"The LORD possessed [qanah] me in the beginning of his way, before his works of
old." (Proverbs 8:22, KJV).
Because traditionally readers have understood the Old Testament's Lady
Wisdom as a type and shadow of Christ (in spite of her erroneous gender), the
Jehovah's Witnesses hope, if they can get at her, they can get to Jesus Christ.
Some modern translations render 'qanah' as 'created': "The
LORD created me at the beginning of his work..." (NRSV). But the word literally means 'purchase',
thus by implication to possess. 'Qanah' is not translated
'created' even once in the determinedly literal KJV:  qanah: AV - Buy 46, get 15, purchased 5,
buyer 3, possessor 3, possessed 2, owner 1, recover 1, redeemed 1, misc 7; 84
If 'qanah' = 'create,' then did the poor man
create his little lamb?: "But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had
bought [qanah] and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his
children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him
as a daughter." (2 Samuel 12:3). The poor man did not create the little lamb, rather he owned it.
Or do we ourselves possess the ability to 'create' wisdom? Yet we are commanded in the Bible to "get"
[qanah] wisdom: "Get [qanah] wisdom, get [qanah] understanding:
forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth." (Proverbs 4:5).
Paul himself suggests Lady Wisdom as a type of Christ: "For Jews request a
sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to
the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those
who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of
God." (1 Corinthians 1:22-24). Many of the early Christian writers adopt this identification.
The Septuagint translates the 'qanah' of Proverbs 8:22 with 'ktizo,' which the seventy also
sometimes use as a translation for the Hebrew 'bara,' 'create.' Many of the early church writers quote
this verse from the Septuagint. The Greek word 'ktizo' can also mean 'found, ordain,
or establish.' It's used, for example, of the founding of a city: "of a city, to found, plant, build, Od.,
Hdt." (Liddell and Scott, Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon.) It can also mean 'made,'
either in the sense of making from scratch or in the sense of an already existing thing given a new function
or position: 'the eldest citizen was made honorary mayor.' Though in the NT
'ktizo' and related words usually refer to creation, the meaning of 'ordain' is still Biblical: "Submit
yourselves to every ordinance ['ktisis'] of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as
supreme;..." (1 Peter 2:13). Do the early church writers who quote this passage from the Septuagint
understand it to mean that the Son, whom they identify with Wisdom, was 'created,' that is to say brought
into being from non-being? Or do they understand it to mean He was ordained the beginning
('arche,' origin or principle) of creation, as Brenton translates it: "The Lord made me the beginning
of his ways for his works. He established me before time was in the beginning, before he made the earth:..."
(Brenton Septuagint, Proverbs 8:22-23). Given what these writers say about the eternity of the Son,
the latter makes a safe bet.
Athanasius suggests another possibility, reminding us that the Son is
indeed part of the created realm by virtue of the incarnation: ". . .and
accordingly let ‘He created’ be understood, not of His being a creature,
but of that human nature which became His, for to this belongs
creation." (Athanasius, Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 2,
Chapter 19, Section 46, p. 923, ECF_2_04). Surely the flesh of the
incarnation is not uncreated; in the womb of the virgin, the Creator
entered into the realm of His own creation. In any event, it is somewhat
misleading to cite the early church writers who quote Proverbs 8:22 in
its Septuagint rendering as if they agreed with the Jehovah's Witness
interpretation of this passage, because in no case do they. While
Athanasius' interpretation is alien to the context, it plainly differs
from the Arian belief that Wisdom came into existence from a prior state
of non-existence. The case that God was at one time devoid of wisdom is a difficult one to make;
or did His wisdom suddenly spring into existence after a prior course of
It is possible that the Septuagint translators chose the word they did because they
perceived a relationship between it and 'ktaomai,' meaning, 'acquire.' The English word 'create'
can also potentially mean 'ordain,' though its more familiar use is to bring into being: "create...To
originate or cause; to bring into being; to cause to exist; to make or form, by investing with a new
character; to constitute; to appoint ( to create a peer)..."
(Webster's International, 1965). This idea of 'investing with a new
character' might be what Brenton understands the passage to mean, that
is to say, that Wisdom was made the 'arche,' i.e. originating principle, of all things at the time of
Most definitions of 'inerrancy' restrict its scope to the original
language of revelation. In other words, Proverbs 8:22 is 'inerrant' in
the original Hebrew, not in every possible translation: 'inerrancy' does
not tag along after the original text into all its possible permutations
into the various languages of the world. No translation corresponds
perfectly to its original; there is no English word which shares the
range of the meanings of the Greek word 'logos;' the translator must
select, therefore narrowing down, what sliver of this world's meanings
which he thinks is in view. It may be that he opens up other
possibilities in the process. Some people have thought certain
translations were themselves inspired: the Greek church so thought about
the Septuagint, the Catholic Church used to take the Latin
Vulgate as authoritative, and some people think the same of the English King James
Version. Certainly quotations of the Hebrew Old Testament in the Greek
New Testament are doubly inspired, both in the original and in their
quoted form. But to cast the net wider than that, to demand that all of
the Hebrew translations in all known versions of the Septuagint are
independently inspired, goes beyond anything the Bible says about
itself. While it is easy enough to understand why people in the early church who read the
Old Testament in Greek cared about the Greek translation, it is not apparent
why everyone else must follow suit. The Jehovah's Witnesses are notorious
for quoting from the German translation of the Bible, or the Spanish
version, when the results suit them, leaving readers who do not speak
these languages befuddled as to why they should care. The Septuagint,
the Greek Old Testament, is not quite like that, if only because
quotations from it are embedded in the New Testament. Nevertheless, the
fact remains that the original, inspired Hebrew text of Proverbs 8:22 does not say