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Sophia (Koinē Greek: σοφία sophía "wisdom") is a central idea in Hellenistic philosophy and religion, Platonism, Gnosticism and Christian theology. Originally carrying a meaning of "cleverness, skill", the later meaning of the term, close to the meaning of Phronesis ("wisdom, intelligence"), was significantly shaped by the term philosophy ("love of wisdom") as used by Plato.

In the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, the feminine personification of divine wisdom as Holy Wisdom (Ἁγία Σοφία Hagía Sophía) can refer either to Jesus Christ the Word of God (as in the dedication of the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople) or to the Holy Spirit.

References to Sophia in Koine Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible translate to the Hebrew term Chokhmah.

In Russian Orthodox mysticism, Sophia became increasingly indistinguishable from the person of the Theotokos (rather than Christ), to the point of the implication of the Theotokos as a "fourth person of the Trinity".

Such interpretations became popular in the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, forwarded by authors such as Vladimir Solovyov, Pavel Florensky, Nikolai Berdyaev, and Sergei Bulgakov. Bulgakov's theology, known as "Sophianism", presented Divine Wisdom as "consubstantiality of the Holy Trinity", operating as the aspect of consubstantiality (ousia or physis, substantia or natura) or "hypostaticity" of the Trinity of the three hypostases, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, "which safeguards the unity of the Holy Tr

In Russian Orthodox mysticism, Sophia became increasingly indistinguishable from the person of the Theotokos (rather than Christ), to the point of the implication of the Theotokos as a "fourth person of the Trinity".

Such interpretations became popular in the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, forwarded by authors such as Vladimir Solovyov, Pavel Florensky, Nikolai Berdyaev, and Sergei Bulgakov. Bulgakov's theo

Such interpretations became popular in the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, forwarded by authors such as Vladimir Solovyov, Pavel Florensky, Nikolai Berdyaev, and Sergei Bulgakov. Bulgakov's theology, known as "Sophianism", presented Divine Wisdom as "consubstantiality of the Holy Trinity", operating as the aspect of consubstantiality (ousia or physis, substantia or natura) or "hypostaticity" of the Trinity of the three hypostases, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, "which safeguards the unity of the Holy Trinity".[14] It was the topic of a highly political controversy in the early 1930s and was condemned as heretical in 1935.[10][15]

Within the Protestant tradition in England, Jane Leade, seventeenth-century Christian mystic, Universalist, and founder of the Philadelphian Society, wrote copious descriptions of her visions and dialogues with the "Virgin Sophia" who, she said, revealed to her the spiritual workings of the Universe.[16] Leade was hugely influenced by the theosophical writings of sixteenth century German Christian mystic Jakob Böhme, who also speaks of the Sophia in works such as The Way to Christ (1624).[17] Jakob Böhme was very influential to a number of Christian mystics and religious leaders, including George Rapp and the Harmony Society.[18]

Sophia is not a "goddess" in classical Greek tradition; Greek goddesses associated with wisdom are Metis and Athena (Latin Minerva). By the Roman Empire, it became common to depict the cardinal virtues and other abstract ideals as female allegories. Thus, in the Library of Celsus in Ephesus, built in the 2nd century, there are four statues of female allegories, depicting wisdom (Sophia), knowledge (Episteme), intelligence (Ennoia) and valour/excellence (Arete). In the same period, Sophia assumes aspects of a goddess or angelic power in Gnosticism.

In Christian iconography, Holy Wisdom or Hagia Sophia was depicted as a female allegory from the medieval period. In Western (Latin) tradition, she appears as a crowned virgin; in In Christian iconography, Holy Wisdom or Hagia Sophia was depicted as a female allegory from the medieval period. In Western (Latin) tradition, she appears as a crowned virgin; in Russian Orthodox tradition, she has a more supernatural aspect of a crowned woman with wings in a glowing red colour. The virgin martyrs Faith Hope and Charity with their mother Sophia are depicted as three small girls standing in front of their mother in widow's dress.

Allegory of Wisdom and Strength is a painting by Paolo Veronese, created circa 1565 in Venice. It is a large-scale allegorical painting depicting Divine Wisdom personified on the left and Hercules, representing Strength and earthly concerns, on the right.

A goddess Sophia was introduced into Anthroposophy by its founder, Rudolf Steiner, in his book The Goddess: From Natura to Divine Sophia[19] and a later compilation of his writings titled Isis Mary Sophia. Sophia also figures prominently in Theosophy, a spiritual movement which Anthroposophy was closely related to. Helena Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy, described it in her essay What is Theosophy? as an esoteric wisdom doctrine, and said that the "Wisdom" referred to was "an emanation of the Divine principle" typified by "…some goddesses—Metis, Neitha, Athena, the Gnostic Sophia…"[20]

Since the 1970s, Sophia has also been invoked as a goddess in Dianic Wicca and related currents of feminist spirituality.[21]

The 1979 installation artwork The Dinner Party features a place setting for Sophia.[22]

There is a monumental sculpture of Holy Wisdom depicted as a "goddess" in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria (the city itself is named after Saint Sofia Church).[23] The sculpture was erected in 2000 to replace a statue of Lenin.

Since the 1970s, Sophia has also been invoked as a goddess in Dianic Wicca and related currents of feminist spirituality.[21]

The 1979 installation artwork The Dinner Party features a place setting for Sophia.[22]

There is a monumental sculpture of Holy Wisdom depicted as a "goddess" in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria (the city itself is named after Saint Sofia Church).[23] The sculpture was erected in 2000 to replace a statue of Lenin.