The biblical figure of Sophia, or Wisdom, is more than metaphor; she is one expression of the feminine aspects of God.

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At a retreat whereby I described Sophia several times in my first presentation, a guy suddenly stand up and also blurted out: “Just that is this Sophia? protect against assuming the everyone right here knows who you space talking about!” His discontinuity startled me, and it reminded me that many do not understand this jewel in scripture, the Sophia is surprise from many.

His question was also a an obstacle because i knew that introducing Sophia would take a while come do. So lot of this heritage has actually been lost and must it is in recovered. Fortunately, he remained for the whole weekend, for this reason we had time to talk. I found him open, ready to learn and also to grow. Together we departed, the two of us had actually a brand-new appreciation for one another and also for the gift of Sophia. That left with gratitude for learning a new way of relating to the divine One. I left v renewed appreciation for the journey I have actually traveled through Sophia.

As i spoke about Sophia, i reflected earlier to 13 years earlier when I had received a letter one spring day from a publisher questioning me to add a book to their women’s series. I wanted to speak yes however wasn’t certain what I could write. It take it me four months prior to I comment to the letter.

At the moment I to be caring for my friends’ 6-year-old daughter. Us were out in the increased garden wherein I to be enjoying the happy child as she danced around the flowers, singing with glee. While i watched Elizabeth playing, miscellaneous stirred in me, and I discovered myself getting to for pen and paper.

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


Only much later did i realize that the image of little Elizabeth playing among the roses to be reflective the the beautiful i in Proverbs 8 in i m sorry Sophia is described as being current at the beginning of creation: “When there were no depths, i was brought forth once God developed the heavens, i was over there playing before all the while” (Prov. 8:24, 30). It was this link that elicited my desire to explore and also write around wisdom.

That surprising moment was the start of a long and also wonderful trip of exploration and research. When my book proposal was accepted, ns took a deep gulp and also asked myself: “Just what, or who, is this beautiful figure that Proverbs describes as a partner with the divine One?”

Divine Wisdom together “she”

I started by reading and also meditating every day on one of the scripture passages referring to holy Wisdom. Together I prayed, ns noticed just how Sophia was constantly referred to as “she.” This amazed me, even though i knew over there were plenty of ways to describe and also relate to God.

I knew that God to be neither male nor female, yet I likewise knew God to be consistently described as male and referred to as “he” in Christian images and metaphors. Feminine pronouns and figures have actually rarely been supplied in speak of God, also though, together I discovered, over there are numerous references in the wisdom literature to divine Wisdom as “she” and also plenty that feminine characteristics to describe “her.”

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


Some i speak that wisdom as a quality or a fact to overview our lives. Below wisdom is presented together a “thing”—such together wise sayings, proverbs, and also moral exhortations. Over there are numerous other passages, however, that describe wisdom together a person. It is here that the feminine pronoun is constantly used and also is continuously reflective the the divine presence. This wisdom is divine Wisdom: Hagia Sophia.

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

When ns finished a draft of my book manuscript, ns asked a friend who taught spiritual studies at a local university to check out it. Once she changed it, she asked, “Well, is Sophia magnificent or not?”

I blanched because, after virtually two year of prayer and study the the biblical passages, ns still did not know if the references were simply personified metaphors for divinity or if Sophia to be truly an additional word for the radiant visibility of the holy One.

I to be scared to respond: “Yes, ns think she is an ext than metaphor; sheisan expression the the visibility of God.” ns still no sure and also I didn’t want to command anyone astray. It take it me an additional year to be persuaded that both “Sophia” and “God” to be names for divinity.

One that the marvelous explanation of Sophia that persuaded me ns was not off on part heretical tangent was what cutting board Merton wrote around her inEmblems of a Season the Fury:“The diffusive Shining that God is Hagia Sophia. Sophia is Gift, is Spirit, Donum Dei. She is God-given and also God Himself as Gift. Sophia in all points is the divine Life reflect in them.”

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

How the treasure obtained lost

Sophia was not always hidden. There are at least three significant reasons why this treasure has actually been lacking from our spirituality heritage.

The early on church knew Sophia well and prayed to her. Yet many Greek and Egyptian goddess cults still exist at this time, and also there was concern amongst Christians that praise of Sophia would certainly be linked with this cults. Some of the features ascribed come the goddesses were similar to Sophia’s attributes—particularly those of the Egyptian goddess, Isis, that was renowned for her wisdom and also guidance. Fear of the goddesses was one reason why the beforehand Roman church progressively disconnected native Sophia.

At the same time gnosticism obtained popularity, very early Christian motion whose followers had special devotion come Sophia, crediting her with the production of the universe. The gnostics had actually an tremendous longing because that the inner life and for the concealed things of God.

Eventually they to be charged through heresy, not since of your love because that Sophia, but due to the fact that they rejected the material world. In their enthusiasm for the interior life, the gnostics valued only the spiritual and intellectual realms. They taught that Jesus was never incarnated, that salvation was to be attained only through understanding of the inner self.

This left the early church in a bind; they thought in Sophia, yet rejected gnosticism. As the church distanced chin from the gnostics, it also turned far from devotion come Sophia for fear of showing up to provide gnostic beliefs.

A 3rd development resulting in the lose of Sophia was the theology that first-century philosopher Philo of Alexandria. Together a Jew, Philo was very familiar through Sophia. The taught the the magnificent Origin (Yahweh) had created Sophia an initial and then Logos (the Word) together a balancing companion. The envisioned these 2 working with each other in shaping creation: Sophia, the feminine or developing vessel, and also Logos, the woman or energetic doer.

