(4) Wisdom as a strange woman …

Continuing on our theme of “Folly to be wise ..”.

Wisdom is spoken of highly in the Bible, something to be sort after, something to be treasured.  A gift that will bring a person wealth and prosperity, but if ignored, or treated unkindly, or unjustly, could also turn on the person and cause them great harm.  Is it folly to seek wisdom knowing that it is fickle and untrustworthy?  And why describe it as a woman?  Was that the patriarchal view of the women in the centuries over which the instructions in the Book of Proverbs was collected?  Or could there be a more interesting challenge?  Was Wisdom a being that interacted with the living, much as the angels do today?  People experience God’s grace today, through miracles of many sorts, through visions and prophecy.  Could Wisdom have been one of the messengers that humans were meant to trust, and in falling, then become a being people were warned against?  Could the description in Chapter 9 of the wise woman and the foolish one, so very much alike, be a subtle way of reminding people not to trust someone who offers you treasures from unknown sources? (Proverbs 9:2 compared with 9:17)

If we did a direct comparison between the first section and the second section of the chapter we can clearly see the differences between the wise woman and the the woman given many names ‘strange’ or ‘loose’.  She is described as a prostitute, loud and ignorant, but her words are the same as the woman who would be wise .. so why do we differentiate between the two?  How does this confusing, and often threatening, speech teach us wisdom?  The motto of this Book is “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline”.  How do we apply it here?

Wisdom seems to have two different messages.  To the wise she offers food and wine she has mixed herself, to the simple she offers illicit pleasures.  My first thought was what had she mixed in the wine?  She still believes the wise are immature and require her guidance or need to be led.  What measuring stick do we use to review Wisdom’s character?  Do we find it in the New Testament in James 3:13-18?

Proverbs 9:1

1  Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars.

Why does Wisdom specify seven pillars in her house?  The number seven means ‘complete’ – God took six days to create the world and on the seventh day he rested.  Does that relate to what is written?  There does not seem to be a clear answer, so let us begin by reviewing them through James 3:13-18?

James 1:13-18

13 Who is wise and understanding among you?  Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.
14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth.
15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish.
16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.
17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full   of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.
18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Given Wisdom’s behaviour in Proverbs 1:24-28 I do not think we can describe ‘her’ as pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits or partiality (given she only calls to the simple(-minded)) or hypocrisy .

Another writer (1) says that the seven pillars of ‘wisdom’s solid foundation’ (of her house) are found in Proverbs 8:12-14

12 I, wisdom, live with prudence, and I attain knowledge and discretion.
13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.  Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
14 I have good advice and sound wisdom; I have insight, I have strength.

I enjoyed that webpage for the show of confusion that the Wisdom literature creates.  To start with, it was not the best translation, but after the writer says that Wisdom lives in a house with a woman called Prudence I had to keep reading.  I read it four times just to make sure I was not mistaken.  I do not think the writer realised exactly how the words would be taken, but it is a good example of how we see what we want to see in the Bible – myself included.  And to stretch the point, another writer on the internet decided that Wisdom and Prudence were married to each other .. only many churches are not happy with same sex marriages, and certainly not during the centuries when the ‘wisdom’ was gathered, so perhaps we will discount that one.

And this lady (2) gives us another version.  She writes: “I’ve always wondered what the seven pillars of wisdom were. After studying the seven-fold anointing spoken of in Isaiah 11:2, I concluded that the seven pillars of wisdom must be the seven aspects of the Holy Spirit of the Lord. Isaiah 11:2 says, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord“.  But there are only six, so I guess it is disqualified.

Wikipedia (3) gives us a slightly different set, calling them the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord .. which they define as ‘wonder’.

Where does that get us?  We agree that no one is sure what the seven pillars of Wisdom’s house are.  The notes in my NOAB (4) state “9:1 Seven pillars may allude simply to the pillars of Wisdom’s house or may suggest the pillars on which the earth was founded”.  (Job 9:6, 26:11, Ps 74:3)  (Can we read that as the commentator appearing to believe that Wisdom was a living person?)  And everyone appears to agree that we should fear the Lord, apart from me.

