Wisdom Christology in Q (Matt. 23:34; Luke 11:49)

As I was preparing for tomorrow’s lecture in my Synoptic Gospels class, I was reminded of a ‘Q saying’ which involves Wisdom, the often personified attribute of God’s wise dealings with his creation (cf. Prov. 8; Wisdom 6). The Q saying texts to which I am referring are:

Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city… (Matt.23:34)

For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute… (Luke 11:49)

If I had to put my finger in the air and guess which direction the wind is blowing, I would estimate that the original Q saying is found in Luke’s version, where ‘the wisdom of God’ is doing the speaking. If this is the case, then Matthew, having Q in front of him, decided to redact it in a manner which put the words of ‘the wisdom of God’ upon the lips of Jesus (note the shift from wisdom speaking to Jesus speaking in the first person). It would seem awkward for the original Q saying to have Jesus speaking and for Luke to redact that by placing the speech into the mouth of wisdom.

Another Q saying involving Wisdom is located in Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:35. For the record, no official Wisdom sayings appear in Mark’s gospel.

lady-wisdomThe implications of these observations are worth suggesting. If (and these are pretty big ‘ifs’) the Q collection of Jesus sayings is early, perhaps as early as 40-50 CE, then this places Wisdom christology earlier than its alternative expression located in the Fourth Gospel (God’s personified Logos and God’s Wisdom are closely related). This would mean that John is not saying something so new and innovative compared to the earliest Jesus traditions. If Q records authentic Jesus sayings which indicate that he thought of himself as the embodiment of God’s personified Wisdom, the human expression of God’s wise interaction in the world, then it would be difficult for some of the more critical scholars to write off the Fourth Gospel’s christology as such a late development. It would also posit a legitimate connection between the earliest Jesus tradition and Paul, who considers Jesus to be the fullest expression of Lady Wisdom (eg. 1 Cor. 8:6; 10:4; Col. 1:15-16; etc.).

What do you think?



6 thoughts on “Wisdom Christology in Q (Matt. 23:34; Luke 11:49)

  1. Lately, I have been doing some thinking in regards to these passages as well. It would be highly interesting if you covered, if possible, the development from Wisdom christology to the Logos christology of John and subsequentially the later Church Fathers (Ignatius,Justin, Irenaeus etc.) How far is the leap between the two?

    In regards to what yoiu wrote though, even if we assume that Luke transmit a saying more original to that of Q, and if we assume that Q (assuming the existence of Q rather than Luke/proto-Luke using Matthew) records the words of Jesus faithfully, why should we assume that Jesus is identifying himself with Wisdom. This obviously the case if we read the passage in light of Matthew, but could it perhaps be that Jesus — according to Luke — is merely stating what Wisdom will do in the near future? Talking in behalf of Wisdom is not the aame as claiming to be her. For neither was the author of Proverbs identifying himself with Wisdom when talking in her behalf?

    Nevertheless, keep up the good work! I love the blog! I have linked to your blog on my own blog (but seeing that I lack readers as of yet, it is nothing more than a gesture of appreciation.)

    1. Good questions.

      I think the authoritative work out now regarding the transition from Logos to how it came to be understood by the Church Fathers is Marian Hillar’s ‘From Logos to Trinity,’ printed by Cambridge Univ. Press.

      I don’t think that the author(s) of Proverbs nor the author of Wisdom of Solomon really thought that Wisdom was a conscious female figure alongside Yahweh. It was a personification of his wise dealings with the world (and also something men were to seek after, being a lady). I think it would be hard to argue that the NT writers are not linking Jesus with Wisdom, or saying that Jesus is the current embodiment of this wise concept. Certainly Matthew put the wisdom saying into the mouth of Jesus, “I will send you…” suggesting an identification of sorts. I don’t think that Jesus is Lady Wisdom, rather “he is her currently embodiment” is how I would nuance it. Some Jewish texts say that Torah is the embodiment of Wisdom, so this gives me an interpretive grid through which I can draw these conclusions. Just thinking out loud.

      Thanks for your comments! I will be sure to drop by your blog at times.

  2. Whoops, I though I would have the opportunity to edit my post once posted, but I guessed wrongly. Sorry for typos and odd syntax. Sadly I only notice such things once I press “Post Comment”.

  3. This reminds me of something Philo said regarding Moses as the ’embodiment of the Torah’, or perhaps the living Torah. It seems as though the same way of expressing God’s actions through human mediation is being communicated. Interesting thoughts. Thanks.

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