Riddle: What was the first thing God created?
Wisdom is the speaker in Proverbs 8:12-36, and these are some of her claims:
- The Lord created me as the first of his works, before his deeds of old.
- When there were no oceans, I was given birth.
- Before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth.
- When he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was the craftsman at his side.
This passage has presented some problems in the past. Arius saw this text 1) in light of 1 Corinthians 1:24 — in which Jesus is described as “the wisdom of God” — and 2) in light of passages involving Jesus in creation, and he determined Jesus was a created being.
And, so, there was backlash. Scholars pointed at the Hebrew word qanah (translated ‘create’), and carefully explained that it can also mean ‘to possess.’ “Yeah, that’s it,” they said, “God merely possessed wisdom and Jesus in the beginning. He didn’t create them. Aha, we’ve proved — through our correct understand of Hebrew — that the Arians are wrong.” [And the pendulum swings. It seems to me, from what little I understand of the Hebrew language, that this passage necessarily is indeed speaking of creation and birth. Why must we make words mean other than they do in order to make combat with our enemies?]
Whether it bolsters the Arian view or not, I have to admit that Proverbs 3:19-20 reminds me an awful lot of John’s description of “the word” in the first chapter of his gospel:
By wisdom, the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.
But I think there’s a much better explanation than Christ as a created being.*
The poet here is simply personifying Wisdom, in order to show that God himself is her creator — and that he meticulously employed her during his creation of the world. God is the author of Wisdom; she is one of his eternal attributes. Wisdom is, because God is. And we only truly understand her in light of his good and perfect (and wise) nature.
“But,” you interject, “if God created Wisdom, how can she be part of his eternal nature?” Two ideas on that:
- Perhaps the fact that God was the first to have Wisdom makes him her creator, regardless of whether she was with him all along. Because he is God, all godly attributes were birthed out of him, despite the fact that they were present for all time.
- But I prefer to think of it this way: Wisdom is not fully Wisdom until she is employed and acted upon. Prior to that, she is just a pinch better than Knowledge. When God created the world and everything in it, he exercised his intelligence, knowledge, and understanding. The right and proper application of knowledge and understanding is, in my best estimation, wisdom.
Wisdom isn’t just knowing something,
but it’s trying that something on for size,
and finding a good fit.
When God first moved to utter the words, “Let there be light,” he gave birth to Wisdom. And when God looked on his creation and saw that it was good, he confirmed her existence.