And then there is the possibility that the building of the house refers to when Wisdom says she helped create the world, an ‘understanding’ which was anticipated in the Babylonian Talmud (6) where the Talmud explains the purpose of Adam’s creation on the even of the sabbath “that he might straightway go in to the banquet. The matter may be compared to a kind of flesh and blood who built palaces and furnished them, prepared a banquet, and thereafter brought in guests”.

We shall move on …

Proverbs 2 – 18

2  She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table.
3  She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls from the highest places in the town,
4  “You that are simple, turn in here!”

Were the servant girls Wisdom’s procurers?  In modern times we see them in the streets outside restaurants, cafes, bars and brothels.  The verse continues ..

To those without sense she says
5  “Come and drink of the wine I have mixed.
6  Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight”.

Why address this to only ‘those without sense’?  Wouldn’t the wise also like to join a feast?  I wonder if the ancients had hallucinogenic drinks that provided ‘insight’, or certainly visions of some kind?  The seers at Delphi would sit over volcanic fumes and then the priests would interpret their ‘prophecies’.  Mixing wine with spices was not unusual, but what was mixed into it  that required a person to ‘grow up’ (something we say to immature people even today) and ‘live, and walk in the way of insight’ (while smoking the peyote smoked by the Amerindians to get advice from their gods? Or modern people getting stoned for fun? (7))

And then did someone so severely doubt her that they said so at which point a comment like this might sound wise.  Was she trying to tell them to “fear the Lord” and they scoffed at her ..

7  Whoever corrects a scoffer wins abuse; whoever rebukes the wicked gets hurt.
8  A scoffer who is rebuked will only hate you; the wise, when rebuked, will love you.
9  Give instruction to the wise, and they will become wiser still; teach the righteous and they will gain in learning.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
11 For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life.
12 If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it.

Is this a promise she thought she could make – to multiply the days and years of someone’s life literally, or do we take it as an allegory, that Wisdom will help a person live longer?  Did she think she could do this herself, or that the Lord would do this for anyone she directed to him?

And then the theme changes completely, and we are advised that this next woman is a fool, called Dame Folly in the NIB, and yet her behaviour is much the same as the wise woman ..

13 The foolish woman is loud; she is ignorant and knows nothing.
14 She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the high places of the town,
15 calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way,
16 “You who are simple, turn in here!” And to those without sense she says,
17 “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant”.

Perhaps she was being more honest than Wisdom? She offered the foolish ‘stolen water’ and secret bread, which in the end would kill them (v. 18). My NOAB (5) comments that the ‘stolen water’ is probably a euphemism for illicit sex, with a reference to Proverbs 5:15-21. The comment about those ‘who are going straight on their way’ might suggest that the lady wants to lead them off the straight/right path and into iniquity, if not death?

18 But they do not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.

Who else would have her guests in Sheol, a name given to hell, than a fallen angel?

Strangely, but not unexpectedly, here is a perfect example of where the commentators choose to ignore what they cannot explain.  The NOAB (8) completely ignores verses 11-16 and the brief comment in the NIB (9) is “9:13-18  The chapter and the book’s first major section now conclude.  Dame Folly is an explicit contrast to Wisdom in v 16, even to the point of making an identical invitation (v. 4 = v. 16).  But this passage also sums up virtually every theme expressed in Proverbs 1-9 by means of its repetition of key words.  In particular, Dame Folly masterfully integrates the portrait of Folly as a seduction to bogus good, in contrast to the genuine good of Wisdom.”

Only Wisdom is definitely not genuinely good.

A few last thoughts – were the sayings gathered together in these chapters of Proverbs because the lady was writing her autobiography, and/or someone later thought them wise?  To some degree this whole section reminds me of God in Job professing the wonder of being God while punishing the innocent.  Either that or someone, in the far future, is going to find a book like Anne Rice’s “Interview with a Vampire” and think its actually history. If someone came to me offering me sweet words and sweet wine, I would be wondering what they wanted. Does that make me wise or the fool? When a couple came from a Christian Sect offering me “God their way”, I tested their waters through their writings briefly and then they ran away. Don’t question someone too deeply or they might get very uncomfortable. Is that what wasn’t done here, the words were accepted, confusion and all, by Irenaeus and his cohort, much as they accepted Job, because it appears they are wise .. but on close reading you find the snake still in the garden whispering “bite the apple, Eve”.

