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Operations of the Spirit: Part 9(b), Proverbs 1 – 9

 

 

 

 

This is the second subpart of the ninth of fifteen parts to an 
essay entitled "Operations of the Spirit"; this part covers 
Proverbs 1 through Proverbs 9 and necessarily addresses, albeit not 
comprehensively, the gender of the Holy Ghost. 

The entire essay is just over one hundred pages 
if printed out, so it is presented serially in this blog. These 
parts should be read sequentially, because each builds on the 
previous parts. Hopefully, readers will have comments, suggestions 
and criticisms. The fifteen parts are as follows: 
I. Introduction, Part I 
II. Confusing Terms, Part II 
III. Metaphors and Meaning, Parts III through VI 
     A. The still small voice, Part III 
     B. The heart and reins, Part IV
     C. Light and burning, as in a burning in the bosom, Part V 
     D. Extracting meaning from metaphors,, Part VI 
IV. The Scriptures and the Spirit, Parts VII through X 
     A. The Oliver Cowdery revelations: D&C 6, 8 and 9, Parts VII(a), (b), and (c) 
     B. Other modern-day scriptures, Part VIII 
     C. Ancient scriptures about the Spirit, Part IX 
     D. Extraordinary events, Part X 
V. The Spirit and Individual Affectations, Part XI 
VI. Conclusion, Part XII 

There are footnotes in this work. You can read the footnotes 
by hovering your cursor over the note, or you can click 
on the note to read it as text. There is a symbol at the end 
of each footnote that allows you to return to the text 
by clicking on it.

 

XI. ANCIENT SCRIPTURES ABOUT THE SPIRIT (cont.)

B. Proverbs 1–9, Wisdom personified as the Holy Ghost

There is no explicit reference to the Holy Ghost in the Old Testament,1 but the first nine chapters of Proverbs personify Wisdom–chochman in Hebrew–as though she (wisdom is a feminine word in Hebrew) is the Holy Ghost.2 This characterization is embodied in the offices Wisdom performs in these chapters. Lady Wisdom does the things one expects the Holy Ghost to do.

Proverbs begins with an overview of what it is the Holy does for those prompted by the Spirit. The Lady Wisdom of Proverbs teaches one

To know wisdom and instruction;

to perceive the words of understanding;

To receive the instruction of wisdom,

justice, and judgment, and equity;

To give subtilty to the simple,

to the young man knowledge and discretion.

A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and

a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:

To understand a proverb, and the interpretation;

the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.3

What follows this introductory overview is not just another proverb; rather, the book continues with the formula for attaining and keeping the blessings of the Spirit. These blessings do not involve the Spirit’s interference with one’s free agency; rather, the Spirit–Lady Wisdom–is there to bless with enlightenment and knowledge.

The beginning of knowledge and discretion is reverence for the Lord and instruction received at the feet of one’s parents. 4 Then, the one striving for the Spirit must eschew temptation and resulting wickedness,5 and recognize that the Spirit is everywhere to be had and a comfort or fortification against evil.6 This is followed by understanding of the Lord and His ways,7 and the resulting inculcation that will deliver one from evil so that the with the Spirit will walk with good men—the righteous—rather than the wicked, who will be cut off.8 This walk with the righteous then requires that the individual keep the Lord’s commandments, trust in His understanding, acknowledge the Lord’s hand, and always flee from evil, knowing that the Lord will correct him.9 Happiness, peace, and the tree of life 10 is the result, and one is good and just to his neighbors and friends, not a scorner.11 The importance of getting Wisdom is so important that these injunctions are repeated a second time,12 and during this repetition the injunction is given to “Drink waters out of thine own cistern|and running waters out of thine own well.”13 This injunction to draw from within must be because the Spirit works from within to fortify one’s life with righteousness and the learning one attains as he advances in righteousness toward perfection.

