Saturday, February 8, 2014

Lady Wisdom in the Old Testament

My retranslation of passages from the poetic books of the Old Testament where Wisdom (Grk: Sophia, Heb: Hokma) is personified as a feminine being.

“[Feminine wisdom] is no abstract, disinterested knowledge, but a wisdom of loving participation. [...] Thus the spiritual power of Sophia is living and saving; her overflowing heart is wisdom and food at once. The nourishing life that she communicates is a life of the spirit and of transformation, not one of earthbound materiality.
   – Erich Neumann

“Say to Wisdom, ‘You are my sister!’ and call Intelligence your intimate friend.”
   – Proverbs 7:4

From The Book of the Wisdom of Solomon

6:13 Wisdom shines brightly, and fades not.
   Easily is she discerned by those who love her,
   and those who seek her find her.
14 She is quick to make herself known to those who desire her;
15 He who rises with the dawn for her sake will not grow weary,
   for he will find her seated at his door.
16 Taking her to heart is the perfection of intelligence,
   and being wakeful for her is the short path to peace of mind.
17 She herself ranges in search of those who are worthy of her,
   and on their daily path she kindly appears to them,
   and meets them in every thought.
18 Wisdom truly begins with the desire to learn,
   which in fact is love for her.
19 Loving her means keeping her ways,
   and keeping her ways means immortality,
20 and immortality brings one close to God;
21 thus the desire for Wisdom leads to a kingdom.

7:7 Therefore I prayed, and insight was given me.
   I called for help, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me.
I valued her above sceptre and throne,
   and held riches as nothing beside her.
9 I saw that no precious stone was her equal,
   for all the gold in the world compared with her is but a sand pile,
   and silver worth a pile of clay.
10 I loved her above health and beauty,
   and preferred her even to the light of day,
   for her radiance never sleeps.
11 So all good things came to me at once with her,
   and in her hands was wealth past counting.
12 And all was mine to delight in, for all follows where Wisdom leads,
   and I was ignorant before, that she is the mother of it all.
13 What I learned with pure aims I share without grudging,
   and I do not hoard the wealth that comes from her.
14 She is an infinite treasure for mankind,
   and those who receive her become God’s friends,
   commended to Him by the gifts they receive from her teachings.

7:21 All such things as are hidden and not foreseen, I have learned.
   For I have been taught by she who is the artist of all things,
22 For in her is a holy and intelligent spirit,
   unique yet manifold, subtle, free, lucid, pure, 
   clear, undefiled, lover of the good, eager,
23 independent, gentle and kind, steadfast,
   unerring, free from care, all-powerful, all-seeing,
   and all-permeating through intelligent, pure, and subtle spirits.
24 Wisdom moves more easily than motion itself,
   pervading all things because she is pure.
25 Like a fine mist she rises from divine power,
   a pure emanation of the Almighty’s glory,
   and nothing impure can enter her, even stealthily.
26 For she is the refulgence of everlasting light,
   the flawless mirror of the divine active power,
   and the image of his goodness.
27 Because she is one, she can do everything;
   abiding in herself, she renews all things.
   Age after age she enters holy souls
   and makes them friends of God and prophets,
28 for God loves none so much as those who live with Wisdom.
29 More radiant than the sun
   and surpassing every constellation,
   she excels the light of day;
30 for day turns into night,
   but no evil can prevail against Wisdom.
8:1 She spans the world from end to end in power,
   and orders all things well.

8:2 Wisdom have I loved; I sought her out in the days of my youth,
   and longed for her to be my bride,
   and I fell in love with her beauty.
3 She glorifies her noble birth because she lives with God,
   and the Lord of all loves her.
4 With her are the mysteries of God’s knowledge,
   and she inspires all his works.
If wealth is desirable in life,
   who is wealthier than Wisdom, from whom all things arise?
If intelligence is revealed in action,
   who of all beings is a greater artist than she?

8:17 Considering these things in myself,
      and pondering them in my heart,
   I realized that in kinship with Wisdom lies immortality,
18 and that in her friendship is pure delight.

8:21 But I saw there was no way to receive Wisdom
      except by God’s gift—
   and it was a sign of intelligence
      to know from whom that gift must come—
   so I asked the Lord, and prayed to Him,
   and said with all my heart:

9:1 God of my ancestors, merciful Lord,
      who made all things by your Word,
and in your Wisdom fashioned man,
   to be the guardian of creation,
3 as steward of the world in holiness and justice,
   and to rule fairly with sincerity of heart,
grant me Wisdom, who sits beside your throne,
   and do not refuse me a place among your servants.
5 I am your slave, your handmaid’s son,
   a man weak and short-lived,
   too feeble to comprehend justice and law;
for let a man be perfect in the eyes of his fellow men,
   if the Wisdom that comes from you is lacking,
      he will be of no account.
9 With you is Wisdom, familiar with your works,
   and present at the creation of the world by you.
   She knows what is pleasing in your sight,
   and what is right in your commandments.
10 Send her forth from the holy heavens,
   and from your glorious throne bid her come down,
   that she may be present at my side,
   so that I may learn what pleases you;
11 for she knows and understands all things,
   and she will guide me well in all I do,
   and guard me in her glory;
12 so shall my life’s work be acceptable.
13 How can any man learn God’s plan?
   How can one perceive the Lord’s will? 
14 The reasoning of men is feeble,
   and our plans are fallible;
15 for a perishable body weighs down the soul,
   and its clay burdens the mind full of thoughts.
16 With difficulty we guess even at things on earth,
   and struggle to find out what lies at our feet.
   And who has traced out what is in heaven?
17 Who learned your purposes, unless you gave them Wisdom,
   and sent down your Holy Spirit from heaven?
18 Thus it was that those on earth were set upon the right path,
   and were taught what pleases you;
   thus were they healed by Wisdom.