(Yes, I know it wasn’t an apple, but when I was a child I was taught that it was by a number of ministers of various Christian churches, different denominations. You have to wonder who trained them!)

Thank you for reading …

(1)  Wisdom creates confusion http://www.bridgetothebible.com/Bible%20Lists/7%20Pillars%20of%20Wisdom.htm
(2)  Seven Pillars of Wisdom – http://www.charismamag.com/spirit/devotionals/around-the-word-in-365-days/?aid=2939
(3)  Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_gifts_of_the_Holy_Spirit
(4) The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 4th Edition, New Revised, Standard Version, with the Apocrypha. MD Coogan, Editor, Oxford University Press, 2010, page 907
(5) ibid page 903
(6) The New Interpreter’s Bible, A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1997, Proverbs 9, page 101
(7) Hallucinogenics in Ancient Israel – http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/israeli-town-yavneh-had-thriving-drug-culture-3000-years-ago-003159
(8) The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 4th Edition, New Revised, Standard Version, with the Apocrypha. MD Coogan, Editor, Oxford University Press, 2010, Proverbs, page 907
(9) The New Interpreter’s Bible, A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1997, Proverbs 9, page 103

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(2) The dark side of Wisdom

The original title of this blog was “Wisdom as a bitch”.  For those who have just dropped in, my premise is to examine Wisdom in Proverbs as female, wise and loving in the way that Jesus described his ‘Father’, not Joseph but God.  The chapters I am use specifically define wisdom as female.  Proverbs 1:20-33, 8:1-36 and 9:1-18.

Sticking with the theme from ‘Folly to be Wise’ .. our first example of folly is in deciding that this is an appropriate example of the behaviour of a loving God, or even a creation of God (discussed more in the next article “The nature of Wisdom”); the God who Jesus tried so hard to convince us was watching over us and loving us unconditionally (1 Corinthians 1:1-13).  Paraphrasing … ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ (John 13:34, 15:12).  If Wisdom is the example, it is no wonder living people do not get along with each other.

Wisdom as a female prophet

In Proverbs 1:20-23 Wisdom, as a woman, was outside yelling in the streets, demanding attention.  She called everyone ‘simple ones’.
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I shall extend this a little and suggest she meant ‘simple-minded’ in our language, given that she later refers to fools or foolish people.  The dictionary meaning of simple-minded is:  “not very intelligent, or having or showing a lack of good sense or judgement” (1).  Is she calling to fools in hope they will listen to her, or the innocent who will not look past the covering of sweet words and promises?
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Proverbs 1:24-33
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24 Because I have called and you refused;  have stretched out my hand and no one heeded, 
25 And because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you,
27 when panic strikes you like a storm, and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.
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Is this Wisdom, wise and kind?  She turns her back on those who do not listen to her.  She laughs and mocks.  Is that what a loving creation of God would do?  Is this what God does to those who believe in him?  And even to those who don’t?  If God loves all of his creations unconditionally, then those who do not believe are loved as much as those who do.  They are all given the opportunity to choose another path – the one that leads back to him.  Whether God loves unconditionally or not is not a discussion for today, but it will become another blog in the future.
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28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
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Humanity chooses not the fear the Lord, but Wisdom is not ‘The Lord’ so her anger at them is on God’s behalf, or is it?  Given that we are supposed to pay attention to ‘her’ (Proverbs 22:17-18, 5:1-6) and give her the same respect as God, where does she place herself in the hierarchy?
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Her behaviour is not God’s behaviour – “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened”. (Matthew 7:7-8 & Luke 11:9-10)
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30 would have none of my counsel, and despised all my reproof,
31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way and be sated with their own devices.
A reference to Genesis 3:6 when Eve and then Adam ate the fruit and they were both expelled from the “Garden”.  Humanity was foolish then, and if they do not listen to ‘her’ they will remain that way.
32 For waywardness kills the simple, and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33 but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.
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Having done many years research into the concept of fallen angels, I can perfectly see here the storms and rages of an invisible being acting in the mirror image of her* true nature as Wisdom.

