Jehovah’s Witnesses And Proverbs 8:22

In the third and early fourth century Arius (ca. 250 – ca. 336 A.D.), a presbyter in one of churches in Alexandria Egypt, affirmed that Christ Jesus existed before taking on flesh. He argued that though Logos existed before embodiment, He was not of the same essence as the Father because He, unlike the Father, had a beginning.

Arian formula, as described by Athanasius of Alexandria(ca. 296–373) in Four Discourses against the Arians, records that Arius taught that Logos is,

a creature but not as one of the creatures; but each creature is unlike all other creatures; and no creature can create. The Word then differs from all creatures in that in which they, though otherwise differing, all agree together, as creatures; viz. in being an efficient cause; in being the one medium or instrumental agent in creation; moreover in being the revealer of the Father; and in being the object of worship. (Athanasius 1892: 357)

According to Arius there was a time when God was alone. He was not yet a Father because the Son did not exist. All things, but God, came into existence. Logos of God also came into existence. He also begun to exist. He was created as “the beginning of the Lord’s works” (Prov. 8:22).

Following Arian’s tradition, Watchtower Society’s Translation Committee translated Proverbs 8:22 “Jehovah himself produced me as the beginning of his way, the earliest of his achievements of long ago. (NWT) and reassert Arius’ argument viz. Logos “was created by God before all other things. (Colossians 1:15)”. Jehovah’s Witnesses are then taught that,

For countless billions of years, before even the physical universe was created, Jesus lived as a spirit person in heave and enjoyed intimate fellowship with his Father, Jehovah God, the Grand Creator. – Proverbs 8:22, 27-31 (Watchtower 1991: 11)

Norman Geisler and Ron Rhodes unconvincingly response to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ understanding of Proverbs 8:22 by denying that “wisdom” is not Jesus but “ a personification of the virtue or character of wisdom for the purpose of emphasis and impact”(Geisler & Rhodes 1997: 72) Geisler and Rhodes noted that no New Testament author applied Proverbs 8:22 to Jesus, and that “wisdom is portrayed as a woman who cries out in the streets (1:20-21)” Michael Licona echoes Geisler and Rhodes counter argument and concluded, “Wisdom, therefore, is not referring to Jesus.”(Licona 1998: 32-33)

I believe Jehovah’s Witnesses could point to Revelation 3:14b, contra Geisler and Rhodes, to argued that in The Book of Revelations, John probably quoted Proverbs 8:22 when he wrote that Christ Jesus is “the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation”(Rev. 3:14b ESV) while Paul possibly had Proverbs 8:22 in mind, in 1 Corinthians 1:24, when he called Jesus the wisdom of God.

It is Possibly True That Logos is Wisdom in Proverbs 8:22

According to Second Temple Jews, wisdom was at the beginning of God’s creation (Proverbs 8:22-27) Living and teaching in Jerusalem, Yeshua Ben Sira explained that Wisdom, the beloved who was magnified, dwelt with God in heaven. God “εκτησαμην (‘I got possession’)”(Sirach 24:5-12 Charles 2004)

In Wisdom of Solomon, “wisdom is “the fashioner of all things” (Wis 7:22) and “an associate in all his [God’s] works” (Wis 8:4) who was present in the creation of the world (Wis 9:9).”(Hawthorne & Martin & Reid  1993: 744).

Early church fathers also applied Proverbs 8:22 to Christ Jesus. Pseudo-Ignatius of Antioch’s epistle to the Tarsians[1] and the North African Carthaginian Tertullian(ca. 160 – ca 240 A.D) quoted and applied Proverbs 8:22-25 and 27-30 to Logos. Example Tertullian contended,

He[God] first put forth the Word Himself, having within Him His own inseparable Reason and Wisdom, in order that all things might be made through Him through whom they had been planned and disposed, yea, and already made, so far forth as (they were) in the mind and intelligence of God.(Tertullian 1885: 601)

