Jesus Christ: The Wisdom of God

Dr. Brian Allison

"Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom" - so says King Solomon. This high value attributed to wisdom marked not only ancient Hebrew and Semitic thought, but also ancient Greek and Oriental philosophy. The ancient civilizations and the great world religions could make special claim to wisdom literature. For example, the Egyptians possessed the "Wisdom of Ptah-hotep" (2500 BC), the Jews, the Torah (1400 BC), the Confucians, the Analects (sixth century BC), and the Hindus, the Vedas (2000-1000 BC). Notwithstanding, the religious importance and the philosophic value of wisdom are no more greatly evident than in Christianity. Wisdom (properly qualified) essentially defines the Christian message. So, the apostle Paul affirms that Christians preach the crucified Jesus Christ as "the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:24). Furthermore, wisdom essentially constitutes the very foundation of the Christian faith. So, this same apostle declares, "But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30). In Christianity, wisdom indeed is supreme.

This paper will examine the Pauline teaching of Jesus Christ as the Sophia theou (wisdom of God). This particular New Testament phrase is, with one exception, peculiar to the Pauline corpus; therefore, we will confine our examination to the Pauline usage. The apostle Paul uses the phrase 'sophia theou' in a well-defined and calculated way. The phrase has a specific theological import. The sophia theou, with its connected ideas, centralizes the whole of the apostle's understanding of the nature and design of biblical revelation, as well as of the nature and content of biblical salvation. For Paul, the sophia theou is supreme. Before we examine the Pauline teaching of Jesus Christ as the Sophia theou, we shall begin by propounding the Pauline usage and teaching of the phrase 'sophia theou'.

I. The sophia theou

Paul contrasts the sophia theou with the wisdom of the world (sophia tou cosmou). He inquires, "Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?...Yet we do speak wisdom among the mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away" (1 Cor. 1:20; 2:6). The sophia theou has a different content and a different character than that of the wisdom of the world or of this age.2 It has a salvific content, rather than a philosophic one; it has a revelatory and spiritual character, rather than a rationalistic or empirical one. The sophia theou originates in the omniscience of the infinite divine mind. The wisdom of the world originates in the reasonings of the finite human intellect. For Paul, the metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical speculations of the Greek philosophers comprise the wisdom of this age. In contradistinction, the divine salvific plan comprises the sophia theou.3

1. The Mysterion

The apostle Paul indicates that formerly the sophia theou was concealed, inaccessible to human understanding and deliberation. He identifies this concealment of the sophia theou with the mysterion (mystery). He states, "But we speak God's wisdom [theou sophian] in a mystery [mysterion], the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood" (1 Cor. 2:7,8). The sophia theou has its roots in eternity, having its source in God. Its divine design is the spiritual profit of Christian believers. God veiled it from human apprehension until the appointed dispensation of Jesus Christ and of His Spirit. In the pre-incarnate/pre-pneumatic dispensation of redemptive history, the sophia theou was thus 'in a mystery' with respect to human apprehension. So, the hidden sophia theou is synonymous with the mysterion.

The mysterion pertains to the unknown, rather than to the unknowable. It concerns the covert, rather than the enigmatic. The mysterion corresponds to God's secret,4 locked up in His mind, destined to be disclosed to initiates at the prescribed time. Hence, God must reveal the mysterion if humans are rationally to appropriate it. God must take the initiative. Accordingly, the mysterion has been revealed by God through His Spirit to the apostles and prophets of Christ (Eph. 3:5). Paul informs that he himself, as an apostle, was chosen to make known "what is the administration of the mystery [mysterion] which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; in order that the manifold wisdom5 of God [sophia tou theou] might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places" (Eph. 3:9,10). The content of the mysterion relates to a particular period or dispensation in redemptive history. The content specifically concerns the definitive actions of God in response to the sin and damnation of His creatures. Mysterion is a technical term in the Pauline vocabulary.6 It refers to God's eternal salvific plan to redeem a lost people.7

The mysterion has its roots in, and derives its significance from, God's "eternal purpose [prothesis]"(Eph. 3:11). Paul says, "In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery [mysterion] of His will [thelema], according to His kind intention which He purposed [protithemai - cognate of prothesis] in Him" (Eph. 1:8b,9). The divine will is supreme. It is the ground of all of God's actions, whether creational, providential, or salvific. The actual expressions of the divine will are the divine purposes (i.e., what God chooses to do according to His good pleasure). For Paul, the mysterion origins in the divine will and acquires particular impetus and actuality through the divine purpose. God has purposed to redeem a people from sin, death, and His wrath unto Himself in order that they might share in His glory.8 The mysterion, God's hidden wisdom, is the means or plan by which God achieves His eternal purpose.

