What was the first act of God’s creation?
If you said “light”, you might be wrong – At least to some degree.
According to Proverbs 8:22, “wisdom” was the first act of God’s creation. That is, depending on the translation you use and how the verb “kaw-naw” is interpreted.
Most translations I looked at translate the word as “Create” or some word related to that idea. However, if you examine the use of the word from Genesis to Zechariah (the word appears not to have been used beyond the time of Zechariah), it is predominately translated as “buy”, “possess”, or “get.” All within the scope of the word’s primary meaning.
The ESV renders the word in Proverbs 8:22 as “The LORD possessed me (wisdom) at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.”
Now it’s Saturday, so allow some latitude here. If God “possesses” something, it had to be either there as part of his nature, or there in some other form. If God had not moved in terms of creation before Genesis 1, then wisdom has always been – or perhaps was before God was.
When I first read Proverbs 8:22 in my ESV translation, I thought, “wait, God cannot possess something. That would mean He acquired something outside himself.” Which would mean, as stated earlier, either it was as He was, it was before He was, or it completed Him in some way. None of those ideas are very palatable. As I expect it was not to many other translators, so they chose “created” or “fathered” or some word related to those ideas.
Why is this capturing my attention? For one very good reason, how a team of writer’s translate a word has an impact on the overall tone of the verse. It gives you some insight in to what the translator’s were thinking or even perhaps, their theological tenor. I would much prefer to read verse 22 and see the word “created” than the word “possessed.” One allows me to keep going without serious consideration. The other causes me to slam on my reading brakes and say, “Wait, that is an unusual word and it carries certain implications.”
Yes, these are public thoughts on quiet overcast Saturday morning in NC. Thoughts that you might read and say, “What the heck is this guy thinking?” Or, “This is much ado about nothing.” And you may be right. As always, context is critical and verse 23 seems to clear up the issue stating that wisdom was “…Set up at the first, before the beginning of the earth.” Why the ESV translators did not appear to be consistent here is a mystery.
Nevertheless, it has jump-started my mind and that’s a good thing for me.