Athanasius, who dedicated his entire ministerial life to refute Arianism, also believed that Logos is Wisdom of Proverbs 8:22. He “read “constituted me as the head of creation.”(Ross 1991: 946)

 A Possibly Better Response To Proverbs 8:22

Allen P. Ross showed that “[t]he verb qānāh can mean either “possess” or “create.”” Possess makes much more sense “otherwise it[if we chose “created”] might sound as if God lacked wisdom and so created it before the world began.”(Ross 1991: 946)

If Jehovah’s Witnesses maintains that “created” is a more plausible reading of Proverbs 8:22, then I believe they undress Jehovah God wisdom prior to creation of wisdom . Using a similar style Athanasius’ argument, I would argues that:

  1. If God created wisdom, then there was a time God lacked wisdom.
  2. According to Jehovah’s Witnesses God created wisdom
  3. Therefore, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses there was a time God lacked wisdom(1&2)
  4. It is not the case that there was a time God lacked wisdom
  5. Therefore it is not the case that God created wisdom(1&4)

Premise (1) argues that if God created wisdom, then there was a time in which God did not have wisdom. Watchtower teaches its followers that God created wisdom (2), thus it follows from (1&2) that there was a time in which God did not have wisdom (3).

It is absurd to think of a time where God(referring to only the Father according to Arians and Jehovah’s Witnesses) was without wisdom and that He was without wisdom when He created wisdom. Jehovah’s Witnesses, I hope, believe that Jehovah God has eternally possessed wisdom. It follows, if granted that Jesus is wisdom, Jehovah God had eternally possessed Logos. Thus Logos, if Wisdom of Proverbs 8:22, was not created but eternally existed with God.

Consequently, borrowing Athanasius wording to so conclude that, in Proverbs 8:22 also Arians and Jehovah’s Witnesses “may be proved to have got no further than a fantasy”(ibid 358 ) in their attempt to show that Logos, preexisted Jesus, had a beginning.

Question To Jehovah’s Witnesses: If Wisdom was created, was there a time which God lacked wisdom?

Bibliography:

Athanasius of Alexandria. (1892). Four Discourses against the Arians J. H. Newman & A. T. Robertson, Trans.). In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Volume IV: St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters (P. Schaff & H. Wace, Ed.) New York: Christian Literature Company.

Charles, R. H. Ed.(2004) Apocrypha of the Old Testament (apparatuses) (Sir 24:5–12). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Geisler, N. L., & Rhodes, R. (1997). When cultists ask: A popular handbook on cultic misinterpretations. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Hawthorne, G. F., Martin, R. P., & Reid, D. G. (1993). Dictionary of Paul and his letters. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Licona, Michael (1998) Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock: What to say to Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses when they knock on your door. TruthQuest Publishers. Alharetta

Ross, A. P. (1991). Proverbs. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 5: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Tertullian. (1885). Against Praxeas P. Holmes, Trans.). In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume III: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian (A. Roberts, J. Donaldson & A. C. Coxe, Ed.) Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

Watchtower (1991) The Greatest Man Who Ever Leaved. Watch Tower Bible And Tract Society of Pennsylvania.

Photo credit: Athanasius: The man who stood against the world. Christina History Project


[1] Pseudo-Ignatius of Antioch. (1885). The Epistle of Ignatius to the Tarsians. In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (A. Roberts, J. Donaldson & A. C. Coxe, Ed.) (108). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

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13 thoughts on “Jehovah’s Witnesses And Proverbs 8:22

  1. As regards to the correct interpretation of Prov 8:22 we will just have to agree to disagree.

    You say Christ is your Savior yet you deny His divinity by saying He is not God.

    Jesus is God. The Trinity of God is God the Father, God the Son(Word) God the Holy Spirit.

    If Jesus is your Savior and you do not believe he is God you are calling Him a liar.