God's mysterion, or salvific plan, precisely concerns the decretive action of the Father,9 the atoning work of the Son, and the applying ministry of the Holy Spirit. Thus, in reference to divine will, the ontological ground of the mysterion, Paul teaches successively in his epistle to the Ephesians, first, that God the Father "chose us in Him [i.e., Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will [thelema]" (Eph. 1:4,5); second, that God the Son has redeemed us "through His [own] blood [by which we have] the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace" (Eph. 1:7); third, that the Holy Spirit, "who is given as a pledge of our inheritance," actually applies the saving merits of Christ and guarantees ultimate salvation in the life of believers (Eph. 1:13,14). In presenting these truths, Paul is simply making "known to us the mystery [mysterion] of His [God] will [thelema]" (Eph. 1:9).

2. The Logos

The sophia theou concealed is the mysterion; the sophia theou revealed is the logos (the word). In essence, the sophia theou and the logos are interchangeable realities.10 The logos constitutes the appropriate form for the content of the revealed sophia theou. The salvific logos is the revelatory medium for the salvific sophia theou. For Paul, the sophia theou is the "word [logos] of the cross" (1 Cor. 1:18). Accordingly, the Greeks viewed the sophia theou as mere foolishness (moria).11 It conflicted with their standards of philosophic and religious propriety. As Hengel notes, "The heart of the Christian message, which Paul described as the 'word of the cross'...ran counter not only to Roman political thinking, but to the whole ethos of religion in ancient times and in particular to the ideas of God held by educated people."12 The 'word of the cross' was apparently intellectually insipid and academically unrespectable. Thus, the Greeks despised and rejected the sophia theou, and that to their own condemnation.

The sophia theou assumes the form of the logos for the sake of human comprehension and appropriation – logos suitably agreeing with the rational categories of thought. God ordained the sophia theou for His elect people, and thus designed the extrinsic nature of it to correspond to the intrinsic nature of rational cognition. In apprehending the logos, one simultaneously apprehends the sophia theou, the revealed mysterion.13 Thus, Paul discloses that he received a stewardship from God, for the sake of Christians, to "carry out the...the word [logos] of God, that is, the mystery [mysterion] which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints" (Col. 1:25,26).

The salvific logos is particularly received or made accessible through proclamation. Paul affirms that "we speak God's wisdom [theou sophian] in a mystery [mysterion]" (1 Cor. 2:7).14 Proclamation is the public vehicle for the sophia theou. As Cerfaux remarks, "Christian preaching shows forth the wisdom of God, and through it the divine purpose is revealed to the world."15 The ministry of Paul centred on "proclaiming...the [mysterion] of God" (1 Cor. 2:1).16 The logos and proclamation are not necessarily synonymous. Hence, Paul distinguishes between his "message [logos] and [his] preaching [kerygma]" (1 Cor. 2:4). Notwithstanding, the logos is so aligned with proclamation as to be essentially identified with it. Thus, the salvific logos, the sophia theou, becomes identified with the evangelion (Gospel message) and, more particularly, with the kerygma (saving message) which is the heart of the Gospel. Accordingly, Paul talks about making "known with boldness the mystery [mysterion] of the gospel" (Eph. 6:19). The Gospel message, which is a saving message, disclosed through proclamation, comprises the public revelation of the mysterion.17

II. Jesus Christ, the Sophia theou

The identification of Jesus Christ as the Sophia theou has been variously interpreted.18 Jesus Christ is not the Sophia theou hypostatically, nor metaphysically, nor even personificationally,19 but rather salvifically, and thus historically.20 Dunn correctly observes that "to understand the Wisdom passages as ontological affirmations about 'Christ's eternal being' is most probably to misunderstand them."21 This claim neither denies nor discounts the pre-existence of the second person of the Godhead, Who fulfills a certain role in creation and providence, but implies a salient and necessary distinction between the eternal and infinite second person of the Godhead and the historical and human person of Jesus Christ, Who is God incarnate.22 The man Jesus Christ had a beginning23; and as the man Jesus Christ, He is the Sophia theou.24 Moreover, the previous claim (that Christ is Sophia theou salvifically) is based on our prior examination of the Pauline usage of the term sophia theou. Paul, as indicated, uses this term salvifically. Thus, Jesus Christ as the Sophia theou should be logically and similarly interpreted salvifically.