From The Book of Proverbs

8:22 The Lord brought me forth in the beginning of His ways,
   before His works of old.
23 I was there from eternity, in the beginning, before the earth was.
24 When there were no oceans, I was brought forth.
   When there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills,
      I was brought forth.
26 While as yet the earth and the fields were not made,
   nor the first of the dust of the world.
27 When the Lord established the heavens, I was there.
28 When He marked out the vault over the face of the deep,
   when He made firm the skies above, 
29 When He fixed fast the foundations of the earth,
   when He assigned to the sea its limit
   so that the waters might not transgress His command,
30 Then I was with Him as His master artisan,
      and I was daily His delight,
   rejoicing always before Him,
31 rejoicing and playing on the surface of the earth,
   and I found my delight in all humankind.

8:32 So now, my dear child, listen to me.
33 For happy are they who keep my ways.
34 Hear my teachings and be wise. Do not turn away from me.
35 Happy are they who listen to me,
   watching every day at my gate, waiting beside my door.
36 For those who find me find life, and receive favour from the Lord.
   But those who ignore me hurt themselves;
   all those who hate me love death.

From The Book of Sirach

1:7 The Lord Himself created Wisdom.
   He poured her out upon all His creation.
8 She dwells with all beings according to His gift,
   and He has given her to those who love Him.

4:11 Wisdom breathes life into her children,
   and cares for those who seek her.
12 Whoever loves her loves life,
   and those who search for her will be filled with happiness.
13 Whoever holds her close will inherit honour,
   and the Lord will bless the place she enters.
14 Those who serve her will be servants to the Holy One,
   and God loves those who love her.

17 For though Wisdom takes them at first through winding ways,
   bringing fear and faintness to them,
18 plaguing them with her discipline until she can trust them,
   and testing them with her ordeals until their heart is fully with her,
19 in the end Wisdom will return to bring them happiness,
   and reveal her secrets to them.

6:26 Come to Wisdom with all your heart,
   and keep her ways with all your power.
27 Search for her, and she will reveal herself to you,
   and when you have found her, do not let her go.
28 For in the latter end you will find rest in her,
   and she will be your joy.

30 For in her is the beauty of life, and her bands are purple lace.
31 You will put her on as a robe of glory,
   and set her upon you as a crown of joy.

14:20 Blessed are those who meditate on Wisdom
   and reflect on holy things.
21 Those who ponder her ways in their heart
   will also have understanding in her secrets.

15:1 He that is faithful and just will come to Wisdom.
2 Like a honourable mother she will come to meet him,
   and like a virgin bride she will embrace him.
She will nourish him with the bread of meaning,
   and offer him living water from her spring to drink.
She will heap upon him a treasure of joy and gladness,
   and clothe him with a robe of glory.

24:1 Wisdom praises herself, and finds honour in God.
In the midst of her people she proclaims her glory.
3 In the assembly of the Most High she opens her mouth,
   and glorifies herself in the sight of His power:
4 I came forth from the Most High, the firstborn before all creatures:
   I made that in the heavens there should rise light that never fails,
   and I covered the earth like a mist. 
Alone I circled the vault of the sky
   and walked on the bottom of the deeps.
Over the waves of the sea and over the whole earth
   and over every people and every nation I have held sway.
9 From eternity, in the beginning, God created me,
   and for eternity I shall remain.

24:18 I am the mother of fair love, and of awe,
   and of knowledge, and of holy hope.
   In me is all grace of the way and of the truth,
   in me is all hope of life and virtue.
19 Come to me, you who desire me, and be filled with my fruits.
20 For my spirit is sweeter than honey,
   and my inheritance more delightful than the sweetest honeycomb.
21 Those who eat of me will hunger for more,
   and those who drink of me will thirst for more.

24:28 The first man did not know Wisdom fully,
   nor will the last one fathom her.
29 For her thoughts are more abundant than the sea,
   and her counsel deeper than the great abyss.

24:40 I, Wisdom, have poured out rivers.
41 I, like a brook out of a river of a mighty water.
42 I, like a channel of a river,
   and like an aqueduct, came out of Paradise.
43 I said to myself: I will water my garden of plants,
   and I will water abundantly the fruits of my meadow.
44 And behold, my brook became a great river,
   and my river came near to a sea:
45 For I make Truth to shine forth like the dawn,
   and I will send forth her light afar off. 
46 I will penetrate to all the lower parts of the earth,
   and will behold all that sleep,
   and will awaken all that yearn in the Lord.
47 I will yet pour out teachings like prophecy,
   and will instruct all those that search for knowledge,
   and I will not cease to enlighten their offspring,
   even to the holy age.

51:13 In my youth I desired Wisdom openly in my prayers.
14 She came to me in her beauty, and until the end I will cultivate her.
15 From the first blossom to the ripening grape,
   my heart delighted in her.
   My foot walked on the right path,
   because from my youth I sought after her.
16 I became resolutely devoted to her,
   and earnestly I followed that which is good.
17 I burned with desire for her, never turning back.
   I became wholly immersed in her presence,
   never weary of extolling her.
18 I stretched forth my hands to the heavens above,
   and bewailed my ignorance of her.
   I directed my soul to her, and in purity I attained to her.
19 She opened her gate, and revealed her secrets to me.
   At first acquaintance with her
   I gained knowledge such that I will never forsake her.
20 My whole being was stirred as I beheld her.
   Thus she became my beloved companion.

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