    “I and the Father are one.” John 10:30

    “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!” John 8:58

    The response of the Jews who heard these statement was to take up stones to kill Him for blasphemy, as the Mosaic Law commanded them to do. “… you, a mere man, claim to be God” John 10:33

    John reiterates the concept of Jesus’ deity: “the Word was God” and “the Word became flesh” (John 1:1, 14). These verses clearly indicate that Jesus is God in the flesh. Acts 20:28 tells us, “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Who bought the church—the church of God—with His own blood? Jesus Christ. Acts 20:28 declares that God purchased His church with His own blood. Therefore, Jesus is God!

    Thomas the disciple declared concerning Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Jesus does not correct him. Titus 2:13 encourages us to wait for the coming of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ (see also 2 Peter 1:1). In Hebrews 1:8, the Father declares of Jesus, “But about the Son He says, ’Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.’” The Father refers to Jesus as “O God” indicating that Jesus is indeed God.

    In Revelation, an angel instructed the apostle John to only worship God (Revelation 19:10). Several times in Scripture Jesus receives worship (Matthew 2:11, 14:33, 28:9, 17; Luke 24:52; John 9:38). He never rebukes people for worshiping Him. If Jesus were not God, He would have told people to not worship Him, just as the angel in Revelation did. There are many other verses and passages of Scripture that argue for Jesus’ deity.

    The most important reason that Jesus has to be God is that if He is not God, His death would not have been sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). A created being, which Jesus would be if He were not God, could not pay the infinite penalty required for sin against an infinite God. Only God could pay such an infinite penalty. Only God could take on the sins of the world (2 Corinthians 5:21), die, and be resurrected, proving His victory over sin and death.

    So, take your pick…a liar, a lunatic or our Lord and God.

    The concept of three in one God is not easy to comprehend but try we must.

    Peace

  2. Hello Roy,

    Well, you either missed the point or decided to skip it, not sure which.

    Just so you know, I most certainly accept Jesus Christ as my Savior and as the Son of God. There is no salvation in any other name under heaven by which we must be saved. He’s just not God.

    Now back to “qanah” . The verses you presented exactly demonstrated what I said. “Qanah” always means something that you acquired in some fashion, either by buying or producing or creating or getting. So Proverbs 8:22 has to follow the pattern. Whatever “wisdom” is spoken of there was some kind of “acquired” wisdom. Otherwise you violate the meaning of the word.

    So please just tell me what “wisdom” was “produced” in 8:22. It can’t be something that God already had, because it was “produced”, not possessed.

    The examples you gave in Genesis where the word is rendered by some as “possessed” is completely circular and self-serving evidence because other translations demonstrate that he was the “PRODUCER” of heaven and earth, NOT the possessor. Therefore, when rendered according to the Biblical precedent, “qanah” always means something that was produced.

    That means it wasn’t God’s quality of wisdom, so what “wisdom” was it?

    Regards,
    Rotherham

  3. Greetings,

    Jehovah Witnesses refer to Proverbs 8:22, as if it is teaching that Wisdom, who they say is a created creature, namely, Jesus Christ, and thus, He can not be the Eternal Word. However, Jehovah Witnesses REALLY can not use this to support their view that Christ was created, and here’s why.

    Proverbs 8:22 was translated in the Septuagint as, ‘The Lord created [qanah] me in the beginning of his ways…,’ and in the New World Translation as, ‘From time indefinite I was installed [qanah], from the start, from times earlier than the earth,’ although in EVERY other instance where the Hebrew term ‘qanah’ appears in the Book of Proverbs, it means to ‘acquire,’ ‘possess,’ and to ‘get.’

    For instance, Proverbs 1:5, ‘A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire [qanah] wise counsel… .’ Does it make any sense to translate Proverbs 1:5 as, ‘A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will CREATE wise counsel…’?

    In Proverbs 4:5, would it make sense to translate it as, ‘CREATE wisdom! CREATE understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth’? Absolutely not, the Scripture says, ‘Acquire [qanah] wisdom! Acquire [qanah] understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth.’

    In Proverbs 4:7 says, ‘The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire [qanah] wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding.’ Would it make any sense to translate it as, ‘The beginning of wisdom is: CREATE wisdom; And with all your CREATION, get understanding’?

