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» Ship of Fools   » Community discussion   » Purgatory   » Whatever happened to Holy Wisdom?

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Source: (consider it) Thread: Whatever happened to Holy Wisdom?
Ricardus
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The later Old Testament works frequently praise Holy Wisdom, especially if you include the Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical works.

There is a tradition of identifying Holy Wisdom with the second Person of the Trinity, because the language that St John uses to describe the Logos is similar to the Old Testament descriptions of Holy Wisdom.

At one time Holy Wisdom must have been a major part of Christianity, because the most important church in Constantinople was named after her.

And yet I don't think that in real life I have ever encountered any prayer to Holy Wisdom. Or any devotion based on Holy Wisdom.

So: What happened? Have I just been frequenting the wrong places? Is Holy Wisdom a part of your devotional life? Should she be?

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Alan Cresswell

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Interesting question.

As you note, the identification of the Word/Logos with Christ in John 1 does result in a shift from Holy Wisdom to Christ. But, you're right that doesn't really address the total shift away since earlier Christians had no difficulty with it.

I think that the change has probably related to the increasing emphasis in western Christianity to the Holy Spirit. Which includes the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. The Spirit, another Counsellor, has taken on the mantle of much of the Holy Wisdom tradition.

As a slight tangent, Paul says that the Wisdom of God is Foolishness to those who are perishing. So, perhaps a revival in the Holy Fool will also revive Holy Wisdom.

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ThunderBunk

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The Wisdom tradition has made its home in the mystical branch of Christianity. We aren't that popular at the moment, but like a recessive gene we run through Christian history and continue to trickle. I would say that Holy Wisdom sits within the Trinity and flows between its persons, being an expression of the love of the one God.

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Honest Ron Bacardi
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Certain feminist Christian writers do make a point of doing this - that may be a place to look at more recent examples of invoking Sophia.

Elsewhere, I've normally seen it done more as an intercession for God to fill us with his Holy Wisdom.

One problem I could foresee is that wisdom is an attribute of God, and that Lady Wisdom is a personalisation of that. To pray to a personalisation of an attribute seems a bit distant. Also, invoking Wisdom in this way seems to risk elevating Wisdom to personhood status, thereby becoming a new member of the Trinity (quaternity?). Either that, or it becomes some new form of modalism.

But these are just ad hoc musings.

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Arethosemyfeet
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Extracts from the "wisdom" literature form part of the SEC daily prayer cycle between Easter and Pentecost, suggesting a linkage between Wisdom and Logos.
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Enoch
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It's also the subject of the morning readings from Proverbs this week. Ricardus, is that what has prompted your thoughts?

There's a difficulty in identifying Wisdom specifically with one member of the Trinity rather than all three. It implies that either the Son or the Holy Spirit is wise (depending on your choice) and the other two persons are not. Like Grace, I would also think that Wisdom is an attribute of God in all three persons, a quality of the divine nature, not a hypostasis.

Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, as the Holy Spirit makes his dwelling in our hearts and forms Christ in us, so we would hope to become wiser.

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Ricardus
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
Ricardus, is that what has prompted your thoughts?

I've been brooding on it for a while, ever since I had to read Proverbs 8:22-36 at Evensong. This division is a particularly obtuse decision by whoever drew up the lectionary, because it's entirely first person and chops off any indication of who is speaking, so I made a point of introducing it as 'The praise of Holy Wisdom'. However I did wonder how much 'Holy Wisdom' actually meant to the congregation.

quote:
There's a difficulty in identifying Wisdom specifically with one member of the Trinity rather than all three. It implies that either the Son or the Holy Spirit is wise (depending on your choice) and the other two persons are not.
But I think Wisdom in the Old Testament 'Wisdom literature' is a lot more than just the state of 'being wise'. In fact, I'd say 'Wisdom' in the Old Testament bears the same relation to 'being wise' as 'Word' in St John's Gospel does to 'nouns and verbs'.

