Sophic is a term used by Mormon apologist, scholar, and author Hugh Nibley to explain the shift from the tradition of oral-formulaic composition to that of the written word—sophic corresponding to the written word, the word "mantic" corresponding to the oral formulaic tradition. According to his theory, the mantic was a tradition relying entirely on God and prophets for knowledge. A person in that time period could go directly to the wise man, who simply asked God, the great spirit, or the universe and shared his directive. The mantic experience was a communal one—information was oral in mantic societies because everybody needed to be able to repeat and remember knowledge together. Sacred memories and information were encoded in a way that the community could take part in them together. The shift to the sophic tradition meant a more individually centered society, gleaning knowledge from more of the scientific method-type mindset. This individual crusade for knowledge necessitated a way to transmit knowledge to others who may have the same question, leading to a written tradition. This also led to more standardized and replicable acquisition of knowledge. For example, an experiment in a laboratory ideally must be replicated several times in different laboratories to be considered valid.
The Sophic, on the other hand, is the tradition which boasted its cool, critical, objective, naturalistic, and scientific attitude; its Jewish equivalent is what Goodenough calls the "horizontal" Judaism - scholarly, bookish, halachic, intellectual, rabbinical. All religions, as Goodenough observes, seem to make some such distinction. It is when one seeks to combine or reconcile the Sophic and the Mantic that trouble begins.
. . . Whoever accepts the Sophic attitude must abandon the Mantic, and vice versa. It is the famous doctrine of Two Ways found among the Orientals, Greeks and early Christians . . . On the other hand, the Sophic society unitedly rejects the Mantic proposition, and it too forms a single community . . . here was "a man who prized brain and insight, who preferred the voice of reasoned conviction to the braying of Balaam's ass." Better false teaching from a true intellectual than the truth from a prophet. So fiercely loyal and uncompromising are the Sophic and Mantic to their own.