  • Please note that when I say ‘her’ I am doing two things, following the theme of wisdom as a female (all emotion) and also that fallen angels (demons) are also driven by emotion (ego).  I am not classifying the female human race as either all emotion or demons.

The nature of Wisdom is to learn and teach.  This being called ‘Wisdom’ offers so much with one hand, and takes it back with the other.  She is, if you like, in two minds.  The angel of Illumination (2) would swap from teaching Love and Wisdom to teaching Hatred and Confusion.  She would act out her dissatisfaction with those who refuse to follow her – in a way that is exactly opposite a loving God, but more like the behaviour of Jehovah, who is not to be trusted.

The Blessings of Wisdom

Proverbs 8:1-36

13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil …
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I could write a whole page on this very short sentence.  To me it has one meaning.  Every commentary I have checked either ignores it, or tries to rewrite it, sometimes in great depth, or explain that it means something it doesn’t say.  They refer to Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, fools despise wisdom and instruction”; and 9:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight”.  But it does not say either of those things.  It says ‘The fear of the Lord .. is hatred of evil’ .. as if this Lord fears that people will “hate evil”?  Who is this Lord?  9:10 makes perfect sense if it is an entity that should be avoided, such as Wisdom and ‘him’self.  (Lord being a male title). The rest of 13 is …  pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
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14 I have good advice and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength.
15 By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just;
16 by me rulers rule, and nobles, all who govern rightly.
17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.
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14 – 17 are all “I am” statements, demonstrating her power.  Like God in Job 38, 39 & 41, some of which appears to be incoherent rantings.  For example, 41:1 “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook …?” when Job calls God to account for his suffering.
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And then there are these:
Wisdom offers …
18 Riches and honour are with me, enduring wealth and prosperity.
19 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver.
20 I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice,
21 endowing with wealth those who love me, and filling their treasuries.
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Matthew 6:19-21
Jesus offers …
19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth; where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal;
20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
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Who is this being called Wisdom?   There is more to follow ….
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(1) Folly to be wise …

I started my Theology course at University in 2007.  I was an ‘external’ student, living in different state.  In February of the following year the University held a Residential School.  I went, very excited, looking forward to meeting others who were also ‘Investigating God’ and ‘Investigating the Bible’ .. which is how I thought of what I was doing.  They were a mixed bunch, all ages, all walks of life, all focused on God, including the young evangelist who might have been from Nigeria, who was told ‘not’ to evangelise in class (mind you, he was fun to listen to).  The lecturers were fascinating too.  So much knowledge, so much understanding.  Their reinterpretation of the story of Noah was amazing. I should have had a tape recorder.

At the first lecture our head teacher said –

“The study of Theology will either make or break your faith”.

I have never forgotten those words.

In the years that followed my studies I learned many things, and read many interesting authors, some following the basic tenets of the faith, and some breaking boundaries and stomping on old beliefs.  I have met many decent people who only give lip-service to the Book, not reading the parts ‘they don’t like’, but focusing on those that support their chosen beliefs.  I’ve had lectures from them, as I’ve mentioned in other blogs on this site.  I have loved them all for their differences, for their courage, both in sticking so firmly to their beliefs in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and those who dared to be different.  I was not taught to be different at University, and no one told me I could be, even in passing … so I often felt conflicted between what the University appeared to want to read, and what I really wanted to say – such as “there is no Trinity”.  I put that statement at the bottom of one of my assignments, appropriately, and, in red ink, was told that “if I took something away I had to replace it with something else”.  I read that as “don’t change the rules” .. and shut up.  You don’t replace a mistake with another mistake.

Another time I was going to write an assignment on the Gospel of John.  I went to my good friends, the ex-nun and ex-Jesuit priest, to discuss it, and sat there dumbfounded as the Peter explained the core of the message to me, not section by section, the way we were taught to examine the Bible, but the sum of the whole .. and I knew I would never be as wise as he.  So I stopped studying for a while, caught up in my sense of failure – even though I knew he was brilliant, literally, and had been a priest for over 30 years.  There’s the folly, I could not match him at all, so I stopped trying.