Granted this is more obvious in the Deuterocanonical books. For example here is Wisdom 7:24-30:
quote:
For wisdom is more mobile than any motion; because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things. For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her. For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness. Although she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets; for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom. She is more beautiful than the sun, and excels every constellation of the stars. Compared with the light she is found to be superior, for it is succeeded by the night, but against wisdom evil does not prevail.
The New Jerusalem translation, in its introduction to the book, says 'The ground is prepared for the understanding of Jesus as the incarnate Wisdom of God', which suggests the Wisdom = Logos link is mainstream Catholicism - but still, I have never really been aware of devotion to Holy Wisdom as a part of contemporary Catholic spirituality.

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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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Ricardus
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quote:
Originally posted by Honest Ron Bacardi:
Certain feminist Christian writers do make a point of doing this - that may be a place to look at more recent examples of invoking Sophia.

The feminist angle is one that interests me.

ISTM that God the Son is gendered in a way that God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are not. Sure, we use the word 'Father' and masculine pronouns, but with an underlying acknowledgement that this is all metaphorical and and an artifact of the lack of gender-neutral pronouns in English. But Jesus of Nazareth really was a man, and that imposes an element of masculinity into our image of God the Son that isn't present for the other Persons.

Identifying Holy Wisdom with the Logos - if it is licit for us to do so - therefore goes some way to balancing this out.

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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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leo
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Wisdom is invoked during the last week of advent in the C of E and RCC - O sapientia.

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My Jewish-positive lectionary blog is at http://recognisingjewishrootsinthelectionary.wordpress.com/
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mousethief

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It became a mosque, then a museum, and now they're holding Muslim prayer services in it again.

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Enoch
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Ricardus I agree with your point about Wisdom in the OT and Apocrypha. The example you cite in not the only one.
quote:
Wis 9;4 (NRSV) Give me the wisdom that sits by your throne, and do not reject me from among your servants.
Further on in the same chapter
quote:
9 With you is wisdom, she who knows your works and was present when you made the world;
she understands what is pleasing in your sight and what is right according to your commandments.
10 Send her forth from the holy heavens, and from the throne of your glory send her,
that she may labour at my side, and that I may learn what is pleasing to you.

and Ecclesiastcus 51:20 (again NRSV)
quote:
I directed my soul to her, and in purity I found her. With her I gained understanding from the first; therefore I will never be forsaken.
It is, though possible, and I think good theology, to approach this on the basis that towards the later pre-Incarnation period, some people were beginning to grapple with an appreciation of God that could only really be understood by an awareness of the Trinity, which was something that nobody yet had the tools to comprehend.

So seeing the hypostasising of Wisdom as only fulfilled in the Incarnation is good and classic theology.

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Moo

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Wisdom of Solomon 10 has a lot to say about Wisdom. I find it confusing.

It sounds as if there is not much difference between Wisdom and God.

Moo

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Brenda Clough
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And you do know the theory that Wisdom is the last remnant of the Goddess that used to be the main god (whatever you called him)'s consort.

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simontoad
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quote:
Originally posted by ThunderBunk:
The Wisdom tradition has made its home in the mystical branch of Christianity. We aren't that popular at the moment, but like a recessive gene we run through Christian history and continue to trickle. I would say that Holy Wisdom sits within the Trinity and flows between its persons, being an expression of the love of the one God.

As Neil Young sings, long may you run.

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MaryLouise
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The long tradition of Sophia and shekinah wisdom is made fairly explicit in the imagery used by many medieval beguines and other women mystics. I like Mechtild van Magdeburg who wrote a treatise on The Flowing Light of the Godhead in the 13th century.

A few lines:

“Lord, you are my lover,
My longing, My flowing stream,
My sun, And I am your reflection.
The day of my spiritual awakening
was the day I saw and knew I saw
all things in God and God in all things.”

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Ricardus
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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
And you do know the theory that Wisdom is the last remnant of the Goddess that used to be the main god (whatever you called him)'s consort.

