QUESTION 33: OF THE PERSON OF THE FATHER
We now consider the persons singly; and first, the Person of the Father,
concerning Whom there are four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether the Father is the Principle?
(2) Whether the person of the Father is properly signified by this name
(3) Whether "Father" in God is said personally before it is said
(4) Whether it belongs to the Father alone to be unbegotten?
Article 1: Whether it belongs to the Father to be the principle?
Objection 1: It would seem that the Father cannot be called the principle of
the Son, or of the Holy Ghost. For principle and cause are the same,
according to the Philosopher (Metaph. iv). But we do not say that the
Father is the cause of the Son. Therefore we must not say that He is the
principle of the Son.
Objection 2: Further, a principle is so called in relation to the thing
principled. So if the Father is the principle of the Son, it follows that
the Son is a person principled, and is therefore created; which appears
Objection 3: Further, the word principle is taken from priority. But in God
there is no "before" and "after," as Athanasius says. Therefore in
speaking of God we ought not to used the term principle.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Trin. iv, 20), "The Father is the
Principle of the whole Deity."
I answer that, The word "principle" signifies only that whence another
proceeds: since anything whence something proceeds in any way we call a
principle; and conversely. As the Father then is the one whence another
proceeds, it follows that the Father is a principle.
Reply to Objection 1: The Greeks use the words "cause" and "principle"
indifferently, when speaking of God; whereas the Latin Doctors do not use
the word "cause," but only "principle." The reason is because "principle"
is a wider term than "cause"; as "cause" is more common than "element."
For the first term of a thing, as also the first part, is called the
principle, but not the cause. Now the wider a term is, the more suitable
it is to use as regards God (Question , Article ), because the more special
terms are, the more they determine the mode adapted to the creature.
Hence this term "cause" seems to mean diversity of substance, and
dependence of one from another; which is not implied in the word
"principle." For in all kinds of causes there is always to be found
between the cause and the effect a distance of perfection or of power:
whereas we use the term "principle" even in things which have no such
difference, but have only a certain order to each other; as when we say
that a point is the principle of a line; or also when we say that the
first part of a line is the principle of a line.
Reply to Objection 2: It is the custom with the Greeks to say that the Son and
the Holy Ghost are principled. This is not, however, the custom with our
Doctors; because, although we attribute to the Father something of
authority by reason of His being the principle, still we do not attribute
any kind of subjection or inferiority to the Son, or to the Holy Ghost,
to avoid any occasion of error. In this way, Hilary says (De Trin. ix):
"By authority of the Giver, the Father is the greater; nevertheless the
Son is not less to Whom oneness of nature is give."
Reply to Objection 3: Although this word principle, as regards its derivation,
seems to be taken from priority, still it does not signify priority, but
origin. For what a term signifies, and the reason why it was imposed, are
not the same thing, as stated above (Question , Article ).
Article 2: Whether this name "Father" is properly the name of a divine person?
Objection 1: It would seem that this name "Father" is not properly the name of
a divine person. For the name "Father" signifies relation. Moreover
"person" is an individual substance. Therefore this name "Father" is not
properly a name signifying a Person.
Objection 2: Further, a begetter is more common than father; for every father
begets; but it is not so conversely. But a more common term is more
properly applied to God, as stated above (Question , Article ). Therefore the
more proper name of the divine person is begetter and genitor than Father.
Objection 3: Further, a metaphorical term cannot be the proper name of anyone.
But the word is by us metaphorically called begotten, or offspring; and
consequently, he of whom is the word, is metaphorically called father.
Therefore the principle of the Word in God is not properly called Father.
Objection 4: Further, everything which is said properly of God, is said of God
first before creatures. But generation appears to apply to creatures
before God; because generation seems to be truer when the one who
proceeds is distinct from the one whence it proceeds, not only by
relation but also by essence. Therefore the name "Father" taken from
generation does not seem to be the proper name of any divine person.
On the contrary, It is said (Ps. 88:27): "He shall cry out to me: Thou
art my Father."
I answer that, The proper name of any person signifies that whereby the
person is distinguished from all other persons. For as body and soul
belong to the nature of man, so to the concept of this particular man
belong this particular soul and this particular body; and by these is
this particular man distinguished from all other men. Now it is paternity
which distinguishes the person of the Father from all other persons.
