CategoriesChrist and Mystic ChristianityEastern Orthodox Christianity Sophia: The Wisdom of God

Sophia: The Wisdom of God

Product no.: 0-940262-60-6
In this brave theological work, Bulgakov shows how the Divine Sophia, in whom all things are created, is present in the Holy Trinity itself.

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Publisher's Synopsis

As the creaturely Sophia, she works together with her divine counterpart in the work of the Holy Spirit for the redemption of the world.

Eminent Russian Orthodox theologian Sergei Bulgakov shows that the feminine is present at the very heart of the Christian understanding not only of God but of human nature and the universe as well. Even if historical Christianity has been guilty of ignoring the feminine aspects of divinity, it has all the while been living a hidden life within it.

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:

"i) To recognize the teaching of Archpriest Sergei Bulgakov on Sophia the Wisdom of God as heretical.

ii) To inform Metropolitan Evlogy of this Decision of the Council and to request that he admonish Archpriest Bulgakov with the intention of prompting him to publicly renounce his heretical teaching concerning Sophia and to make a report about the consequences of such admonition to the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.

iii) In the event that Archpriest Bulgakov does not repent, the present Decision of the Council which condemns the heresy of Sophianism is to be made known to all Autocephalous Churches."

The 1935 decision of the Church Abroad was based on Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev) of Boguchar’s Novoe uchenie o Sofii (Sofia, 1935), as well as on the arguments of St. John (Maximovitch). St. John, in his book The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God, discusses at length why the sophianism of Sergius Bulgakov is heresy, specifically one as destructive as Nestorianism. Speaking of those who attempt to deify the Theotokos, he wrote:

In the words [of Fr. Sergius Bulgakov], when the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the Virgin Mary, she acquired "a dyadic life, human and divine; that is, She was completely deified, because in Her hypostatic being was manifest the living, creative revelation of the Holy Spirit" (Archpriest Sergei Bulgakov, The Unburnt Bush, 1927, p. 154). "She is a perfect manifestation of the Third Hypostasis" (Ibid., p. 175), "a creature, but also no longer a creature" (P. 191).... But we can say with the words of St. Epiphanius of Cyprus: "There is an equal harm in both these heresies, both when men demean the Virgin and when, on the contrary, they glorify Her beyond what is proper" (Panarion, Against the Collyridians).

This Holy Father accuses those who give Her an almost divine worship: "Let Mary be in honor, but let worship be given to the Lord" (same source). "Although Mary is a chosen vessel, still she was a woman by nature, not to be distinguished at all from others. Although the history of Mary and Tradition relate that it was said to Her father Joachim in the desert, 'Thy wife hath conceived,' still this was done not without marital union and not without the seed of man" (same source). "One should not revere the saints above what is proper, but should revere their Master. Mary is not God, and did not receive a body from heaven, but from the joining of man and woman; and according to the promise, like Isaac, She was prepared to take part in the Divine Economy. But, on the other hand, let none dare foolishly to offend the Holy Virgin" (St. Epiphanius, Against the Antidikomarionites). The Orthodox Church, highly exalting the Mother of God in its hymns of praise, does not dare to ascribe to Her that which has not been communicated about Her by Sacred Scripture or Tradition.

Thomas Merton began to read Bulgakov in April of 1957, at which time he noted that the religious philosopher was a writer “of great, great attention.” Bulgakov, wrote Merton, “dared to accept the challenge of the image of Proverbs where Wisdom is ‘playing in the world’ before the face of the Creator.” Sophia was “somehow, mysteriously, to be revealed and ‘fulfilled’ in the Mother of God and in the Church.” And, “most importantly of all” for Merton, Bulgakov claimed that man’s creative vocation was “to prepare, consciously, the ultimate triumph of Divine Wisdom.”

“Angels themselves are to be judged [1 Cor. 6.3], apparently upon the execution of their service. Therefore until the glorification of humankind and the full manifestation of its Divine-humanity, even the angels do not enjoy the fullness of their glory, for they have yet part of their course to run. Meanwhile, the holy Mother of God has already attained the fullness of her glory; she is in heaven, set above the angels, who indeed worship her, as sharing with her Son the humanity of the God-human. Nevertheless, in virtue of their holiness the holy angels, with the archangel of the Annunciation at their head, appear to form the immediate entourage of the holy Mother of God… The angels serve the holy Mother of God, recognizing in her the full expression of created Wisdom. For them, too, she is their ‘Lady’ and the heavenly ‘Queen’.”


Bulgakov spent the last 20 years of his life developing sophiology, a philosophical-theological system built around the concept of sophia (Greek: “wisdom”). This concept, frequently found in the works of medieval mystics and of modern Russian philosophers such as Vladimir Solovyov and Pavel Florensky, is used by Bulgakov to signify the link connecting God and the created world.

His doctrines of divine wisdom, however, were strongly opposed by several Orthodox theologians and were condemned in 1935 by the Synod of Karlovci, Yugos., and by Patriarch Sergey of Moscow. Bulgakov’s own bishop, Metropolitan Eulogius of Paris, and his colleagues at the institute supported him and protected his freedom to teach and to write.

Author Bulgakov, Sergei
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 224 pp.
Publisher Lindisfarne Press 1993
Gold Medal

Gold Medal


  Gold Medal Essential Reading

Browse these categories as well: Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Mystic and Esoteric Christianity, Gods, Goddesses and Archetypes, Love, Beauty and the Feminine, Holy Woman and High Priestess, Masterworks of the Western Mystery Tradition, Gold Medal Essential Reading

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