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Our readers asked:

I’m reading a bit of the Book of Wisdom. Does this suggest that Lady Wisdom was working with God at the dawn of time?

Joe Paprocki Answers:

Remember learning about different kinds of literary devices in English class? Well, one of these devices is known as personification, which is when an abstract concept is represented as a person or given human qualities. For example, we may talk about opportunity knocking or time standing still.

In Scripture, the virtue of wisdom is personified as a woman and is referred to in the feminine (chakmah in Hebrew, sophia in Greek, and sapientia in Latin). Personification is used to make a concept less abstract and more personal and thus, more attainable.

No doubt, depicting wisdom as a woman is intended to make the virtue of wisdom alluring and inviting to men, for whom much of Scripture was originally intended. The image worked well because, while men could be literate and book smart, women were seen as having access to wisdom even if illiterate. Lady Wisdom is not to be interpreted as the “feminine side” of God since God has no gender. The image, however, does enable us to approach God through the use of a feminine metaphor. It is important to know also that the image does not suggest a goddess who is the parallel of God the Father.

Some see this personification of wisdom as a prefiguring of the Holy Spirit who will come to bring the gift of wisdom at Pentecost. Again, this is not intended to suggest that the Holy Spirit is feminine or that Lady Wisdom is another way of talking about the third Person of the Trinity.

The Author : Joe Paprocki
Joe Paprocki, D.Min., is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press in Chicago. He has over 30 years of experience in pastoral ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Joe is the author of numerous books on pastoral ministry and catechesis, including The Bible Blueprint, Living the Mass, and bestsellers The Catechist's Toolbox and A Well-Built Faith (all from Loyola Press).
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