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Ukrainian (Kyiv) Icon, Theotokos as Sophia, the Holy Wisdom, 1812.

Sophiology (from Greek Σοφία "sophia", wisdom) is a philosophical concept regarding wisdom, as well as a theological concept regarding the wisdom of God. Sophiology has roots in Hellenistic tradition and Platonism. Sophia had a major role in almost every sect of Gnostic Christianity.

Some see Sophia as a deity in her own right, others see her as representing the Bride of Christ (Revelation 19), others as a feminine aspect of God representing wisdom (Proverbs 8 and 9), and others as a theological concept regarding the wisdom of God.


Eastern Orthodoxy

In the Orthodox Church, sophiology is often regarded as equivalent to sophianism, which has been condemned as heretical by the Patriarch of Moscow[1] and other Orthodox hierarchs, who decided to "...recognize the teaching of Archpriest Sergei Bulgakov on Sophia the Wisdom of God as heretical".[2]

Personified representations of Holy Wisdom (Ἁγία Σοφία) or the "Wisdom of God" refer in Orthodox theology to the person of Jesus Christ, as illustrated in the Acts of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicaea II, 787): "Our Lord Jesus Christ, our true God, the self-existent Wisdom of God the Father, Who manifested Himself in the flesh, and by His great and divine dispensation (lit. economy) freed us from the snares of idolatry, clothing Himself in our nature, restored it through the cooperation of the Spirit, Who shares His mind..."[3] More recently it has been stated that, "From the most ancient times and onwards many Orthodox countries have been consecrating churches to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Wisdom of God."[4] There exist Orthodox Christian icons and churches which bear the name "Saint Sophia", but this is typically not in reference to a specific individual, saint or angel, named "Sophia". Often it is a mistaken translation of Ἁγία Σοφία, properly rendered "Holy Wisdom", a Christological title used in the Orthodox Tradition.[citation needed]


  • Sergei Bulgakov, Sophia, the Wisdom of God: An Outline of Sophiology (Library of Russian Philosophy), Lindisfarne Books, 1993. (ISBN 0940262606, ISBN 978-0-940262-60-7)
  • Oleg A. Donskikh, ‘Cultural roots of Russian Sophiology’, Sophia, 34(2), 1995, pp38–57
  • Priscilla Hunt, "The Wisdom Iconography of Light: The Genesis, Meaning and Iconographic Realization of a Symbol", Byzantinoslavica, 67, 2009
  • Priscilla Hunt, "Confronting the End: The Interpretation of the Last Judgment in a Novgorod Wisdom Icon", Byzantino-Slavica, 65, 2007, 275-325
  • Priscilla Hunt, "The Novgorod Sophia Icon and 'The Problem of Old Russian Culture' Between Orthodoxy and Sophiology", Symposion: A Journal of Russian Thought, vol. 4-5, (2000), 1-41
  • Priscilla Hunt "Andrei Rublev’s Old Testament Trinity Icon in Cultural Context", The Trinity-Sergius Lavr in Russian History and Culture: Readings in Russian Religious Culture, vol. 3, Deacon Vladimir Tsurikov, ed., Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Seminary Press, 2006, 99-122
  • Michael Martin,The Submerged Reality: Sophiology and the Turn to a Poetic Metaphysics. (Kettering, OH: Angelico Press, 2015) ISBN 978-1-6213-8113-6
  • Caitlin Matthews, Sophia: Goddess of Wisdom (London: Mandala, 1991) ISBN 0-04-440590-1
  • Brenda Meehan, ‘Wisdom/Sophia, Russian identity, and Western feminist theology’, Cross Currents, 46(2), 1996, pp149–168
  • Barbara Newman, God and the Goddesses: Vision, Poetry, and Belief in the Middle Ages, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002 (ISBN 978-0812236910)
  • Thomas Schipflinger, Sophia-Maria (in German: 1988; English translation: York Beach, ME: Samuel Wiser, 1998) ISBN 1-57863-022-3
  • Mikhail Sergeev, Sophiology in Russian Orthodoxy: Solov’ev, Bulgakov, Losskii, Berdiaev (Edwin Mellen Press, 2007) ISBN 0-7734-5609-0 and ISBN 978-0-7734-5609-9, 248 pages [1]
  • Arthur Versluis, Theosophia: hidden dimensions of Christianity (Hudson, NY: Lindisfarne Press, 1994) ISBN 0-940262-64-9
  • Arthur Versluis, Wisdom’s children: a Christian esoteric tradition (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1999) ISBN 0-7914-4330-2
  • Arthur Versluis (ed.) Wisdom’s book: the Sophia anthology (St.Paul, Min: Paragon House, 2000) ISBN 1-55778-783-2

See also

A mystical depiction of Sophia from Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer, Altona, 1785.


  1. "The teaching of Professor and Archpriest S.N. Bulgakov -- which, by its peculiar and arbitrary (Sophian) interpretation, often distorts the dogmas of the Orthodox faith, which in some of its points directly repeats false teachings already condemned by conciliar decisions of the Church..." Moscow Patriarchate (1935) Decision No. 93
  2. Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (1935) Decision of the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad of the 17/30 October 1935 concerning the new teaching of Archpriest Sergei Bulgakov on Sophia, the Wisdom of God
  3. Acts of the Second Council of Nicea,
  4. Sobolev, Archbishop Seraphim (1935) The New Teaching concerning Sophia the Wisdom of God. p. 121

External links

In other traditions