Proverbs 8:22,23 – Proof that Jesus Existed For All Eternity Past?

Proverbs 8:22: Yahweh had constituted me the beginning of his way, before his works, at the commencement of that time;
Proverbs 8:23: At the outset of the ages had I been established, in advance of the antiquities of the earth. — Rotherham.

The New Revised Standard probably captures the thought best:

The Lord [that is, Yahweh] created [qanah] me at the beginning of his work [derek], the first of his acts of long ago. Ages [olam] ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth — New Revised Standard Version, Hebrew words transliterated.

However, many translations read similar to the World English translation: “Yahweh possessed me in the beginning of his work, Before his deeds of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, Before the earth existed.”

Thus it is argued that this is proof that Jesus has always existed in eternity past, having some kind of mystical perpetual state of being begotten in eternity, and that therefore Jesus is Yahweh, who is from everlasting to everlasting.

We first point out that Yahweh and Wisdom are spoken of as two entities, not one. The context, as well, bears this out.

Jesus is spoken of as the beginning of the way [some translations render the Hebrew *derek* as work, as in the NRSV] of Yahweh. This indicates that he was the first of God’s creations; that with him Yahweh had begun his “way” — his work — of creation.

Although in some contexts the Hebrew *olam* evidently means “eternal” or “everlasting”, it does not always mean eternal. Since the context states a beginning, and that the one being spoken of is “brought forth”, then olam should not be regarded as eternal, but rather “old” “ages ago” or “ancient”, similar to Genesis 6:4; Joshua 24:2; 1 Samuel 27:8; Psalm 119:52; — as well as many other places. See also Proverbs 22:28; 23:20 where olam is translated in the KJV as “ancient”.

Indeed, the word *olam*, when used of the past, very seldom actually means eternal. This can be seen by its usage in the following scriptures: Genesis 6:4; Deuteronomy 32:7; 1 Samuel 27:28; Ezra 4:15,19; Job 22:15; Proverbs 22:8; 23:10; Isaiah 51:9; 58:12; 61:4; 63:9,11; Jeremiah 6:16; 18:15; 28:8; Jonah 2:6; Micah 7:14; Malachi 3:4, as well as many others.

Only in reference to Yahweh’s existence in the past, does it take on the meaning of eternal past. (Psalm 90:2) “Even then, it still expresses the idea of continued, measurable existence, rather than a state of being independent of time considerations.” — “Lexical Aids to the Old Testament”, under #5769, Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible.

The Lord made me as the start of his way, the first of his works in the past.  — Basic English.

The LORD made me as the beginning of His way, the first of His works of old.  — Jewish Publication Society.

The LORD formed me from the beginning, before he created anything else — New Living Bible.

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.  — New Revised Standard.

The word qanah, translated “possessed” in the KJV and “constituted” by Rotherham, is translated as *created* by many other translations: Jerusalem Bible 1966 * Revised Standard Version 1952 * New English Bible 1970 * Thomson’s Septuagint 1808 * Brenton’s Septuagint 1879 * Confraternity Version (Catholic) 1955 * Lesser * Today’s English Version 1972 * Lamsa 1957.

The following is obtained from (quote denoted by || ): by Jeff Mezera

||There are differences about the meaning of the word qanah in Proverbs 8:22 as to whether it means “possessed” or “created.” From a footnote on the NET translation of Proverbs 8:22 found at “There are two roots in Hebrew, one meaning ‘to possess,’ and the other meaning ‘to create.’ The older translations did not know of the second root, but suspected in certain places that a meaning like that was necessary (e.g., Genesis 4:1; 14:19; Deuteronomy 32:6). Ugaritic confirmed that it was indeed another root. The older versions have the translation ‘possess’ because otherwise it sounds like God lacked wisdom and therefore created it at the beginning. They wanted to avoid saying that wisdom was not eternal. Arius liked the idea of Christ as the wisdom of God and so chose the translation ‘create.’ Athanasius translated it, ‘constituted me as the head of creation.’ The verb occurs twelve times in Proverbs with the meaning of ‘to acquire’; but the Greek and the Syriac versions have the meaning ‘create.’ Although the idea is that wisdom existed before creation, the parallel ideas in these verses (‘appointed,’ ‘given birth’) argue for the translation of ‘create’ or ‘establish’ (R. N. Whybray, ‘Proverbs 8:22-31 and Its Supposed Prototypes,’VT 15 [1965]: 504-14; and W. A. Irwin, ‘Where Will Wisdom Be Found?’ JBL 80 [1961]: 133-42).” Many translators render qanahas “created.”.

||“Gesenius gives as the primary meaning of qanah: ‘to get, to gain, to obtain, to acquire.’ Davies gives it the meaning of ‘to form or make, to get or acquire, to gain or buy.’ Strong defines qanah as ‘to erect, i.e., to create; by extension to procure, especially by purchase.’ ” —The Great Debate, by Robert Wagoner

||Regardless of the controversy surrounding the meaning of this word, contextually Wisdom is still spoken of as being “brought forth”: ”When there were no depths, I was brought forth” (Proverbs 8:24). The Hebrew word translated “brought forth” means “to be brought forth, to be born.” Wisdom was indeed “brought forth” and this helps us understand the context and meaning of this chapter and especially what “possessed” means in verse 22.

||“Then I was by him, as one brought up [Strong’s #525: “artificer, architect, master workman, skilled workman”] with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him” (Proverbs 8:30). Not only can the word “possess” in this context have the meaning of “create” as translated in the Septuagint and Syriac, but we also see that Wisdom was brought up, was trained, and was the master workman of God’s creative works.

||Yes, Jesus is the master workman of God’s creative works! He was the first of Jehovah’s creative acts, and it was with his assistance that all other things came into being. Truly this great being who plays so many important roles in the great plan of the ages is worthy of our adoration and worship!||

In verses 23-27 we read of the prehuman Wisdom: “Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth— when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil.” — New Revised Standard Version.

From this we learn that the time when Jesus was begotten, brought forth, was at the first, a point in time which is definitely before the beginning of the earth and formation of its surface. There is nothing here that would indicate that Jesus is in some mystical state of eternally being brought forth or begotten.

Verse 30 says: “then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, ” — NRSV.

Again, we find that Jesus speaks of himself in his prehuman condition as “beside” Yahweh, not that he was Yahweh whom he was beside.

Of course, those who contend that Jesus is Yahweh have found their own arguments for the reasons for the wording of this chapter regarding Wisdom, but the chapter itself offers no proof that Jesus existed from an eternal past, nor that Jesus is Yahweh. In other words, the argument that Jesus is Yahweh becomes circular, in effect saying: because we believe that Jesus is Yahweh, we believe the passage means this or that, and therefore the meaning we give the passage because we believe that Jesus is Yahweh proves that Jesus is Yahweh.

There is definitely nothing in Proverbs 8:22,23 that proves that Jesus is Yahweh, and certainly there is nothing here to give us reason to add to the scriptures the story of three persons in one being, or that there are three modes of Yahweh.

Related RL Studies

Isaiah 57:15 – Examining the Hebrew Word ‘Ad

Did Jesus Need to be Uncreated to Pay for the Sin of the World?

Revelation 1:4 – Who Is, Was, To Come – Jesus?

John 8:58: “I am” = Eternal?

Micah 5:2 – From everlasting or from ancient days?

John 1:1 – In the Beginning

John 1:1 – What Beginning?


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