But something always calls me home …

I cannot stay away from studying the Bible and questioning God.  I take breaks.  I do other things.  I try my best in the ‘real’ world, but the siren song of the Book always calls me.  And the Wisdom literature has always been my favourite.  According to the Bible, Wisdom is both a woman and a bitch.  I think I will examine that for a while …

The character of Wisdom in Proverbs has always been seen as contradictory. Proverbs is described as a literary gathering of diverse wisdom, which requires a “humble, earnest effort to hear what the other says and a willingness to see our world in the other’s terms” (18:13).(1)  Occasionally I might stretch your sense of other to almost breaking point, but I have found, through my searching, that some of the confusion is removed from the passages by a broader understanding of the nature of Wisdom when described as a being, rather than a set of rules. I have picked these three chapters because they show, to some degree, the conflict between what we think Wisdom is, and what it might actually be.

Proverbs 1:20-33  Wisdom as a female prophet

20 Wisdom cries out in the streets; in the squares she raises her voice.
21 At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
22 How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?
23 Give heed to my reproof; I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you.
24 Because I have called and you refused;  have stretched out my hand and no one heeded, 
25 And because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you,
27 when panic strikes you like a storm, and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.
28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30 would have none of my counsel, and despised all my reproof,
31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way and be sated with their own devices.
32 For waywardness kills the simple, and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33 but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.
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And then we have another question .. who is Wisdom actually?  Why do I ask that question, read the next two chapters.
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Proverbs 8:1-36  The Blessings of Wisdom
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1  Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?
2  On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she stakes her stand;
3  beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
4  “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.
5  O simple ones, learn prudence; acquire intelligence, you who lack it.
6  Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right;
7  for my mouth will utter truth, wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
8  All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.
9  They are all straight to him who understands and right to those who find knowledge.
10 Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold;
11 for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.
12 I, wisdom, live with prudence, and I attain knowledge and discretion.
13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.  Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
14 I have good advice and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength.
15 By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just;
16 by me rulers rule, and nobles, all who govern rightly.
17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.
18 Riches and honour are with me, enduring wealth and prosperity.
19 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver.
20 I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice,
21 endowing with wealth those who love me, and filling their treasuries.
22 The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.
23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth –
26 when he had not yet made the earth and fields, or the first bits of soil.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30 then I was beside him, like a master worker, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.
32 “And now, my children, listen to me; happy are those who keep my ways.
33 Hear instructions and be wise, and do not neglect it.
34 Happy is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.
35 For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favour from the Lord,
36 but those who miss me injure themselves; all who hate me love death.”
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Proverbs 9:1-18  The Way of Wisdom
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1  Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars.
2  She has slaughtered her animals; she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table.
3  She has sent out her servant girls, she calls from the highest places in the town,
4  “You that are simple, turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says,
5  “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.
6  Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”
7  Whoever corrects a scoffer wins abuse, whoever rebukes the wicked gets hurt.
8  A scoffer who is rebuked will only hate  you; the wise, when rebuked, will love you.
9  Give instruction to the wise, and they will become wiser still; teach the righteous and they will gain in learning.
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10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
11 For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life.
12 If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it.
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13 The foolish woman is loud; she is ignorant and knows nothing.
14 She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the high places of the town,
15 calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way,
16 “You who are simple, turn in here!”And to those without sense she says,
17 “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
18 But they do not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.
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There are some key issues I want to discuss here, but you will have to wait until next time …

Bibles:
The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 4th Edition, New Revised, Standard Version, with the Apocrypha. MD Coogan, Editor, Oxford University Press, 2010.

The Interlinear Bible, Hebrew, Greek, English, Green, JP, Sovereign Grace Publishers, Lafayette, Indiana USA. 1985

Commentaries – main:
The New Interpreter’s Bible, A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1997 (1) page 20
And a variety of others as mentioned.

