Prov. 8:22-30 "Wisdom" and Christ
To further show that Jesus is the first creation of God ("beginning of creation"), we should carefully examine Prov. 8:22-30. The understanding that "Wisdom" in these verses is, in reality, figurative of Jesus in his pre-human existence has always existed in the majority of churches that call themselves Christian. It was commonly noted in the writings of the Church Fathers of the first centuries of Christianity (including such noted scholars as Origen, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, etc.) Many Bible scholars (trinitarians included) have even said that this connection was made in the New Testament at 1 Cor. 1:24.
For example, trinitarian scholar Edmund Fortman writes:
"Paul applied it [Prov. 8:22-30] to the Son of God. The Apologists [Christian writers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries] used it to prove to Gentile and Jew the pre-existence of the Word and his role in creation." - (See CREEDS 5-16: quotes from the writings of Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Justin Martyr which equate the Son with "Wisdom" speaking at Prov. 8:22-30 and admit that he had been created by God as the beginning of God's works - Prov. 8:22.)
Trinitarian scholar Dr. W. H. C. Frend agrees:
"By the time he wrote to the Corinthians in c. 53, Paul had developed in his mind the equation of Christ with the divine Wisdom incarnate (`Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God' [1 Cor. 1:24])." - p. 102, The Rise of Christianity, Fortress Press, 1985.
We even find the extremely trinitarian New Bible Dictionary, 1982, p. 1257, saying:
"it is not unexpected that Paul would view Jesus ... as the Wisdom of God. That Paul saw in Christ the fulfilment of Pr. 8:22 ff. seems apparent from Col. 1:15 ff., which strongly reflects the OT description of wisdom."
And the Gospel writers, according to the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, also may have made the Jesus/Wisdom connection: Luke 11:49 speaks of "a word of the wisdom of God" and the parallel account in Matt. 23:34 ff. "is understood as a word of Jesus." Also, in connection with the Gospels at Matt. 12:42 and Luke 11:31, this trinitarian reference work says:
"This can be understood most easily by thinking of the heavenly wisdom whom men despise: in Jesus this wisdom has finally appeared." - p. 1030, Vol. 3.
The very trinitarian The Ante-Nicene Fathers admits:
Prov. viii 22-25. This is one of the favourite Messianic quotations of the Fathers, and is considered as the base of the first chapter of St. John's Gospel. - ANF 1:488, f.n. #10, Eerdmans, 1993 reprint.
And even that staunchest of trinitarian supporters (and probably the most influential and honored of trinitarian scholars), Augustine, made the "Word/Wisdom" connection with Jesus about 410 A. D. in his famous De Civitate Dei (The City of God), Book XI, Chapter 24.
"[Arius] had a sharply logical mind and appealed to biblical texts which apparently backed up his arguments - for example, John 17:3....and Proverbs 8:22." - p. 157 (165), Eerdman's Handbook to the History of Christianity, 1977.
And his trinitarian opponent, Athanasius, although sometimes also attempting to appeal to scripture, never refuted this usage of Proverbs 8:22 -
"Athanasius....did not refute Arius by rejecting the relevance of Prov. 8:22." (Even though he attempted to show that Jesus had not been created by quoting Ps. 110:3.) - p. 165 (173), Eerdman's Handbook.
In other words, when Arius quoted Proverbs 8:22 and applied it to Jesus, trinitarian Athanasius didn't dispute that application! Even Athanasius recognized that Wisdom in that scripture was intended to describe the Messiah! We even find Athanasius quoting a letter written by Dionysus, Bishop of Rome (259-268 A.D.) wherein he writes:
"if the Christ is Word and Wisdom and Power, as you know the Divine Scriptures say he is ..." - p. 32, Documents of the Christian Church, Bettenson, Oxford University Press.
Athanasius even admitted that Wisdom in Prov. 8:23, 30 was the Son: Discourse 1 Against the Arians.
Throughout Christendom today trinitarian translators in their reference Bibles refer Revelation 3:14 (which is certainly speaking about Jesus) to Prov. 8:22. For example, the King James Version, Collins Press; the NASB, reference edition, Foundation Press, 1975; and the RSV (with references) published by the trinitarian American Bible Society, all refer Rev. 3:14 to Prov. 8:22. And the GNB (with references) also published by the American Bible Society refers Prov. 8:22 to Rev. 3:14.