1. Christ, the Mysterion

Jesus Christ is the mysterion of God.25 He is the sum and substance of God's salvific plan. Paul claimed to have "insight into the mystery [mysterion] of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit" (Eph. 3:4,5). God's salvific plan centres on, and derives significance from, the incarnate God. In Christ, God the Father fully displays His saving action. From eternity past, God planned to save a people through the person and work of the God-man. Salvation can only be realized in and through the Christ. Christ is God's divine answer to the sin problem of a lost humanity. Paul instructs, "But by His [God] doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God [sophia...apo theou]26, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30). The Sophia theou is particularly expressed in, or identified with, the realities of righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.27 Christ Himself brings to realization these realities through His saving action. First, in His absolute obedience, He demonstrates perfect righteousness. He imputes and imparts this righteousness (on the basis of His vicarious, propitiatory death) to repentant sinners. Second, through His death, burial, and resurrection, He sanctifies a people, definitively and progressively. On the basis of His expiatory sacrifice, He sends His Holy Spirit to seal and indwell believers. Third, in His parousia with glory and power, He shall fully redeem a people from this corrupt aeon and cosmos to a state of glorification. Redemption will be fully accomplished with the believers' acquisition of a spiritual body. Thus, Christ as the Sophia theou effectively deals with sin. He is God's sufficient response to a fallen, dying world. As Barrett comments:

True wisdom is not to be found in eloquence, or in gnostic speculation about the being of God; it is found in God's plan for the redemption of the world, which, for all its own wisdom, had fallen away from God, a plan that was put into operation through the cross. Thus Christ crucified himself becomes the personal figure of Wisdom...God's means of restoring men to himself.28

Christ was the hidden wisdom of God (decretively and noetically, not hypostatically or ontically) Who was to be revealed at the fullness of the redemptive-historical time in order to bring to realization the eternal purpose of God. As Dunn writes, "Christ is God's wisdom then, not as a pre-existent being, but as the one who fulfilled God's predetermined plan of salvation, as the one predetermined by God to be the means of man's salvation through his death and resurrection - not just through his resurrection ('the Lord of glory') but through his death."29 Paul informs that God "made known to us the mystery [mysterion] of His will [thelema]...which He purposed [protithemai] in Him [Christ] with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times" (Eph. 1:9,10). Christ Himself is the manifestation of God's saving action, being the fulfilment and significance of God's eternal purpose.30 Thus, salvation is meaningless and void unless interpreted christologically. All reality must be interpreted christologically.31 So, Calvin rightly states, "God has never manifested himself to men in any other way than through the Son, that is, his sole wisdom, light, and truth."32 God willed that Jesus Christ, His beloved Son, should possess the pre-eminence pervasively and comprehensively in the created cosmos, and eventually in the recreated cosmos, simply because He is the beloved Son. Christ "is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him" (Col. 1:18,19).

As the essence and substance of the mysterion, Christ is not simply the saving action of God, but He is also the saving act of God. Christ constitutes spiritually the parameters and context of all of the salvific arrangement of God. Therefore, Paul uses the language of 'in Christ'. The whole of salvation is planned 'in Christ' and all of salvation is experienced 'in Christ'. Christ is the salvation of God, objectively, in that salvation is accomplished through His very person and redeeming work; and subjectively, in that salvation is applied in spiritual union with Him. Thus, objectively speaking, Paul says that "the mystery [mysterion]...which He [God] purposed in Him [Christ]...[is] the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth" (Eph. 1:9,10); subjectively speaking, he says that "God willed [thelo] to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery [mysterion] among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27).

So, Christ, the saving action and actual salvation of God, is the mysterion of God. Accordingly, for Paul, the focal point of that mysterion is the cross of crucifixion.33 Therein the saving action and actual salvation reach their full expression and import. The Creator God dies on behalf of the fallen creature. The intellectual offense of such a truth is twofold: 1) that death (and that of a substitute) should produce or result in (eternal) life; 2) that God the Creator should actually die on behalf of His creatures. The philosophic intellectuals judge such a presentation as foolishness. The Roman cross was an exceedingly ignominious symbol. Crucifixion was a bitterly cruel and shameful punishment "which as a rule was reserved for hardened criminals, rebellious slaves and rebels against the Roman state."34 The mysterion of the crucified God appears irrational to the secular mind; it appears contrary to all sound, sane reasoning. Yet, Paul impugns, "Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" (1 Cor. 1:20). The wisdom of the world is contrary to the Sophia theou, and is condemned by it.35

