"Person" in the Trinity same as the word "self"?

can we equate the word “Person” in the Trinity belief with the word “identity” or “self”?

So when we say one God with three divine Persons, are we actually saying "one God with three divine “identities”? Or that God has three “Himselves”?

After all, if the Trinitarian answer to the question “when Jesus prayed to the Father, is He praying to Himself?” is “That can’t be, because the person of the Father is different from the person of the Son. So Jesus is not praying to Himself.”

so that means Jesus has his own “self”. The Father has his own too. And Jesus’ “self” could not be the same with the Father’s “self”, then can we rightly equate the word “Person” with “self”?

This came about since I’m figuring out an answer to the question, “when Jesus prayed to the Father, is God talking to Himself?” (i believe that’s a different question from “when Jesus prayed to the Father, is He praying to Himself?”)

So perhaps if ‘self’ is the same as “Person”, then I can answer,

No, God has three “selves”. His first “Himself” talked to his second “Himself”.

I hope you get what I mean there. What do you think?

I think the wording is important.
We** don’t **say “three people in one God” we do say “three Persons”.

From Pope Benedict’s Compendium (Cliff Notes) of the Catechism of the Church.


  1. How does the Church express her trinitarian faith?


The Church expresses her trinitarian faith by professing a belief in the oneness of God in whom there are three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The three divine Persons are only one God because each of them equally possesses the fullness of the one and indivisible divine nature. They are really distinct from each other by reason of the relations which place them in correspondence to each other. The Father generates the Son; the Son is generated by the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

  1. How do the three divine Persons work?


Inseparable in their one substance, the three divine Persons are also inseparable in their activity. The Trinity has one operation, sole and the same. In this one divine action, however, each Person is present according to the mode which is proper to him in the Trinity.

“O my God, Trinity whom I adore…grant my soul peace; make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling, and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action.” (Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity)

uhm… yeah… can we say “three identities” or 'three Himselves" in one God?

how does the Church exactly define the term “Person/s” when referring to the Trinity? I believe it is different when referring to “person/s” as “people”

I think it is awesome that you are spending you time trying to deepen you understanding of who and what God is. But rather than than coming up with you own words to try and grasp the concept of an infinite God, I would suggest keeping with the formula (1 God/3 divine persons) and then meditate on that and pray the Creeds and even pick up some books on the subject like “Theology and Sanity” by Frank Sheed. The first 80-100 pages goes into a very good explanation of God as well as the words “person” and “nature”

I do not think that is the case. One definition is “an individual substance of rational nature.”, this would be the same as appied to mankind. Another is a little more complicated, it has 4 qualities

  1. individual substance,
  2. complete in and of itself
  3. possessor of his nature and its individual acts
  4. rational nature

I believe both of these traditional definitions are applicable to the persons of the trinity or to mankind. It is just that we cannot get our heads around how three persons can be so tightly joined in the Trinity and be One God. But the three persons, defined the way we think of people accurate.

To the OP, I think it is a bad idea to try to substitute words ourselves in order to better understand things. The Church has put a whole lot of thought into the words it uses. It is likely other words could very well lead to error. Better to understand the words the Church has selected.

“Person” answers the question “who”?
"Nature answers the question “what?”
God is one in nature (what) but three in person (who.)

I would hesitate to use the word “self” in place of “person” when referring to God, because for human beings, “self” involves not only the “person”–i.e., who we are, but comprises our unique bodily and spiritual individuality. Since God has no body, and no parts, no ‘psychological structure,’ person in His case can refer only to the unique expression of the divine nature represented by the relation of each of the divine persons to the others. We also have to keep in mind that each divine person possesses in its entirety the single divine nature–i.e., they do not ‘share’ it.

Well, the second person of the Trinity does have a body. I think your statement God is one in nature is seems slightly off. I see what you mean, but that formula does not match the statement “Jesus is two natures in one person”.

Perhaps help from a trained theologian would help us in these tricky waters.

