The biblical number of Sophia, or Wisdom, is an ext than metaphor; she is one expression the the feminine elements of God.

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At a retreat whereby I described Sophia several times in my very first presentation, a male suddenly stood up and blurted out: “Just who is this Sophia? stop assuming the everyone below knows that you are talking about!” His interruption startled me, and it reminded me that numerous do not understand this jewel in scripture, the Sophia is covert from many.

His question was also a challenge because ns knew that presenting Sophia would take a while come do. So lot of this heritage has been lost and also must be recovered. Fortunately, he continued to be for the totality weekend, for this reason we had actually time come talk. I discovered him open, all set to learn and also to grow. As we departed, the two of us had actually a brand-new appreciation for one another and also for the gift that Sophia. The left through gratitude for discovering a new means of relating to the holy One. Ns left v renewed appreciation for the journey I have traveled with Sophia.

As ns spoke around Sophia, i reflected ago to 13 years earlier when I had received a letter one spring day from a publisher questioning me to contribute a publication to your women’s series. I wanted to speak yes however wasn’t certain what I might write. It took me four months prior to I responded to the letter.

At the time I was caring because that my friends’ 6-year-old daughter. We were the end in the rose garden wherein I to be enjoying the happy child as she danced roughly the flowers, singing through glee. While i watched Elizabeth playing, other stirred in me, and also I uncovered myself reaching for pen and also paper.

I wrote a publication proposal on something that had enticed me time and again: my attraction come wisdom in scripture. At that time I had very minimal knowledge that the biblical publications of wisdom and did not know yet that in the Greek translate in the indigenous for divine Wisdom areHagia Sophia. I likewise had no awareness that this Sophia would offer me a fresh and also deeply profound method of relating to the divine.


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Only much later on did i realize that the picture of small Elizabeth playing amongst the roses to be reflective that the beautiful passage in Proverbs 8 in which Sophia is explained as being existing at the beginning of creation: “When there were no depths, ns was lugged forth once God created the heavens, i was there playing before all the while” (Prov. 8:24, 30). It was this link that elicited mine desire to explore and also write about wisdom.

That surprising moment was the beginning of a long and also wonderful journey of exploration and research. As soon as my book proposal was accepted, ns took a deep gulp and also asked myself: “Just what, or who, is this beautiful number that Proverbs explains as a partner with the divine One?”

Divine Wisdom as “she”

I began by reading and also meditating each day on among the scripture passages referring to holy Wisdom. Together I prayed, i noticed exactly how Sophia was always referred to as “she.” This amazing me, also though ns knew there were many ways come describe and relate to God.

I knew that God was neither male nor female, however I likewise knew God to be consistently defined as male and also referred to as “he” in Christian images and metaphors. Feminine pronouns and also figures have rarely been used in speaking of God, even though, as I discovered, there are plenty of references in the wisdom literary works to magnificent Wisdom together “she” and plenty of feminine qualities to describe “her.”

Many people think the wisdom as an “it” quite than a “she.” Actually, both of these approaches are accurate, due to the fact that there space two types of wisdom in the Bible.


Some i speak that wisdom as a top quality or a truth to overview our lives. Here wisdom is presented together a “thing”—such together wise sayings, proverbs, and also moral exhortations. There are countless other passages, however, that refer to wisdom together a person. The is right here that the feminine pronoun is always used and is continuously reflective of the divine presence. This wisdom is divine Wisdom: Hagia Sophia.

Historically, the writer of the wisdom literature began this feminine recommendation to Sophia in between 33 B.C. And also 4–5 A.D. There room only 4 other numbers who are mentioned much more than Sophia in Jewish bible (the Old Testament): Yahweh, Moses, David, and Job. Given this fact, that is quite incredible the so few know much about her. However, i do recognize why she has not been recognized due to the fact that I, too, had actually a challenging time discovering and also claiming her.

When ns finished a draft of my publication manuscript, ns asked a friend that taught religious studies in ~ a neighborhood university to review it. Once she changed it, she asked, “Well, is Sophia magnificent or not?”

I blanched because, after practically two year of prayer and also study that the biblical passages, i still go not understand if the references were simply personified metaphors because that divinity or if Sophia was truly one more word because that the radiant visibility of the divine One.

I was scared come respond: “Yes, i think she is much more than metaphor; sheisan expression that the presence of God.” i still wasn’t sure and I didn’t desire to command anyone astray. It take it me another year to be encouraged that both “Sophia” and “God” were names for divinity.