2. Christ, the Logos

Jesus Christ as the concealed Sophia theou becomes the revealed Sophia theou through the logos.36 Paul requests, "Praying at the same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for the word [logos], so that we may speak forth the mystery [mysterion] of Christ" (Col. 4:4). Speaking the logos corresponds with declaring the Sophia theou. Through the logos itself, and only through the logos, we learn that Christ is the saving action and the actual salvation of God. According to Paul, Jesus Christ is not identified with the logos hypostatically, but communicatively.37 The logos communicates the truth about Christ's person and work, as well as communicates the reality of Christ's person and work. Christ Himself is the content or subject of the logos, as well as the living power and presence in the logos. The Holy Spirit renders the human logos, the living, divine logos. Christ is identified with the logos in that He, as the Sophia theou, is epistemologically and personally revealed by the logos. In truly receiving the logos, one receives both the knowledge of Christ and Christ Himself. In apprehending the logos (both conceptually and spiritually), one receives the Sophia theou, intellectually and personally. The spiritual entrance of the Sophia theou into the human heart actually marks the salvation experience. The Sophia theou is the "power [dynamis] of God" (1 Cor. 1:18) to those who are being saved.

The logos, as the rational form that the mysterion assumes, is typically presented and received through the public vehicle of proclamation (as well as through the static and objective medium of inscripturation). "Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2) encapsulates the kerygma of the evangelion. In making "this mystery [mysterion] among the Gentiles" (Col. 1:27) known, Paul affirms, "And we proclaim Him [Christ], admonishing every man and teaching every man [in] all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ" (Col.1:28). The "preaching [kerygma] of Jesus Christ" (Rm. 16:25), the message of His unique personage and redemptive work, comprises the disclosure of the Sophia theou. The "message preached [kerygma]" concerning "Christ crucified" constitutes the essence of the Sophia theou (1 Cor. 1:21,23). As Dunn remarks, "For Paul God's wisdom is essentially God's plan to achieve salvation through the crucifixion of Jesus and through the proclamation of the crucified Christ (1 Cor. 1:20-25)."38 The called of God understand, acknowledge, and enter into this Sophia theou.

Summary and Conclusion

A contrast exists between the sophia theou and the wisdom of the world or of this age. The sophia theou does not consist of the sophistries and speculations of human reason, but rather the salvific plan rooted in the eternal purpose of God. God purposed to redeem a people from sin, death, and divine wrath. The original form of the sophia theou was that of the mysterion. The sophia theou was concealed from human apprehension. God took the initiative in revealing it by His Spirit. The revelation of the concealed sophia theou, the mysterion, has assumed the form of the salvific logos. This salvific logos is communicated through proclamation (as well as through inscripturation). The kerygma comprises the basic content of proclamation.

Jesus Christ, the incarnate God, is the Sophia theou. He is the Sophia theou salvifically, rather than metaphysically or personificationally. He is the Sophia theou decretively and noetically, rather than hypostatically or ontically. Jesus Christ is the divine answer to the sin problem of a fallen humanity. He Himself constitutes the saving action and the actual salvation of God. He comprises, and provides, the means of salvation (e.g. righteousness, sanctification, and redemption) for lost sinners. Salvation, therefore, must be christologically defined. The whole plan of salvation is realized only 'in Christ'. Christ Himself is the mysterion of God. He was concealed from human history and understanding until the appointed redemptive-historical time. He was fully revealed as the Sophia theou in His crucifixion on the cross. The logos communicates this Sophia theou (which is essentially Christ, and Him crucified - the kerygma). The proclamation of the logos publicly reveals the Sophia theou. The salvific logos communicates the knowledge about Christ, as well as communicates Christ Himself.

The sophia theou is subsumed under the Sophia theou, though, for the sake of understanding and logical progression, we began our examination with the former. The Sophia theou has logical and chronological priority, necessarily. The sophia theou is, in fact, the Sophia theou. The salvific plan of God is Jesus Christ Himself. He is the very embodiment of that plan. All aspects of that plan derive their significance and design only in reference to His personage. Yet, Sophia theou can be variously conceived, namely, Sophia theou personalized (the incarnate, and eventually crucified, Christ) and Sophia theou communicated (the message of the incarnate and crucified Christ), which particularly consists of Sophia theou proclaimed and Sophia theou inscripturated. (So, Jesus Christ is salvation revealed, salvation declared, and salvation recorded). The inscripturated truth embodies the proclaimed truth, and the proclaimed truth pertains to the personalized truth. The preaching of the divine logos and the writing of the divine logos (i.e., the Scriptures) sufficiently communicate the Sophia theou, apart from Whom there is no worthwhile sophia, for "in [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge...and in Him you have been made complete" (Col. 2:3,10).

