Is Wisdom Synonymous with the Holy Spirit in James?

James noticeably lacks any reference to the Holy Spirit in his letter (except possibly in 4:6) but the idea of wisdom is prominent throughout. This got me thinking, Is wisdom synonymous with the Holy Spirit in James?” Here are my preliminary thoughts based on an internal argument in James.

First, wisdom is the is from above given by the Father. James begins by saying that if anyone is lacking in wisdom that he should ask for it in faith. Later, he declares declares that every good and τέλειος gift is from above. In this context it seems that any blessing bestowed by God is a part of these gifts but in 3:17 he states that it is wisdom from above. This seems to indicate a narrowing of a good and τέλειος gift, which is the wisdom given to the one who asks in faith. Asking for the wisdom that is from above seems closely linked to Luke 11:13, which says …how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” and Paul’s admonition to be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18).

Second, 3:17 describes what wisdom is and it is strikingly similar to the fruits of the Spirit in Gal. 3:22–23.

James 3:17: 17 ἡ δὲ ἄνωθεν σοφία πρῶτον μὲν ἁγνή ἐστιν, ἔπειτα εἰρηνική, ἐπιεικής, εὐπειθής, μεστὴ ἐλέους καὶ καρπῶν ἀγαθῶν, ἀδιάκριτος, ἀνυπόκριτος (But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.)

Galatians 3:22–23: 22 ὁ δὲ καρπὸς τοῦ πνεύματός ἐστιν ἀγάπη χαρὰ εἰρήνη, μακροθυμία χρηστότης ἀγαθωσύνη, πίστις 23 πραΰτης ἐγκράτεια · κατὰ τῶν τοιούτων οὐκ ἔστιν νόμος. (22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.)

These are just my preliminary thoughts after recognizing the lack of reference to the Spirit and the emphasis on wisdom. I also came across an essay by J.A. Kirk (NTS, 16 (1969), 24–38) who had these same questions and develops this idea further by seeing if there is other times where the Spirit and wisdom are interchangeably in the Scriptures and other Second Temple literature. I will catalogue his conclusions in a later post.

What are your thoughts? Do you see any connection between the Spirit and wisdom?

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