There are assorted theories regarding how Sophia was at some point left the end of Philo’s approach. Some historians say the became complicated in his work-related to separate the Logos native Sophia, so gradually only the facet of Logos to be kept. Others say it was a solid patriarchal emphasis on the mrs that resulted in the feminine to be eliminated.

For a time the early on church described Sophia in terms equivalent to that of the holy Spirit, yet this, too, progressively diminished and was lost. Every little thing happened, one thing is clear: There space striking parallels between the features of Sophia and the characteristics of Jesus. Over there is much around Jesus the is favor Sophia.

In Jewish scripture, Sophia is a feminine voice, in contrast to a God of dominion and also force. Jesus, too, has actually a Sophia heart, no the heart of someone seeking power. Sophia is concealed however ready come reveal just as Jesus is “the concealed wisdom the God” (1 Cor. 2:7), “the revelation the the mystery kept secret for countless ages” (Rom. 16:25). Both Sophia and also Jesus are carried forth through God, and also both are sent by God come be special messengers to humanity, happen wisdom, counsel, and also guidance. Every is a healer and also a comforter, a messenger that truth, perception, and guidance. Both room teachers that instruct in the means of God, and both are described as “light.”

Sophia as a spiritual treasure

I have pertained to know and love Sophia. The features attributed to she in the various wisdom i have considerably influenced my spiritual life. Ns will never be the same due to the fact that of her. The is why I fully understood and also loved it as soon as a participant in ~ a workshop request me, “Could friend speak about Sophia? My spiritual director presented me to her a couple of years back and this has changed my life.” that man’s question gave me an chance to talk about the beautiful gifts for spiritual expansion that holy Wisdom supplies to those who look for her.

The book of Wisdom (often attributed to the way King Solomon but actually authored by an unknown writer) has plenty of beautiful passages around Sophia. In thing 7 she is described as gift “the breath that the power of God, a pure emanation the the glory of the Almighty, a have fun of eternal light, a spotless winter of the functioning of God and an image of goodness” (Wis. 7:25–27). One can spend a year simply pondering this chapter with its well-off presentation of Sophia together a radiant, indwelling presence shining in our midst.

Sophia has depth and is full of mystery. While she is “readily seen by those who look for her” (Wis. 6:12, Sir. 6:27) and also is as near as our following breath, she is equally complete of an enig and demands to it is in discovered: “Happy is the human who meditates on Sophia, who reflects in one’s heart on Sophia’s ways and ponders she secrets, follow her favor a hunter, and lying in wait on she paths” (Sir. 15:20–22).

Attentiveness and also alertness are vital in recognize Sophia. Both Proverbs and the book of Wisdom existing Sophia together sitting by 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 entrances of biblical times were the entrance right into the marketplace or heart of the city. Symbolically, the gates where we fulfill Sophia today space in the middle of ours busy, marketplace lives. It is below that we can still uncover Divine Wisdom, that is always ready come guide and also direct our resides if us are mindful of and open to her.

There are numerous other metaphors for Sophia. She is a teacher: “Hear, for I will speak noble things. Take my instruction” (Prov. 8:1–11); a mother: “She bring 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 valuable than jewels” (Prov. 3:15). She is also described as a counselor, a good mist, light, and also the law. Sophia offers healing and also shelter, provides rest, and offers what is required for spiritual transformation.

I counting on Sophia to affect my attitudes, values, and also beliefs, to help me make great choices and also decisions. I pray to her each job to guide me together I try to reflect she love in all i am and all i do. Whenever i am in doubt as to how to proceed in my work and relationships, I rotate to Sophia because that wisdom and also courage. She has never failed to it is in there for me.

How carry out we uncover her?

One day as I concluded a talk on Sophia, a woman asked me: “You said us just how Sophia gained lost. Currently tell us: how do we uncover her?” I suggested that she start by reading, studying, and also meditating ~ above the Sophia passages in the Bible and that she take it a an allegory or a name for Sophia in the verses, breathe it in and out, letting it pass through her totality being. “Most important of all,” i responded, “is to ask Sophia to disclose herself to you.”

We have to look because that Sophia. By her really nature she is relational, existing in the world, interacting amongst people and ordinary human lives. Through desiring to understand her, by opening our minds and also hearts, her radiance will penetrate our lives. Such is what happened recently with a pertained to mother that was having much challenge with her two young daughters, that were sulky and also disruptive.

One job after job-related she sat alone in her vehicle feeling sad and troubled. She referred to as on Sophia for guidance and also insight, praying quiet for part time. Climate she drive home, sat down with her daughters, and together they pertained to some much-needed family compromises that made every one of them more peaceful and also happy.

Prayer is vital in discovering the endowment of Sophia. This aided me the most in detect her and establishing a faithful relationship.

I believe it is time because that Christians to recuperate the wealth of this legacy of the divine feminine that has been lost. We require Sophia now an ext than ever. We require her compassionate presence and her capability to aid us see clearly in the midst of a civilization that cries the end for wisdom and also love.

Sophia will not fail us. She will always draw us deeper and also further because that there is no end to the secret of she life v us. “The first person did not finish discovering around her nor has the many recent tracked her down; for her thoughts are broader than the sea, and also her designs an ext profound than the abyss” (Sir. 24:28–29).

Joyce Rupp is a bestselling author and spiritual director in Des Moines. Amongst her most recent books arePrayers to Sophia(Innisfree) andThe Cosmic Dance: An invite to endure Our Oneness(Orbis).

Recommended books around Sophia:

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

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

She who Is: The secret of God in Feminist Theological Discourse. Elizabeth A. Johnson. New York: Crossroad, 1993.

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

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

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

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