When Wisdom was a Woman

Although the ancient Jews were monotheists they personified 'Wisdom' as a female spiritual being.
A being who, while not God was created before time and who assisted even in the creation and operation of the world.

What is important about this is that it was taken by early Christians to be referring to the pre-existent 'Word' - Jesus Christ.

When I first read Proverbs, I thought this personification was only symbolic but I now think later writers clearly saw Wisdom as a female being created by God before the rest of creation.

This also helps explain where the early Gnostics may have first found "Sophia" (Wisdom) in their stories.

Wisdom as a Woman

Wisdom calls aloud in the streets,
she raises her voice" in the public squares;
she calls out at the street corners,
she delivers her message at the city gates,
'You ignorant people, how much longer will you
cling to your ignorance?'
How much longer will mockers revel in their mocking
and fools hold knowledge contemptible?
Pay attention to my warning:
now I will pour out my heart to you,
and tell you what I have to say.
Since I have called and you have refused me,
since I have beckoned and no one has taken notice
since you have ignored all my advice
and rejected all my warnings,
I, for my part, will laugh at your distress,
I will jeer at you when calamity comes,
when calamity bears down on you like a storm
and your distress like a whirlwind,
when disaster and anguish bear down on you.
Then they shall call to me, but I will not answer,
they shall seek me eagerly and shall not find me.
Proverbs 1:20-28

Wisdom as Creator

'Yahweh created me when his purpose first unfolded,
before the oldest of his works.
From everlasting I was firmly set,
from the beginning, before earth came into being.
The deep' was not, when I was born,
there were no springs to gush with water.
Before the mountains were settled,
before the hills, I came to birth;
before he made the earth, the countryside,
or the first grains of the world's dust.
When he fixed the heavens firm, I was there,
when he drew a ring on the surface of the deep,
when he thickened the clouds above,
when he fixed fast the springs of the deep,
when he assigned the sea its boundaries
—and the waters will not invade the shore—
when he laid down the foundations of the earth,
I was by his side, a master craftsman,
delighting him day after day,
ever at play in his presence,
at play everywhere in his world,
delighting to be with the sons of men.
Proverbs 8:22-31

The following texts are taken from the books referred to by Protestants as Apocryphal and Catholics and Orthodox as Deutero-Canonical. I present them here as Jewish Literature of the period between the Old and New Testaments that develop the ideas about "Wisdom". I will not enter into a discussion regarding their divine inspiration.
Wisdom is a spirit, a friend to man.
though she will not pardon the words of a blasphemer,
since God sees into the innermost parts of him,
truly observes his heart.
and listens to his tongue.
The spirit of the Lord, indeed, fills the whole world,
and that which holds all things together knows every word that is said.
Wisdom 1:6-7

All that is hidden, all that is plain, I have come to know,
instructed by Wisdom who designed them all.
For within her is a spirit intelligent, holy,
unique, manifold, subtle,
active, incisive, unsullied,
lucid, invulnerable, benevolent, sharp,
irresistible, beneficent, loving to man,
steadfast, dependable, unperturbed,
almighty, all-surveying,
penetrating all intelligent, pure
and most subtle spirits;
for Wisdom is quicker to move than any motion;
she is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things.
She is a breath of the power of God,
pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;
hence nothing impure can find a way into her.
She is a reflection of the eternal light,''
untarnished mirror of God's active power,
image of his goodness.
Although alone, she can do all;
herself unchanging, she makes all things new.
In each generation she passes into holy souls,
she makes them friends of God and prophets;
for God loves only the man who lives with Wisdom.
She is indeed more splendid than the sun,
she outshines all the constellations;
compared with light, she takes first place,
for light must yield to night,
but over Wisdom evil can never triumph.
She deploys her strength from one end of the earth to the other,
ordering all things for good.
Wisdom 7:21-8:1

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(c) 2002 Thomas F. Swezey All rights reserved.