Reflections on the messianic daughter and the image of God

In his book, In the End – The Beginning, Jürgen Moltmann writes that in contrast to the tradition of the Messiah as a male child as written in Isaiah 9.6 (“to us a child is born, to us a son is given”, there is another messianic tradition in scripture, the Wisdom tradition, that “identifies the child of promise not as son, but as daughter.” He cites Proverbs 8, where Wisdom is depicted as feminine, “the daughter who was beside God before creation”:

When he set the heavens in their place I was there,
when he girdled the ocean with the horizon,
when he fixed the canopy of clouds overhead,
and set the springs of ocean firm in their place,
when he prescribed the limits for the sea
and knit together earth’s foundations.

Then I was at his side each day,
his darling and delight,
playing in his presence continually,
playing on the earth, when he had finished it,
while my delight was in mankind. (8.27-31)

Wisdom, Sophia, the divine daughter, is a child playing next to her Father as he creates the world.

If we understand wisdom not just as a human virtue but in the first place as a presence of God in creation, then we understand why Jesus is presented in the New Testament both as Israel’s messiah and as the Wisdom of creation, so that the Christ mystery is both male and female. When the Gospel of John calls the divine mystery of Jesus the Logos, the Word of God, [then] Sophia, the Wisdom of God is meant too. Jesus is the incarnate Sophia, Jesus is the incarnate Logos — both Sophia and Logos given human form. (p.12)

With this in mind, perhaps when we run across a translation like the TNIV in Philippians 2.6-8:

[Jesus] Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a human being,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death-
even death on a cross!

We should not howl in protest that Jesus is being made into some androgynous, genderless figure, but perhaps reflect that:

God created human beings in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

Jesus incarnate as the perfect human being, reflecting the complete image of God as Word and Wisdom, both male and female, flesh and spirit. And when we, as Christians, declare our faith and trust in Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit, perhaps then we too are becoming complete human beings, reflecting the image of God in physical flesh and spiritual wisdom. Our flesh can be male or female, but without Wisdom, the Spirit of God, Goethe’s eternal feminine (Ewigweibliche), we are an incomplete image of God.

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6 Comments

  1. Posted September 24, 2008 at 8:00 PM | Permalink

    Jesus incarnate as the perfect human being, reflecting the complete image of God as Word and Wisdom, both male and female, flesh and spirit. And when we, as Christians, declare our faith and trust in Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit, perhaps then we too are becoming complete human beings, reflecting the image of God in physical flesh and spiritual wisdom. Our flesh can be male or female, but without Wisdom, the Spirit of God, Goethe’s eternal feminine (Ewigweibliche), we are an incomplete image of God.

    Now this is what I call “food for thought.” This is deep stuff. And when we think of Jesus as the second Adam and the development of that in 1 Cor 15:20, this is even more amazing.

  2. Posted September 26, 2008 at 11:55 AM | Permalink

    This does look like an interesting read.

  3. Posted June 6, 2009 at 7:22 AM | Permalink

    Wowzer. My question of course is whether this is at all in focus in John 1. I’m sure the LOGOS and SOPHIA traditions in that era interacted but I’m not sure to what extent. I suspect that SOPHIA is not in John’s mind in that passage but rather the wisdom vocabulary of the pre-gnostics.

  4. Posted June 6, 2009 at 8:54 AM | Permalink

    I would disagree with David. I think that John has the Wisdom Lit in mind, especially Sopia, when writing about the Logos. I am thinking here of Wisdom 18.5, which gives the Logos the place of Sophia. It might be, rereading that passage, that the Logos is the active Sophia?

  5. Posted June 6, 2009 at 10:33 AM | Permalink

    FWIW, I tend to agree with you, Joel. I see the Word as Wisdom in action and both are wrapped up in all of the “God said” statements of Genesis 1 referenced in John 1. When we are called to be Christ-like, we are called to use Wisdom to produce/create (logos) works of faith.

    For more archive reading on this topic, see here and here.

    • Posted June 6, 2009 at 10:55 AM | Permalink

      Thank, ElShaddai. I’ll check out those other posts. It makes me feel a little bit more sane if I see it the same way as others.

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