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Commentators like Ellicott indicate that the ante-nicene Christian writers (from A.D. 100 to the Council of Nicaea) read Proverbs 8:22 christologically, that is, in reference to Christ.

In what way did these writers understand this verse christologically?

  • 1) Please support your claim "it is known that the sub-apostolic early church fathers ( 2nd century up to the 4th century) read Proverbs 8:22 Christologically" 2) The subapostolic age denotes the period from around 100 AD to around 156 AD, not the 2nd to 4th centuries. 3) Please clearly state the question in the body of the question. 4) Please copy relevent passages into the body of the question 5) The "trinity heresy" link is unexplained, and further confuses what you are asking. – Andrew Jun 17 '15 at 7:56
  • @Andrew I edited my question.It's now way better. – Radz C. Brown Aug 14 '15 at 14:40
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Early (pre-Nicaea) church fathers interpreted this verse christologically in the sense that Christ is eternally begotten of the Father.

Ellicott writes that this was the view held by early fathers like Justin Martyr and Tertullian:

When in Christian times it was observed how well the description of Wisdom in Job and Proverbs harmonised with that of God the Son in the New Testament, such passages as this were universally applied to Him, and the present one was rightly interpreted as describing His eternal generation from the Father. Such was the view, for instance, of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian.

Justin Martyr uses Proverbs 8:22 in his argument about the nature of Christ, and concludes:

Scripture has declared that this Offspring was begotten by the Father before all things created; and that which is begotten is numerically distinct from that which begets, any one will admit. (Dialogue with Trypho, 129)

In reference to Proverbs 8:22, Tertullian writes:

Thus does He make Him equal to Him: for by proceeding from Himself He became His first-begotten Son, because begotten before all things. (Against Praxeas, 7)

Others, like Athenagoras (A Plea for the Christians, 10) hold the same view, and some argue that Origen represented "patristic exegesis" in interpreting the passage as referring to Christ's "continual coming into existence" (Waltke, Book of Proverbs, Chapters 1–15, p127).

It's important to note that later writers, like Augustine and Athanasius, developed different views of how this passage applies to Christ. They did this as a response to the Arian controversy. The earliest fathers, however, when interpreting the passage christologically, understood it to refer to the eternally begotten nature of Christ.

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The ante-nicene Christian writers read Sapiental passages (Prov. 8:22 etc.) Christologically to evince the Godhead of the Son by his begetting from the Father:

And it is by that very way, dear friends, that we find our own salvation: even Jesus Christ, the High Priest by whom our gifts are offered, and the Protector by whom our feebleness is aided. Through him we can look up to the highest heaven and see, as in a glass, the peerless perfection of the face of God. Through him the eyes of our hearts are opened … for through him the Lord permits us to taste the Wisdom of eternity. He is 'the splendour of God's majesty; and as much greater than the angels as the title he has inherited is a loftier one than theirs.' For it is written, 'He makes his angels into winds, and his servitors into a flame of fire, but of the Son the Lord declares, You are my Son, this very day I have fathered you…' (Clement of Alexandria, 1 Corinthians 36, ca. c. AD 95 – 97.)

I will give you another testimony from the Scriptures, that God begot before all creatures a Beginning, who was a certain Rational Power from himself, and whom the Holy Spirit calls the Glory of the Lord, or sometimes the Son, sometimes Wisdom, sometimes an Angel, sometimes God, sometimes Lord and Word. … He can be called by all these names because he ministers to the will of the Father and was begotten by the Father's will. We see things similarly amongst ourselves: for whenever we utter some word, we beget a word-yet not by any cutting off which would diminish the word in us when we utter it. (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 61)

For I would not say that the dogma of that heresy which is said to be among you is true, or that the teachers of it can prove that [God] spoke to angels, or that the human frame was the workmanship of angels. But this Offspring, which was truly brought forth from the Father, was with the Father before all the creatures, and the Father communed with Him; even as the Scripture by Solomon has made clear, that He whom Solomon calls Wisdom, was begotten as a Beginning before all His creatures and as Offspring by God, who has also declared this same thing in the revelation made by Joshua the son of Nave (Nun). (Justin Martyr, ibid., 62)

What can be better entitled to the name of Wisdom than the Reason or Word of God? Listen therefore to Wisdom herself, constituted in the character of a second Person. "At first the Lord created me as the beginning of his ways, with a view to his own works. Before he made the earth, before the mountains were settled, moreover, before all the hills did he beget me."That is to say, he created and generated his own intelligence (Tertullian, Against Praxeas 6, c. A.D. 210).

