In our survey of the divine claims of Jesus Christ, we’ve seen how Jesus referred to Himself with titles that suggested He, in some way, shared the Father’s divine identity. Turning to God’s divine identity as Wisdom will give us further insight into the role Jesus embodied as the Son of God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
In order to further understand the nature of Jesus’ relationship to the Father (and, of course, offer further support of His divine identity), we turn to yet another relatively uncharted element of the divine claims of Jesus. Is Jesus the incarnation of the Wisdom of God?
Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice? She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths. She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors. (Proverbs 8:1-3)
Throughout the book of Proverbs and Jewish wisdom literature, we see Wisdom personified. In wisdom literature, Wisdom was no disembodied ideal but a living person. Who was this person and how did she relate to God? In Proverbs 8 we see Wisdom taking the narrative lead and proclaiming that she was with God during the creation of the universe and rejoicing alongside Him,
While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; (Proverbs 8:26-30)
Could this person, who was with God from the very beginning, be Jesus? The roles Jesus reenacted during His earthly ministry make this conclusion near unavoidable. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. (Matthew 8:20/Luke 9:58)
Compare Jesus’ well-known lament here with Wisdom’s words in the Jewish book of Enoch,
Wisdom found no place where she could dwell, and her dwelling was in Heaven. Wisdom went out, in order to dwell among the sons of men, but did not find a dwelling; wisdom returned to her place, and took her seat in the midst of the Angels. (1 Enoch 42:1-2)
Perhaps the clearest example of this is in Luke 11:49,
Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute:
Notice how Matthew renders this verse by noting that Jesus was the one who said these things,
Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: (Matthew 23:34 bold mine)
Moving to the Gospel of John we see an even clearer picture.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men. (John 2:4)
For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord. (Proverbs 8:35)
If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15)
And love is the keeping of her laws; and the giving heed unto her laws is the assurance of incorruption; (Wisdom of Solomon 6:18)
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)
Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. (Proverbs 9:5)
And on we could go, noting parallels upon parallels from the book of Proverbs and Jewish wisdom literature. What is abundantly clear is that Jesus was acting out the role of Wisdom during His earthly ministry and implying that He was the Wisdom, or Logos, of God (….and now one greater than Solomon is here. Matt 12:42). From here it becomes clear to us that Jesus existed with the Father long before His conception. Some critics, most notably Ehrman, believe that Jesus, as the divine figure, came into existence at His conception. They’ve missed a vital picture.
For a further, more in-depth study into Jesus’ identity as the Wisdom of God, please see Tekon’s article here, as J.P. Holding provides an excellent and thorough look into this element of Jesus’ identity.