Sirach 1.1-8 Wisdom’s Beginning

I have written several posts on Sirach, sections that I have found useful, interesting, and intriguing, and in doing so, I have come to a greater appreciation for the Inspiration of this book. Inspiration – the thought that the author penned it, but it was the Divine Author that actually wrote it. Surely, I am not the only one that has seen a measure of inspiration in the words of Sirach, as we know that the ancient Rabbi’s used it as well as many of the Church Fathers. It heavily influenced the Gospel writers as well as the later Christological debates.

Beginning with this post, I am going to repost my Sirach works, revising them along the way, and hopefully, starting up again where I left off.

Below you will see the addition of several alternate verses which are found in a different Greek recension of Sirach which was used by the KJV and RSV, and noted by the New English Translation of the Septuagint. I include these because they are highly valuable, and unfortunately, the level of Textual Criticism that is often applied to the rest of the Bible has not yet reached a sound scientific basis for many of the books of the Deuterocanon. I will discuss the alternate verse as a stand-alone verse in the passage.

This is not designed as the final word on Sirach, but to open up doorways for thinking by Fundamentals on Sirach, keeping in mind that these ancient writings are generally of better quality than most of what can be found in today’s Christian book stores.

Sirach 1:1-8

(1)  All Wisdom comes from the Lord and is with him for ever.

Ben Sira uses Wisdom not to encompass pure knowledge, but his view is clearly religious in nature, as would be natural for him. By itself, this verse is hardly impressive, however, by undertaking the rest of the passage first, we see that this Wisdom is an emanation from the Lord. (Wisdom 1.26, Hebrews 1.3).

(2)  Who can count the sand of the sea, the drops of rain, and the days of eternity?
(3)  Who can search them out the height of heaven, the breadth of the earth, the abyss, and wisdom?
(4)  Wisdom was created before all things, and prudent understanding from eternity.

The verse is a prologue to John’s Logos passage, when in the beginning was the Word. It also looks back to Proverbs 8, the basis of understanding the Jewish view of Wisdom.

“I, Wisdom, dwell with prudence, And find out knowledge and discretion. The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate. Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding, I have strength. By me kings reign, And rulers decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, All the judges of the earth. I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me. Riches and honor are with me, Enduring riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, yes, than fine gold, And my revenue than choice silver. I traverse the way of righteousness, In the midst of the paths of justice, That I may cause those who love me to inherit wealth, That I may fill their treasuries. “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old.  (Proverbs 8:12-22 NKJV)

Sirach connects to the Logos of John and the Wisdom of Proverbs as well as the Emanation of Wisdom 7.26. The Divine is not without His Wisdom or His Word, and thus not alone; however, the Wisdom and Word are not seen as divine substances, but attributes and emanations. Wisdom is God Thinking whereas the Word is God Active.

And alternate verse here, which is highly Christological, reads

(4a) Wisdom’s spring is God’s word in the highest, and her journeys are everlasting commandments.

This verse is attested to in the Syriac as well as the Latin,

Fons sapientiae verbum Dei in excelsis, et ingressus illius mandata aeterna. – Nova Vulgata

The Logos is seen here as the spring of Sophia, the source. In ancient times, Wisdom is associated with the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of God is seen as emanating from the Son. In John 14 and 16, we read of the spirit of Truth that will come from the Father as well as coming from the Son. This is God speaking His wisdom to dwell among flesh as the gift of the holy Spirit.

These images were important to the early Christian writers, as we cannot fail to be reminded that Paul called Christ the Wisdom of God. (cf Luke 7.35 and 1st Corinthians 1.24), that John used Wisdom language in describing the Logos, and that we can find loud echoes of both Sirach and Wisdom throughout the New Testament and its thought world.

(5) To whom has the root of wisdom been revealed? Who knows her great deeds?

Sophia, Wisdom, is a feminine noun in both Greek and Hebrew, and is only given masculinity in the New Testament when referring to Christ. (See above.)

(6)  There is One who is wise, greatly to be feared, sitting upon his throne.

This (6) verse is left out of some ancient MSS. Some speculate that it was removed by the Jews sometime after the Bar Kochba rebellion in 135. The Rabbi’s, seeking to save Judaism, began removing certain passages from the LXX (cf Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho) in hopes of reducing the Christology of the Old Testament.

(7)  The Lord himself created wisdom; he saw her and numbered her, he poured her out upon all his works.
(8)  She dwells in the midst of all flesh according to his gift, and he supplied her to those who love him.

Again, we hear the echoes of this passage in John’s Prologue in which the Logos is said to tabernacle in flesh (John 1.14 RSV).