Hence this name "Father," whereby paternity is signified, is the proper
name of the person of the Father.
Reply to Objection 1: Among us relation is not a subsisting person. So this name
"father" among us does not signify a person, but the relation of a
person. In God, however, it is not so, as some wrongly thought; for in
God the relation signified by the name "Father" is a subsisting person.
Hence, as above explained (Question , Article ), this name "person" in God
signifies a relation subsisting in the divine nature.
Reply to Objection 2: According to the Philosopher (De Anima ii, text 49), a
thing is denominated chiefly by its perfection, and by its end. Now
generation signifies something in process of being made, whereas
paternity signifies the complement of generation; and therefore the name
"Father" is more expressive as regards the divine person than genitor or
Reply to Objection 3: In human nature the word is not a subsistence, and hence is
not properly called begotten or son. But the divine Word is something
subsistent in the divine nature; and hence He is properly and not
metaphorically called Son, and His principle is called Father.
Reply to Objection 4: The terms "generation" and "paternity" like the other terms
properly applied to God, are said of God before creatures as regards the
thing signified, but not as regards the mode of signification. Hence also
the Apostle says, "I bend my knee to the Father of my Lord Jesus Christ,
from whom all paternity in heaven and on earth is named" (Eph. 3:14).
This is explained thus. It is manifest that generation receives its
species from the term which is the form of the thing generated; and the
nearer it is to the form of the generator, the truer and more perfect is
the generation; as univocal generation is more perfect than non-univocal,
for it belongs to the essence of a generator to generate what is like
itself in form. Hence the very fact that in the divine generation the
form of the Begetter and Begotten is numerically the same, whereas in
creatures it is not numerically, but only specifically, the same, shows
that generation, and consequently paternity, is applied to God before
creatures. Hence the very fact that in God a distinction exists of the
Begotten from the Begetter as regards relation only, belongs to the truth
of the divine generation and paternity.
Article 3: Whether this name "Father" is applied to God, firstly as a personal name?
Objection 1: It would seem that this name "Father" is not applied to God,
firstly as a personal name. For in the intellect the common precedes the
particular. But this name "Father" as a personal name, belongs to the
person of the Father; and taken in an essential sense it is common to the
whole Trinity; for we say "Our Father" to the whole Trinity. Therefore
"Father" comes first as an essential name before its personal sense.
Objection 2: Further, in things of which the concept is the same there is no
priority of predication. But paternity and filiation seem to be of the
same nature, according as a divine person is Father of the Son, and the
whole Trinity is our Father, or the creature's; since, according to Basil
(Hom. xv, De Fide), to receive is common to the creature and to the Son.
Therefore "Father" in God is not taken as an essential name before it is
Objection 3: Further, it is not possible to compare things which have not a
common concept. But the Son is compared to the creature by reason of
filiation or generation, according to Col. 1:15: "Who is the image of the
invisible God, the first-born of every creature." Therefore paternity
taken in a personal sense is not prior to, but has the same concept as,
paternity taken essentially.
On the contrary, The eternal comes before the temporal. But God is the
Father of the Son from eternity; while He is the Father of the creature
in time. Therefore paternity in God is taken in a personal sense as
regards the Son, before it is so taken as regards the creature.
I answer that, A name is applied to that wherein is perfectly contained
its whole signification, before it is applied to that which only
partially contains it; for the latter bears the name by reason of a kind
of similitude to that which answers perfectly to the signification of the
name; since all imperfect things are taken from perfect things. Hence
this name "lion" is applied first to the animal containing the whole
nature of a lion, and which is properly so called, before it is applied
to a man who shows something of a lion's nature, as courage, or strength,
or the like; and of whom it is said by way of similitude.
