Lectionary Reflection for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from 1 & 2 Kings (BTCB) by Peter J. Leithart, commenting on 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14:

In large part, the historical discussions miss the point of biblical wisdom. Augustine assumes something like a Platonic epistemological dualism of sensible and intelligible that rests on the metaphysical dualism between the world of forms and the world of experience, while Thomas’s conception, though preferable in many ways, remains too intellectualist to capture the biblical conception.

In Scripture, wisdom is often more closely associated with the skill of the woodcutter than with the ecstasies of the mystic. The Hebrew word for wisdom (hmkx) often means “artistic skill” (Exod. 28:3; 31:3; 35:31; 1 Kgs. 7:14), and even where the reference is not directly to art, the esthetic and practical dimension is not left behind.

A furniture maker displays wisdom in craftsmanship, not only by knowing “causes” but by excellence in the sheer physical activity of the craft. A musician displays wisdom in making music, a parent in training and guiding children. There is a craft or art to these endeavors, and overall Proverbs is a book of instruction concerning skillful living, teaching how to construct a life that is attractive, fitting, and beautiful.

Jesus, the incarnate wisdom, is wisdom in just this sense, the one who embodies, as Nicolas of Cusa said, the art of the Father, the craftsman who shapes the raw and ruined matter of this world into the kingdom of God, the teacher who instructs his disciples how to build well (Matt. 7:24–27).

First Kings 3 is one of the great biblical treatments of wisdom and sets wisdom firmly in this practical—and in this case political—context.


©2006 by Peter J. Leithart. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.