The importance of Wisdom and righteousness is the pragmatic message of the first nine chapters of Proverbs. Proverbs uses the imagery of looking out a window at a naive young man who follows after the harlot in the street, the strange women from whom the man’s kinswoman and sister, Lady Wisdom, would keep him.14

The close relationship between Lady Wisdom and the Lord is, also, explained in these chapters, but particularly, in chapter eight. Wisdom declares (1) that she vouches for the Lord in understandable terms,15 (2) that she is the source of wisdom, understanding strength, and the substance of treasure,16 (3) that she was present before and involved in the creation of the world,17 and (4) that those who hearken to her are blessed rather than being lovers of death who hate their own soul.18

The foregoing four points form two couplets and underscore the essential nature of Lady Wisdom’s office, making it clear that she is a part of the Godhead who created the earth and continues to bless those whom will listen to her during their probationary sojourn on the earth.

The first nine chapters of Proverbs are an extraordinary exposition on the Holy Ghost. It is unfortunate that the chapter divisions, which were originated by Stephen Langton in the late 12th or early 13th Centuries, along with the versification of the Geneva Bible of 1560, which established the standard for the versification that was followed in the King James Version and virtually all bibles of today, distract most readers. It would be better if the verses and chapter divisions were ignored and the writing given a poetic versification to aid the reader.

One of the Church’s most renowned scholars, Truman G. Madsen, and David Noel Freedman, videotaped an interview where they discussed what they both considered the ultimate question for mankind: the nature of God. Freedman was the author of some 345 books on the Bible, and he was the editor of the 120-volume Anchor Bible, perhaps the most scholarly Bible ever prepared, the product of more than 1,000 scholars working since 1956. Since Freedman had worked with “every syllable of every word in the Hebrew Bible and beyond into the New Testament,” Madsen’s encomium goes on, “you are in a way qualified, as few are, to talk about what we call an ultimate question. The ultimate question is the nature of God and of man as revealed in the first of Genesis chapters, the creation narratives.” The interview Madsen recorded with this great man is worth viewing.19. After all, one should care about the nature of the Godhead and our relationship to divinity. That includes what many have told this author is irrelevant and even irreverent: the gender of the Holy Ghost. Scholars like Freedman say there is no longer a question about her female gender:

MR. MADSEN: An even more touchy question has to do with, is there a match or is there an archetypal figure alongside of the deity who can be called female.

MR. FREEDMAN: For me, that’s no longer and, not really a question anymore because of, we not only have substantial evidence in the Bible, but also from archeological research as ultimately resolved in the figure of Lady Wisdom

MR. MADSEN: Chochmah in the Hebrew?

MR. FREEDMAN: Yeah, chochmah in Hebrew, who is described in considerable detail in the book of Proverbs, especially chapter eight. But not only there, elsewhere, indicating that she is the one who accompanies, ah, the deity and is the instrument, the one who actually carries out, ah, the successive acts of creation.

MR. MADSEN: She is a person?

MR. FREEDMAN: Oh yeah, very—

MR. MADSEN: She’s a—

MR. FREEDMAN: Very much so.

MR. MADSEN: She’s a person.

MR. FREEDMAN: And see, she is more or less orthodox. I —

MR. MADSEN: Meaning that the traditional—

MR. FREEDMAN: That the Bible supports this. Whereas, I think she may have been the solution to a significant problem, namely, the persistent belief in and worship of goddesses in the Bible, or reported in the Bible—

MR. MADSEN: That’s interesting

MR. FREEDMAN —usually condemned. But it means there was something there quite different from Lady Wisdom. It all begins—

MR. MADSEN: Well, let me just say—

MR. [[FREEDMAN:—back in Genesis,

 

[00:22:42]
MR. MADSEN: So to sum up, though there are these three Canaanite’s deities, all women, you’re saying that that’s idolatry, but the fact that it was part of the culture may reflect that chochmah — which is genuinely part of the Torah — chochmah wisdom does get us into understanding that there can be, even in the legitimate reading of Israelite religion, a faith that includes both a male God and a female?

MR. FREEDMAN: Yes. And the way you define it, in other words, orthodox religion, even Biblical religion would not say she’s a goddess.

MR. MADSEN: Right.

MR. FREEDMAN: But rather she is a female figure associated very closely with the deity, with God, and in a way that’s closer, more intimate than angels. She’s not an angel.