Jesus as man, that is, the Second Person of the Trinity incarnated as a human being, does have a body But that is because, in his human nature, he is a human being. But none of the divine Persons, in their divine nature, have a body. And of course, Jesus, even as a human being, remains a divine Person, not a human person.

Jesus is both God and man (two natures.) As man, he has a body. As God, he does not have a body.

This sounds very close to overly seperating his humanity and divinity. Not saying you are wrong, but it just does not sound right. Will have to do some investigation into this.

Well, his humanity and his divinity are united in one Person, which is divine. But the reason he has a human (limited) nature at all is because he chose, as a divine Person, to take on a human nature.

According to Aquinas the term person when referring to a member of the Trinity is defined as - a real relation as subsistent in the divine nature.

okay, so we have one God with three “individual substances/relations i.e. Persons”

but how do you answer the question “when Jesus prayed to the Father, is God talking to Himself?” is that a yes or a no?

then do you agree with this?:

This came about since I’m figuring out an answer to the question, “when Jesus prayed to the Father, is God talking to Himself?” (i believe that’s a different question from “when Jesus prayed to the Father, is He praying to Himself?”)

So perhaps if ‘self’ is the same as “Person”, then I can answer,

No, God has three “selves”. His first “Himself” talked to his second “Himself”.

No, the Son was praying to the Father. Two distinct persons. One divine nature. Persons pray, natures don’t.

No agreement.

Jesus (a person) is truely speaking to the Father (a different person), not Himself.

Showing definitively that “person” and “self” are not interchangeable.

I think that it is safe to say that there is truly no word in any language that can effectively discribe the relations of the members of the Blessed Trinity. Person falls short there is no doubt but is used more for tradition sake than any other reason. Also most walk on pins and needles when discussing the Trinity for fear of stepping across the line into heresy which quiet honestly is easy to do concerning this subject because of the fact that there is no good word or terminology or analogy that we can use to explain the great mystery.

We use the term person only loosely and not completely. Person is normally defined as an individual. Well that is not what we are talking about are we? If one says that God is One but three individuals that are God, then I think that we start moving to tritheism. So instead we have to redefine person as a relation for it to be close to what are looking for.

Here are the facts as far as I can understand them. The members of the Trinity are distinct in origin and relation. They are also distinct economically in their Divine missions. Only the Son is incarnate and born of the Virgin Mary and only the Holy Spirit is sent. These are the three “safe” distinctions between the members of the Trinity. I am willing to go a step further and say that I think (emphasis on “I”) they are distinct in their “self-awareness”. What I mean by this is that the Son “knows” that He is the Son and not the Father or the Holy Spirit. He also “knows” who the Father and the Spirit are. The same can be said of the Father and the Spirit as well.

This is taught from Scripture with Jesus praying the Father; using phrases such as only the Son knows the Father; of Paul saying about Jesus that even though He was in the Form of God, He did not deem equality with God (Father) something to grasp but rather emptied Himself and took the form of a servant. And later in the same passage …for this God highly exalted Him and gave Him the Name above all Names.

We have to remember that when it comes to God all physics and our understanding of creation do not apply. God is pure spirit and does not possess any characteristics that is remotely physical. This is a reason why I absolutely hate analogies when it comes to the Holy Trinity. The reason for this is if you take any analogy used to its fullness it always leads to heresy. Try it. Take the water analogy. You take it to its fullness it leads to modalism. You take the analogy of the mind used by St. Augustine, I think that it leads one to either reject the Trinity altogether it makes us see it as parts of the same person. The analogy of the family leads to tritheism. Try any other and you will get the same result, so I think it is better for us to stay away from analogies and stop trying to put the doctrine of the Trinity into our physical world and see it only in the light of the Spirit.

As someone said in a previous post, when we ask the question “What God is?” there is one. When we ask the question “Who God is?” there are three.

God bless.

