Trinitarian Basics- Part 3

Person

“Person” is the English translation of the Latin term persona and the Greek term hypostasis.  “Person” was used to denominate the individual and irreducible existence of the divine Father, Son, and Spirit respectively.  In fact, the most direct definition of “person” would be the rather uninspiring expressions “something that exists” or “mode of subsistence.”  In Thomism it would gain the added notion of “subsistent relation,” though that definition is still very much contested.  In no case, however, did it have the modern basically univocal meaning of human “person,” still less “personality.”

Richard Muller explains how the older definition of “person” differed from its contemporary meaning here.  Bavinck states plainly:

The Christian church and Christian theology, it must be remembered, never used the word “personality” to describe God’s being; and in respect of the three modes of subsistence in that being, they only spoke of persons reluctantly and for lack of a better term.  (Reformed Dogmatic vol. 2, pg. 50)

Person really doesn’t mean “person,” at least not in the ordinary sense we use it today. Continue reading