She is not a goddess, but she is associated more closely and intimately with the Father than angels. Perhaps, this is the status of the Holy Ghost, because she does not have a body, is not resurrected, and is not married–yet. Until she is, she is like the Savior before his birth, death, and resurrection. Not yet perfected and, therefore, not yet a Goddess.

Endnotes

  1. Psalms 51:11–12, Isaiah 63:10–11, and Ezekiel 36:26–28 are places where the Holy Ghost is not named but clearly intended. Perhaps, then, this part of the Old Testament survived the religious reforms during the reign of King Josiah, 640 BC–610 BC. The Bible casts King Josiah as a religious reformer who restored the true faith, but that seems unlikely for numerous reasons that are beyond the scope of this essay. Suffice it to say that there is a substantial body of scholarly opinion based on the work, principally, of Margaret Barker that the Bible we have today has been purged of the doctrines of the “Older Testament.” See Barker, Margaret, The Older Testament (Sheffield, TN: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2005). The view of a substantial group of scholars is that King Josiah’s reign involved a prostitution of the true religion, turning it from a religion of polytheism to monotheism without references to a Savior and the Holy Ghost. The arguments against revelation and a Savior were made by the Sherem in the Book of Mormon, an argument that provoked Jacob out of retirement and to combat this heresy. See Jacob 7. Jacob won the argument in the New World, but the Old Testament suffers by loss of the plain and precious doctrine of God the Father, His Son, and the Holy Ghost. See 1 Nephi 13:40.
  2. “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters,” according to Genesis 1:2, and this spirit is feminine in the original Hebrew. Interestingly, Tertullian’s (c. AD 155–240) treatise “De Baptismo” at ¶¶ 3, 4 says this spirit hovering over the waters of the creation is a type for the Holy Ghost hovering over the waters of baptism, which is consistent with the idea that this temple-ceremony presentation in the first chapters of Genesis is about the endowment ceremony, not the creation of the world. See D&C 101:32–33 (how the earth was made not to be revealed until the Millennium); cp. Moses 4:32 (the words of the Genesis creation not to be show “except to them that believe).
  3. Proverbs 1:2–6. Dark sayings has the same tenor as proverb in the last couplet of this poem. A proverb is thought of as a pithy maxim, and dark sayings has the same meaning, something like a sententious, conundrum-like maxim.
  4. Proverbs 1:2–9. The term fear of is used in the King James Version to translate irath, which has a complex meaning embodying reverence with a moral quality. Strongs H3374. The primitive root, H3372, means to fear; morally, to revere; cause to frighten.
  5. Proverbs 1:10–19. The parallel, two-line strophes of this quotation are typical of Hebrew poetry. Yoram Hazony says, “[T]hat which is stated in one clause is then stated slightly differently, with somewhat modified but nonetheless parallel meaning, in a subsequent clause.” Hazony, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2012)  at 344, n. 50, which cites Robert Alter, The art of Biblical Poetry (New York: Basic Books, 1985), at 3–26, and James Kugel, The Idea of Biblical Poetry (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1998 [1981]), at 1–58. Thus, the scripture cited by Hazony for his proposition that the interchangeability of the wise man’s thoughts and the voice of the Lord makes sense, particularly when it is formatted like a poetry:

    And I will make Jerusalem a ruin,

    A lair for jackals,

    and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation,

    without inhabitant,

    Who is the man so wise that he can understand this,

    and to whom the mouth of the Lord has spoken that he may explain it:

    On what account is the land lost, withered like a desert,

    without anyone to pass through it?

    Jeremiah 9:10–11 (apparently Hazony’s own translation, reformatted here).