    Proverbs 15:32, ‘He who neglects discipline despises himself, But he who listens to reproof acquires [qanah] understanding.’

    Proverbs 16:16, ‘How much better it is to get [qanah] wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver.’

    Proverbs 18:15, ‘The mind of the prudent acquires [qanah] knowledge, And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.’

    Proverbs 19:8, ‘He who gets [qanah] wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good.’

    It is absolutely absurd to think that God would need to create Wisdom, implying there was a time when he lacked Wisdom. The NASB renders Proverbs 8:22 correctly, and is consistent with the rest of Proverbs when it says, ‘The LORD possessed [qanah] me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old.’

    You will say something along the lines of, “Proverbs 8:22 is similar to Genesis 4:1, where Eve clearly did not mean she ‘acquired’ or ‘bought’ Cain, but that she ‘produced,’ ‘begat,’ or even ‘created’ Cain.” Genesis 4:1, ‘Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, ‘I have gotten [qanah] a man child with the help of the LORD.'”

    Given the context of Genesis 4:1, I would argue that it doesn’t suggest that Eve ‘created,’ rather, received, gotten, or acquired a child with the HELP OF THE LORD. NEVER is the term ‘qanah’ used in reference of ‘creating.’ It is ALWAYS used in terms of receiving. Words translated from the Hebrew term ‘qanah’ are words such as, acquire, acquired, acquires, bought, buy, buyer, buying, buys, formed, gain acquisition, gained, get, gets, gotten, owner, possessed, possessor, purchased, purchaser, recover, redeemed, sold, and surely buy.

    The term “bara’ ” is ALWAYS used in reference of “creating.” Example, Genesis 1:1, ‘In the beginning God created [bara’] the heavens and the earth.’ Another example is Genesis 1:27, ‘God created [bara’] man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.’

    You may point to texts such as Deuteronomy 32:6, and say, “Well, see, here’s an example of where ‘qanah’ is rendered as ‘created!’” However, it actually reads as, ‘Do you thus repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has BOUGHT [qanah] you? He has made you and established you.’ Cross reference with Psalm 74:2. Psalm 74:2 of the New World Translation says, ‘Remember your assembly that you ACQUIRED [qanah – ‘acquired,’ ‘purchased,’ ‘bought’] long ago, The tribe that you redeemed as your inheritance, This Mount Zion in which you have resided.’

    Likewise, Genesis 14:19 reads as, ‘He blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, POSSESSOR [qanah] of heaven and earth;’ Cross reference with Genesis 14:22, “Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth,'” and Psalm 24:1, ‘The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.’

    Regardless of the above arguments you ultimately denies Christ as your Savior at your own peril.

    “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

    “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

    And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:9-12

    “…That whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

  4. Hello Roy,

    As far as Col. 1:15 goes, it presents the very same statistical problem. Whenever, in the Bible, we find “prototokos” followed by a gentive phrase, which means “OF (something)”, then the prototokos is always a part of the group mentioned in the genitive phrase. There are no exceptions to this.

    Therefore when we see Prototokos OF creation, as we do at Col. 1:15, the Divine pattern of words tells us that the Son is PART of creation.

    Aagain, to claim another meaning for prototokos followed by a genitive, one would need Divine precedent to do so. I have not seen a contrary example to what I have stated above. If you have, could you present it?

    Regards,
    Rotherham

  5. Hello Roy,

    If your contention is true that “qanah” can mean “possessed” rather than “acquired, bought, born, created, etc; then you should be able to demonstrate the cases where it does so outside of Proverbs 8:22. Are you able to demonstrate those occurences?

    If not, then you are not following the Divine pattern and precendent for “qanah”, regardless of what scholars may say. They have to find the precedent for their claims. I have never seen one.