Practical Considerations

A number of practical considerations ensues from the fact that Jesus Christ is the Sophia theou (Wisdom of God). First, the secular world scorns the Christian's wisdom as being naive, and even irrational. The unbelieving critic judges the Christian's wisdom as being contrary to all standards of logical and sophisticated thinking. The atheistic intelligentsia rejects the Christian's wisdom as being academically unrespectable and offensive. The Sophia theou is unappealing to the modern person. He or she deems it as ludicrous. Accordingly, the Christian community ought to clearly recognize this intrinsic animosity and belligerence toward the Sophia theou by the proponents of the wisdom of this age, and thus expect and prepare for the inevitable clash and conflict between these two diametrically opposed understandings of truth. The assaults against Christian schools and curricula, particularly in the United States, could have been anticipated.

Christian wisdom differs radically from worldly wisdom. Accordingly, this fact should be patently demonstrated, and testified to, by the educational allegiances, practices, and methodologies adopted by Christian believers. Formal education for those of the Christian community should be Christocentric (whether in the domestic or public setting); the education of the non-Christian world is typically anthropocentric, and often anti-Christian. Furthermore, Christian learning institutions should resist appeasing, accommodating, or adapting to the educational expectations, requirements, or standards of the secular and humanistic academia. The conformity, and thus the compromise, is often subtle and insidious. For instance, the Christian higher education institutions should self-consciously discern and assess whether the procedures and infrastructures of the secular higher education institutions actually dictate and determine how they themselves train, instruct, and evaluate their own students. Rawlyk interestingly notes, "The transformation of many of the Bible Colleges into accredited academic institutions is a fascinating development and one that certainly demands serious study."39 Unfortunately some Christian institutions suffer from the pressure to acquire academic respectability and recognition from "the rulers of this age." A tendency prevails to feel embarrassed and to become intimidated by the standards and expectations of secular higher educational institutions. Assuredly, we must have high academic standards and expectations for our Christian educational institutions, but our measurement for those standards and expectations should not be established and imposed from outside. The leaders of Christian educational institutions should stop feeling uncomfortable and defensive about the Sophia theou and boldly define and carve out their own standards and expectations. The regrettable history of the erosion of the evangelical character of McMaster University remains a sober reminder for us.40

Second, the Christian's wisdom is primarily salvific, and not philosophic. Often Christians are duped into believing that essential truth can be found in the pursuit of secular philosophy (and the humanistic social sciences). Christian young people, in particular, may become preoccupied with the study of philosophy and thus become deceived. Secular philosophy, though possessing some aspects of truth, does not possess essential truth. Secular philosophy does not lead to the Sophia theou. Secular philosophy always misleads. Hobbes, Hume, Nietzsche, Russell, Sartre, etc., can add precious little, if anything, to the Christian's understanding of metaphysical realities or absolute truth. Reality is Christocentric. The Sophia theou, therefore, is the only interpretive key to reality. The Christian must reject all teaching and philosophy which does not corroborate, cohere with, or centre on the Sophia theou. Those who are Christian leaders must distinctly communicate this fact to their Christian devotees, especially to their Christian young people. Christian leaders must alert and dissuade any Christian believer who may be inclined to the wisdom of this age. De Jong's disturbing, yet insightful, words are worth stating:

God has told us that He is never absent from us and that His Spirit will guide us into all truth. This is a tremendous comfort for the Christian student as he seeks to know the truth which will make him free. But Satan is never far behind. He is real and active wherever students learn. He uses teachers, textbook authors, government pamphlets, and newspaper reporters. The devil twists the truth ever so slightly and often tries to hide it, but seldom does he use the obvious, for then falsehood would be clearly falsehood and few would be led astray. A 2 degree turning away from the truth is more to his liking, for a 90 degree turn would wake up the wary. For this reason, students don't suddenly forsake the faith. No, they drift away by degrees, all the while comforted by the knowledge that they are still so close to the truth.41

Christians should be familiar with the various systems of thought, but not engrossed in, and thus influenced by, them.

Third, if the Christian's wisdom is basically Christ, and Him crucified, then the Christian's chief concentration should be the great doctrines of the unique person and redeeming work of Jesus Christ. These doctrines should not be side issues or mere incidentals of Christian preaching and teaching, but rather should be the foundation and core of them. These doctrines ought to be fundamental to any discipleship or pulpit ministry. These doctrines should be regularly exposited and personally applied. They are at the heart of all spiritual understanding and maturity. Christians do not mature beyond these doctrines, but in them. Therefore, Christians should be thoroughly versed and instructed in the teachings of the righteousness of Christ, of union with Christ, of propitiatory and vicarious atonement, of present and eschatological redemption, of definitive and progressive sanctification, etc. The venerable J. C. Ryle so aptly wrote some 130 years ago, "...books in which justification, and sanctification, and regeneration, and faith, and grace, and holiness are clearly, distinctly, and accurately delineated and exhibited, these are the only books which do real good."42 Unfortunately, many Christian teachers and pastors emphasize the incidentals and neglect the essentials. The obsession by many folk with prophecy, at the expense of attending to some of the fundamentals referred to, is a case in point. Many Christians can outline a Dispensational prophecy chart, and yet can only pathetically articulate the doctrine of justification. Christians should be securely grounded in the doctrines of the person and work of Jesus Christ, for that is their wisdom.