How much evidence is there for that? I thought the anti-Asherah parts of the OT were pre-exilic, whereas the Wisdom parts are a lot later. In fact, I thought Holy Wisdom had enough parallels in Stoicism to suggest hat she was a result of the Hellenistic influence on later Judaism. But this is all based on things I think I might have read in a book once.

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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by Honest Ron Bacardi:
Certain feminist Christian writers do make a point of doing this - that may be a place to look at more recent examples of invoking Sophia.

I think there may be a case to be made that the Patriarchal church actively suppressed the feminine Wisdom, but I'm not sure how strong that case would be (there was no suppression of Mary, for example, until the Reformation). Though, it's possible that many of the features of Holy Wisdom were transferred to Mary, in a similar way to the transfer of those features to the Holy Spirit in the Pentecostal/Charismatic traditions of the last century.

I have a lot of time for the renewal of the feminine Holy Wisdom as part of the whole feminist movement, we still need a lot of rebalancing in the church to de-masculinise practically everything. The problem being that too often Holy Wisdom ends up only being brought in for that (very worthy) agenda ... and the nature of Wisdom is to be far more universal than that. Perhaps when we have sorted out our heavily unbalance church in a few generations Wisdom can take her place in the church as more than just a tool to forward an agenda.

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Enoch
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I'm not totally convinced by the Wisdom is a woman claim. I think it may only derive from an oddity of the English language.

In almost all other languages in Europe, certainly in Greek and Latin, and also including Hebrew, all nouns have genders which don't necessarily correspond with biological fact. English is the only language I've encountered which has the rigid grammatical rule that gender must follow biology.

So to argue that Wisdom is a woman because sophia and ḥokmah are both feminine nouns is not valid. For that to be a valid idea, it must be supported by something more - and I would also personally say that it must be supported by a serious theological tradition that is not anglophone.


I still stand by what I said earlier, that wisdom is a quality of the divine character and not a hypostasis. In the post-Incarnation world, it is better to regard the apparent hypostatisation in the Wisdom books as either a figure of speech or a foreshadowing of either the Incarnation or the Trinity.

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Ricardus
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
I'm not totally convinced by the Wisdom is a woman claim. I think it may only derive from an oddity of the English language.

The most obvious prooftext I can find is Wisdom 8:2 - 'I loved her and sought her from my youth; I desired to take her for my bride, and became enamoured of her beauty.' That does seem to me to be anthropomorphosising her specifically as a woman, and not just as an animate which for grammatical reasons requires a feminine pronoun. Proverbs 9:3 also refers to her having 'maidservants' which sounds like something a woman rather than a man would have.
quote:

I still stand by what I said earlier, that wisdom is a quality of the divine character and not a hypostasis. In the post-Incarnation world, it is better to regard the apparent hypostatisation in the Wisdom books as either a figure of speech or a foreshadowing of either the Incarnation or the Trinity.

I don't think anyone has suggested that she's somehow a fourth hypostasis. But if it's correct that she's a foreshadowing of the Incarnation, then ISTM she is a hypostasis insofar as she is a pre-Incarnational way of describing God the Son.

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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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LutheranChik
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Ricardus, in a class on the Bible I recently took, the professor talked about an expat Jewish community in Elephantine (sp?) in Egypt, who appeared to worship both Yahweh and " Mrs. Yahweh." I can't remember the exact time period, but at some point they sent messages to priests in Judah, asking for guidance in matters of practice and ritual. I don't have my notes handy, but a keyword search may go you find more information. There is a school of thought that suggests that as agricultural societies with a mother goddess became more urbanized, or were conquered by societies with a dominant father- God figure, the original goddesses were sometimes reconstituted as consists of the new male chief God's, or consigned to some primordial role before the current pantheon took over.

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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I don't know that any believers in anything have been good at wisdom, holy or otherwise. Christians who believe, Muslims who submit, Jews who trust. Where do we find it, this Holy Wisdom?

I'd say probably I need three things for wisdom. First it has to take me out of myself into something bigger, what has been called "aesthetic splendor". I have to be distracted to get my head out of my own puny existence and suffering.

