Question about the Holy Trinity

Do distinct attributes in God’s essence necessarily make them distinct Hypostases (Persons)? Surely God has more attributes than just His Word and His Spirit, yet the other attributes aren’t considered distinct Hypostases (Persons)?

I know the Eastern Orthodox believe in the Essence-Energies distinction (which itself is another topic), so this question probably doesn’t apply to them. But help me understand the Catholic view.

Thanks in advance and God bless.

There are only three persons in God, namely, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is why God is called a trinity, i.e., a trinity of persons but one God, a trinity of persons in one divine nature or substance. The trinity of persons are not attributes of God rather they are God. Attributes of God such as justice, wisdom, love, mercy, goodness, omnipotence, omniscience, eternity, infinity are not really distinct from the persons in God. God is justice, truth, wisdom, goodness, life, love, mercy, etc and this applies to all the three persons that make up the trinity.

Interesting question.

I like Richca’s answer, will just add that an attribute is a human way of understanding one aspect of God, whereas a divine person is not a human construct but an ultimate reality, and encompasses every divine attribute.

St. Augustine explains the Word as God’s thought of himself, so perfect It is another person, equal in every way to the Father (except in being the origin). The Spirit is God’s love for the thought of himself, or the love between the Father and Son, again so perfect it is another person, equal in every way except the interpersonal relations.

Here’s the main difference between God’s attributes and the Son and the Holy Spirit:

13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because**[size=] it is that from me he will receive **[/size]what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (St. John 16:13-15)

The Three Persons of God are able to exist in Hypostatic union because they are Hypostasis (Actual Persons); God’s attributes are not “Persons” of God!

Yahweh God is the King of Israel; Yeshua (Jesus) is the King of kings; Yahweh God is the Lord; Jesus is the Lord of lord; the Holy Spirit is the Lord of Life; Yahweh God is the Creator; Jesus is the Creator; the Holy Spirit is the Creator; God is Spirit: the Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit; the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ Spirit… God’s attributes can be applied to the Persons of God; yet, the attributes do not gain divinity (cognizance and personhood).

Maran atha!


All attributes of the Divine Nature are One. In God, love is the same as mercy is the same as justice is the same as knowledge is the same as existence. For God, to exist and to love are exactly the same.

The Three Persons of the one Nature are not attributes. The love of God is not found only in the Holy Spirit. The knowledge of God is not found only in the Son. All three Persons fully possess the one Nature, with the fullness of its attributes.

i really appreciate your post ron, succinct and on point.

It is interesting that you are using the word hypostasis as convertible with Person. It may be helpful to you to draw the distinction between the two to answer your question… as “Person” adds the characteristic of a determinate nature (rationality) in the Latin tradition. There was some confusion over this between the East and West for a while until they realized they were agreeing but using the same words in different ways.

Here is the relevant Article from Thomas:

The doctrine of the Trinity becomes quite complex straight away. But we can say that Personhood in God hinges on relation (of which there are 4 with 2 regarding in the Holy Spirit - procession and spiration - with paternity and filiation regarding the Father and Son), NOT attributes like simplicity, goodness, etc. Relation is a function of action in God, namely loving and knowing.

the attributes off God are understood from our point of view. He reduces himself to out level to help us understand him. He is a Father stooping to our level out of love.


Just wondering, would it be true or false to say that the three persons are neither the essence, nor are they other than the essence (rather they subsist in the Divine essence)?

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