Jesus Christ is the Christian's wisdom. He is God's answer to the believer's personal, social, relational, and metaphysical problems, having become the answer to the believer's spiritual problem. Jesus Christ alone is sufficient. In Him the Christian is complete. He is "a wisdom...not this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away" (1 Cor. 2:6). Christ is the Sophia theou Who challenges and condemns all the forms and expressions of the wisdom of this world. He exposes the intellectual hollowness and religious vacuity of the reasonings of sinful people. He stands in a class all His own. He is the unique Christ.


The exception is Luke 11:49, but even the Lukan usage is conceptually similar to the Pauline one.

2World (cosmos) and age (aeon) in this context carry both ontological and ethical connotations.

3Cf. Ulrich Wilckens, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Friedrich, Vol. VII (1971; rpt ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1978), p. 518

4See T.K. Abbott, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1985), p. 16.

5he polupoikilos sophia tou theou - the wisdom of God is variegated. Similarly, the mysterion of God has different aspects. Accordingly, we can talk in terms of 'mysteries' (e.g. 1 Cor. 4:1; 13:2; 14:2), when in essence there is only one mystery; just as we can talk in terms of divine decrees, when in essence there is only one divine decree.

6C. Leslie Mitton suggests that apart from his usage in the Colossian epistle, Paul uses the term "in a very general sense to mean what we might call a 'problem' is used at a fairly practical level, rather than with any deep theological significance." New Century Bible Commentary. Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1973), p. 54. Cf. Andrew T. Lincoln, World Biblical Commentary. Ephesians, Vol. 42 (Dallas: Word Books Publisher, 1990), pp. 30f. F. F. Bruce is more correct when he states, "Paul sometimes uses the term 'mystery' of one particular element in his message - the transformation of believers into spiritual bodies at the last trumpet (1 Cor. 15: 51) or Israel's final restoration as the goal of its temporary relegation in favour of the Gentiles (Rom. 11:25). But his use of the term in Ephesians to denote the gospel in its fulness is in keeping with his general practice [italics mine]." The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1984), p. 313.

7Cf. Lucien Cerfaux, Christ in the Theology of St. Paul (New York: Herder and Herder, 1962), p. 405. Also see Jerry Horner, "The Holy Spirit and the Wisdom of God," Essays on Apostolic Themes, ed. Paul Elbert (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), p. 86. Birger Pearson correctly states, "Paul understands the crucifixion of Christ to be the center of a 'mystery' belonging to God's redemptive plan (his 'wisdom')." "Hellenistic-Jewish Wisdom Speculation and Paul," Aspects of Wisdom in Judaism and Early Christianity, ed. Robert L. Wilken (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975), p. 57.

8A. Skevington contends that the mystery does not originate from God's will, but that the "mystery concern[s] his will." The Expositor's Bible Commentary. ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. Vol. 11 (Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, 1978), p. 25. R. C. H. Lenski is more correct when he states, "'The mystery' belongs to 'the will,' i.e., to what God willed; the genitive is possessive." The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, and to the Philippians (Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1946), p. 369.

9So, Calvin rightly says that those who "inquire into predestination...are penetrating the sacred precincts of divine wisdom." Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1950), III.xxi.1

10Cf. Elizabeth A. Johnson, "Jesus, The Wisdom of God," Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, 61, No. 4 (1985), 261-294. See also Oscar Cullman, The Christology of the New Testament, trans. Shirley C. Guthrie and Charles A.M. Hall (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1959), p. 257; Fred B. Craddock, The Pre-existence of Christ in the New Testament (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1968), p. 122; Reginald H. Fuller, The Foundations of New Testament Christology (London: Lutterworth Press, 1965), p. 75.

11Moria "denotes inappropriate behaviour, thought or speech. It is concerned as much with lack of knowledge as with lack of discernment." J. Goetzmann, "moria," The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. Colin Brown, Vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978), p. 1023.

12Martin Hengel, Crucifixion (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), p. 5.