Turning a new leaf – the Self through Wisdom Literature

In investigating the Self (myself) through Wisdom Literature, my first question has to be – ‘am I any the wiser for this long journey?’  And who measures that wisdom, if not myself?  Am I kinder, more worthy of love, a speaker of peace, less likely to judge, than when I was the child .. right now I would have to say no – for I am still the ashes of the phoenix and have not risen yet to be reborn.  So let me use the Wisdom of others to look upon this Self and see where we are now in the Journey of Life, from birth to rebirth, beginning at the ending … where ignorance is no longer bliss.

Condemned alike to groan;
The tender for another’s pain,
The unfeeling for his own.
Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies.
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
‘Tis folly to be wise.”
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As many people choose to do with the Bible, I quote only a small part at the end of a long poem by Thomas Gray, who speaks of life at Eton College, but could also be speaking about life in general, the highs and lows .. and asks that final question “Yet ah! why should they know their fate?” Which really leads on to the events in Revelation, but also leads back to the getting of Wisdom through the Bible and Apocrypha – Proverbs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Job, Wisdom of Solomon, Tobit, Judith, and many more.  Some deny the right or importance of the Apocrypha as a reference to our Spiritual past, but to me they show a broader field of understanding of the people who wrote the words we believe are important in understanding not just God and Jesus, but also the mindset and beliefs of the societies from which they came.
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The getting of wisdom can be a very painful process.  Lessons and learning drop into our laps, from multitudes of sources, but they do not become Wisdom until we learn to turn them inwards and apply them to ourselves.  We do not learn compassion from showing compassion, but only from suffering pain and loss of our own, so that we can step into the shoes of the ‘other’ and share, in some small way, the emotions that are driving their life journey.  We can then ’empathise’ rather than just ‘sympathising’.  Then we can ‘be’ Love (1 Cor 13), rather than just an observer, the clanging cymbal.
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“Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.”

― St. Patrick

The password to my mind

Every so often I forget the password to one of the many sites I write on on the internet, and no matter how I search my password book, I cannot find it – and so I am forced to examine myself to create a new password, a new key to the inner voice of Me that is expressed in the various pages of my blogs.

Since I ceased to write on this site more than a year ago the inner me has been tested by fire, and while its still feeling a little singed at the edges, I don’t think I .. or perhaps I did, to some degree .. have the whole phoenix experience, to emerge remade, or was it simply remodeled.

I drift.  I wish I could say it was in a sea of calm, but mostly it is in a sea of confusion, of tested compassion and patience, of wishing and wishful thinking, and wondering where God is in all these adventures.  I drift, as though in a row boat with no oars, sail or rudder, gently, quietly, after all of the rapids .. Do I need a holiday, or is that nearly over?  Is the slowly rising head of boredom a spur to send me down old paths when I thought I was guided to new?  When will the drifting cease, and the fountain of words return, that tell stories and shares thoughts without the struggle of ‘what to say’?  A blank page feels like a closed door right now.

Many years ago I met a nun who’s every greeting began with ‘and where is God in your life today’ .. I am sorry I lost track of her, she moved to Canada (from Australia) to study the ‘Spirituality of St Ignatius’, and left me rather floundering with my own. In the many years since that event, I’ve gone through angry and out the other side.  I’ve gone through broken and been the re-maker.  I’ve gone through a strong desire to change completely, and tried other paths, just to find myself come full-circle, back to where my heart truly is, at the feet of God, wondering ‘what next’ in this crazy adventure I have made of my life.  I … have … made … not God, because, while God is the core of my being, it (or he) is not the chooser of my path.

People say that God has a plan for every person, then stand bewildered when the plan includes them dying young, or in some horrible way, or withering into nothingness bound down by pain and sorrow, and those who are left behind stare at the place God was supposed to be and find it empty, and themselves empty, because God did not keep the promises we think it (he) made .. or worse, we are told that God made the promises, just before we (they) destroy ourselves, because the path has been too hard, or was it that we thought we were simply not good enough?