And alternate verse here reads,

(8a) Loving the Lord is esteemed wisdom, but to whomever He appears, He apportions her as a vision of Himself.

Again we turn to Paul’s writing, when he calls Christ the Image of God.

NAU  2 Corinthians 4:4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

NLT  2 Corinthians 4:4 Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

And to John,

If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, `Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves. (John 14:7-11 RSV)

It is not difficult to see then why these books were used to supplement the Christ event in the early Church. While in the synoptic gospels, Jesus is the Wise Sage, Wisdom personified, in John, Jesus becomes Wisdom, albeit in the masculine, and philoite Logos.

Post By Joel Watts (10,115 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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107 thoughts on “Sirach 1.1-8 Wisdom’s Beginning

  1. Joel,

    Like all of theology, we must carefully define our words! This word “emanation”, at least by its etymology, seems at best to be but an issue, as from a source..to emit. The weakness of this word for the doctrine of God and His ontology or being, seems very weak at best. The only good spin I could put on it theologically would be: the “act” of emanating. But the word still lacks the aspect of God’s eternal ontology! Of course I am seeking to speak from the top of the rock theologically. I hope you get my meaning?

    Fr. Robert

  2. Fr. Robert, I use ‘emanation’ because we find it in Wisdom 7.26 and Hebrews 1.3. Surely, the writers of these books understood that this word mean. We find that God the Father is indeed the Source, the principle of the Logos and the Sophia. Didn’t the very early Church Fathers see God the Father the same way?

  3. Further study on the word “emanation”…it is used in one quite older dictionary, in philosophy as the process of creation conceived as series of effluxes flowing forth from the Godhead or the Absolute and forming the multiplicty of created beings, also that which has come into being by this process. Here, this would be subject to all kinds of meanings. And as we know also the Gnostic.

    The older Anglican Jermey Taylor has a line: ‘Profitable and excellent emanation from God.’ But it is used in a Trinitarian aspect here. As it is also used of the generation of the Son from the Father. And also of the procession of the Holy Spirit.

    In this it is assumed that the emanation of God has something of eternal merit and “person.” This would honor God’s ontology and being!

    But left to its basic etmology, it is weak and tends toward the Gnostic use, plus whatever else? It would seem if you are going to use it. You must readily define it closely in your Oneness sense? But will this really hold up?

    Fr. Robert

  4. When the author of Wisdom used apaugasma in 7.26, did he really see Sophia as a separate person in the Godhead? If the author did not, then how could it change for the author of Hebrews when the same authors uses Wisdom’s theology as a basis for much of his?

  5. Joel,
    Heb.1:3 it is “express image”. It is the thing expressed there! “Who being THE Radiance of the glory and the representation of the essence of HIM! (Lit. Greek)

    I will check Wisdom 7:26.

    Fr.R.

  6. Joel as to your last question. We really don’t know this presupposition of Wisdom for certain? It could be just or fully revelation alone in Heb.1:3! And Sophia with some Orthodox is another aspect of the Triune God, and even Mary as the Mother of God.

    Fr.R.

  7. Fr. Robert, surely you would not have us believe that Sophia in Sirach and Wisdom, as well as Proverbs and in some small part, Job, is really Mary?

    Didn’t the Church Fathers, at some point, recognize that Sophia was the Spirit?

    I have no problem with your literal Greek, as apaugasma is still translated by an emanationist word-thought. Still is seen the truth that the Logos emits, radiates, emanates, from the Source, which is God the Father.

    There are two instances in the Greek Bible that apaugasma was used, and both in the same context – radiance from th Source. One cannot backwards apply a 4th century definition to it.

  8. Joel,

    The idea as you use emanation…emits, radiates..of the Son, etc., would not be correct to me, as the text of Heb.1:3, Christ IS THE radiance of God in Himself! The Son is not just reflecting God’s glory, He is God and reflects/radiates His own essential glory…”exact representation of His nature.” And as St. John 1:1-3, He is the eternal Logos face to face with the Father! Here quite simply is the weakness and error of your position! The Father and the Son are in an eternal face to face relationship! And as Augustine says, the Holy Spirit is the bond or person of that love! Here we have a complete circle of love…God is Love!

    As to Sophia and Wisdom, certainly again I see this as God the Son, who is the person in Prov.8:30, and also the personification of Wisdom in Col.2:2-3. This also goes along with the reality that Christ is “the image of the invisible God.” (Col. 1:15) He quite literally is the eternal archetype of God, image and reality! ‘God from God, light from light, etc.’