13The kind of apprehension in view here is primarily a spiritual one (though not discounting the conceptual dimension), for the sophia theou itself is essentially spiritual, being, in character, special divine revelation which is the peculiar domain of the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, true apprehension requires the agency of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit adopts the human logos and transforms it into the divine logos by imparting spiritual sense and insight. So, Paul informs that he communicates the mysterion "not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised" (1 Cor. 2:13f.). One may possibly apprehend the logos conceptually, yet not apprehend it spiritually; and true apprehension entails both the conceptual and the spiritual.

14The teaching of 1 Corinthians 2:6-13 primarily refers to the New Testament apostles and prophets. The Holy Spirit revealed to them the mysterion, the hidden wisdom. Subsequently, they were inspired by that same Spirit to communicate accurately the received revelation. The Spirit enabled them "to know the things freely given to [them] by God [i.e., revelation], which things [they] also those [words] taught by the Spirit [i.e., inspiration]" (1 Cor. 2:12,13). The inspired 'speaking' of the apostles and prophets was, first, proclamation (wisdom declared) and, second, inscripturation (wisdom recorded). Proclamation logically preceded inscripturation; that which was proclaimed eventually became that which was inscripturated.

15Cerfaux, Christ, p. 267. Cf. Donald Guthrie, New Testament Theology (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1981), p. 95.

16mysterion rather than marturion (testimony) is perhaps the better reading here. Gordon D. Fee disagrees with this proposal. The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerd- mans Pub. Co., 1987), p. 91.

17As Markus Barth states, "The fact and event he [Paul] mentions is this: the one mysterion has been revealed, therefore it must be made known everywhere. Now it is as public and plain as the gospel; or rather, the gospel is its disclosure (6:19)!" The Anchor Bible. Ephesians 1-3 (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1974), p. 127.

18Perhaps the most radical contemporary interpretation is that of the feminist construction. See, for instance, Rebecca Pentz, "Jesus as Sophia," The Reformed Journal, 38, No. 12 (1988), 17-22. She propounds, "Jesus is Sophia herself incarnate, to determine Jesus' status, we must determine Sophia's status" (19). Again, "God is not male, and our theology needs to reflect the feminine characteristics...A Sophia Christology does provide a theological explanation for Jesus' feminism" (21). See also Susan Cady and Hal Taussig, "Jesus and Sophia," Daughters of Sarah, 14, No. 6 (1988), 7-11"

19F. F. Bruce incorrectly observes, "The identification of Christ with the wisdom of God in primitive Christianity carries with it the ascription to him of the functions predicated of personified Wisdom in the Wisdom literature of the O.T. and inter-testamental period." The New Century Bible Commentary. I & II Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1971), pp. 35f.

20As Fee notes, "Thus in saying that Christ is the 'wisdom of God,' he is not using philosophical categories, nor is he personifying wisdom in Christ; rather, this is an evangelical statement, i.e., a statement about the effectual working of the Christian evangel." Corinthians, p. 77.

21James D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1980), p. 195.

22Even Calvin recognized the peculiar Pauline usage of wisdom. Even though he claimed that Christ is the 'eternal wisdom' of God, Calvin writes that "the only-begotten Son of God was indeed his eternal wisdom, but in a different way this name is applied to him in Paul's letters, for in him 'are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge' [Col. 2:3]. What he had with the Father [cf. John 17:5] he revealed to us. Hence what Paul says applies not to the essence of the Son of God but to our use, and rightly fits Christ's human nature." Institutes, III.xi.12.

23Paul, in certain places, does seem to use language which suggests Christ's pre-existence (e.g., 1 Cor. 8:6; 10:4). Yet, this usage should be construed prophetically or ideally, not substantially or materially. The hypostasis of Jesus Christ (not the hypostasis of the second person of the trinity) had a commencement, and that commencement was at the incarnation. Nevertheless, we can say that Jesus Christ pre-existed noetically and decretively, though not ontically and authentically. The second person of the trinity, Who eventually appeared as Jesus the Christ, pre-existed ontically and authentically, but in this pre-existent state He was neither Jesus Christ nor some Christ spirit, properly speaking. Such a belief implies some form of docetism, or even Arianism. Christ pre-existed with respect to His deity, not His humanity, which means that the Christ proper did not pre-exist. Jesus Christ is the God-man (one unique person, with a divine and human nature). As William G. T. Shedd aptly writes, "The anthropic personality of the Redeemer began in time...There was no God-man until the moment when the incarnation began...Jesus Christ is not the proper name of the unincarnate second person of the trinity, but of the second person incarnate." (Dogmatic Theology, 2nd ed., Vol. II (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980), p. 278f. See also fn. 31. In the Old Testament dispensation, the full and plain truth of Christ was veiled; clearly there are predictions, intimations, and foreshadowings of Him in the Old Testament.

