Sola Scriptura: Mistakes made by the Apostolic Fathers based upon tradition
Proverbs 8:22 "The created wisdom woman"
The first historical reference to wrongly interpreting Prov 8:22 as referring to Christ is 150 AD, Justin Martyr, in Dialogue, Ch CXXIX.
Widsom in Prov 8:22 is a woman! God went out of His way to make sure we didn't apply it to Christ!
To show the folly of this literal interpretation of poetic language, if Jesus is Wisdom, then who is Prudence? "I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, And I find knowledge and discretion." Prov 8:12
Clark Carlton, and Orthodox defender, highlights that many of the recorded "church fathers" had initially interpreted the wrong view of Prov 8:22. This illustrates how the wrong view of Proverbs 8:22f was adopted and later used against those who invented it to prove Jesus was a creature.
Clark Carlton explains how Justin's wrong view was used against the church: "Arius was a presbyter of the Church of Alexandria in the early fourth century. The controversy began with his interpretation of Proverbs 8:22ff., where Solomon speaks of Wisdom: The Lord created Me at the beginning of His work, the first of His acts of old (RSV). Everyone, both Orthodox and Arian, understood Wisdom to be Christ. The question was, what does this verse mean. Arius' answer was that the Logos is a creature, albeit the highest, noblest, and best of creatures. Those who sought to uphold the Orthodox doctrine that Christ is the uncreated Son of God had to deal with Arius' interpretation of Proverbs. St. Hilary of Poitiers wrote that this passage was "the greatest billow in the storm they raise, the big wave of the whirling tempest." The Orthodox countered that the passage refers to the humanity of Christ, not to His divinity. Here we have two groups that recognized the same Scriptures and agreed that the verse in question refers to Christ, yet they arrived at diametrically opposed interpretations. Now, there is no question that both parties considered their positions self-evident. Everyone's interpretation of the Bible seems self-evident to himself. That does not make it self-evident to others, however. The question remains, therefore, how did they decide which interpretation is correct?" (THE WAY: What Every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Church, Clark Carlton, 1997, p 102)
Carlton, is always looking for ways to trash the need for the Bible and would love it if all Bibles on earth were destroyed and all we had left was the opinion of his Orthodox Church. He actually uses Prov 8:22 as an example of why sola Scriptura doesn't work. What it proves, is that tradition doesn't work, because most Trinitarians today, including the Roman Catholic church, do not apply Prov 8:22 to Christ any more.
Although Carlton is wrong when he says the "Orthodox" merely started to apply the text to the "humanity of Christ, not to His divinity", there were some who did just that: "An explanation of Acts ii. 36 and Proverbs viii. 22, which are shown to refer properly to Christ's manhood alone." (Ambrose, Exposition of the Christian Faith, Book 1, 94) What sense would that make, since his humanity was there in the beginning before creation! This view creates just as many difficulties as the last. This is what drove the Roman Catholic church to reject Justin's view altogether and start applying it to Mary. (at least she is a women)
Carlton should take note that Athanasius (325 AD) rejected that Prov 8:12 applied to Christ at all: "Therefore let them tell us, from what teacher or by what tradition they derived these notions concerning the Saviour? "We have read," they will say, "in the Proverbs, 'The Lord created me a beginning of His ways i unto His works;'" this Eusebius and his fellows used to insist on, and you write me word, that the present men also, though overthrown and confuted by an abundance of arguments, still were putting about in every quarter this passage, and saying that the Son was one of the creatures, and reckoning Him with things originated. But they seem to me to have a wrong understanding of this passage also; for it has a religious and very orthodox sense, which had they understood, they would not have blasphemed the Lord of glory. For on comparing what has been above stated with this passage, they will find a great difference between them. For what man of right understanding does not perceive, that what are created and made are external to the maker; but the Son, as the foregoing argument has shewn, exists not externally, but from the Father who begat Him?" (Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, De Decretis or Defence of the Nicene Definition, 13)
Roman Catholics today apply Proverb 8:22 to Mary not Christ at all! I guess after getting beat up for so many years that the wisdom of proverbs was a woman, they changed their view. Of course it doesn't refer to Mary any more than Christ, because now the Roman Catholics must deal with the fact that the text says "wisdom was with God in the beginning of time" as the Jehovah's Witnesses apply the passage. "From the texts Proverbs 8... which exalt the Wisdom of God and which in the liturgy are applied to Mary, the most beautiful work of God's Wisdom" (New Advent, Catholic encyclopedia, Immaculate Conception of Mary) " and also concerning Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs, 8:22-31" (New Advent, Catholic encyclopedia, The Blessed Virgin Mary, Old Testament Types And Figures Of Mary)
Christadelphians, who are Arians that reject Jesus existed before his conception, also reject that Prov 8:22 refers to Christ! That's because if it did, it would prove Jesus pre-existed the "incarnation" (which they also reject). Here are heretics that got the right interpretation of Prov 8:22 but now had to deal with the vast number of other passages that prove Christ pre-existed the incarnation. (Jn 1:1; Jn 8:58)
We highlight that this is an example of where tradition doesn't work. Even though the entire church including the Arians interpreted Prov 8:22, as referring to Christ, they were wrong! Only after the Arians started making more out of the passage then what Justin originally intended, did they reject Justin's interpretation. The vast majority of Christians today, in fact, agree that Justin and the early church got it wrong. And this is exactly what this reference says they did: "In the long-recognized scriptural testimony for the Logos-doctrine provided by Prov. viii, 22ff. the exegetes of the second and third centuries had found the creation of the pre-existent Logos-Christ set forth without dispute and equivocation. But now, when the Arians also interpreted the passage in this way, the interpretation was suddenly reckoned as false." (The Formation Of Christian Dogma, Martin Werner, p158. Note: Werner is a liberal modernist whom Catholics and Orthodox frequently quote from)
This all proves that tradition did not catch the error.
What Clark Carlton misses, is that this example also shows that his beloved "church tradition" also got it wrong! Clark Carlton writes, "The Orthodox countered that the passage refers to the humanity of Christ, not to His divinity". (THE WAY: What Every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Church, Clark Carlton, 1997, p 102) Of course Carlton knows that is was not the original view, but one that was "thought up on the fly" in order to counter Arius. This illustrates that the "orthodox interpretation" of Prov 8:22 was indeed wrong because prior to Arius, no one had ever even thought about the verse as only applying to Jesus humanity alone. In fact, such an interpretation is so ridiculous, that it would send honest seekers into the ravenous claws of neo-Arians like Jehovah's Witnesses. The context of Prov 8:22 is that "wisdom" was created. How such a spiritual, non-physical thing like wisdom could refer to the humanity of Christ, is a true puzzle. Furthermore, wisdom is a personified as woman in the passage! Obviously then, the passage clearly does not refer to Christ at all! Some overzealous preacher thought it up in a sermon and others started preaching it, until it became orthodox. Instead of suddenly modifying the interpretation of Prov 8:22 to refer exclusively to the humanity of Christ, church leaders should have said that they were wrong at the foundational level namely, that the text doesn't refer to Christ at all. But we do highlight, that prior to Arius coming along, the orthodox view of the passage was to apply it to the whole of Christ, without ever even taking note of whether is applied merely to Christ's humanity. But Carlton actually deceives you because the Nicene fathers did exactly what we would expect them to do, namely: reject that the passage refers to Christ at all!
By Steve Rudd
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