I think this presents a problem: If each Divine person “knows” that He is not either of the others (in the same sense that you and me know that we are separate rationalities), it presupposes that each of them has a separate seat of consciousness in the Divine Mind. Such a separateness is incompatible with what we know of the Divine Nature, viz. that it is undivided!

I suggest a way to get around this problem by looking at the person from an altogether different angle. What if we said that the person IS the self-concept? (as opposed to saying that the person HAS a self-concept). First, lets test out this proposition at the level of the human person and then try to apply it to God, since we are images of Him. St. Thomas Aquinas says that the person signifies what is noblest in the whole of nature. What is the noblest in each human being? I should think that it is his pure self-concept or “I” (which is nothing but a simple awareness of distinct existance). That’s something given to him lovingly by God, which he retains through eternity. That’s the something which will forever remain the individual:individual separator, whether it is here, in heaven, in hell or in purgatory. During the course of life, that pure self-concept gets layers added on, such as that of son, brother, father, worker, husband, friend and so on. That self-concept also gets warped by sin. The following link gives an example of how the self-concept of this individual got warped and resulted in his actions getting disordered. With the help of God, he was able to get his original self-concept back, and that also brought his life back on track. In otherwords, he reclaimed his original personhood. holyspiritinteractive.net/columns/guests/davidprosen/iamnotgay.asp

If “Person=core self-concept” is a philosophically valid proposition, then I would like to apply it to the Divine Persons and say that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three self-concepts (I will interchangeably call them egos) of the Divine intellect or Godhead. Ordinarily, one intellect can support only one self-concept at a time. That’s the rule for human beings. If there were to be a plurality of egos in my mind, there would be an internal fight for supremacy, resulting in one ego chasing all the others out, but in the case of the Godhead, it can comfortably support three egos simultaneously. The three egos fully fit into each other (i.e. they consume only one space in the Divine intellect, or, another way of putting it is that all three are “in” each other). This is a spatial mystery, which is incomprehensible to us since we are 3-dimensional creatures. Were our minds been equipped to handle the fourth dimension, perhaps we would have been able to envision it better? See Carl Sagan’s explanation of the 4th Dimension here: youtube.com/watch?v=UnURElCzGc0

I would like to summarise my propositions as under: The Trinity is three egos in one mind and the Incarnation is one ego in two minds, viz. (a) in the Divine Mind and (b) in the mind of the human being called Jesus Christ. If you went up to the Christ and asked Him “who are you?”, “I am Son” would come the answer, since that is His core self-concept. If you went up to the Godhead and asked it the same question, the answer would come: “We are three: Father, Son and Holy Spirit”.

This would also explain demonic possession. In that what happens is that a demonic mind sends its self-concept or ego into the mind of the victim to violently overpower it, such that it now starts identifying with the demonic ego rather than with its original ego. So during the period of demonic possession, the demonic ego is simultaneously inhabiting two minds and therefore two natures, viz. (a) the original spirit nature and (b) the human nature of the victim. In the case of the Gerasene demoniac, it was a case of multiple demon egos simultaneously inhabiting one human mind in addition to their respective demon minds. God had a similar option at the time of the Incarnation. He could have simply sent the Son ego into an existing individual, in which case, he/she would have been said to be “possessed by God”. But wanting to spare the Christ any ignominy and also desiring to give that individual the dignity of a single ego, He fashioned a fresh human being using Mary’s reproductive system.

If I have so far not stepped into heretical territory, I will, in a succeeding post, present the paras of the CCC on the Trinity with my formulations juxtaposed against each of them for comparison purposes.

Here is a personal concept of the Mystery:
-Our Beings have body(heart), essence(soul), thoughts(mind), and interactions(strength).
-God’s Being has Jesus(Heart), Essence(God), The Father(Mind), and Holy Spirit(Strength).
-Jesus, the God, has the exact image(Heart) of God. Jesus the Man has a Mind and Strength separate from God.
Therefore, when Jesus prayed to the Father, the Man’s Mind prayed to God’s Mind.

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