QUESTION 34: OF THE PERSON OF THE SON
We next consider the person of the Son. Three names are attributed to
the Son---namely, "Son," "Word," and "Image." The idea of Son is gathered
from the idea of Father. Hence it remains for us to consider Word and
Concerning Word there are three points of inquiry:
(1) Whether Word is an essential term in God, or a personal term?
(2) Whether it is the proper name of the Son?
(3) Whether in the name of Word is expressed relation to creatures?
Article 1: Whether Word in God is a personal name?
Objection 1: It would seem that Word in God is not a personal name. For
personal names are applied to God in a proper sense, as Father and Son.
But Word is applied to God metaphorically, as Origen says on (Jn. 1:1),
"In the beginning was the Word." Therefore Word is not a personal name in
Objection 2: Further, according to Augustine (De Trin. ix, 10), "The Word is
knowledge with love;" and according to Anselm (Monol. lx), "To speak is
to the Supreme Spirit nothing but to see by thought." But knowledge and
thought, and sight, are essential terms in God. Therefore Word is not a
personal term in God.
Objection 3: Further, it is essential to word to be spoken. But, according to
Anselm (Monol. lix), as the Father is intelligent, the Son is
intelligent, and the Holy Ghost is intelligent, so the Father speaks, the
Son speaks, and the Holy Ghost speaks; and likewise, each one of them is
spoken. Therefore, the name Word is used as an essential term in God, and
not in a personal sense.
Objection 4: Further, no divine person is made. But the Word of God is
something made. For it is said, "Fire, hail, snow, ice, the storms which
do His Word" (Ps. 148:8). Therefore the Word is not a personal name in
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Trin. vii, 11): "As the Son is
related to the Father, so also is the Word to Him Whose Word He is." But
the Son is a personal name, since it is said relatively. Therefore so
also is Word.
I answer that, The name of Word in God, if taken in its proper sense, is
a personal name, and in no way an essential name.
To see how this is true, we must know that our own word taken in its
proper sense has a threefold meaning; while in a fourth sense it is taken
improperly or figuratively. The clearest and most common sense is when it
is said of the word spoken by the voice; and this proceeds from an
interior source as regards two things found in the exterior word---that
is, the vocal sound itself, and the signification of the sound. For,
according to the Philosopher (Peri Herm. i) vocal sound signifies the
concept of the intellect. Again the vocal sound proceeds from the
signification or the imagination, as stated in De Anima ii, text 90. The
vocal sound, which has no signification cannot be called a word:
wherefore the exterior vocal sound is called a word from the fact the it
signifies the interior concept of the mind. Therefore it follows that,
first and chiefly, the interior concept of the mind is called a word;
secondarily, the vocal sound itself, signifying the interior concept, is
so called; and thirdly, the imagination of the vocal sound is called a
word. Damascene mentions these three kinds of words (De Fide Orth. i,
17), saying that "word" is called "the natural movement of the intellect,
whereby it is moved, and understands, and thinks, as light and splendor;"
which is the first kind. "Again," he says, "the word is what is not
pronounced by a vocal word, but is uttered in the heart;" which is the
third kind. "Again," also, "the word is the angel"---that is, the
messenger "of intelligence;" which is the second kind. Word is also used
in a fourth way figuratively for that which is signified or effected by a
word; thus we are wont to say, "this is the word I have said," or "which
the king has commanded," alluding to some deed signified by the word
either by way of assertion or of command.
Now word is taken strictly in God, as signifying the concept of the
intellect. Hence Augustine says (De Trin. xv, 10): "Whoever can
understand the word, not only before it is sounded, but also before
thought has clothed it with imaginary sound, can already see some
likeness of that Word of Whom it is said: In the beginning was the Word."
The concept itself of the heart has of its own nature to proceed from
something other than itself---namely, from the knowledge of the one
conceiving. Hence "Word," according as we use the term strictly of God,
signifies something proceeding from another; which belongs to the nature
of personal terms in God, inasmuch as the divine persons are
distinguished by origin (Question , Articles ,4,5). Hence the term "Word,"
according as we use the term strictly of God, is to be taken as said not
essentially, but personally.
