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Note: This is in NO way a troll or a poke at any faith that believes in the doctrine of the Trinity but rather is simply a question for clarity.

There are several passages within the bible that refers to Jesus Christ as the "Son of God" or where He Himself refers to a "Father" who was in Heaven:

  1. Luke 1:35 (Mary inquires of an angel how it's possible for her to ear a child while being a virgin)

    The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God

  2. Luke 2:49 (Joesph and Mary share their concern of Christ leaving them at the age of 12. This is His response)

    And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?

  3. Matthew 3:17 (The baptism of Christ)

    And lo a voice from heaven saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

  4. Matthew 26:39 (while suffering in the Garden of Gethsamane, Christ prays to the Father)

    and prayed saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

In these passages, and many others, it appears that God and Jesus Christ are separate being. My limited understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity is that God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are "One". How does this doctrine fit with these scriptures?

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KronoS ... hang tight on this one, good answers are going to take a while to write up. I'm personally strapped for time at the moment but might contribute later. There are other people around that can do this justice. For now, don't mind the noise. – Caleb Sep 4 '11 at 20:05
@Caleb it's ok… I'm in no rush. – KronoS Sep 4 '11 at 20:19
@KronoS, this is also a concept that I can't really understand, but with explanation, I think it might help. Good question though – Cryst Sep 4 '11 at 20:41
I am on my phone, but will definitely take a run at this later when I get home. – user32 Sep 4 '11 at 21:24
possible duplicate of Is there a hierarchy in the Trinity? – warren Nov 15 '11 at 6:10

For a fairly detailed explanation of the Trinity, see this answer. But the gist of it is that God is three in person and one in nature.

Since then, there are three persons in God, they exist in relationship. The terms Father and Son express the relationship between two of the persons; these terms do not speak in any way to the nature of God.

The question of how the relationship of Father and Son makes sense in the divine eternity is somewhat complex. Begetting is a concept which we are less in tune with in our modern western culture, but it speaks to an idea of bringing into existence by the process of reproduction, giving rise to; bringing about. It is the act of reproducing something of the same nature as the original being.

In our experience, begetting is temporally limited; a Father must be born and then mature before he begets. But when he begets it's another person of like nature (note that a person begets of similar nature, but God, being inifinite, necessarily begets of perfectly identical nature).

However, in God's eternal present, begetting occurs in the immediate eternal such that there never was a time when the Son was not, but yet the Son is a second person in eternity arising from the nature of God.

In my thinking, and this is just my thought, it's as if the nature of God necessitates from all eternity that there be three persons for relationship and communion.

As something of an aside, a further point of confusion that arises is because Jesus "put off" his divine nature in order to be incarnate as a man:

Phil 2:6-8

6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

and again:

Heb 2:9

9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

In order to properly be able to redress the disobedience of Adam, it was necessary for Christ to enter our dimensions of time and space and to function in obedience as a man. To this end, scripture teaches he emptied himself of his divine nature; he was the same person, but with a temporarily (that is, within the dimensions of our temporal existence) diminished nature. He chose not to exercise his God-nature except via the Holy Spirit as a man.

So while on earth, Jesus functioned in a limited capacity, as a man invested with the Holy Spirit. Thus he said, "the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing":

John 5:19

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

Note there is a duality of sorts here; Jesus is still God in person, but has emptied himself of his divine attributes in order to become man.

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That's a good start at supporting the Trinity, but I don't feel like it addressed well what the OP was asking about how that reconciles with Christ being the Son. – user23 Sep 5 '11 at 0:31
@Justin: In order to understand the relational order in the Trinity, I have found it's necessary to first have a proper understanding of the Trinity. I have added a final thought to (hopefully) tie it together with how I think it answer the question. – user32 Sep 5 '11 at 0:37
@Justin: I agree; I've transferred the bulk of my answer to another question, and referenced here, leaving this answer to address the question asked. – user32 Sep 5 '11 at 5:05
I like it. Although I was looking more for the significance of the father son relationship, but I think that's a different question too. – user23 Sep 5 '11 at 13:05
I'm not exactly sure I understand fully. If Christ was God, and was able to 'incarnate' as a man... then why even be born? Also, this still doesn't explain the fact that Christ is addressed multiple times as a 'Son of God' and Himself even prays to a 'Father'. – KronoS Sep 5 '11 at 18:24

An important thing to remember is that God is spirit and, as Creator of the physical universe of time, space, and matter, existed and exists outside of that.

So, when the Father refers to Jesus as the Son, it doesn't mean that one day the father got old enough, married a wife, and had a son. That is a physical reality, whereas God is spirit (John 4:23).

The Father-Son relationship need not be biological, because a man may adopt a son as his own. Nonetheless, the father-son relationship that we experience reflects the relationship of God the Father and God the Son. It doesn't mean that their relationship had to be biological, but it identifies what the relationship is like.

The Scriptures indicate that the Father sent the son into the world (John 3:17 and others). The Son doesn't send the Father, but the Father does send the Son.