One that the marvelous descriptions of Sophia that convinced me i was not off on part heretical tangent was what thomas Merton wrote about her inEmblems of a Season that Fury:“The diffuse Shining the God is Hagia Sophia. Sophia is Gift, is Spirit, Donum Dei. She is God-given and also God Himself as Gift. Sophia in all things is the magnificent Life reflect in them.”

Another confirmation to be seeing exactly how the publication of Wisdom explains Sophia guiding the Exodus people through the wilderness: “She led lock by a marvelous road. She herself to be their shelter by day and also their starlight through the night” (Wis. 10:17). This i was plainly another means of speaking about the faithful God that “went in prior of lock in a tower of cloud by day and a obelisk of fire by night” (Exod. 13:21). Ns was finally convinced that Sophia to be truly another means of naming the divine.

How the treasure acquired lost

Sophia was not constantly hidden. There space at the very least three major reasons why this treasure has been absent from our spiritual heritage.


The early on church knew Sophia well and also prayed to her. Yet many Greek and also Egyptian goddess cults still exist at this time, and also there was concern among Christians that worship of Sophia would be connected with this cults. Few of the features ascribed come the goddesses were comparable to Sophia’s attributes—particularly those of the Egyptian goddess, Isis, that was famous for her wisdom and guidance. Are afraid of the goddesses was one factor why the at an early stage Roman church progressively disconnected from Sophia.

At the exact same time gnosticism acquired popularity, very early Christian activity whose followers had special devotion to Sophia, crediting her v the creation of the universe. The gnostics had an enormous longing because that the internal life and also for the covert things of God.

Eventually they to be charged v heresy, not due to the fact that of your love because that Sophia, but because they garbage the product world. In their enthusiasm for the interior life, the gnostics valued just the spiritual and intellectual realms. Lock taught the Jesus was never incarnated, the salvation to be to be attained only through understanding of the inside self.

This left the beforehand church in a bind; they thought in Sophia, yet rejected gnosticism. Together the church distanced chin from the gnostics, it additionally turned far from devotion come Sophia for are afraid of appearing to grant gnostic beliefs.

A 3rd development leading to the ns of Sophia was the theology that first-century philosopher Philo of Alexandria. Together a Jew, Philo was very familiar v Sophia. He taught the the magnificent Origin (Yahweh) had produced Sophia very first and climate Logos (the Word) as a balancing companion. That envisioned these two working together in shaping creation: Sophia, the feminine or creating vessel, and also Logos, the mrs or energetic doer.

There are miscellaneous theories as to how Sophia was eventually left out of Philo’s approach. Some historians say it became complicated in his work-related to different the Logos native Sophia, so slowly only the aspect of Logos to be kept. Rather say it to be a strong patriarchal focus on the woman that brought about the feminine to be eliminated.

For a time the early on church described Sophia in terms similar to that of the divine Spirit, yet this, too, gradually diminished and was lost. Everything happened, one thing is clear: There are striking parallels in between the characteristics of Sophia and the features of Jesus. There is much around Jesus that is favor Sophia.

In Jewish scripture, Sophia is a feminine voice, in comparison to a God that dominion and also force. Jesus, too, has a Sophia heart, no the love of who seeking power. Sophia is concealed yet ready to reveal just as Jesus is “the hidden wisdom the God” (1 Cor. 2:7), “the revelation of the an enig kept secret for countless ages” (Rom. 16:25). Both Sophia and also Jesus are carried forth by God, and also both are sent by God to be one-of-a-kind messengers to humanity, bringing wisdom, counsel, and also guidance. Each is a healer and also a comforter, a messenger the truth, perception, and also guidance. Both space teachers who instruct in the methods of God, and also both are described as “light.”

Sophia as a spiritual treasure

I have concerned know and love Sophia. The characteristics attributed to her in the assorted wisdom i have significantly influenced my spiritual life. Ns will never ever be the same since of her. The is why I totally understood and also loved it as soon as a participant in ~ a workshop request me, “Could girlfriend speak around Sophia? My spiritual director presented me to she a few years back and this has changed my life.” the man’s question offered me an opportunity to talk around the beautiful presents for spiritual growth that holy Wisdom provides to those who seek her.

The book of Wisdom (often attributed to the wise King Solomon but actually authored by an unknown writer) has countless beautiful passages around Sophia. In chapter 7 she is explained as gift “the breath that the strength of God, a pure emanation that the glory that the Almighty, a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the functioning of God and an image of goodness” (Wis. 7:25–27). One might spend a year just pondering this chapter v its rich presentation the Sophia as a radiant, indwelling visibility shining in our midst.

