Many of the themes found throughout the New Testament can be spotted in the Book of Proverbs, particularly Proverbs 1-9.
For example, consider a passage in Proverbs 2:
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you,turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
Consider how this passage would have read to someone who had in his mind the story of Judas betraying Jesus for a pocketful of silver.
This correlation between the New Testament and Proverbs is not an accident.
When you read the former part of Proverbs, you’ll notice much attention to knowledge or Wisdom. For example, Proverbs 1:22 poses the questions “How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?” Proverbs 1 continues its lament “…since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord. Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke,they will eat the fruit of their ways”. This fruit rings like the (absence of) fruit Jesus complained about on his way to the temple in Mark 11, when he cursed the fig tree. A popular theological interpretation of the fig tree cursing is that the fig tree represented the Jewish temple, which no longer produced religious fruit, and therefore needed to be destroyed.
Next consider a passage from Proverbs 2:
Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth…
The adulterous woman is a ringer for the woman who rode in on the dragon in Revelation 17:3, who was “sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns”. Therefore, the partner of this adulterous woman’s youth might either be the dragon or the beast to whom the dragon rendered his power in Revelation 13.
Consider this passage from Proverbs 5, another reminder of the adulterous woman:
For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil;but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword.
In the end, the lady was bitter as gall, the same gall Jesus refused on the cross the first time. But also recall that Jesus accepts the gall the second time. In my opinion, early Christians would have read this as evidence that the Christ Spirit had left Jesus – the Spirit-less man who was rendered a simple Jew who served his purposes, but was rendered empty like the fig tree; the Spirit would live on (to the early Gnostic group, the Basilideans) in the cross-bearer, Simon of Cyrene. Interestingly, the double edged sword shows up in various Christian literature, notably in Revelation 19, when the heavenly warrior who battled the beast, had a tongue as a double edged sword.
In Revelation, the adulterous woman, the Whore of Babylon, had rode in on the dragon which had earlier displaced the lady from Revelation 12. In the aftermath of the dragon (and beast) assuming power, we see a reference to wisdom in Revelation 13:18: “This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast…” In other words, the antidote to the control that the beast had was access to Wisdom. Proverbs 7 gives an instruction:
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and to insight, “You are my relative.” They will keep you from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words.
Revelation 12:17 gives a familial relation between the woman and the keepers, which would have been Nasar in Hebrew. However, in Revelation, the crowned sun lady was the mother.
Wisdom in Revelation 13:18 becomes a pointer to the woman clothed in the sun from Revelation 12. This happens via Proverbs 4:
She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.”
This notion from Proverbs 4 is echoed in the Book of Jesus ben Sirach: “you [the high priest] will wear her like a glorious robe, and put her on like a crown of gladness” (6:31). The her to whom Ben Sirach referred to was Wisdom (6:18).
This woman in Proverbs is a queen, and like the star-crowned lady in Revelation 12, is able to present a crown to the next King.
Proverbs 3 gives us more insight into who this woman, Wisdom, is: “She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.” Without delving too deeply into the details here, I remind the reader that the story of the 2 trees in Eden was likely a bastardization of an earlier story, constructed to redefine the tree of life as Mosaic law, rather than its earlier meaning, which I believe was a reference to the fashioned poles, known as Asherah poles, which legend has it were present during 1st temple times, prior to Josiah’s Deuteronomic reforms; this is found notably in 2 Kings 23:4: “The king ordered Hilkiah the high priest, the priests next in rank and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the Lord all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts. He burned them outside Jerusalem”.
The Gnostics seemed to remember the earlier tree story in On the Origin of the World, when Eve escapes the clutches of the creators of the material world (the archons), and goes to live in the tree of knowledge.
Then Eve, being a force, laughed at their decision. She put mist into their eyes and secretly left her likeness with Adam. She entered the tree of knowledge and remained there. And they pursued her, and she revealed to them that she had gone into the tree and become a tree. Then, entering a great state of fear, the blind creatures fled.
