In reading for my “Ancient Near Eastern Wisdom Literature” class this week I bumped into some lovely erosophic writings in the apocryphal wisdom books. These wisdom books with their strong Hellenistic influences opened my eyes to some of the more sensuous wisdom literature that I didn’t really realize was hiding out between the Hebrew Bible and New Testament books in my big ‘ol Oxford Annotated.
“Wisdom is radiant and unfading, and she is easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her. One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty, for she will be found sitting at the gate.”
Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-14
“Wisdom teaches her children and gives help to those who seek her. Whoever loves her loves life, and those who seek her from early morning are filled with joy…. For at first she will walk with them on tortuous paths; she will bring fear and dread upon them, and will torment them by her discipline until she trusts them, and she will test them with her ordinances. Then she will come straight back to them again and gladden them, and will reveal her secrets to them.”
Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 4:11-12, 17-18
Wisdom is personified almost the same as a lover would be, seducing us into living intimately with her, seducing us into pursuing her out of our own desire for her. Spurred by a desire to “know”, we are seduced by wisdom. In these wisdom texts I began to see where Christianity’s move towards wisdom Christologies came from, with wisdom being spoken of as a redeemer and deliverer. It is easy to see how wisdom earns a place/role in trinitarian theology, an indecent third to queer our notions of God – whatever could that seductive woman be doing in there with the “Father” and “Son”?
It’s interesting to me that the same Hellenistic philosophical influences that I curse for their contribution to Christianity becoming so body/female-unfriendly are the ones that here in this literature mate with Jewish wisdom literature, giving birth to such possibility-filled texts. A good reminder for me of the importance of ambivalence.