It is not surprising that so many Bible translators make this reference. The scholars who have produced the best, most-used texts of the original New Testament Greek used by Bible translators today agree that Rev. 3:14 quoted or borrowed its Greek phrasing from the ancient Greek Septuagint version of Proverbs 8:22 ! These (most, if not all, trinitarian) Bible scholars and their texts in which they have made this connection are:
(1) The Student's Edition of the New Testament in Greek, by Westcott and
(2) The Greek New Testament, 3rd ed., by the United Bible Societies, p. 844.
(3) Novum Testamentum Graece, by Dr. Eberhard Nestle, p. 665.
(4) Novi Testamenti Biblia Graeca et Latin, by Joseph M. Bover, p. 725.
If Rev. 3:14 meant "the source of God's creation" (or "the ruler of creation"), it would be senseless to refer it to Prov. 8:22 where "Wisdom" ("Jesus") says that Jehovah "created me at the beginning of his work" - RSV. All these trinitarian sources, by referring Rev. 3:14 to Prov. 8:22, are clearly showing, instead, that the one who who calls himself "the beginning of his [God's] work" is the same person who calls himself the beginning of God's creation!
Similar references between Jesus' pre-human existence and Prov. 8:22-30 can be found in many trinitarian Bibles at other verses, also. My trinitarian KJV, for example, refers John 1:1, 2 to Prov. 8:30. My trinitarian NASB refers John 1:2, 3 to Prov. 8:30.
Even the trinitarian Today's Dictionary of the Bible, 1982, p. 389, in discussing the Greek word logos (often translated "Word" at John 1:1) tells us:
"Logos - Gr. for the term used by John as a name for Christ. It is he alone who so uses the term in the Prologue to his Gospel [John 1:1-17] and in the Apocalypse [Revelation]." And, "logos has a verb form ... meaning `to reason.' So, denotatively, the term has two Greek meanings, the primary unit of thought, speech and writing - word; and reasoning."
This same article goes on to describe the specialized pagan philosophical/religious meanings that were used in the "Golden Age of Greece" and concludes that it is unlikely that John would have used such paganistic meanings: "It is more likely, however, that John derives his Logos Christology from the personified Wisdom of proverbs 8." (Although this is a trinitarian tactic to avoid crediting Philo's Logos concept as the source of John's Logos concept, it is nevertheless true that Philo himself used the Wisdom of Prov. 8:22-30 as one of the important sources for his development of the popular early first century Jewish Logos concept. - See the LOGOS study.)
And, on p. 654, this same mainstream trinitarian publication says:
"`Wisdom' in [Proverbs 8:22-30] may be regarded not as a mere personification of the attribute of wisdom, but as a divine person, considered by many to clarify what John means by his use of logos (word) in [John] 1:1-17."
And the trinitarian New Bible Dictionary, 1982, which in its preface stresses its dedication to the "convictions for which the Tyndale Fellowship stands - the triunity of God....," states on p. 1256,
"The personification [of `Wisdom'] continues in Pr. 8 and reaches its climax in vv. 22 ff., where Wisdom claims to be the first creation of God and, perhaps, an assistant in the work of creation (8:30; cf. 3:19; the difficult amon, `as one brought up' in [the King James Version], should be translated `master workman,' as in RV, RSV,....)."
And on p. 1221 this same reference work (which Christianity Today describes as "true to the Bible as God's word" and "destined to become a standard that will be turned to often by students and ministers alike") tells us that "the Word" [Jesus] is "personified as `Wisdom'" at Prov. 8:22 !
And staunch trinity-defender of the 19th century, W. G. T. Shedd, admits that "Wisdom" of Prov. 8:22, 23 is certainly the pre-existent Christ! - Dogmatic Theology, Vol. 1, p. 317.
So, if you accept the view of the majority of those in "traditional" Christendom throughout the Christian era, you will accept the understanding that "Wisdom" at Prov. 8:22-30 refers to the Messiah.
And if you accept that, then it is clear that the Messiah was created (at least there was a time when he was brought into existence by the Father, Jehovah) before the rest of creation. Note the following trinitarian translations of Prov. 8:22 -
1. "The LORD [Jehovah] created me at the beginning of his work" - RSV, and NRSV.
(Footnote in NRSV says "Or [created] me as the beginning [of his work].").
Version, World Bible Translation Center, 1992.