Reply to Objection 1: The Arians, who sprang from Origen, declared that the Son
differed in substance from the Father. Hence, they endeavored to maintain
that when the Son of God is called the Word, this is not to be understood
in a strict sense; lest the idea of the Word proceeding should compel
them to confess that the Son of God is of the same substance as the
Father. For the interior word proceeds in such a manner from the one who
pronounces it, as to remain within him. But supposing Word to be said
metaphorically of God, we must still admit Word in its strict sense. For
if a thing be called a word metaphorically, this can only be by reason of
some manifestation; either it makes something manifest as a word, or it
is manifested by a word. If manifested by a word, there must exist a word
whereby it is manifested. If it is called a word because it exteriorly
manifests, what it exteriorly manifests cannot be called word except in
as far as it signifies the interior concept of the mind, which anyone may
also manifest by exterior signs. Therefore, although Word may be
sometimes said of God metaphorically, nevertheless we must also admit
Word in the proper sense, and which is said personally.
Reply to Objection 2: Nothing belonging to the intellect can be applied to God
personally, except word alone; for word alone signifies that which
emanates from another. For what the intellect forms in its conception is
the word. Now, the intellect itself, according as it is made actual by
the intelligible species, is considered absolutely; likewise the act of
understanding which is to the actual intellect what existence is to
actual being; since the act of understanding does not signify an act
going out from the intelligent agent, but an act remaining in the agent.
Therefore when we say that word is knowledge, the term knowledge does not
mean the act of a knowing intellect, or any one of its habits, but stands
for what the intellect conceives by knowing. Hence also Augustine says
(De Trin. vii, 1) that the Word is "begotten wisdom;" for it is nothing
but the concept of the Wise One; and in the same way It can be called
"begotten knowledge." Thus can also be explained how "to speak" is in God
"to see by thought," forasmuch as the Word is conceived by the gaze of
the divine thought. Still the term "thought" does not properly apply to
the Word of God. For Augustine says (De Trin. xv, 16): "Therefore do we
speak of the Word of God, and not of the Thought of God, lest we believe
that in God there is something unstable, now assuming the form of Word,
now putting off that form and remaining latent and as it were formless."
For thought consists properly in the search after the truth, and this has
no place in God. But when the intellect attains to the form of truth, it
does not think, but perfectly contemplates the truth. Hence Anselm
(Monol. lx) takes "thought" in an improper sense for "contemplation."
Reply to Objection 3: As, properly speaking, Word in God is said personally, and
not essentially, so likewise is to "speak." Hence, as the Word is not
common to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, so it is not true that the
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one speaker. So Augustine says (De Trin.
vii, 1): "He who speaks in that co-eternal Word is understood as not
alone in God, but as being with that very Word, without which, forsooth,
He would not be speaking." On the other hand, "to be spoken" belongs to
each Person, for not only is the word spoken, but also the thing
understood or signified by the word. Therefore in this manner to one
person alone in God does it belong to be spoken in the same way as a word
is spoken; whereas in the way whereby a thing is spoken as being
understood in the word, it belongs to each Person to be spoken. For the
Father, by understanding Himself, the Son and the Holy Ghost, and all
other things comprised in this knowledge, conceives the Word; so that
thus the whole Trinity is "spoken" in the Word; and likewise also all
creatures: as the intellect of a man by the word he conceives in the act
of understanding a stone, speaks a stone. Anselm took the term "speak"
improperly for the act of understanding; whereas they really differ from
each other; for "to understand" means only the habitude of the
intelligent agent to the thing understood, in which habitude no trace of
origin is conveyed, but only a certain information of our intellect;
forasmuch as our intellect is made actual by the form of the thing
understood. In God, however, it means complete identity, because in God
the intellect and the thing understood are altogether the same, as was
proved above (Question , Articles ,5). Whereas to "speak" means chiefly the
habitude to the word conceived; for "to speak" is nothing but to utter a
word. But by means of the word it imports a habitude to the thing
understood which in the word uttered is manifested to the one who
understands. Thus, only the Person who utters the Word is "speaker" in
God, although each Person understands and is understood, and consequently
is spoken by the Word.