Exegesis and Patristics

"The Lord created me as the first of his works, before his works of old."

Proverbs 8:22 (LXX)

This text predated the New Testament writings; it says that God’s attribute of wisdom is created prior to the creation of all things.

The context of Proverbs 8:22 is talking about what the Latin Church fathers call “creation ad intra” (produced from one’s being i.e. begetting) as opposed to “creation ex nihilo” (produced out from nothing). This means that there is not one meaning to create .Even in us humans, we know that to begat is to create albeit in the context of "heredity".

One of the creation ad intra examples is “begetting” (to make someone have one’s nature).An example of this is a human father who begot a human offspring.A human person from a human person.

This is the kind of creation that is being talked about in Proverbs 8:22.The immediate contexts show this:

Verse 22 The Lord created me (Greek: KTISIS)

Verse 25 He begets me (Greek: GENNAO)

Proverbs 8 (Septuagint)

One example of creation ex nihilo is the creation of the flora (plant life) on the third day ( Genesis 1:13).God created the "flora" (plant life) by his speech ex nihilo (Genesis 1:11-12;Hebrews 11:3).God caused flora that is non-existent to become existent.

The Diaspora Jews knew very well the Wisdom Theology of the inspired Scriptures.In Sirach 24:9 [an inter-testamental writing), God’s wisdom is said to be “created before all ages.”

This coheres with the apostolic teaching as found in the New Testament Scriptures:

He is the image of the invisible God, the first begotten of every creature.

Colossians 1:15 (1599 Geneva Bible)

This fits the context. The reason is that everything was created in, by and for the Son that is why he is called the first begotten prior to "all creation".The Son was not created ex nihilo! The Son is begotten from God!The Son is the "only begotten" from God ( John 1:18, 3:16). Jesus is a divine person (the Son) from a divine person (the Father).This is what the early church believed as well:

"If … it occurs to you to inquire what is meant by the Son, I will state briefly that he is the first product of the Father, not as having been brought into existence, for from the beginning God, who is the eternal mind, had the Logos in himself, being from eternity instinct with Logos."

Plea for the Christians ( A.D. 177) ~ Athenagoras

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    Great answer. I would add that Proverbs and Psalms often speak poetically and with allegory or anthropomorphism, conveying concepts of truth-not literal fact truth. ("An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is a conceptual truth, not a literal truth). In the entire context of Proverbs the writer(s) assert wisdom is one of the supreme virtues, and much of the phraseology is intended to strongly get that point across. Being begat/created first in a first-born centered culture can be conceptual for "the wise is the inheritor of all things". – user2782001 Apr 22 '15 at 20:01
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    Your paragraph that begins "logic dictates" directly contradicts, nullifies, and ignores the verse in question. This answer also fails to answer the question as asked ("how did the early church..."), since you complete your answer without mention of a single source from the early church. What evidence do you have that this reading you provide is one taught in the church at any time, let alone the early church? – Andrew May 24 '15 at 14:55
  • I'm more confused about the question after reading this answer than before, which is odd since you wrote both the question and answer. You state that Jesus is the Wisdom, but you spend the majority of your words discussing whether or not Wisdom is created, and it's not clear why. Again, you really don't answer the question at all, since you don't discuss how the fathers of that period read the passage in question or those like it. Your citations are from sources written after the subapostolic age. Even so, they don't directly support your thesis that Jesus is the Wisdom. – Andrew Jun 17 '15 at 8:06
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    My suggestions are: to argue that Jesus is Wisdom doesn't answer the question. You must demonstrate from the subapostolic fathers that their reading was that Jesus is Wisdom. Try writers like Polycarp and Irenaeus. Don't just paste verse addresses. Copy the relevant text into the answer body. Drop the created/begotten dilemma. It's irrelevant to the question as asked. To answer the question as posed, demonstrate how the they read the Wisdom literature, not how you read it, even if they're the same. Grammar and formatting need help. Read some other high scoring answers for examples. – Andrew Jun 17 '15 at 8:16
  • @Andrew Thank you for noticing it.I'll edit my answer. – Radz C. Brown Aug 14 '15 at 13:58

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