Second, it has to have intellectual power, such that I don't dismiss it like I might something happy/clappy, full of sweet calories, but empty of spiritual nutrition.

Third, it has to give me something to counter the traumas of life: loss of friends, the evil that people do to me/mine and have done, how I might be reached by God amidst it.

I got into this all out of brutal necessity some years ago when one of mine was attacked and nearly murdered, prefaced with the deaths of 3 of our parents and my best friend, all within the span of of a year. For me, it was find wisdom or die, and also either kill God or let God live, all of it in the most literal senses. Of course, I am still stupid as hell, I annoy both friends and enemies, but have learned to laugh again.

May I direct you to Job 28:12-28, which starts with "But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of of understanding?" which gives no answers but asks questions.

And to the nearly cliché 8 first verses of Ecclesiastes 3, which starts with "to everything there is a season", though I think The Preacher speaks more wisely in Ecc 9, staring at verse 10 "whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might....the race is not to the swift..."

I'm asked sometimes about depression about it all. There is something at a different level than that. Melancholy might describe it better, where the illusions of youth have been cast aside and the brutality of the truth of existence can no longer be avoided. It isn't sad however, it is just Real: time and chance happen to us all.

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Metapelagius
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
I'm not totally convinced by the Wisdom is a woman claim. I think it may only derive from an oddity of the English language.

In almost all other languages in Europe, certainly in Greek and Latin, and also including Hebrew, all nouns have genders which don't necessarily correspond with biological fact. English is the only language I've encountered which has the rigid grammatical rule that gender must follow biology.


Up to a point, Lord Copper. In Old English (aka Anglo-Saxon) the grammatical rule is that a compound noun takes the grammatical gender of the second element. So the compound 'wifman' - NE 'woman' - as a combination of 'wif' (grammatically feminine) and 'man' (grammatically masculine) is a masculine noun, even though Anglo-Saxon women were no doubt biologically female. In any case the concept of grammatical gender in English had more or less disappeared in the Middle English period.

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Rec a archaw e nim naccer.
y rof a duv. dagnouet.
Am bo forth. y porth riet.
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Anglican_Brat
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I don't know the answer to this but anyone with knowledge of Judaism might help me out

Any connection between Wisdom and Shekinah, or Wisdom and the Sabbath Bride?

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SusanDoris

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quote:
Originally posted by Moo:
Wisdom of Solomon 10 has a lot to say about Wisdom. I find it confusing.

It sounds as if there is not much difference between Wisdom and God.

Moo

I can't help wondering - what is the difference between wisdom and holy wisdom.

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Golden Key
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Anglican_Brat--

quote:
Originally posted by Anglican_Brat:
I don't know the answer to this but anyone with knowledge of Judaism might help me out

Any connection between Wisdom and Shekinah, or Wisdom and the Sabbath Bride?

I was thinking of this, too. AIUI, yes.

I think, though, that the Shekinah and the Sabbath Bride are the same. Some Jews believe that when a Jewish married couple have sex on the Sabbath, they're reuniting Jehovah and the Shekinah--i.e. the masculine and feminine aspects of God.
[Cool]

If that got more publicity, I suspect there'd be a whole lot of converts!

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Honest Ron Bacardi
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quote:
Originally posted by LutheranChik:
Ricardus, in a class on the Bible I recently took, the professor talked about an expat Jewish community in Elephantine (sp?) in Egypt, who appeared to worship both Yahweh and " Mrs. Yahweh." I can't remember the exact time period, but at some point they sent messages to priests in Judah, asking for guidance in matters of practice and ritual. I don't have my notes handy, but a keyword search may go you find more information. There is a school of thought that suggests that as agricultural societies with a mother goddess became more urbanized, or were conquered by societies with a dominant father- God figure, the original goddesses were sometimes reconstituted as consists of the new male chief God's, or consigned to some primordial role before the current pantheon took over.

