Summa Questions 34-35: The Person of the Son

Question 34. The person of the Son

  1. Is Word an essential term in God, or a personal term?
  2. Is it the proper name of the Son?
  3. Is relation to creatures expressed in the name of the Word?

Immediately in these two questions pertaining to the Son we note the fact that some names, like Wisdom, Power, etc, that are attributed to the Son but are spoken essentially of God in His one nature, are not treated here. They will be treated when it comes to appropriations, but not as personal names of the Son.  The personal names used will be that of Word and of Image.

“The name of Word in God, if taken in its proper sense, is a personal name, and in no way an essential name… 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… Word is also used in a fourth way figuratively for that which is signified or effected by a word…word is taken strictly in God, as signifying the concept of the intellect… 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.”

The Word, then, signifies the person as person, and not the nature of that person, which is to be simply God.  The Word specifically refers to the person as the one who is generated as generated.

“’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.”

The name Word does indeed apply to the Son in relationship to the creature, for it is in the Word that God sees all else, including every creature. God’s understanding even of creatures is not a discursive and empirical knowledge of those creatures, but rather, He understands them by first knowing them in Himself, of which knowledge (that of Himself, not just that of the creatures) is what we call the intellectual procession of the Word.

Question 35. The Image

  1. Is Image in God said personally?
  2. Does this name belong to the Son alone?

Having considered the name Word, Aquinas now considers the name Image as applies to the same Person of the Trinity, the Son.

“What is more absurd than to say that an image is referred to itself?” says Augustine in de Trinitate. Therefore the Image in God is a relation, and is thus a personal name.”

We mentioned this briefly when speaking of the relations in Question 28. The Image cannot be simply God as God, for an image of something cannot be simply that thing simply repeated. The image, rather, stands apart in some way. My image, perhaps in a mirror, stands apart from me as something truly distinct. In God, this Image is distinct as begotten is distinct from the begetter, although it is not distinct in its nature, which, of course, remains one.

“For a true image it is required that one proceeds from another like to it in species, or at least in specific sign. Now whatever imports procession or origin in God, belongs to the persons. Hence the name ‘Image’ is a personal name.”

“The Greek Doctors commonly say that the Holy Ghost is the Image of both the Father and of the Son; but the Latin Doctors attribute the name Image to the Son alone. For it is not found in the canonical Scripture except as applied to the Son.”

“The image of a thing may be found in something in two ways. In one way it is found in something of the same specific nature; In another way it is found in something of a different nature. In the first sense the Son is the Image of the Father; in the second sense man is called the image of God.”

In speaking of the Son as Word and Image, we cannot avoid speaking of the Holy Spirit briefly even in this question, given the unified view we must take of the Trinity.

“As the Holy Ghost, although by His procession He receives the nature of the Father, as the Son also receives it, nevertheless is not said to be “born”; so, although He receives the likeness of the Father, He is not called the Image; because the Son proceeds as word, and it is essential to word to be like species with that whence it proceeds; whereas this does not essentially belong to love, although it may belong to that love which is the Holy Ghost, inasmuch as He is the divine love.”

The Holy Ghost Himself is the topic of the following questions, and here, we cease discussion of the Son and His proper names in particular, although again, the Father and Son cannot go unmentioned when speaking of the Holy Spirit.


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