Date of Submission

5-5-2011

Abstract

This thesis aims to study the identification of the Matthean Jesus with Wisdom or Sophia, a personified feminine figure. The roots of this identification are traced to the traditions in Judaism as depicted in Proverbs, Job, Sirach, the Wisdom of Solomon, Baruch and 1 Enoch. The early Christians made use of this Wisdom tradition when speculating on the identity and significance of Jesus, and scholars have identified explicit Wisdom Christologies in Paul, Q and John. The thesis has its main focus in the Matthean tradition and demonstrates that Matthew develops a high Christology from his Jewish and Christian sources by portraying Jesus as Wisdom incarnate.

This thesis studies Matthew’s Wisdom Christology from the perspective of its Jewish and early Christian contexts. How has Matthew been influenced by these traditions, and how has he developed them? The nature and roles of Wisdom in Judaism differ from text to text. In some she is a distinct pre-existent being, subordinate to and distinct from God, while in others she appears to be an aspect of God and not a distinct entity. In terms of her functions, Wisdom is assigned a variety of roles. She plays a part in the creation of the universe as the assistant of God, mediates between God and humans, plays a salvific role and is identified with the Torah. Wisdom can be described in various ways, including mother, lover and counsellor. In the Judaism of Matthew’s time, Wisdom is only one of many pre-existent beings. Other figures that were thought to pre-exist and await a future revelation include the Messiah and the Son of Man, and these too play an important role in the emergent Christology of the first century.

The study of the early Christian texts reveals that the Christians accessed the Jewish Wisdom traditions in different ways. Paul uses the term ‘the Wisdom of God’ for Jesus (1 Cor 1:24; cf. 1:30), but he seems not to use it as a Christological title. The concept of Wisdom as a distinct figure first appears in the Q tradition. In this Sayings Source, Jesus is not identified with Wisdom herself but as her messenger or envoy. The Gospel of John testifies to a further development. John has a clear Wisdom Christology, especially in the Prologue where the pre-existent Jesus is assigned many of Wisdom’s roles. But this author never refers to Jesus as ‘Wisdom’. He prefers the masculine term ‘the Word’. Between the Q and the Johannine traditions comes Matthew, and it is in this Gospel that the early Christian Wisdom Christology is most clearly attested. In distinction to Q, Matthew makes explicit the identification of Jesus with Wisdom herself and, in distinction to John, he has no qualms about using that particular feminine term. For Matthew Jesus is pre-existent Wisdom, subordinate to God and separate from God, who becomes incarnate in the body of a human through a miraculous conception.

In portraying Jesus in this way, Matthew adopts many of the attributes and roles of Wisdom in the Jewish tradition, including her role in creation, her close relationship with God, her role as prophet and teacher, her rejection by humans and her identification with the Law. Moreover, in constructing his Wisdom Christology, the evangelist reinterprets and develops some aspects of Wisdom’s traditional roles on the basis of Christian claims about Jesus. Thus in Matthew it is significant that Jesus as Wisdom is a miracle-worker, the definitive interpreter of the Law, dies on the cross to save her people from their sins and will come in the future as the eschatological judge.

School/Institute

School of Theology

Document Type

Thesis

Access Rights

Open Access

Extent

289 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Faculty

Faculty of Theology and Philosophy

Included in

Religion Commons

Share

 
COinS