Text (George M. Lamsa's translation from the Aramaic of the Peshitta), Harper and Row
Publ. (Be sure to examine Prov. 8:23-25, 30 in all translations also.)
The Jewish Bibles also translate it similarly:
1."The LORD made me as the beginning of His way, the first of His works of old." - JPS, Margolis, ed., 1917.
Why, even that popular trinitarian study Bible, The NIV Study Bible, translates Prov. 8:22 as "the LORD brought me forth as the first of his works" and explains in a footnote for Prov. 8:22:
"brought ... forth. The Hebrew for this verb is also used in Ge 4:1; 14:19, 22 (`Creator')." - Zondervan, 1985.
And a noted Hebrew-English Lexicon has for qanah in Prov. 8:22:
“1 get, acquire (all poetry) :
“a. of God as originating, creating, קֹנֵה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ Genesis 14:19, 22; Deuteronomy 32:6 (Israel), Psalm 139:13 (כִּלְֹיתָ֑י); Proverbs 8:22 ( חכמה q. v.).” - Brown-Driver-Briggs, p. 888-889.
Compare the Septuagint at Prov. 8:22 where Wisdom says, "The Lord [YHWH] created (ektise) me ...."
And the trinitarian The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology tells us:
"Created prior to all the [other] works of creation (Prov. 8:22-31), [Wisdom] discloses to men the original order inherent in creation." - p. 1029, Vol. 3, Zondervan, 1984.
The trinitarian A Dictionary of the Bible, Hastings (ed.) tells us about Wisdom in Prov. 8:
"Wisdom is spoken of in such a way as to make it impossible to believe that only the Divine attribute of wisdom is meant .... It is something outside of, yet standing alongside of, God, created by Him.... Wisdom is further represented as `playing' like a child before Jehovah in His habitable earth, in all the glow of conscious power and as taking special delight in the sons of men." - p. 281, Supplement, 1988 printing.
It is also very clear from scripture that the rest of creation from Jehovah (who alone is the Father) was accomplished through the hands of his first (and only direct - "only-begotten") creation, who was like a master worker for Jehovah. (Remember the trinitarian sources which refer Proverbs 8:30 to John 1:1-3.)
Notice how these trinitarian Bibles render Prov. 8:30:
30 I was beside him, like a master worker" – NRSV.
"525 [Amon] m. - workman, architect, ... Prov. 8:30, used of the hypostatic wisdom of God, the maker of the world." - p. 58, Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, Baker Book House, 1979.
"525 amon (54c); from 539; an artificer, architect, master workman:--artisans (1), master workman (1)." - (#) is number of times this NASB word was translated from the original language. - Hebrew-Aramaic & Greek Dictionary: http://www.studybibleforum.com/htm_php.php3?do=show_marg_and_gh&b=20&c=8&v=30
"I. [Amon]: artisan Je 52:15; Prov. 8:30; ['all undisputed instances have been cited']" - p. 19, A Concise Hebrew And Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, Eerdmans, 1988.
It may be that figures of speech and personification sometimes appear to be carried too far for our tastes today. But if this scripture only shows a quality personified, but not actually a person (as some anti-Watchtower publications claim), how can we explain that "Wisdom" (at Prov. 8:22-30) came into existence before the rest of creation?
The scriptures show that Jehovah (and only Jehovah) has always existed (Ps. 90:2). Since he is from eternity and has obviously always been wise, then Jehovah's own personal wisdom has always existed; it never was created or produced. And since wisdom cannot exist apart from a personality who is capable of using it, and, since the "Wisdom" of Prov. 8:22-30 came into existence before the rest of creation, it cannot represent the wisdom of any other creature (whether angels or men) but a "firstborn Son"!
Therefore, this "Wisdom" (at Prov. 8:22-30) must picture a person who was created "at the beginning of His [Jehovah's] work." The rest of the angelic "Sons of God" were created later (but still before "the beginning" of the creation of the world - Job 38:4-7) through the efforts of this Firstborn Son, "Wisdom," the "Master Worker" who came to be at Jehovah's side.
Notice how even a number of Trinitarian translations of Micah 5:2, 4 (recognized as one of the OT prophecies of the Messiah) reinforce this fact:
“But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.”
“And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of [YHWH],
in the majesty of the name of [YHWH] his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth” - NRSV. (Cf. RSV; NAB; NJB; NIV; AT; )