    As to Mary, the Mother of God incarnate. I would allow some aspect of her persona to be connected to the wisdom of God, but only in the Christological sense. She really was part of the humanity of the incarnation, her womb and maternity! Also when God uses a human person, and most certainly the use of the Virgin in Christ’s birth, He elevates the person. And Mary is a creature and redeemed of God, but for “elect” and certain purposes. See, Luke 1:49.

    Fr. Robert

  9. Fr. Robert, sorry the delay in response.

    The Logos is not a mere reflection of, but the emanation from the Father. He radiates from him thus He is the exact image of the Father. I do not see a ‘face to face’ relationship if from the Father is the Son and to look at the Son is to see the Father.

    And I do not see the Spirit as the bond.

    I agree that the Son is God from God, Light from Light because of the apaugasma.

    The Sophia and the Logos are both seen as apaugasmas and not as Persons in the Deuterocanon, and connected in the Incarnation by the Apostles John and Paul.

  10. Joel,

    Well this is the rub between us, and really the difference is orthodoxy. I would be remiss if I did not say this. But I would admit that often few western Christians really worship the Trinity of God in any real manner. Too much lip service is given to the doctrine of God Triune. And proper Christology always leads us into the Triune Godhead!

    Again, I believe that the use of “emanation” without the real “action” between the persons of the Godhead, is not the reality of the word. (But in fact I think the word is very weak used in theology) Especially the regal nature of God the Father who is the origin and cause in and of the Godhead. And the loss of the eternal connection of the Father and the Son is simply the basis of Arianism! There can be no other theological conclusion for a real Trinitarian doctrine! And again just to be honest, there is no orthodoxy in any Modalist position for Trinitarians. This is not personal but theological.

    Again, the Creed looses it’s truth: “God from God, light from light” without the reality of the Father & the Son in a face to face fellowship! This was the reality for Athanasius. We must be real with the Trinitarian nature of the Creeds also.

    Also we must look back from the vantage of the NT revelation, and not from the Deuterocanon alone. It just may be that the revelation of the New, is just that revelatory! We can see this also in the nature of the virgin birth, it was not just some advance of the OT teaching, but a complete NT revelation itself! (In Matt.1:22-23, the doctrine comes right out of the NT reality, then back into Isa.7:14…the young woman, was the Virgin!)

    Fr. Robert

  11. Joel,

    You must realize that the Trinitarian Doctrine is dogma for historical Anglicans and the Orthodox. Also for the Reformed, and Lutherans. Even the mainstream Evangelicals at least state the Trinitarian Doctrine. This is no doctrine light in the main for these!

    Fr. Robert

  12. Fr. Robert, I understand that we live in the revelation of the New Testament, however, it is not a new Revelation, but a fulfilled revelation, building upon everything that came before.

    I believe that emanation has a stronger standing than hupostasis, or persona, and indeed reveals that the Logos is God from God. But before I go one, allow me one question to clarify.

    As you know, Western Trinitarianism, indeed American, has a different view of the Trinity. When you mean face to face, can you break that down. As it is, I picture you meaning two people looking at each other. I know your preference for not putting the Trinity in a mold of human language, but you can understand what ‘face to face’ might mean.

  13. There may be no ‘doctrine light’ as regards the Trinity, but you are dealing with a reaction against the American version of the Trinity when you deal with a majority of oneness believers.

  14. Joel,

    The NT revelation of the Virgin Birth was a lighting bolt from heaven, given both from the Angel Gabriel to Mary the Virgin Mother (Lk.1:26-35), and also given by God to Joseph in a dream (Matt. 1:20). The use of Isa.7:14 must be worked backward, again the young maiden became the Virgin Mother. The Hebrew bears this out, maiden or young woman. The Virgin Birth was a NT Revelation! And a doctrine of the Church of God fully seen in the incarnation of God. Also here is where the doctrine of Mary as theotokos is worked out. Even Ignatius saw this!

    Fr. Robert

  15. You have sent that book before and I ordered, received it, thumbed through it and added it to the list to read! I have really got to catch up on my reading!

    Fr. Robert, the Virgin Birth is not simply a NT Revelation, but seen in Genesis with the ‘seed of the woman’ as well as Isaiah (although the LXX is clearer) 7.14. Matthew was revealing the completing of the prophecy.

    I will look up the reference to ‘Mother of God’ in Ignatius.

  16. Joel,
    Perhaps you can see here, how Mary as the Virgin Mother is connected into a real Christological event, and also centers closely with the Incarnation of God?