  6. Proverbs 1:20–33. This scripture begins by saying “Wisdom crieth without|she uttereth her voice in the streets.” Jeremiah, perhaps, alluded to this when he commented on the simplicity of understanding the truth: all one has to do is stand in the street and look to see which path is the good way leading to rest for one’s soul. Jeremiah 7:16. The notion here is that the effects of the Spirit are available for the taking or asking, which requires one to walk the path that leads to this blessing.
  7. Proverbs 2:1–9.
  8. Proverbs 2:10–22.
  9. Proverbs 3:1–13.
  10. Proverbs 3:13–26. The tenor of the tree-of-life metaphor is significant here. As noted in footnote 5 of Part (a) of this blog on Operations of the Spirit, trees are the vehicle that represent a people. Thus, the reference in Proverbs 3 to finding paths of pleasantness and peace and the tree of life carries the sense of being among people—the tree of life—that share the same values and bring this peace and pleasantness: happiness.
  11. Proverbs 3:13–26. The tenor of the tree-of-life metaphor is significant here. As noted in footnote 5 of Part 9(a) of this blog on Operations of the Spirit, trees are the vehicle that represent a people. Thus, the reference in Proverbs 3 to finding paths of pleasantness and peace and the tree of life carries the sense of being among people—the tree of life—that share the same values and bring this peace and pleasantness: happiness.
  12. Proverbs 3:13–26. The tenor of the tree-of-life metaphor is significant here. As noted in the preceding footnote trees are the vehicle that represent a people. Thus, the reference in Proverbs 3 to finding paths of pleasantness and peace and the tree of life carries the sense of being among people—the tree of life—that share the same values and bring this peace and pleasantness: happiness.
  13. Proverbs 5:15.
  14. Proverbs 7.
  15. Proverbs 8:1–12.
  16. Proverbs 8:13–21.
  17. Proverbs 8:22–31. This is consistent with Genesis 1:2 where it says, “And the Spirit [a feminine term, ruwach in Hebrew] moved upon the face of the water” during the creation process.
  18. Proverbs 8:32–9:6.
  19. The video can be purchased from Desert Book, “Ultimate Questions.”

8 thoughts on “Operations of the Spirit: Part 9(b), Proverbs 1 – 9

    • Author gravatar

      So, this research has led you to the conclusion that the Holy Ghost is a female personage? How did you conclude that Wisdom is feminine in Hebrew? Wisdom is used throughout the scriptures/Old Testament, descriing the Prophets and of course some of the Women of the Old and New Testiment. It looks to me it has no distinction between male and female. Anyway, I know you are more informed from your research and hard for me to dispute. This concept is difficult for me to wrap my head around. I know you love to be engaged in discussions, this is me engaging.
      Thanks Daryl, your friend and cousin,
      Rick

      • Author gravatar

        Sir Francis Bacon wrote this in 1605, “Opertet discentum credere. Oportet edoctum judicare.” (He wrote in Latin.) The translation, my translation, is something like this: The learner should believe what he is taught. The learned should exercise judgment.

        After more than forty-five years of scripture study I have my own opinions, based on exercising my judgment about what the scriptures say. I am not the only one who has concluded that there is a female member of the Godhead, (we know the Father is male, as is His Son) but most members of the Church recoil at the idea of a female deity because they have heard otherwise so much; after all, male pronouns are used in “Preach My Gospel” to refer to the Holy Ghost, so it must be so, just as it must be so because so many have said so so many times. You can find lots and lots of quotes by general authorities, apostles, prophets, and presidents of the Church who, willy-nilly, use masculine pronouns to refer to the Holy Ghost. It has been said so much that it has become an accepted fact to many. But no where do any of these people say why they refer to the Holy Ghost as masculine except to say everyone else says it. (The English translation in John is not a safe harbor for these defenders of a male Holy Ghost, by the way.) The teaser in my blog of Truman Madsen’s interview of David Noel Freedman is a precursor to a blog posting I intend to make in the future about the gender of the Holy Ghost. Read the first nine chapters of Proverbs where Wisdom is the personification of the Holy Ghost–functioning as members of the Church understand the Holy Ghost functions–and reconcile the references to Lady Wisdom as female. I can point to dozens of other scriptures in the Old Testament, in particular, where it is clear the Spirit, meaning the Holy Ghost, is female. But you have to know a little Hebrew and Greek to see it. The King James translators in the early 1600s would have nothing to do with the idea that women were really anything but property.

        It is difficult to wrap your head around this idea because it conflicts with a bias resulting from what you have been taught and believed because you believe what you have been taught. This is called confirmation bias. Very, very difficult to overcome. The earth was flat when Galileo proved it was spherical, but he had to recant or die because everyone knew the world was flat, don’t you know.