Sophia has actually depth and is full of mystery. When she is “readily seen by those who seek her” (Wis. 6:12, Sir. 6:27) and is as close to as our following breath, she is equally full of secret and requirements to be discovered: “Happy is the human who meditates ~ above Sophia, who shows in one’s heart on Sophia’s ways and also ponders her secrets, follow her prefer a hunter, and lying in wait on her paths” (Sir. 15:20–22).

Attentiveness and also alertness are vital in finding Sophia. Both Proverbs and also the book of Wisdom present Sophia as sitting through the city gates, crying the end at the busiest corners through the enntrance gate to the city (Wis. 6:14, Prov. 1:20–21). The gateways of biblical times were the entrance right into the marketplace or heart of the city. Symbolically, the gateways where we satisfy Sophia today room in the middle of ours busy, marketplace lives. It is below that we have the right to still discover Divine Wisdom, who is constantly ready come guide and direct our lives if us are conscious of and also open to her.

There are plenty of other metaphors because that Sophia. She is a teacher: “Hear, for I will certainly speak noble things. Take my instruction” (Prov. 8:1–11); a mother: “She brings up her very own children” (Sir. 4:11–18); “the tree of life” (Prov. 3:8, Wis. 10:17–19, Sir. 14:20–27); and also true wealth: “more priceless than jewels” (Prov. 3:15). She is likewise described as a counselor, a good mist, light, and the law. Sophia gives healing and shelter, provides rest, and offers what is essential for spirituality transformation.

I count on Sophia to influence my attitudes, values, and also beliefs, to aid me make great choices and decisions. I pray to her each day to overview me together I shot to reflect her love in all ns am and also all ns do. Whenever ns am in doubt as to how to continue in mine work and relationships, I revolve to Sophia because that wisdom and also courage. She has actually never failure to be there because that me.

How carry out we discover her?

One day together I concluded a speak on Sophia, a mrs asked me: “You called us just how Sophia obtained lost. Currently tell us: just how do we discover her?” I said that she begin by reading, studying, and also meditating on the Sophia passages in the Bible and also that she take a an allegory or a surname for Sophia in the verses, breathe it in and also out, letting it penetrate her entirety being. “Most essential of all,” ns responded, “is to ask Sophia to disclose herself come you.”

We must look for Sophia. By her an extremely nature she is relational, current in the world, interacting amongst people and ordinary human lives. By desiring to know her, by opening our minds and hearts, her radiance will penetrate our lives. Such is what happened recently with a concerned mother who was having actually much difficulty with her two young daughters, that were sulky and disruptive.

One job after occupational she satellite alone in her car feeling sad and troubled. She referred to as on Sophia because that guidance and also insight, praying quietly for some time. Climate she drive home, satellite down with her daughters, and also together they pertained to some much-needed family compromises the made all of them an ext peaceful and also happy.

Prayer is critical in finding out the sweetheart of Sophia. This assisted me the most in detect her and establishing a faithful relationship.

I believe it is time because that Christians to recoup the wealth of this heritage of the magnificent feminine that has actually been lost. We need Sophia now an ext than ever. We need her compassionate presence and her ability to aid us see plainly in the middle of a people that cries the end for wisdom and love.

Sophia will not fail us. She will always draw us deeper and further for there is no end to the mystery of she life through us. “The an initial person walk not finish discovering around her nor has the most recent tracked her down; for she thoughts are more comprehensive than the sea, and also her designs more profound 보다 the abyss” (Sir. 24:28–29).

Joyce Rupp is a bestselling author and spiritual director in Des Moines. Among her many recent publications arePrayers come Sophia(Innisfree) andThe Cosmic Dance: An invitation to endure Our Oneness(Orbis).

Recommended books about Sophia:

Wisdom’s Feast: Sophia in Study and also Celebration. Cady, Ronan, Taussig. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1984.

Who is Wisdom-Sophia? Meditations based upon “Love of Eternal Wisdom”by St. Luigi de Montfort. Daughters that Wisdom: Wisdom House, 229 east Litchfield Road, Litchfield, CT 06799-3002.

She that Is: The an enig of God in Feminist Theological Discourse. Elizabeth A. Johnson. New York: Crossroad, 1993.

Divine Sophia, divine Wisdom. Robert Powell. Nicasio, CA: The Sophia structure of phibìc America, 1997.

The Star In mine Heart: experiencing Sophia, inner Wisdom. Joyce Rupp. Innisfree Press: Philadelphia, 1990.

Sophia: facets of the divine Feminine Past and Present. Suzanne Schaup. Nicolas-Hays, Inc. York beach ME 1997.

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In memory of Her: A Feminist Theological reconstruction of Christian Origins. Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza. Crossroad: brand-new York, 1983. (c.f. Pp. 130–140, “The Sophia-God that Jesus and the Discipleship of Women”).