Is the Holy Spirit the same as Lady Wisdom and/or Wisdom in the Wisdom literature?

In Proverbs 1:20-33, we encounter a female character named Wisdom. She is walking through the streets, crying out in a loud voice for people to follow her. Who is this mysterious figure? Some have come to think of Lady Wisdom as a being, a deity in her own right. Others have come to equate her with the feminine side of God or the Holy Spirit. A closer look at Scripture itself reveals to us that Wisdom is not a deity, nor is it the feminine side of God.

Proverbs 8:22 tells us that Wisdom was “begotten” of God…she is part of God’s creation or a “creature.” She then stands aside God as creation is formed, yet she herself is part of creation – the first creation of God. Whereas the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternal, Wisdom has a beginning. As a human being, Jesus is “begotten” however he existed eternally as the Word (Logos). In fact, a heretic in the early Church – Arias – used Proverbs 8:22-25 as part of his argument that Jesus was not really God but was a creature of God’s. Arias did so by equating Wisdom with Jesus. The Church clearly rejected this at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.

In essence, Lady Wisdom is a personification of an attribute of God. In Proverbs 9:13, her opposite – Lady Folly – is introduced.

We have many other examples of personification in the Bible. For example, the ruins of Jerusalem (Isaiah 52:9) and the rivers and mountains (Psalm 98:8). To say that Wisdom is not a person but is a personification of an attribute of God is not to take away from the imagery of the feminine which is used so powerfully here. Wisdom literature is telling us plainly that the attribute of wisdom can best be understood through feminine imagery and the traditional roles of women in biblical culture: wife, mother, and teacher. In addition, portraying Wisdom as an alluring woman is designed to make the attribute of wisdom more alluring.

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).


DONATE NOW