Reply to Objection 4: The term "word" is there taken figuratively, as the thing
signified or effected by word is called word. For thus creatures are said
to do the word of God, as executing any effect, whereto they are ordained
from the word conceived of the divine wisdom; as anyone is said to do the
word of the king when he does the work to which he is appointed by the
Article 2: Whether "Word" is the Son's proper name?
Objection 1: It would seem that "Word" is not the proper name of the Son. For
the Son is a subsisting person in God. But word does not signify a
subsisting thing, as appears in ourselves. Therefore word cannot be the
proper name of the person of the Son.
Objection 2: Further, the word proceeds from the speaker by being uttered.
Therefore if the Son is properly the word, He proceeds from the Father,
by way only of utterance; which is the heresy of Valentine; as appears
from Augustine (De Haeres. xi).
Objection 3: Further, every proper name of a person signifies some property of
that person. Therefore, if the Word is the Son's proper name, it
signifies some property of His; and thus there will be several more
properties in God than those above mentioned.
Objection 4: Further, whoever understands conceives a word in the act of
understanding. But the Son understands. Therefore some word belongs to
the Son; and consequently to be Word is not proper to the Son.
Objection 5: Further, it is said of the Son (Heb. 1:3): "Bearing all things by
the word of His power;" whence Basil infers (Cont. Eunom. v, 11) that the
Holy Ghost is the Son's Word. Therefore to be Word is not proper to the
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Trin. vi, 11): "By Word we
understand the Son alone."
I answer that, "Word," said of God in its proper sense, is used
personally, and is the proper name of the person of the Son. For it
signifies an emanation of the intellect: and the person Who proceeds in
God, by way of emanation of the intellect, is called the Son; and this
procession is called generation, as we have shown above (Question , Article ).
Hence it follows that the Son alone is properly called Word in God.
Reply to Objection 1: "To be" and "to understand" are not the same in us. Hence
that which in us has intellectual being, does not belong to our nature.
But in God "to be" and "to understand" are one and the same: hence the
Word of God is not an accident in Him, or an effect of His; but belongs
to His very nature. And therefore it must needs be something subsistent;
for whatever is in the nature of God subsists; and so Damascene says (De
Fide Orth. i, 18) that "the Word of God is substantial and has a
hypostatic being; but other words [as our own] are activities if the
Reply to Objection 2: The error of Valentine was condemned, not as the Arians
pretended, because he asserted that the Son was born by being uttered, as
Hilary relates (De Trin. vi); but on account of the different mode of
utterance proposed by its author, as appears from Augustine (De Haeres.
Reply to Objection 3: In the term "Word" the same property is comprised as in the
name Son. Hence Augustine says (De Trin. vii, 11): "Word and Son express
the same." For the Son's nativity, which is His personal property, is
signified by different names, which are attributed to the Son to express
His perfection in various ways. To show that He is of the same nature as
the Father, He is called the Son; to show that He is co-eternal, He is
called the Splendor; to show that He is altogether like, He is called the
Image; to show that He is begotten immaterially, He is called the Word.
All these truths cannot be expressed by only one name.
Reply to Objection 4: To be intelligent belongs to the Son, in the same way as it
belongs to Him to be God, since to understand is said of God essentially,
as stated above (Question , Articles ,4). Now the Son is God begotten, and not
God begetting; and hence He is intelligent, not as producing a Word, but
as the Word proceeding; forasmuch as in God the Word proceeding does not
differ really from the divine intellect, but is distinguished from the
principle of the Word only by relation.
Reply to Objection 5: When it is said of the Son, "Bearing all things by the word
of His power"; "word" is taken figuratively for the effect of the Word.