    Regards,
    Rotherham

  6. The King James Bible reads, in reference to wisdom in Prov. 8:22, that “The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.” The Revised Standard Version reads “The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.” Proverbs 8 has long been taken by Christians to refer to Christ, so whether or not the Hebrew קנה(qanah) should be taken as “created” or as “possessed” was used in the debate over the eternity of Christ. Both these meanings are used in the Old Testament but many contemporary scholars render it as “created”.

    Proponents of “possessed” such as Kidner argue that it is absurd to think that God would need to create Wisdom, implying there was a time when he lacked Wisdom. Also, Prov 8 starts from the indisputable commonplace that God existed before the start of time and ascribes the same precedence to wisdom. The remainder of Prov 8 they argue, shows Wisdom taking a role in creation, and contrasts Wisdom with created things. However, understanding קנה as possessed leaves open the possibility that Wisdom should be understood here as a personification of an attribute of God rather an entity in its own right.

    The Hebrew אמון(‘amown) in Prov. 8:30 is still a subject of debate among Bible scholars. ‘Amown has been understood as either: “artisan or master craftsman” which suggests that Wisdom is an active participant in creation, or as “nursling” which excludes any notion of Wisdom’s active participation in creation.

    It has been noted by some Christian exegeses that Col 1:15-16 is dependent on this chapter of Proverbs. The parallels in the roles of Christ and Wisdom, they argue lend credence to understanding qanah as possessed rather than created. They argue that “Wisdom was, before the Lord made even a particle of matter (verse 26) or gave order to creation (verse 29); Wisdom participated in the creation story. This strongly parallels the role of Christ in Colossians, where he is the “first-born of all creation” and in him were all things created. To add to the identification of Wisdom with Christ, we find that Wisdom was identified with the Greek concept of logos, which was in turn identified with Christ.

    Prov 8:22 was a crucial verse in the Arian controversies of the fourth century. This verse was used both to support and refute the Arians’ claims. Assuming first that Christ could be equated with the “Wisdom of God”(1 Cor. 1:24), the Arians argued that the son, like Wisdom was created, and to be a creature, whether the first or the most prominent of creatures, is to be subordinate to the creator. Those who formulated the Nicean declaration that the Son was “begotten, not made” were inclined to translate קנה in Prov. 8:22 as “begot me” in order to argue that God and Christ were co-substantial.

    I think, in a way, what you are doing is more dangerous than what atheists do. At least atheist do not distort and corrupt scripture.

    Among the more powerful statements made by Jesus declaring where he had come from is this one recorded in the Gospel of John:

    “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad. You are not yet fifty years old, the Jews said to him, and you have seen Abraham! I tell you the truth, Jesus answered, before Abraham was born, I am! At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.” (John 8:56-59, NIV)

    Jesus is thus making the claim that He was the one who spoke to Moses through the miracle of the burning bush: “God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14, NIV)

    Why did the Jews who heard Jesus make the statement in John 8:58 pick up stones to stone him? Because He was claiming to be God and that, to the Jews, was blasphemy and the Law required a blasphemer to be stoned.

    By the use of the name “I AM”, God is making the statement that He is ETERNAL – there never was a time when God didn’t exist and there never will be a time when He doesn’t exist. In fact, TIME itself is a human concept and bears no relationship to God’s existence in the spirit realm.

    The concept of an eternal Being is beyond normal human comprehension. As the wise man who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes wrote:

    “I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11, NIV)

    God IS, WAS and WILL BE. He was not created but is the CREATOR and Sustainer of everything that we see in this physical universe.

    In the Scriptures, God has revealed Himself as triune. This revelation means that God is both Three and One at the same time. He is the Three-One God. Therefore, all Christians can equally confess that God is simultaneously Three and One.

    The Bible doesn’t attempt to analyze how God is Three and One at the same time; indeed, the Scriptures are not even aware of any problem connected with understanding the Trinity. In fact, the New Testament passages that reveal the Triune God are directly related to man’s experience of God, rather than to theological definitions. The following points prayerfully considered will reveal the truth concerning the Trinity.