No, I am not suffering from depression.  Where is the bit I just wrote about being bored?  Boredom and I are not good companions.  I have no patience with bulldust, most particularly my own.  🙂

When I decided to reanimate this blog I took my favourite bible (I have 13 versions of the Christian bible, all different, or is it 14 now) and opened it up to find a password, and then when I didn’t like what I read, I went to one of my favourite passages .. and because I think I have been boring enough, let me copy it here.  You’ll recognise it –

  1. If I speak in the tongues of mortals or of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
  2. If I have the prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
  3. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
  4. Love is patient, love is kind; love is not envious, or boastful, or arrogant
  5. or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
  6. it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
  7. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
  8. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to the end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
  9. For we know only in part and we prophesy only in part,
  10. but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.
  11. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.
  12. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we shall see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
  13. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

I have looked into the glass darkly and only seen myself.  I have touched the darkness with both hands and found only God.  I have been a Spiritual Warrior who desperately wanted to put down her sword .. but no, it is still in my hand.  The Sword and the Words are the same being, according to Revelation.  Are we at the time when we will reveal ourselves truly, or should we just lay down our hearts and say “Dear God help us.  We are lost again”.

The Christians speak of the second coming as an age of miracles when we will be rescued from our own folly.  But why should God rescue us again, when we have ignored, denied, denigrated, destroyed and worse, and been hypocrites in ‘his’ name?  And continue these behaviors without regard for others.  We try to externalize the anti-Christ, when perhaps, we should look within ourselves?  The real mystery is why God continues to love all its (his) creations, and I do mean all of them, even after a millennia of bad behaviour.

So I shall lay down my sword and pick up a pen, or at least type on my keyboard, since my writing is pretty awful most of the time.  You’ll be seeing me.

Love & Peace

Created in ‘his’ likeness …

God created all of us in ‘his’ likeness. If we remove the sexism, assuming there is only one God, then God is both male and female. For simplification I’ll keep calling God ‘he’ ..

If God created all of us in his likeness, then some part of him is black, white, yellow, red and gay. Gay people use a rainbow flag .. I think that’s appropriate, because gay people are found in every culture in the world. Some cultures accept them and appreciate the difference, others condemn them and expect to see them in hell .. because people who ‘judge/condemn’ are breaking God’s commandments, so why do they think they will be going to heaven? Heck no, walk a mile in my shoes before you decide whether my beliefs are worse than yours .. at least I’m accepting of the differences, and I don’t see demons in every cupboard, or under every bed. Or in bed, for that matter .. and no, I am not gay.

Here’s a question for the genetics buffs .. why are there more people born homosexual or lesbian these days, or are they simply not pretending, or hiding, as much anymore? Is the devil suddenly in charge of human procreation that this would be happening? I don’t think so – so why has God decided that we need more of these people that are both male and female in their bodies .. without the external signs, because people are born hermaphrodites too? And while you dip frantically into the bible and start quoting Sodom and Gomorrah at me, better look in the mirror and thank God you were not born one of the hidden ‘under classes’, where persecution is a way of life and where you can’t feel you can be yourself in case someone finds out and hurts you. And yes, that is still happening all around the world.

I think perhaps the lesson humanity is being given is one of tolerance and kindness, of seeing past differences to the commonalities, the importance things, like ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ and ‘love one another’. That ‘love’ is not physical, but spiritual, unconditional love, that God gives to ALL of his creations .. or they would not continue to exist.

Jesus was not specific in condemning gay people, regardless of the attempts by people to define fornication as homosexual and lesbian behaviour. Perhaps, being the ‘son of God’ he could see past the small and unimportant issues, look into the loving hearts of every individual .. no matter which way they expressed their true natures? After all, as I have just written .. God created all things, God is in all things, and all things return to God .. even the judgmental people.

BE of a loving heart ….

God, my way

I had a man come to the door a few weeks ago, clutching some white paper, neatly folded.  I opened the door cheerfully and he told me he was from a local town, specifically a church in a local town.  Being me, I love discussing theology, belief, the bible and people’s opinions about all of it, and we stood on the doorstep and talked for about 15 minutes, before he left me his ‘questions and answers’ sheet to fill in .. two of them, of the twelve that the members of his church give to newcomers to help them learn about God and the Bible.   When we had done all twelve we get a free bible (it’s very pretty, he said).  Pretty?  Ok, I can add another to my collection.  Lovely!