    Also here, she is centered “Christologically” in the Trinitarian event also! As I said, she is incarnationally the Mother of God, and also the Mother of the Redeemed…see the spiritual nature of John 19:25-27…to St. John, “Behold, your mother!”

    Fr.R.

  17. Joel,

    I do not deny at all Gen.3:15, but the full revelation is really in the NT, and especially the Virgin Birth. This is my point!

    Fr.R.

  18. Yes, I am something Anglo-Catholic, but more in line with the E.O. Church on at least certain doctrines, Trinity, Mary, and somewhat the church, etc.

    Fr.R.

  19. Joel,

    Just a note also on my personal theological mind. I am still a very real student of Calvin, not really a Calvinist, but perhaps something Neo-Calvin? I really value the real Calvin..i.e. his written ministry..sermons also. Calvin’s idea that God was accommodating Himself to the human capacity, is simply profound theology to my mind! He so understands the Creator and creature gulf, etc. And here God must enable.

    Both my love for Calvin and Barth, strains my relationship some with both those that are very High Church in Anglicanism, and of course the Orthodox. But though I am eclectic I try to stand in good balance.

    Fr.R.

  20. Fr. Robert, I fear the danger that would be if ever we would meet…no sleep or food, just theology!

    I can see your point about Mary and her function in Christology. The proper Christology, in view of the Incarnation, will recognize Mary as the contributor of the flesh, which is essential in the proper Incarnation. Somewhat correct?

    Yes, the full revelation is in the NT, but nothing in the NT changed from the OT or the DC, it was just complete. The same is said with the revelation of the Father with His Word and Wisdom. Nothing was changed, must not be changed rather, in understanding the oneness of the Godhead.

    Before the NT not only did the oral tradition exist, but so did the Hebrew Bible which was plainly written. Besides, oral tradition did not exist all that long for the Pauline Corpus. Again, Oral Tradition existed along side the written Bible (Hebrew, Old Testament, etc…).

  21. Joel,

    Yes mate we are both theolog’s! lol

    And you are in the ballpark with the Blessed Virgin! She really is more of an ecumenical person and figure.

    And again, I am of the belief that the Trinity of God, is really a NT revelation..and only adumbrated in the OT (as Gen.18, and Isa. etc.). Thus everything has changed and not only fulfilled! St. Paul’s great Letter of the Ephesians is in this position…Eph. 3, etc., verses 20-21 caps this off!

    Fr. Robert

    PS I will share more of my study of Tertullian later.. But Eric Osborn’s Book; Tertullian, first theologian of the West, is a must read! It is now in paperback from Cambridge. He is an Aussie from Melbourne, Queens College.

  22. PS..I must confess I am just now getting “fully” into Tertullian, again! This draws me back to the West, at the dismay of my Orthodox friends! lol Oh well, Augustine has never left my mind either! And you have been part of this providence, i.e. back to Tertullian, and the study of the second and third century.

    Fr. Robert

  23. Tertullian is not all bad, even for us ‘oneness’ believers. I really don’t like that label, BTW.

    I will be posting some of his works starting next week, I hope, after I am finished with Cyprian, who is outstanding on his Church Unity.

    I look forward to discussion Tertullian with you.

  24. Joel,
    Here is something apologetic toward Oneness.
    http://www.christiandefense.org/oneness_c.hstoy.htm

    Perhaps a better label for you would be Monarchian? The term Monarch has at least a more hereditary idea, and posits a positive sense.

    I got and read Edward Delcour’s book: A Definitive Look At Oneness Theology. I thought it tight and well done. Some are calling it a classic work on the subject. I would think you ‘Oneness’ would have to make a line to line reply?

    I am also reading again Ignatius of Antioch’s Letters. Simply a wonderful early piece of one of our chief Apostolic Fathers. Though they we written perhaps quickly and with some haste..as he was on his way to martyrdom. They are quite deep in their spirit of the Fatherhood of God, the person of Christ “Son of Mary, Son of God”; and also the Virgin Mary! And I am amazed at the position the Bishop had already taken! This is certainly one of Ignatius main ideas, the need to stay close to the Apostolic authority. At that time it was so important! And even later in the latter part of the second and on into the third century.

    But Tertullian, I am loving his use of paradox, but also his use of Stoic ideas. And he was the best witness against Maricon. Back to his use of Stoicism, it reinforces the physical nature of sin and corruption, which is thus passed on from every parent to every child (Traducianism), to give and produce the distortion of human nature. And here again for Tertullian the Stoic’s help us to understand the human souls nature, as corporeal, spiritual and really the source of life. One soul, but two natures! And again we can hear Tertullian’s use of paradox: ‘Truth and hatred of truth come into our world together. As soon as truth appears, it is the enemy’ [to fallen man].