    • Author gravatar

      The function of the Holy Ghost and how and what it whispers to my mind and soul is far more important than its gender. I don’t see that there is enough information in the analysis of pronoun usage to determine one way or another. Portuguese and several other languages assign gender to inanimate objects. For example, table is feminine and is always referred to as her. I don’t know any Greek so I will keep an open mind to your translation. Both the Old and New Testaments and modern usage on occasion use man to refer to all of those who have lived on the earth. For example, God created man in his own image, male and female created He them. Man refers to all of his children He then clarifies by saying I created male and female. Just because I use the male pronoun in referring to the Holy Ghost doesn’t exclude the possibility that she is female. I have often wondered why we don’t hear much about our Mother in heaven and on more than one occasion thought who better than She would give us comfort, love, understanding and support through the ministering of the Holy Ghost. This is a completely different discussion but it does point out that without additional enlightenment all options merit our consideration. Where not enough information is available, we are free to ponder the mysteries to our hearts (assign your own meaning here) content. A personal note, when we pass from the search for understanding into an argument over position the contention of the argument quickly blocks the understanding of both parties.

      • Author gravatar

        I mostly agree with your comment about contention. I do believe that arguing for one position or another is informative and elucidating, not contentious. Contention is when discussion ends and name calling begins: ad hominem rejoinders or attacks.

        Here is an interesting quote related to the watershed between contention and argument. “Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.”Farrer, Austin, “Grete Clerk,” in Jocely Gibb, comp., Light on C. S. Lewis (New York: Harcourt & Grace, 1965) at 26, cited by Maxwell, Neal A., Discipleship and Scholarship,” BYU Studies 32:3 (Summer 1992) (revision of his talk at the annual banquet of FARMS, thanking the scholars for providing the “climate” which allows belief to flourish) at 5

        I posted some videos and additional dialogue between Truman Madsen and David Freedman today that deal with the ultimate question: the nature of God. It is an ultimate question because being like Him is the goal of this life. It may not matter Frank Harrison that the Holy Ghost is female, but it matters, don’t you suppose, to a lot of females that a member of the Godhead is female?

    • Author gravatar

      This is so huge. It matters greatly to me as a woman, the gender of the Holy Ghost! I want to believe the Holy Ghost is female. Thank you for posting these videos. Imagine what this would do for the women of the church (and the world) if the Holy Ghost were referred to as she. It makes total sense that the Holy Ghost would be female in all her roles. I love this post. And I love the quote by Austin Farrer about C.S. Lewis regarding argument in your comments. I had actually saved that quote years ago, and then lost it, and could not remember it enough to find it again. So, I’m so grateful to have rediscovered it here.

    • Author gravatar

      it makes perfect sense to me that the holy spirit is female because of all the qualities and roles that are needed. I honestly don’t feel a male personage can truly feel the quality of nurturing, self sacrifice, and empathy. Who better to create a great world then a women. It comes natural to us to make our surroundings as beautiful as possible. it’s the nesting instinct.

    • Author gravatar

      This is one of those let them reach for it moments. I am going to have to think on this an come back to it later. I just wanted to share a brief observation. We are told in church that the Godhead is like the first presidency. However God refers to himself as Father. Wouldn’t this then mean that the Godhead more closely resembles a family unit?
      Also, as the Holy Ghost has not yet had the chance to gain a physical body my thought is that she would be more on par with our elder brother, the Savior, Jehovah. Our heavenly mother would have to be Our Father’s glorified and eternal companion making her a resurrected being with a body just like him. I kind of lean towards thinking maybe the Holy Ghost is more of an older sister. I will explain more later as I have time to gather my thoughts and think on how I want to make my point.
      Thank you for these posts, they have made me think in ways I had forgotten to and it feels like I have entered a gym for the brain. You are and will always be some one I look up to and desire to be like.

      • Author gravatar

        I think you are on the right track. I do think the Holy Ghost is our older sister, just like the Savior is our older brother. And we are part of their family. Proverbs gives a lot insight in to the office of Holy Ghost. Too bad most people do not read it. Thinking of the Holy Ghost as our older sister informs us that she, too, will one day have a body, just like Her older brother.

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