    The scriptural facts. There are at least seven scriptural facts that reveal the Triune God.
    God is uniquely one—Isa. 44:6; 1Cor. 8:4,6.
    God is triune—Gen. 1:26; Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14.
    All three are God—1 Pet. 1:2; Heb. 1:8; Acts 5:3-4.
    All three are eternal—Isa. 9:6; John 1:1; Heb. 9:14.
    All three exist at the same time—Matt.3:16-17.
    All three are one—John 10:30; 14:8-11; 2 Cor. 3:17.
    All three are in us—Gal. 4:6; Eph. 4:6; Rom. 8:10; John 14:17.

  7. Hello Roy,

    The problem that I see with this is the same problem I have mentioned to Prayson. “Qanah” always means something that was acquired in some fashion. In every other Biblical example, “qanah” represents an acquiring of something not previously possessed. Since you no doubt believe that God has possessed the quality of wisdom from eternity, how then did he “acquire” wisdom at Proverbs 8:22?

    It can’t mean that he HAD it as you have posited. If he HAD it, he would therefore not ACQUIRE it, and saying that “qanah” would mean that he had it would violate the Biblical pattern and precedent. The wisdom of Proverbs 8:22 has to be an ACQUIRED wisdom in order to fit with the Biblical use of “qanah”.

    If one were to insert the meaning of HAD, as a meaning for “qanah”, this would be tanatamount to overriding the scriptural indication. What happens when a person is willing to do this is that he is not following the Divine pattern, but a pattern of his own leaning.

    I hope you realize that nearly all of the early church fathers recognized the wisdom of Proverbs 8 to be a reference to the Son of God, and some even spoke of him as “created”.

    Regards,
    Rotherham

  8. Hello All,

    I read your discussion at the above link, and it seems to me you might be missing a critical understanding of Proverbs 8.

    In Proverbs 8, the description of wisdom as being the first of God’s works, or as having been “created” (8:22 in the Septuagint, or Greek Old Testament) before everything else, is part of an extended poetic passage in which wisdom is personified. Personification, of course, is a figurative use of language and is misread if taken literally. We know that the language is personification if we read the passage in light of its preceding and following contexts. Wisdom takes her stand by the city gates and cries out to those who pass by (8:1-3). She dwells with prudence (8:12); She has unlimited riches and bestows them on whoever loves her (8:18-21). She promises blessing to those who watch daily at her gates and doorposts (8:34). She builds a house with seven pillars and invites the men passing by to a party with wine and women (9:1-5)!

    Only by extracting Proverbs 8:22-31 from its surrounding context could anyone mistake the description of wisdom as a literal description of an actual existing person. The meaning of the passage is not that God literally procreated (or created, LXX) someone called Wisdom before he created anything else. The meaning is that God “had” wisdom and established it as foundational to the created order before he actually made anything in our physical universe. Proverbs 8:22-31 is essentially a more elaborate statement of Proverbs 3:19-20 using the literary device of personification.

    I don’t deny that the words of Proverbs 8:22 can in some way apply to Christ. Proverbs 8:22 is part of a biblical description of wisdom, and Christ can in some sense be called wisdom, so some sort of correlation or application is plausible. But this does not mean that Christ is literally speaking about himself in Proverbs 8, or that whatever is said about wisdom may be applied directly and literally to Christ.

    It is not unusual in the Scriptures for something that is not actually a person to be personalized or personified. Wisdom is personified in the book of Proverbs (1:20-33; 8:1-36); and feminine pronominal forms are used of it in the original Hebrew, as also in many English translations. (KJ, RS, JP, AT) Wisdom is also personified at Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:35, where it is depicted as having both ‘works’ and ‘children.’ The apostle Paul personalized sin and death and also undeserved kindness as ‘kings.’ (Ro 5:14, 17, 21; 6:12) He speaks of sin as ‘receiving an inducement,’ `working out covetousness,’ `seducing,’ and `killing.’ (Ro 7:8-11) Yet it is obvious that Paul did not mean that sin was actually a person.

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