Bible commentators ‘at sixes and sevens’ about Wisdom

I will admit straight off that I’ve always been incompetent at calculating ‘sums and maths’. In fact I’ve found all my life that dealing with numbers is somewhat scary. But I have never had a problem spelling such words as ‘arithmetic’ and ‘mathematics’, and I can tell you the exact lettering of ‘trigonometry’ so long as you don’t need me to measure the angles involved in a trig equation.

So, on reading the following footnote in The Passion Translation of Proverbs 9:1 I felt my brain spin wildly. The text tells us that ‘wisdom has built a palace upon seven pillars to keep it secure’, and the footnote indicates that: ‘The seven pillars of wisdom . . . point us to the seven days of creation, and the seven Spirits of God’ – OK, I get those parallels. But the final set of seven has me puzzled: ‘. . . and the seven components of heavenly wisdom given in James 3:17-18.’

However, I could only figure that James listed merely six components or characteristics of heavenly wisdom, even in TPT. Get your digits out of your gloves ready to count them with me.

‘ . . . the wisdom from above is [1] always pure, [2] filled with peace, [3] considerate and teachable. It is [5] filled with love and never displays prejudice * or hypocrisy * in any form and it always bears the beautiful harvest of [6] righteousness’! Good seed of wisdom’s fruit will be planted with peaceful [=2] acts of righteousness [= 6] by those who cherish making peace [=2].

Obviously prejudice and hypocrisy, being negative features that are permanently avoided by Wisdom, should have no place in our arithmetic! So, unless I am mistaken, that leaves James’s catalogue of moral qualities at only six.

Of course I had to check out that list of James’s in my Greek New Testament (reminding myself of my two years of lessons in classical Greek in senior school).

As I was growing up the number seven always seemed to represent the fullness of any set of organically interlocked qualities (such as the seven churches and the seven plagues etc in the book of Revelation). However no reader can miss the ninefold fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. But evidently James reckoned up only a sixfold definition of wisdom’s fullness! So it does not seem to be intended as a numerical clue in either those Proverbs verses or those in the epistle of James. And I’m not even going to try to philosophize on whether the Spirit’s nine characteristics are less in value than the Ten Commandments revealed to Moses. As if!

To be fair, neither Proverbs nor James seems to place any emphasis on the numbers, so you can put your gloves back on and switch your laptop off as it is not a digital exercise! Q.E.D.

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