The concept of Wisdom (Hebrew: Hokhmah) has been personified as early as the Hebrew Bible, which in its turn already followed earlier and contemporary examples of the personification of Wisdom as a goddess in Ancient Near Eastern Texts. In the Greek world the virtue of Wisdom was personified as a woman as well. In the book of Proverbs, we encounter Lady Wisdom standing at the crossroads, calling out to the people (Prov 1:20). Other examples of inner-biblical exegesis include Job 8:12-28. Already starting in the inner and extra-canonical Wisdom literature (Ben Sira, Wisdom of Solomon, Baruch), we see the start of the gradual identification of Wisdom with the Torah. A similar development, found in Hellenistic Jewish literature, with Philo as eminent example, is the identification of Sophia (Biblical Wisdom in Greek) with Plato’s Logos. This trend is further refined and developed in a Christological way in the Gospel of John (John 1:1). This goes hand in hand with a gradual transformation of the female Sophia in a male messianic figure, a phenomenon that takes an important place in this project. An important aspect of Sophia and Logos theologies is the ideas of pre-existence, which relates them to the creation. The pre-existent Sophia and Logos are depicted as architects or blueprints of the creation; or as children sitting in the lap of God. This imagery is further developed in the early patristic writings, notably Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Justin. The personification, pre-existence, architect and lap imagery are all applied to the Torah in rabbinic texts. In Byzantine and Orthodox Christianity, Sophia is a major figure until the present day: she is omnipresent in icons, mosaics and other elements of Church buildings (including the name of many Churches called Hagia Sophia or Sophia). Iconography will thus be an important component of our study. A special focus will also be on the contact between Byzantine/Eastern Christianity and (Babylonian) Judaism in the development of the Sophia/Torah theology. Finally, students will have an opportunity to study modern protestant and orthodox theological texts on the concept of Sophia and to acquire current understanding of Sophia in theological discourses.
- Teacher: halyna teslyuk