The Trinity in You article paraphrasing a Latin text of Didymus the Blind's theology about the Holy Spirit does a good job showing that Wisdom is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and it asserts that Wisdom is Christ, but its assertion that the Holy Spirit can be Wisdom was not easily proven to me in the passage that it referred to. Here is an excerpt from Didymus' paraphrased writing:
     
  14. JohnTh

    JohnTh Newbie

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    Sophia, like kindness, peace etc. it an expression of the uncreated divine energy. That's why we have Christ as „Sophia” as well as Holy Spirit as „Sophia” etc. because They express themselves towards us as „wise”.
     
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  15. rakovsky

    rakovsky Newbie

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    Good explanation, JohnT.
     
  16. Brighid

    Brighid Member

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    I just want to offer my 2 cents as someone who wasted a good portion of my life on Gnosticism. The Sophia in the Nah Hammadi texts and other Gnostic writings cannot be reconciled with the Holy Spirit or Wisdom in the Bible. The Gnostic Sophia (which differs among Gnostic sects) is in no way related to the Holy Spirit or Wisdom in the Bible.
    "Against Heresies" is such a wonderful resource. I wish I had read it (and the Bible, for that matter) before my involvement in Gnosticism.
    The Bag Hammadi texts will only create confusion and pull one away from God, imo.
     
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  17. Brighid

    Brighid Member

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    Sorry about the typos. My tiny phone keyboard is so difficult. My payment for being a spelling and grammar Nazi.
     
  18. Hazelelponi

    Hazelelponi Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Oops, sorry. Not allowed to post here.
     
  19. Brighid

    Brighid Member

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  20. Brighid

    Brighid Member

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    Sorry, I'm confused. Am I not allowed to comment on threads? Also, is there a way for me to delete my comments?
     
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