The same is true with regard to us being the bride of Christ. We aren't one day going to marry Him and have sexual relationships with Him to produce children. That's nonsensical. However, the physical groom-bride relationship reflects something about the spiritual relationship with Christ and the church.

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You might say with some degree of accuracy that God gave the institution of marriage to his image bearers as a metaphor which speaks volumes of the eternally divine relationship of Father to Son. A human male (who eventually becomes a father) is only one person, so he seeks out another person whom he can love. (God said, "It's not good for man to be alone, so . . ..") The two become" one flesh" and, if God wills, they beget offspring. I'm not suggesting that husband, wife, and child are a trinity, but perhaps there is a hint of that, since all 3 share humanity, as the Trinity shares divinity. – rhetorician 2 days ago

The simplest way I have to explain this is to look at an intrinsic quality of God (a quality that doesn't depend on anything else, or being compared to anyone) is Love.

First, good or powerful is not an intrinsic quality as that is a relative quality, in that God is good compared to Satan but perhaps not compared to Christ.

OK, Love requires three things: a lover, a receiver of the love and the relationship between them.

So, God the Father is the lover, Jesus is the recipient (the beloved) and the Holy Spirit is the manifestation of their love.

So, though they are three distinct beings, they are one God also.

This is a simple way to explain something that is beyond our ability to understand based on reason alone, as explained by Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica, and a good starting point is Book 1, Question 32, Article 1: Whether the trinity of the divine persons can be known by natural reason?.

To look at what Aquinas wrote regarding the Son and the Father you can look at Question 33: The person of the Father


I reference Thomas Aquinas often as he has a fantastic approach to using reason to look at these. This question in his book deals with your question: The person of the Father.

An image is not equal to the original, as, if you look at a mirror, you seen an image, but it is flat, and the original person is not, so you just see a small part of the person.

Unfortunately, anything I can write to answer this will go back to Aquinas, as his answer is probably the most complete starting point, as he looks at not only the image of God in man, but whether image and likeness are different and in between he looks at other issues on this subject.

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This answer tells me that they are 'One' only in purpose and not physical being... or am I reading this incorrectly? – KronoS Sep 5 '11 at 20:02
@KronoS - Does God the Father have a physical body? Does the Holy Spirit? There is also that you have three parts to you, you eat physical food for the physical part, you feed your intellectual part, and your spiritual part has it's own needs. You are one person, but each part has their own needs. – James Black Sep 5 '11 at 20:03
Not to get into the 'What is the Holy Trinity' War, but my understanding of the creation is that God created us in His own image... if that's true then why would he not have a physical body? – KronoS Sep 5 '11 at 20:05
At one point the Temple, I think built by Solomon, was supposed to house God, but, someone that can be everywhere, how can such a being be contained within a building? You may want to look at this question of Aquinas:, but more importantly look at what he wrote regarding the incarnation: – James Black Sep 5 '11 at 20:57
@KronoS: See What does “in the image of God” mean? – Flimzy Sep 16 '11 at 0:22

The reason that these scriptures don't agree with the concept of the trinity is because the trinity is not a scriptural concept. The trinity came out of the creeds that were declared several hundred years after Christ died and took over a hundred years to come to an agreement on. It was not a divine revelation handed down from God but a compromise of men to wrap their head around how Christ could be divine, but there can only be one God. What you have to decide is if you think those men who argued over the trinity had the authority to declare what God is and what He is not. For me I look at these and then I look at Genisis 2 where God is talking to Adam and says

" now man has become like us knowing good from evil...."

As I have never seen God refer to Himself in plural anywhere else in the bible it appears us here would refer to more then one divine being, perhaps His son?

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The word "trinity" itself is an extra-biblical moniker -- that much is true -- but you neglect the other side of the story. It's a name to describe a concept we see in scripture that doesn't have a name. The trinity is a very Scriptural concept, it's woven all through the Bible. There are many doctrines that we have convenient names for that weren't given those names self-referential in the Bible. That doesn't make them un-Biblical. – Caleb Sep 4 '11 at 20:10
Word study "elohim" as a plural word for the God of Abraham. Also see early chapters of Genesis for God being plural. – djeikyb Sep 6 '11 at 18:57

In Luke 1:35 notice that the "holy one" to be born from Mary will be called " the Son of God".

The context says that God's power will overshadow Mary; i.e impregnate her via fertilizing her egg with an original-sin-free sperm cell.

Hence, the child who is called "holy one" will be called "the Son of God" because of his incarnation.

On the other hand, the Word is called "only born Son" before his incarnation (John 1:1, 18, John 3:16,18, 1 John 4:9).

Hermeneutically, the incarnate Word will be called or declared to be God's Son at his resurrection per Romans 1:4. It is because of his incarnation that he will be made known to the world as God's Son who is consubstantial with the Father at his resurrection per Hebrews 1:5, 5:5, Acts 13:33.

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I think you're making a pretty big leap to indicate that "overshadow her" equates to "impregnates with an original-sin-free sperm cell" – warren Jul 31 '13 at 14:30

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