    Fr. Robert

  25. PS…Also to my minds eye in Ignatius, I can see the difference between the God the Father and Jesus Christ, or as he loves to say “Christ Jesus”…”Abide with Christ Jesus with your flesh and your spirit.” (Eph.)

    He seems to begin his letters with God the Father, and Christ the Son, as two persons! Also, “Our Lord Jesus Christ…was the Son of God, “the first-born of every creature,” God the Word, the only-begotten Son, and was of the seed of David according to the flesh, by the Virgin Mary.” (Letter to the Smyrneans, chap.1)

    I will try later to put together some better Trinitarian thoughts out of Ignatius. I must get back to finishing Tertullian. Right now he is really speaking truth and Christ to me! I also have my own copy of his Against Praxeas.

    Fr.R.

  26. Joel,

    The way a word is used is also just as important as its so-called etymology. And the use and context in Heb.1:3 is very similar to Wis.7:26, but as David deSilva says in his book Introducing the Apocrypha, and in his section on the Wisdom of Solomon:”The author of Hebrews presents not Wisdom but the Son, as the “refection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being.” (Heb.1:3) He goes on to say that “Wisdom of Soloman’s lavish expansions on the personified Wisdom’s relationship to God thus provided important raw material for Christlogy in the early church.”

    He also compares St. Paul’s Romans 1:19-31, Paul’s statement on ‘the depravity of humanity on account of idolatry in Rom.1:19-32 shows signs of Wisdom’s influence (Wis. 13:1-9; 14:22-27).’ He sees much more of St. Paul’s use of Wisdom, which I will not quote here however. As also Augustine noted with the connection between 2 Cor.5:1-4 and Wis. 9:15. As too, Johannine echoes…Wis. 15:3 with John 17:3, etc.

    But the exact parallel of Wisdom 7: 26 with Hebrews 1:3, is not there. In Heb.1:3, Christ is “the exact imprint of God’s very being.” And not just an “emanation” or part of the issue or source, but the very source itself…Himself “SON”! (Heb.1:2)

    Fr. Robert

  27. PS…Sure Christ is a refection-emanation, but He is more “the exact imprint of God’s very being.” As SON, and “the exact imprint, etc.” (Heb.1:2-3) This is the NT revelation!

    Fr.R.

  28. Fr. Robert, I believe, contrary to deSilva, that the parallel between Hebrews and Wisdom is most transparent at this verse, and thus we hare lead to understand the usage of this word in Greek Judaism. I also agree that Wisdom did provide ‘raw material’ for the early Church, especially Paul and Luke, as well as the writer of Hebrews. As you know, it Wisdom provided material for the Church Fathers as well, with Augustine quoting it some 300 times or more.

    Simply, if Christ is the Wisdom of God, as well as the Son the Emanation of the Father, and further still Wisdom the Emanation of God, we may see Christ as the Emanation of the Father.

    http://thechurchofjesuschrist.wordpress.com/2008/05/06/unus-deus-verus-doctrina-pt-4/

  29. Joel,

    I certainly would never deny the OT is fulfilled in the NEW. But I would always maintain, as St. Paul, that the NT revelation as it fulfills itself makes also something really new, and beyond what even the shadow could see or imagine…this is the revelation and texts of St. Paul in Ephesians (1:3-12;17-23 ; 2:12-22 ; 3:2-21 ; 4:3-6;12-13;24 ; 5:27;32 ; 6:10-17.

    Indeed in Ephesians we have the “One New Humanity” (2:15/ 3:10;21/ 4:13 / 5:27;32)

    In this Letter St. Paul does ascend to a position and place never seen or imagined…”Seated in the heavenlies with Christ! “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ (an incarnational position & place), the Father of glory, would give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of HIM.” (Eph.1:17)

    Fr. Robert

    PS..I am sorry, but I just cannot accept your idea of “emanation”. It does not really go far enough with the “Person” and beauty of Christ, as “the Son of His (the Father’s, verse 12) love.” (Col.1:13)

  30. PS..”The One New Humanity” is the Mystical Body of Christ, redeemed, whole and totally or spiritually ascended! They the world, evil and the devil can perhaps kill the body, but never the spirit of the ascended believer-Christian as “In Christ”!

    Fr.R.

  31. Joel,

    The texts of Eph.3:20-21 shows us that Christ Risen, Ascended as in “HIM” is really the whole Godhead – One & Triune, and His Incarnate position is eternal, as too will be the His redemptive Body..the Church!

    Fr.R.

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