Now it is manifest from the foregoing (Question , Article ; Question , Article ), that
the perfect idea of paternity and filiation is to be found in God the
Father, and in God the Son, because one is the nature and glory of the
Father and the Son. But in the creature, filiation is found in relation
to God, not in a perfect manner, since the Creator and the creature have
not the same nature; but by way of a certain likeness, which is the more
perfect the nearer we approach to the true idea of filiation. For God is
called the Father of some creatures, by reason only of a trace, for
instance of irrational creatures, according to Job 38:28: "Who is the
father of the rain? or who begot the drops of dew?" Of some, namely, the
rational creature (He is the Father), by reason of the likeness of His
image, according to Dt. 32:6: "Is He not thy Father, who possessed, and
made, and created thee?" And of others He is the Father by similitude of
grace, and these are also called adoptive sons, as ordained to the
heritage of eternal glory by the gift of grace which they have received,
according to Rm. 8:16,17: "The Spirit Himself gives testimony to our
spirit that we are the sons of God; and if sons, heirs also." Lastly, He
is the Father of others by similitude of glory, forasmuch as they have
obtained possession of the heritage of glory, according to Rm. 5:2: "We
glory in the hope of the glory of the sons of God." Therefore it is plain
that "paternity" is applied to God first, as importing regard of one
Person to another Person, before it imports the regard of God to
Reply to Objection 1: Common terms taken absolutely, in the order of our
intelligence, come before proper terms; because they are included in the
understanding of proper terms; but not conversely. For in the concept of
the person of the Father, God is understood; but not conversely. But
common terms which import relation to the creature come after proper
terms which import personal relations; because the person proceeding in
God proceeds as the principle of the production of creatures. For as the
word conceived in the mind of the artist is first understood to proceed
from the artist before the thing designed, which is produced in likeness
to the word conceived in the artist's mind; so the Son proceeds from the
Father before the creature, to which the name of filiation is applied as
it participates in the likeness of the Son, as is clear from the words of
Rm. 8:29: "Whom He foreknew and predestined to be made conformable to the
image of His Son."
Reply to Objection 2: To "receive" is said to be common to the creature and to
the Son not in a univocal sense, but according to a certain remote
similitude whereby He is called the First Born of creatures. Hence the
authority quoted subjoins: "That He may be the First Born among many
brethren," after saying that some were conformed to the image of the Son
of God. But the Son of God possesses a position of singularity above
others, in having by nature what He receives, as Basil also declares
(Hom. xv De Fide); hence He is called the only begotten (Jn. 1:18): "The
only begotten Who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared unto
From this appears the Reply to the Third Objection.
Article 4: Whether it is proper to the Father to be unbegotten?
Objection 1: It would seem that it is not proper to the Father to be
unbegotten. For every property supposes something in that of which it is
the property. But "unbegotten" supposes nothing in the Father; it only
removes something. Therefore it does not signify a property of the Father.
Objection 2: Further, Unbegotten is taken either in a privative, or in a
negative sense. If in a negative sense, then whatever is not begotten can
be called unbegotten. But the Holy Ghost is not begotten; neither is the
divine essence. Therefore to be unbegotten belongs also to the essence;
thus it is not proper to the Father. But if it be taken in a privative
sense, as every privation signifies imperfection in the thing which is
the subject of privation, it follows that the Person of the Father is
imperfect; which cannot be.
Objection 3: Further, in God, "unbegotten" does not signify relation, for it
is not used relatively. Therefore it signifies substance; therefore
unbegotten and begotten differ in substance. But the Son, Who is
begotten, does not differ from the Father in substance. Therefore the
Father ought not to be called unbegotten.
Objection 4: Further, property means what belongs to one alone. Since, then,
there are more than one in God proceeding from another, there is nothing
to prevent several not receiving their being from another. Therefore the
Father is not alone unbegotten.
Objection 5: Further, as the Father is the principle of the person begotten,
so is He of the person proceeding. So if by reason of his opposition to
the person begotten, it is proper to the Father to be unbegotten it
follows that it is proper to Him also to be unproceeding.
On the contrary, Hilary says (De Trin. iv): "One is from one ---that is,
the Begotten is from the Unbegotten---namely, by the property in each one
respectively of innascibility and origin."
I answer that, As in creatures there exist a first and a secondary
principle, so also in the divine Persons, in Whom there is no before or
after, is formed the principle not from a principle, Who is the Father;
and the principle from a principle, Who is the Son.
