What Is Sophiology?

Sophiology (Софиология, by detractors also called Sophianism Софианство or Sophism Софизм) is a controversial school of thought in Russian Orthodoxy, concerned with the interpretation of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) which has been misunderstood as a feminine “fourth hypostasis” .[1]

The controversy has roots in the early modern period, but sophiology as a theological doctrine was formulated during the 1890s to 1910s by Vladimir Solovyov (1853–1900), Pavel Florensky (1882–1937) and Sergey Bulgakov (1871–1944).[2]

Holy Wisdom (Yaroslavl, 19th c, priv.coll)

In 1935, Bulgakov’s teaching on the Holy Wisdom has been condemned as heretical by the Patriarch of Moscow[3] and other Orthodox hierarchs.[4]

Thomas Merton studied the Russian Sophiologists and praised Sophia in his poem titled “Hagia Sophia” (1963).[5]

Johnson (1993) and Meehan (1996) noted parallels between the Russian “sophiological” controversy and the Gender of God debate in western feminist theology.[6]


  1.  W. Goerdt in The Encyclodedia of Christianity (2008), p. 122.
  2.  Philosophy of Economy («Философия хозяйства» 1912) and Unfading Light («Свет Невечерний» 1917); see also Bogatzky, Nikolay (2017). “A “gung-ho” approach towards Sophic Economy” (PDF)Economic Alternatives. Sofia: UNWE Publishing Complex. Issue 1: 160–186. ISSN 2367-9409..
  3.  “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
  4.  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
  5.  “Sophia”Liturgical Press. Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  6.  Elizabeth Johnson, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse (1993) Meehan, Brenda, “Wisdom/Sophia, Russian identity, and Western feminist theology”, Cross Currents, 46(2), 1996, pp. 149–168

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