Weeks passed before I had time to sit down and really peruse those little booklets.  We are very busy with renovations at the moment, and everything else had been on the backburner.  When I did sit down, after promising I would when he came to ‘collect’ my answers to the leaflets the last time, I treated them like anything else biblically based – study ‘critically’ (that does not mean judgmental, it means a ‘close review’), check all the quotes, and then corrected a couple .. amazing how small corrections might change a meaning or two.  Then I realised how I was supposed to answer them – copy the text out of the bible, word by word, onto the indicated spaces on the form .. they even gave me one space for each word.  Umm.. that’s not really my way, and I had told the man I was a theologian and would write my thoughts, which he was happy to receive .. so I did.

He arrived for the first lot of answers, we had a brief chat, he left, leaving another pair of readings and questions to answer .. love it.  Great fun! 

Next visit I handed over the next set of answers, and he handed me over to his wife.  The ‘women take care of the women’ in their church.  Ok, no problem, she had written some comments to my first lot of answers, so I commented on her answers (because she wanted to have a ‘discussion’) and presented them with the second lot of answers.  Lovely!  

I could say here ‘after that it was all downhill’?  The first Bible Study had been on ‘Evidence for the Existence of God’.  The second ‘the origin of Evil’.  The third was ‘the Good News’ (who is Jesus etc), the fourth on ‘nations in prophecy’, which really had nothing much except criticisms of various countries around the world, and their leaders, and a world history review .. which was very interesting.  Plus there was a DVD to watch, which wouldn’t work on my TV, so I found the program on YouTube and watched it there.  The concepts ‘reached’ (not stretched) so far, some fell over .. but .. everyone is entitled to their beliefs, whether they agree with mine or not.  So I answered their questions and added comments of my own, and then looked at the next two booklets.  In the meantime the lady had come back to get three and four …

The next day, Sunday, I checked my letterbox and found a letter, neatly written.  In it it said that they were very sorry that their bible study booklets were raising so many questions and doubts in me.  I stood there thinking ‘what doubts’ .. or what ‘new’ doubts and questions had their booklets raised?  None that I could see.  No, instead I had been doing what I usually do .. asking for answers to the tough questions.  I know from a conversation that I had with that lady, the second time she came to the house, that they didn’t ask tough questions, just focused on the ‘good’ stuff .. the good stuff?  That meant they ignored the things they didn’t want to think about, like the story of Job, and other things I have mentioned on this site before.   It puzzles me that people choose to ignore the nasty side of ‘god’, and yet focus on the Messiah of Retribution that Revelation describes is coming to collect all the good Christians, and send the rest of the heathens to hell.  Do they ever stop and wonder which side they will be placed on, when he turns up?  Or if it will actually be Jesus, who taught only love and peace .. this guy with a flaming sword, or a sword in his mouth, and his horde of angels bent on destruction?

Booklet five is ‘Signs of Christ’s second Coming’, and the sixth is ‘the Second Coming of Christ’.  I shall review them too, and write my comments, though the people are no longer interested in the answers.  I regret not getting the other six, perhaps I should have played the game, but it would have been a game, and not truth, if I had answered in the way they expected me to.  There is a huge difference between being a ‘believer’ and being a ‘theologian’, though I know plenty of theologians, including me, who continue to believe in Jesus Christ, as both man and God.  I have my reasons, though they are not based in the infallibility of the bible, which has proved to be full of contradictions.  A friend even asked me about the unicorns mentioned in her KJV just the other day.

I am not you, but you have as much right as I do to find God in your own way.  I will not abandon you when you ask the tough questions, when you tell me where I am going wrong with my thoughts, when you yell and rant .. this has all happened to me.  Oh no, I wasn’t doing the yelling, I was on the receiving end .. from someone a long time ago.  I am going to hell, according to them, because I don’t believe ‘their way’.  Well, I believe that God, being omnipotent, is large enough to encompass all our beliefs and be ‘God for all people’, not just ‘God, my way’.

What do you believe?