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Holy Bible

In the first of a two part article, LLOYD HARKNESS looks at Greek word for wisdom – sophia… 

Wisdom has a rival for Lady Liberty and her name is Sophia.

Just as Lady Liberty is a construct of liberty in all her beauty so too is wisdom’s Lady Sophia.

James, in his letter, describes her beauty as pure, peaceable, gentle, easily entreated, merciful, impartial and without hypocrisy. In general terms, she is a woman who only produces ‘good fruit’. Her character is unimpeachable. She is a stunner.

Holy Bible

ON THE RECORD: The Gospels contain many “clear statements” Jesus made about wisdom, says Lloyd Harkness. PICTURE: Barbara Sanna/

“Sophia, broadly, is any general application of what is deemed wise. Sophia is doing life successfully.”

Some people have stretched her prowess to the status of a goddess or a virginal spirit God sent into the world.

Yeah. I did say s-t-r-e-t-c-h.

But the beauty of wisdom’s character cannot be denied.

The Greek word sophia, wisdom, stemming from sophos, wise, is used extensively throughout the New Testament.

Sophia, broadly, is any general application of what is deemed wise. Sophia is doing life successfully.

In the first century Roman Empire, sophistry and sophists still maintained significant influence in the culture of the day. The sophists incorporated Greek philosophers and teachers who speculated on science and theology.

Their orators would debate anything, often quibblingly so. They were big on rhetoric and logical argument. The methods they employed came to mean using oratory skills and techniques to make claims, which often seem true but are false, to persuade and influence. This use of language is evident today in hard-sell techniques, in the loaded language of self-empowerment gurus and advertising’s clever appeals to our emotions.

While sophistry and sophist come from sophia and help us understand an element of Roman culture (something Paul addresses), they have nothing to do with God’s sophia.

The Gospels record some very clear statements Jesus made about wisdom.

When He was criticised for not behaving the same as John the Baptist, specifically that He ate and drank and befriended tax collectors and sinners, His simple rebuff was “wisdom is proved right by her actions”. Everything Jesus had done and would do, sophia would vindicate.

When it comes to Christ, it is pointless making comparisons with anyone else – even John the Baptist.

Jesus was saying ‘You need to know me, to understand who I am’.

All of sophia’s earlier messengers, the prophets of the Old Testament in particular, culminate in the sophia of Jesus.

As Jesus was want to remind His disciples, He never did anything He did not first receive from the Father.

Towards the end of His public ministry, Jesus drew attention to Israel’s history, noting the Jews had often rejected sophia’s message, choosing rather to persecute and kill the prophets. Now sophia’s ultimate messenger was walking their dusty roads and those in power still had the same disposition – despite Jesus being God’s wisdom incarnate.

Wisdom’s main activity is teaching and throughout Jesus ministry, He spent more time teaching than any other activity.

Sophia gives and affirms life. Sophia stresses intimacy.


Jesus taught, lived and demonstrated sophia.  

He was matter of fact when He said accept me and my teaching and you will never hunger or thirst again.

As you walk with me, I will walk with you explaining and demonstrating how to live in the Father’s presence. It is not a bad offer when this was the foremost attribute lost to humanity in the Garden of Eden.

God is in the business of giving and restoring life.

Although I am sick of the cliché ‘I have been on a journey’ – a standard line in reality TV which is in itself a sophism, it does accurately describe Jesus’ offer. Join me, be my travel companion like the first disciples, and I will instruct, advise, correct, assist, provide for, guide, lead and sustain.

Jesus is the sophia of God and the Word of God. He is the lynchpin of God’s salvation plan, a plan shrouded in mystery and only half-grasped until His appearance.

This is God’s sophia which is still deemed foolishness by those who do not believe.

A fuller discussion of Lady Sophia and foolishness is in Corinthians, which is where we will be heading next time.

Until then, like a TV executive, let me say: ‘Sophia is to be continued’.


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