Now in things created a first principle is known in two ways; in one way
as the first "principle," by reason of its having a relation to what
proceeds from itself; in another way, inasmuch as it is a "first"
principle by reason of its not being from another. Thus therefore the
Father is known both by paternity and by common spiration, as regards the
persons proceeding from Himself. But as the principle, not from a
principle He is known by the fact that He is not from another; and this
belongs to the property of innascibility, signified by this word
Reply to Objection 1: Some there are who say that innascibility, signified by the
word "unbegotten," as a property of the Father, is not a negative term
only, but either that it means both these things together---namely, that
the Father is from no one, and that He is the principle of others; or
that it imports universal authority, or also His plenitude as the source
of all. This, however, does not seem true, because thus innascibility
would not be a property distinct from paternity and spiration; but would
include them as the proper is included in the common. For source and
authority signify in God nothing but the principle of origin. We must
therefore say with Augustine (De Trin. v, 7) that "unbegotten" imports
the negation of passive generation. For he says that "unbegotten" has the
same meaning as "not a son." Nor does it follow that "unbegotten" is not
the proper notion of the Father; for primary and simple things are
notified by negations; as, for instance, a point is defined as what has
Reply to Objection 2: "Unbegotten" is taken sometimes in a negative sense only,
and in that sense Jerome says that "the Holy Ghost is unbegotten," that
is, He is not begotten. Otherwise "unbegotten" may be taken in a kind of
privation sense, but not as implying any imperfection. For privation can
be taken in many ways; in one way when a thing has not what is naturally
belongs to another, even though it is not of its own nature to have it;
as, for instance, if a stone be called a dead thing, as wanting life,
which naturally belongs to some other things. In another sense, privation
is so called when something has not what naturally belongs to some
members of its genus; as for instance when a mole is called blind. In a
third sense privation means the absence of what something ought to have;
in which sense, privation imports an imperfection. In this sense,
"unbegotten" is not attributed to the Father as a privation, but it may
be so attributed in the second sense, meaning that a certain person of
the divine nature is not begotten, while some person of the same nature
is begotten. In this sense the term "unbegotten" can be applied also to
the Holy Ghost. Hence to consider it as a term proper to the Father
alone, it must be further understood that the name "unbegotten" belongs
to a divine person as the principle of another person; so that it be
understood to imply negation in the genus of principle taken personally
in God. Or that there be understood in the term "unbegotten" that He is
not in any way derived from another; and not only that He is not from
another by way only of generation. In this sense the term "unbegotten"
does not belong at all to the Holy Ghost, Who is from another by
procession, as a subsisting person; nor does it belong to the divine
essence, of which it may be said that it is in the Son or in the Holy
Ghost from another---namely, from the Father.
Reply to Objection 3: According to Damascene (De Fide Orth. ii, 9), "unbegotten"
in one sense signifies the same as "uncreated"; and thus it applies to
the substance, for thereby does the created substance differ from the
uncreated. In another sense it signifies what is not begotten, and in
this sense it is a relative term; just as negation is reduced to the
genus of affirmation, as "not man" is reduced to the genus of substance,
and "not white" to the genus of quality. Hence, since "begotten" implies
relation in God, "unbegotten" belongs also to relation. Thus it does not
follow that the Father unbegotten is substantially distinguished from the
Son begotten; but only by relation; that is, as the relation of Son is
denied of the Father.
Reply to Objection 4: In every genus there must be something first; so in the
divine nature there must be some one principle which is not from another,
and which we call "unbegotten." To admit two innascibles is to suppose
the existence of two Gods, and two divine natures. Hence Hilary says (De
Synod.): "As there is one God, so there cannot be two innascibles." And
this especially because, did two innascibles exist, one would not be from
the other, and they would not be distinguished by relative opposition:
therefore they would be distinguished from each other by diversity of
Reply to Objection 5: The property of the Father, whereby He is not from another,
is more clearly signified by the removal of the nativity of the Son, than
by the removal of the procession of the Holy Ghost; both because the
procession of the Holy Ghost has no special name, as stated above (Question , Article , ad 3), and because also in the order of nature it presupposes the
generation of the Son. Hence, it being denied of the Father that He is
begotten, although He is the principle of generation, it follows, as a
consequence, that He does not proceed by the procession of the Holy
Ghost, because the Holy Ghost is not the principle of generation, but
proceeds from the person begotten.