In this theory, the dual nature of the lady, who simultaneously represented the tree of life and Wisdom of God, was split and repurposed in the Orthodox Eden-Tree story. Eve is simply a reworking of an earlier Wisdom Queen.
The Proverbs’ writer’s memory had this lady present from the very beginning:
By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations,by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.
This is reminiscent of the rethinking of the creation story in the Gospel of John, which injects the Word into the creation (In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God). The flip side of this coin in the Gnostic story is in various Gnostic creation stories, which had Sophia (Wisdom) acting as the proxy between God, the archons, and the creation of the material realm. Proverbs 8 continues on this creation theme, recalling something significantly different than what is in Genesis: “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be.”
The last example I present is from Proverbs 9: “Wisdom has built her house; she has set up its seven pillars.She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table.” But what is Wisdom’s house? We need only consider the context through which Wisdom was cast out of the holy land: it was when Josiah purged her from the 1st temple. Text in the so-called Apocalypse of Weeks in 1 Enoch 93 remembers this purge:
…in the sixth week, all who live in the temple shall be blinded. And the hearts of all of them shalll godlessly forsake Wisdom…in the seventh week, shall an apostate generation arise…
Therefore, the adulterous woman which Proverbs and Revelation remembers is simply a reference to the 2nd temple, which housed this “apostate generation”. Revelation 21 makes reference to the Christian end-game, which would usher in a new Holy land (something which would have been absent after Jews and Christians were expelled from Jerusalem in the 130s):
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.
This impulse to call Jerusalem a woman is found throughout Jewish literature. One interesting story is in 2 Esdras 9-10, where Ezra encounters a grieving woman with ashes on her head, lamenting the death of her son in the bridal chamber. Ezra becomes upset with the grieving woman, who planned not to return to the city: “Zion the mother of us all is afflicted in sadness and utterly dejected.” The lady responded “I will not, and I will not go into the city, but I will die here.” The interaction ends with the lady converting the field she was in into the holy city: “Suddenly her face shone brightly…Without warning she let out a noise, a great voice full of fear, so that the earth itself shook…she no longer appeared to me as a woman, but there was a city built, and a place with great foundations appeared”.
The angel Uriel interpreted this interaction for the protagonist Ezra:
This woman whom you saw is Zion, whom you now see built as a city…As for what she said to you, that she was infertile for thirty years, it is because there were three thousand years in the world when offerings weren’t yet made in her. After three thousand years, Solomon built the city and made offerings. That is when the infertile woman bore a son…her son came into his wedding chamber and died and that misfortune happened to her, this is the destruction that happened to Jerusalem.
The decoder key provided by 2 Esdras is quite useful in deciphering Revelation, and other early Christian keywords. The field is the place where the New Jerusalem shall be. The lady is the mother of the temple, and by extension, the people who worship there. The son is the temple. The bridal chamber is where the death of the son occurs. One consideration is that the bridal chamber is the heart of the temple, otherwise known as the Holy of Holies; indeed, the Holy of Holies was where the high priest would go once per year, and become a conduit between Earth and God. The Holy of Holies was separated by a veil – that same veil which tore while Jesus died on the cross.
The lady, the New Jerusalem, mixed wine in her house. Jeremiah (44:19) provides a potential reference to this, via Egyptian refugees who had been forced forced from Jerusalem following the Babylonian invasion:
“Moreover,” said the women, “when we burned incense to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, was it without our husbands’ knowledge that we made sacrificial cakes in her image and poured out drink offerings to her?”
The Gospel of John remembers a tradition that made reference to the mother and the son, which featured wine. In this story (John 2), the servants were out of wine. The mother told Jesus they were out of wine, and Jesus wondered why she shared this with him. At that point, Jesus’s mother renders authority to her son, which prompts Jesus to convert water to wine and subsequently begins his messianic career.