When so many of the God-related images of the Bible are masculine, the fact that Wisdom is clearly feminine makes us stop and take note.
We know, of course, that God is neither male nor female, and that it is together that men and women bear God’s image. But the language of the Bible leans heavily towards male imagery for God, at least for the Father and the Son. That’s why I stick to using ‘he’ of God, for the lack of a non-gender-specific pronoun that’s still personal in English.
So why is Wisdom feminine – and clearly so? The imagery of verses 13-18 spell out the image of Wisdom from the first two chapters, as a woman calling to right living. And as I mentioned yesterday, I don’t think we can read these words, especially 3:19-20, and not link them to the beginning of John’s Gospel, where we are told of how the Word of God who spoke creation into being took flesh in Jesus.
I don’t for a moment think that the writer of Proverbs had this in mind, but I’m sure that St John did. Jesus is clearly, unambiguously male. It’s not just a matter of language and imagery as it perhaps is with God the Father. God the Son becomes human as a man, not as a woman. That doesn’t say anything about the inherent value or the proper roles of men and women, but to become human meant becoming either male or female, and in the time of Jesus one of those options gave the possibility of the ministry he came to offer.
The image of the Logos (Word, Wisdom) of God including the feminine aspect of Wisdom is important, then, because it points us to the reality that God, even the Second Person of God, is neither male nor female. For God to become human in Jesus required many things to become concrete, and to choose one possibility or another – for humans are not God. Yet the Word, God the Son, who became flesh in Jesus is one and the same with Lady Wisdom by whom God founded the earth and established the heavens.
Perhaps part of our grasp on wisdom is to realise that God is always wider than our categories, and bigger than our imaginations. We could say that God includes both masculine and feminine – but it’s probably better to say that our concepts of masculine and feminine themselves are both images of different aspects of the reality of God; and to try with God’s help to nurture both those sides of that image in ourselves in the balance that God has given us.
God is God. I am not God.