Jesus & Proverbs 8
The Watchtower Bible Society has gone to great lengths to try to deny the deity of Jesus, combing the bible for passages that they can try to use to prove that He is a created being- certainly powerful and unique, but a created being nonetheless. One passage they have used in this way is Proverbs 8:22-30. Although in some instances they have had to deliberately mis-translate the bible for their own ends, in this case we can comfortably refute their claim from their own bible, the New World Translation (NWT).
(22) Jehovah produced me as the beginning of his way, the earliest of his achievements of long ago.(23) From ancient times I was installed, from the start, from times earlier than the earth.(24) When there were no deep waters, I was brought forth, When there were no springs overflowing with water. (25) Before the mountains were set in place, before the hills, I was brought forth, (26) When he had not yet made the earth and its fields, or the first clods of earth’s soil (27) When he prepared the heavens, I was there; When he marked out the horizon on the surface of the waters, (28) When he established the clouds above, When he founded the fountains of the deep (29) When he set a decree for the sea, that its waters should not pass beyond his order, when he established the foundations of the earth (30) Then I was beside him as a master worker. I was the one he was especially fond of day by day;I rejoiced before him all the time;
The Watchtower teaching is that ‘Wisdom’ in this passage is Jesus, speaking of being created by Jehovah (v22- Jehovah produced me as the beginning of his way….). According to their interpretation he then he goes on to tell of how he created everything as a “Master worker”. This is an interpretation that is taught to all Jehovah’s Witnesses as part of their doctrine that Jesus was a created being, the very first thing that God created, and that he in turn went on to make everything else by Jehovah’s command.
It has convinced Jehovah’s Witnesses for decades, and if you are caught unawares it could sound convincing. However, there are multiple flaws with this interpretation of this passage. I’d like to just present the two strongest arguments against it here.
The first is the insistence that ‘wisdom’ that is speaking here is Jesus. There is no textual support for this- in fact if you read the whole book of Proverbs the evidence is quite strongly against it. Just one chapter earlier in Proverbs 7:4 (even in the New World Translation) it says “Say to wisdom ‘You are my sister’, and call understanding ‘my relative’”…. So is Jesus our sister? And by the same line of reasoning would that also make ‘understanding’ a sentient being of some sort? In interpreting any portion of the bible, we must remember that there are many different genres/ styles used, and the particular style being employed will influence the correct interpretation…. You wouldn’t read the prophecies in the book of Daniel in the same way that you would read the practical instruction in the book of James.
Much of the book of Proverbs (like Psalms, the Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes) is written in a very poetic style, using imagery, metaphor and personification to deliver its message. “Wisdom”, speaking in the book of Proverbs, is simply a personification of the idea or reality of wisdom- this is clear if you look at the whole book. So to state that this passage is literally Jesus describing his own creation is to seriously misinterpret the message of this passage.
Another (and perhaps the most significant) argument against the Watchtower’s interpretation is the issue of creation as it is being described here. Remember, they are trying to use this passage to say that Jesus was created, then he created everything else. However, there is no mention at all of ‘Wisdom’ creating anything in this passage…. If you read through these verses it is abundantly clear that Jehovah is the one who is doing all of the creating…. “…he prepared the heavens…he marked out the horizon on the surface of the waters…. he established the clouds above….he founded the fountains of the deep …..he set a decree for the sea…..he established the foundations of the earth…” The context is clear that in every one of these instances, the “he” refers to Jehovah. And what does ‘Wisdom’ say it/ he was doing while Jehovah did all these things? Simply this… “When he prepared the heavens, I was there” (v27)…. “I was beside him” (v30)
There is nothing in this passage to support the Watchtower’s interpretation. However, it is clearly shown in the New Testament that Jesus is the creator of all things, and that in the Old Testament God specifically states that He is the one who created all things by Himself. This leaves us with only two options…. either Jesus is God, or God is a liar.