Bible Question:

What does Proverb 8:22-31 mean? Does this passage mean Jesus was created?

Bible Answer:

Proverbs 8:22-31 has been interpreted in primarily two different ways. Some claim that the passage refers to God the Son but the majority of Biblical scholars understand the passage as referring to wisdom. Proverbs 8:22 was a highly contested verse during the Arian controversy. Arius (A.D. 250-36) taught that the Son of God was not divine but was a created being. The A.D. 325 Council of Nicea rejected Arius’ teaching and in the Nicene Creed affirmed that Jesus was not created.

The purpose of this article is to answer the question, “What is the meaning of Proverbs 8:22-31?” Is the verse telling us that Jesus was created or is it teaching about wisdom? First, we will review who wrote Proverbs? Then we will answer the question does Proverbs 8:22-31 mean Jesus was created by God?

Proverbs 8:22 - Was Jesus Created?

Who Wrote Proverbs?

The book of Proverbs has two sets of authors according to 2 Peter 1:20-21. The Holy Spirit is the first author who moves or carries along the second author. For this book there was a group of authors including King Solomon. What they wrote was divinely inspired and, therefore, accurate.

The majority of the book was written by King  Solomon according to Proverbs 1:1. The book of Proverbs contains 915 verses and King Solomon wrote 769 verses or eighty-four percent of the book. The sections the king did not write are Proverbs 22:17-24:34 and chapters 30 and 31.

According to Proverbs 22:17, chapters 22:17-24:34 were written by some unidentified “wise men.” King Solomon is the author of Proverbs 25:1-29:27, but that was transcribed by King Hezekiah of Judah. Proverbs 30 was written by Agur, the son of Jaken, a prophet, and Proverbs 31 was composed by King Lemuel, another prophet.

1 Kings 4:29 tells us that God gave King Solomon great wisdom.

Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of  mind, like the sand that is on the seashore.  1 Kings 4:29 (NASB)

His God given wisdom is reflected in the book of Proverbs. In summary, the book of Proverbs is divinely inspired truth.

Is Proverbs 8:22 About Jesus?

Proverbs 8:22-31 is a very interesting passage of Scripture. When we read it, we discover that Yahweh, our God, is not speaking. The question that people have tried to understand is: who is speaking in verse 22?  Is the Son of God speaking or is Wisdom speaking? Here is the entire passage.

The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way,
Before His works of old.
From everlasting I was established,
From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
When there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled,
Before the hills I was brought forth;
While He had not yet made the earth and the fields,
Nor the first dust of the world.
When He established the heavens, I was there,
When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep,
When He made firm the skies above,
When the springs of the deep became fixed,
When He set for the sea its boundary
So that the water would not transgress His command,
When He marked out the foundations of the earth;
Then I was beside Him, as a master workman;
And I was daily His delight,
Rejoicing always before Him,
Rejoicing in the world, His earth,
And having my delight in the sons of men.
Proverbs 8:22-29 (NASB)

The first thing we need to notice is that the speaker says, “The LORD possessed me,” “From everlasting I was established,” “I was brought forth,” “When He established the heavens, I was there,” “Then I was beside Him” and “I was daily His delight.” These statements are not referring to the Son of God because they do not agree with Colossians 1:16-17 which states that Jesus Christ created all things and was before all things.

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:16-17 (NASB)

The statements in Proverbs 8:22-31 cannot refer to the creation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, because Colossians 1:16-17 says that He created all things and was before all things. The Greek Greek word “all” is pas, includes all things, that includes Him. This means that Proverbs 8:22 cannot be referring to Jesus Christ.

The second important fact is that the Hebrew word translated as “possessed” in verse 22 (in the NASB) is qana. While there is debate about the meaning of qana, one must remember that of the 81 times this Hebrew word appears in the Old Testament, the word almost always refers to something that was bought, purchased, redeemed or acquired—something that already exists. This is the conclusion of the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament,

The verb qana is the usual word for “buying” something.[1]

A few times the word is translated as owner or possessed in the ESV, NASB, NIV and NKJV. Here are just a few examples: Genesis 25:10; 33:19; 39:1; 47:19; Leviticus 22:11; 25:14-15; Deuteronomy 28:68; 32:6; Joshua 24:32; Ruth 4:8, 10; Proverbs 4:5, 7; 15:32; 17:16; 20:14; 23:23). The predominate meaning of the word has the sense of a possessor or an owner and the context in which this word is translated argues for “possessor” or “owner” and not creator. The context is the ultimate source for determining the meaning of a word. How qana is used gives the correct insight into its meaning. Therefore, it would be inconsistent to translate qana as created.

This means that the NASB translation of Proverbs 8:22 is the preferred one. That is, Yahweh already possessed the speaker. Does this suggest that Yahweh already “possessed the Son of God”? Or, does this verse argue for the concept of the trinity? In the next section, we will answer these questions.

Is Proverbs 8:22 About Wisdom?

Once again the context helps us understand the meaning of Proverbs 8:22. Since the speaker in Proverbs 8:22 is called “me,” we need to discover if the context reveals the identity of the speaker. It does. The identity of “me” is given in Proverbs 8:12.

I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,
And I find knowledge and discretion.
Proverbs 8:12 (NASB)

Then wisdom refers to itself as “I,” “me” and “mine” in every verse (v 13-21) before verse 22. Sometimes wisdom refers to itself multiple times in each verse. In verse 22, wisdom refers to itself as “me” and then “I” in verses 23, 24, 25, 27, and 30. Then after Proverbs 8:22-31, wisdom refers to itself again as “me” in verses 32, 34, 35 and 36. Then in Proverbs 9:1 wisdom calls itself “wisdom.” We must remember that chapters and verses were added after the book of Proverbs was written. This means that chapter 9 is a continuation of chapter 8. So what is the point? Proverbs 8:22 is about wisdom. Is is not about the Son of God.

Conclusion:

The message of Proverbs 8:22 is that God had wisdom from the beginning! He did not acquire it sometime later. The world was created by divine wisdom.

The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way . . . Proverbs 8:22 (NASB)

Proverbs personifies wisdom. It is a stunning and powerful presentation that challenges us to want the wisdom that only God can provide. Don’t you want divine wisdom? Wisdom calls out to us—urges us to come and learn. Notice the verses that follow Proverbs 8:22-31 urge us to want wisdom.

Now therefore, O sons, listen to me,
For blessed are they who keep my ways.
Heed instruction and be wise,
And do not neglect it.
Blessed is the man who listens to me,
Watching daily at my gates,
Waiting at my doorposts.
For he who finds me finds life
And obtains favor from the LORD.
But he who sins against me injures himself;
All those who hate me love death.
Proverbs 8:32-36 (NASB)

The series Jesus Is God explains in great detail that Jesus was God in the Old Testament, in the gospels and in the rest of the New Testament. Jesus was and is God. He was never created.

 

References:

1. Harris & Archer. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody Press. 1980. vol. 2, p. 788.p. 803.
2. Willem A. VanGremeren. New International Dictionary of the Old Testament Theology and Exegesis. Zondrvan Publishing. 1997. vol 3, p. 887.

Suggested Links:

What is the Nicene Creed of A.D. 325 and A.D. 381?
What is the Chalcedonian Creed of A.D. 451?
What is the Athanasian Creed of A.D. 570? – Symbolum Quicunque
What is the Apostles’ Creed of the third or fourth century A.D.?