Catherine Taylor—“I gave my heart to know wisdom”

09.21.2018 | The Maxwell Institute

The Maxwell Institute is excited to welcome Catherine Gines Taylor as our Hugh W. Nibley Postdoctoral Fellow.

Dr. Taylor researches the iconography of the scriptural figure of Woman Wisdom, tracing representations of female devotional and biblical figures that evolved from late ancient Christianity into the early Medieval world. Her work aims to demonstrate the direct and reflective role of women as essential to the divine economy within early Christian practice and memory.

Catherine Taylor on Being a Disciple-Scholar

I’ve long loved the opening sentiment of Ecclesiastes 1:17: “I gave my heart to know wisdom.” It succinctly captures my feelings towards being a disciple-scholar, engaged with faith, and open to receive instruction and understanding. I want to live in a world where faith and knowledge are employed in the service of wisdom. That act, for me, is acutely bound up in recognizing and comprehending the deep patterns of God’s creation and its reflection in the visual world of arts and symbolism.

Specifically, my research on wisdom has expanded my view of her personified interpretation throughout the Christian tradition. Lady Wisdom, as an iteration of the divine feminine, states unequivocally, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” (Proverbs 8:22-23) The fact that this nascent truth was apparent to the earliest Christians is remarkable to me. It is part of my work to restore this beautifully nuanced archetype to our eyes.

For me, the authentic call and commission of an intellectual life has never existed apart from the distillation of the Holy Spirit upon my soul. The temporal responsibilities of the disciple-scholar incorporate the long view of time while also savoring the everyday details of the present moment. I feel fortunate to work in community with other faithful saints and pilgrims at the Maxwell Institute, and to have the balanced luxury of contemplative research and communal conversation.

In all its richness, disciple-scholarship also comes at a cost; for to know wisdom is to also wrestle with its oppositions. The best I might hope for in this faithful life of the mind is to encounter love; to behold and connect with awfulness and mystery and the presence of God in this body, heart, and mind as his creature. To be this kind of disciple-scholar, for me, is to be faithful in Jesus who “sustains all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3), with a clear hope that the Lord lifts up his countenance upon me, and gives me an understanding peace and a work to do.

Dr. Taylor holds graduate degrees from the University of Manchester and Brigham Young University. Her monograph on the iconography of the Annunciation, Late Antique Images of the Virgin Annunciate Spinning, was recently published by Brill.