The figure of Holy Wisdom appears in the Old Testament as a (sometimes female) personification of an aspect of Deity, and in the New Testament as identical with Jesus Christ. This study day will examine devotion to Wisdom, and theology about her, as it has developed within the Christian tradition.
Wisdom is always associated with God’s presence within the created world. In the Book of Proverbs, she is present with God at the beginning of creation, and in Christian theology, Wisdom was identified with Christ as the Word of God incarnate, that is, as God in union with the cosmos. Amongst other evidence for this are texts and buildings from Anglo-Saxon England, and the works of authors such as St Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179).
In the Western Church, Wisdom also came to be identified with the Virgin Mary, and this theme was strongly marked in Catholic theology and liturgy until the late twentieth century. Recent speculative scholarship suggests that the identification of Mary with Wisdom may have been intended by the writers of the New Testament, although that tradition later became obscured.
In the Orthodox churches, the figure of Holy Wisdom has always been prominent, and the twentieth-century Russian theologian, Sergei Bulgakov, wrote a study of Wisdom as both uncreated (heavenly) and created (earthly).
In Protestant mysticism, the writings of Jakob Boehme (1525-1624) speak powerfully of Wisdom as a sacred female figure; and, more recently, eco-feminist theologians have found in Wisdom a figure who expresses both female divinity and the sanctity of the natural world.
This study day will take a few themes from these traditions, and enquire into their significance for Christians’ understanding of the relationship between God, humanity, and nature.