Margaret Barker is another source on this subject (beyond the situation at Elephantine). I think her book entitled "The Mother of the Lord" covers quite a bit of this, including both the links to Wisdom and also the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I haven't read it so can't comment, but if the subject interests you it is probably worth getting hold of.

I don't actually know if there is any scholarly consensus on this, or if there is, what it is. It's undoubtedly the case that the biblical record shows entanglement with Canaanite religion which of course includes Asherah worship. The link between who the Israelites were and who the Canaanites were is quite an area of contention, and more complex than I can convey here. In any event there is evidence of plenty of friction and overlap on the borders between the two and the way they defined themselves.

However, whether the suppression of YHWH worship at the high places in favour of the Jerusalem temple was evidence of suppression of the worship of "God's wife" at those places - or even because of it - by the party usually associated with the Deuteronomists is beyond me. There may have been all sorts of things going on, from straight syncretism, through to a suppression of the worship of a binary deity such as existed in surrounding communities, through to a suppression of the worship of a feminine hypostasization of YHWH.

One of the problems of Elephantine is that it is a long way from home base geographically, and that adds an extra layer of complication associated with whether local factors apply, or if it is a preserved example of what may have been suppressed elsewhere. BTW, the wp entry on the Elephantine papyri and what they are on about is worth a look - Elephantine papyri.

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rolyn
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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
I can't help wondering - what is the difference between wisdom and holy wisdom.

It is like the difference between the wisdom of taking a drink of water because one might feel thirsty, or having the water infuse with one's very soul, and depth of being.

(Says he, slurping on a cup of tea and wondering what trivial tasks the day will bring).

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Change is the only certainty of existence

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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quote:
Originally posted by rolyn:
quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
I can't help wondering - what is the difference between wisdom and holy wisdom.

It is like the difference between the wisdom of taking a drink of water because one might feel thirsty, or having the water infuse with one's very soul, and depth of being.
Hmmm, yeeeees, for a believer that would resonate strongly, I think.
For me, I think - it is amazing what the human imagination can come up with.
quote:
(Says he, slurping on a cup of tea and wondering what trivial tasks the day will bring).
It is certainly a very good day for weather on this Bank Holiday Monday, and lovely for families and children to, wisely, enjoy being out and about.

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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MaryLouise
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# 18697

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quote:
[/QB] Originally posted by SusanDoris:
I can't help wondering - what is the difference between wisdom and holy wisdom. [/QB]

I would imagine for someone who is secular and atheist that there would be no difference? It would be human wisdom and perceived as that.

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“As regards plots I find real life no help at all. Real life seems to have no plots.”

-- Ivy Compton-Burnett

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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quote:
Originally posted by MaryLouise:
I would imagine for someone who is secular and atheist that there would be no difference? It would be human wisdom and perceived as that.

You are right of course, but as always I find it mostinteresting to read the views expressed on topics here in Purgatory.

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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Anglican_Brat
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# 12349

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In medieval literature, there was the notion of the Four Daughters of God: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Daughters_of_God

My chaplain told me that this writing was an allegory about different points of view within the one God, specifically, in the Four Daughters example, over whether or not to impart mercy or inflict justice to sinful humanity.

The origin of this concept I suspect is from the Greek personification of the Virtues as daughters of Zeus.

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It's Reformation Day! Do your part to promote Christian unity and brotherly love and hug a schismatic.

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Ricardus
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# 8757

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quote:
Originally posted by Anglican_Brat:
I don't know the answer to this but anyone with knowledge of Judaism might help me out

Any connection between Wisdom and Shekinah, or Wisdom and the Sabbath Bride?

AIUI, in the Kabbalah, Wisdom is one of the sephiroth or emanations of Godhead, and Shekhinah is the presence of God.

At the risk of being dismissive, I'm a bit wary of anything that seems to lump together all feminine images of God as 'the feminine aspect of God' or similar and then treat them as if consequently they were all the same. It's a bit reminiscent of those TV shows with a band of five heroes, where the four blokes are distinguished by being The Leader, The Smart One, The Muscle, and The Comic Relief, but the one female is distinguished just by being The Girl.

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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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