Hence a gloss says that "word" is here taken to mean command; inasmuch as
by the effect of the power of the Word, things are kept in being, as also
by the effect of the power of the Word things are brought into being.
Basil speaks widely and figuratively in applying Word to the Holy Ghost;
in the sense perhaps that everything that makes a person known may be
called his word, and so in that way the Holy Ghost may be called the
Son's Word, because He manifests the Son.
Article 3: Whether the name "Word" imports relation to creatures?
Objection 1: It would seem that the name 'Word' does not import relation to
creatures. For every name that connotes some effect in creatures, is said
of God essentially. But Word is not said essentially, but personally.
Therefore Word does not import relation to creatures.
Objection 2: Further, whatever imports relation to creatures is said of God in
time; as "Lord" and "Creator." But Word is said of God from eternity.
Therefore it does not import relation to the creature.
Objection 3: Further, Word imports relation to the source whence it proceeds.
Therefore, if it imports relation to the creature, it follows that the
Word proceeds from the creature.
Objection 4: Further, ideas (in God) are many according to their various
relations to creatures. Therefore if Word imports relation to creatures,
it follows that in God there is not one Word only, but many.
Objection 5: Further, if Word imports relation to the creature, this can only
be because creatures are known by God. But God does not know beings only;
He knows also non-beings. Therefore in the Word are implied relations to
non-beings; which appears to be false.
On the contrary, Augustine says (Questions. lxxxiii, qu. 63), that "the name
Word signifies not only relation to the Father, but also relation to
those beings which are made through the Word, by His operative power."
I answer that, Word implies relation to creatures. For God by knowing
Himself, knows every creature. Now the word conceived in the mind is
representative of everything that is actually understood. Hence there are
in ourselves different words for the different things which we
understand. But because God by one act understands Himself and all
things, His one only Word is expressive not only of the Father, but of
And as the knowledge of God is only cognitive as regards God, whereas as
regards creatures, it is both cognitive and operative, so the Word of God
is only expressive of what is in God the Father, but is both expressive
and operative of creatures; and therefore it is said (Ps. 32:9): "He
spake, and they were made;" because in the Word is implied the operative
idea of what God makes.
Reply to Objection 1: The nature is also included indirectly in the name of the
person; for person is an individual substance of a rational nature.
Therefore the name of a divine person, as regards the personal relation,
does not imply relation to the creature, but it is implied in what
belongs to the nature. Yet there is nothing to prevent its implying
relation to creatures, so far as the essence is included in its meaning:
for as it properly belongs to the Son to be the Son, so it properly
belongs to Him to be God begotten, or the Creator begotten; and in this
way the name Word imports relation to creatures.
Reply to Objection 2: Since the relations result from actions, some names import
the relation of God to creatures, which relation follows on the action of
God which passes into some exterior effect, as to create and to govern;
and the like are applied to God in time. But others import a relation
which follows from an action which does not pass into an exterior effect,
but abides in the agent---as to know and to will: such are not applied to
God in time; and this kind of relation to creatures is implied in the
name of the Word. Nor is it true that all names which import the relation
of God to creatures are applied to Him in time; but only those names are
applied in time which import relation following on the action of God
passing into exterior effect.
Reply to Objection 3: Creatures are known to God not by a knowledge derived from
the creatures themselves, but by His own essence. Hence it is not
necessary that the Word should proceed from creatures, although the Word
is expressive of creatures.
Reply to Objection 4: The name of Idea is imposed chiefly to signify relation to
creatures; and therefore it is applied in a plural sense to God; and it
is not said personally. But the name of Word is imposed chiefly to
signify the speaker, and consequently, relation to creatures, inasmuch as
God, by understanding Himself, understands every creature; and so there
is only one Word in God, and that is a personal one.
Reply to Objection 5: God's knowledge of non-beings and God's Word about
non-beings are the same; because the Word of God contains no less than
does the knowledge of God, as Augustine says (De Trin. xv, 14).
Nevertheless the Word is expressive and operative of beings, but is
expressive and manifestive of non-beings.