In the Athanasian Creed, article 6, we read:

But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

Does the wording of this article mean that there are 3 different and personal glories and majesties which are all equal as opposed to one majesty shared by the 3 Persons?

  • Thrice Holy God expression comes to mind. CCC, 266 = what you have expressed above. Good question.
    – user13992
    Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 8:31

2 Answers 2


One possible angle is to look at the Latin text, since there is no official adopted Greek text. The article reads:

  1. Sed Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti una est divinitas: æqualis gloria, coæterna majestas.

Though the colon might throw us off, we ought to remember that it did not exist as punctuation in the original, so we might feasibly emphasize the parallelism of this article by reconstructing the passage as follows, followed by my literal translation:

"Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti" - "Of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"

"est" - is

"una divinitas" - one divinity

"aequalis gloria" - equal glory

"coaeterna majestas" - coeternal majesty

In other words, the Three Persons are said to possess "one divinity" in the same way that they possess the other two qualities. Thus, in this Creed, I would venture to claim that the reference is to the shared glory and majesty of the three persons as one God.

In general, as already mentioned, the "differences" between the Persons are their "ad intra" relations. The "ad extra" actions are of one God.

The larger question--about whether we can refer to a glory particular to the Father or Son or Holy Spirit--is complicated. The most direct Scriptural reference is in the priestly prayer of Jn 17:1-5:

1b Πάτερ, ἐλήλυθεν ἡ ὥρα· δόξασόν σου τὸν υἱόν, ἵνα ὁ υἱὸς δοξάσῃ σέ, 2 καθὼς ἔδωκας αὐτῷ ἐξουσίαν πάσης σαρκός, ἵνα πᾶν ὃ δέδωκας αὐτῷ δώσῃ αὐτοῖς ζωὴν αἰώνιον. 3 αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ αἰώνιος ζωὴ ἵνα γινώσκωσι σὲ τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεὸν καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν. 4 ἐγώ σε ἐδόξασα ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, τὸ ἔργον τελειώσας ὃ δέδωκάς μοι ἵνα ποιήσω· 5 καὶ νῦν δόξασόν με σύ, πάτερ, παρὰ σεαυτῷ τῇ δόξῃ ᾗ εἶχον πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι παρὰ σοί.

1b Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

In this passage, I would argue that Jesus is speaking of a relational difference in the glory (δόξα) communicated between the Father and the Son. That, however, is a separate question which would merit a separate reply.

  • But the very concept of "possessing" one divinity rather than "being" one divinity implies 3 divinities of the same type (the "one [type of] divinity") rather than one instance....I think that's the essential question. In computer science terms, its a questions of instance vs datatype, and medieval metaphysics seems to work very much the same way. Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 0:56
  • @davidbrainerd I don't understand your claim about "implies 3 divinities of the same type". When I say that a man and his wife possess one house, that doesn't mean 2 houses of the same type; it means one house. Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 11:54
  • 1
    @davidbrainerd "To have" the nature of God is simply a way of speaking, as all anthropomorphic language with reference to God. God doesn't possess the divine nature: the Divine Nature is God. Technically, each person is identical to the Divine Nature. The distinction is one of description of that nature, or ontological distinction, not of ascribing it to three separate entities which 'possess' it. Even the use of the term 'it' of the Divine Nature depersonalizes an inherently personal Entity: nothing can be divine and not personal; e.g. you can't know all things if you are impersonal. Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 22:22

I think I got it.

Whenever you see One in the Nature and Attributes of God, it refers to the only one infinite being, the only true one God, and whenever you see Three, it is in reference to the Three truly distinct Persons in the unity of the Godhead : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Thus in John 17:5 (RSVCE) the glory is the glory of the only one true God.

5 and now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made.[a]

a. 17.5 declares his pre-existence.

And in John 1:14 (RSVCE) the glory is his as God the Son which is not the glory that the Father nor the Holy Spirit have.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

Eternal being the before the world was made in Jn 17:5 above. Therefore coeternal meaning the Son and the Holy Spirit being with the Father before the world was made, that is, before the beginning.

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