24Some interpreters of Christ as the Sophia theou do attribute a pre-existent state to Him. For instance, James Reese states, "This is an assertion of the concrete pre-existence of Christ during the Exodus...Christ is the Wisdom that existed with the Father before creation" (45,46). "Christ as Wisdom Incarnate: Wiser than Solomon, Loftier than Lady Wisdom," Biblical Theology Bulletin, 11, No. 2 (1981), 44-48. In arguing against Dunn's thesis, John F. Balchin contends that "Christ [as the Wisdom of God] pre-existed the creation of the world." "Paul, Wisdom and Christ," Christ the Lord, ed. Harold H. Rowdon (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1982), p. 215. He maintains that Christ had a real, personal pre-existence. However, Balchin, and others, has misunderstood Paul's special use of sophia for Christ.

25Cf. Balchin, "Paul, Wisdom and Christ," p. 213.

26The Son came out from the Father; and in His incarnation as Jesus and with His anointing to be the Christ, He became God's wisdom.

27As Leon Morris correctly observes, "The Greek seems rather to mean that these three are subordinate to wisdom, and explanatory of it." The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1958), p. 50. See also Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, Vol. III (1887; rpt. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1946), p. 194; Achibald Robertson and Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1986), p. 27.

28C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1968), p. 60.

29Dunn, Christology, p. 178.

30Cf. James A. Davis, Wisdom and Spirit (Lanham: University Press of America, 1984), p. 92.

31If all reality must be interpreted christologically, and if Jesus Christ is the "one whom are all things, and we exist through Him" (1 Cor. 8:6), then (says someone) isn't the pre-existence of Jesus Christ necessitated? No, not necessarily. Paul refers to past activity by the second person of the economic trinity in terms of His present historical identity, which is practically valid because the same personage is in view. For instance, on one occasion when He retorts the Pharisees concerning Sabbath observance, Jesus makes reference to the entrance of David into "the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest" (Mk. 2:26). Yet, at that particular time in history, Abiathar was not actually the high priest, but he later assumed that status. Jesus identifies Abiathar, in referring to this past historical event, in terms of his final or ultimate status. The reference to final or ultimate status, in connection with a prevenient historical event, merely serves conventional, literary expectations, the audience or readers being familiar with the final or ultimate status of the individual in view. Reference to the final or ultimate status serves only as a means of current identification and neither affects nor alters the significance or validity of the prevenient historic event (or acts) under consideration. Accordingly, the God of creation became the Christ of God. Having become the Christ of God, Paul does not distinguish between the pre-incarnate and the post-incarnate state or status of the second person of the economic trinity with reference to divine activity. For Paul, Jesus Christ is God, even though God became Jesus Christ. Thus, for all intents and purposes, to talk about the acts of the eternal Logos is to talk about the acts of the historical Christ.

32Calvin, Institutes, IV.viii.5.

33See William Gray, "Wisdom Christology in the New Testament; its Scope and Relevance," Theology, 89, No. 732 (448-459), 456.

34Hengel, Crucifixion, p. 83.

35Cf. Pheme Perkins, "Jesus: God's Wisdom," Word & World. Theology for Christian Ministry, 7, No. 3 (273-280), 273.

36Cf. Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, Vol. III (Waco: Word Books, Publishers, 1979), p. 319.

37The Pauline use of logos in reference to the person of Christ is different than the Johannine use in the prologue of the Gospel. The Johannine use is a hypostatic one; the Pauline use is a communicative one.

38Dunn, Christology, p. 178. See also Bruce, Corinthians, p. 38.

39George Rawlyk, "The Mission of the Canadian Protestant College: Past, Present and Future," Canadian Evangelical Theological Association Newsletter, No. 3, Fall (1991).

40Rawlyk writes, "By the 1920's virtually every Canadian Protestant institution of higher learning had evolved in the McMaster manner - most them, however, had moved at a far more accelerated rate - even its sister Baptist University in Nova Scotia. And all the main line Protestant seminaries, moreover, by the 1920s had abandoned the 19th [century] consensus and replaced it with an accommodating liberalism." ibid.

41Norman De Jong, Philosophy of Education: A Christian Approach (Nutley: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co., 1977), p. 46.

42J. C. Ryle, "A Biographical Account of the Author," in William Gurnall's The Christian In Complete Armour (1864; rpt. Edinburgh: the Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), p. xliii.