Following up on my continuing fascination with exegesis of this verse, here are the comments of Sedulius Scotus (fl. 848-58) on 1 Corinthians 1:21, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the foolishness of what we preach to save those who believe”:
The creation of the world was shaped in the wisdom of God, in which through natural wisdom, which was given and created for this purpose, one ought to have known the one who made it. But since humanity did not know God, other medicines were provided to help them. Therefore, ‘through his wisdom’ is to be understood as ‘through natural wisdom,’ which was given so that God might be known; this ‘natural wisdom’ can also be called the ‘wisdom of God,’ because it was created by God, or because the wisdom of God is certainly the spring and the natural creator of wisdom in humanity.
Factura mundi Dei sapientia est fabricata, in qua per sapientiam naturalem, quae ad hoc data et creata fuerat, debuit cognosci ipse qui fecerat: sed quoniam non cognoverunt homines, alia illis succurritur medicina. Ergo per sapientiam suam intelligendum, per naturalem sapientiam, quae ad hoc data est ut cognoscatur Deus; quae naturalis sapientia, et Dei sapientia dici potest, quod a Deo sit creata, aut certe Dei sapientia fons est et creatrix naturalis in hominibus sapientiae.
Sedulius Scotus, In epistolam I ad Corinthios 1:21 (PL103: 130).
Sedulius’ commentary is unique in speaking here of a “natural wisdom.” Most commentators here speak of God implanting his wisdom into created things or making the world “in wisdom,” but not of there being a “natural wisdom” which can even be identified with the “wisdom of God”! Of course, even though this wisdom was available in the creation, humanity only rarely made use of it; thus, God provided “other medicines”–another unique feature of Sedulius’ exegesis here. Many commentators (including Aquinas and Calvin) speak of God as a teacher who sees that his students have not understood the lesson, and so begins to teach them another way (i.e., the incarnation); Sedulius, on the other hand, views God as a doctor who provides remedies for his patients’ diseases.