http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicene_Creed says:

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God,] Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;

How are the Son and the Father different? In the Nicene Creed it seems that they are separate persons but sharing the same substance.

Do Catholics believe that there is a substance out of which God is made? What is the "substance" being discussed here?

We cannot say that Jesus is God in the sense of identity, because then Jesus is God and the Father is God so Jesus is the Father, which contradicts the doctrine.

  • Are you looking for a specifically Catholic answer? You mention Catholicism. As far as substance, see here and here. Mar 29 '15 at 4:27
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    The Church believes that the Father and the Son (and the Holy Spirit) are the same substance (i.e., God). This is certainly the belief among Catholics and Orthodox; I believe that the vast majority of Protestants would be in agreement as well. Mar 29 '15 at 17:26
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    Just to clarify, are you asking two questions with some statements mixed in? Are the questions: What is the difference between the Father and Son if they are of the same substance? and What is this substance? Mar 29 '15 at 17:42
  • You should have a look at the writings of Umberto Eco. He writes from a Catholic perspective and as a Christian and you won't pin him down in a self-contradiction. Mar 29 '15 at 17:48
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    A minor comment about "there is a substance out of which God is made": I would avoid the word "made" in reference to God. As the creed says, the Son is "not made"; the same is even more clearly the case for the Father. Mar 31 '15 at 20:03

The term the Nicene Creed uses for substance is homooúsios. This term was intentionally chosen to separate the Creed from various forms of Arianism that denied the divinity of Jesus. The Nicene Creed is arguing that Jesus is fully divine just like the Father. The common forms of nontrinitarianism at the time commonly denied the divinity of Christ by arguing that he was similar to the Father in attributes, similar in substance to the Father, or different in both attributes and substance. The Nicene Creed explicitly states the 'one in substance' to both affirm the divinity of Christ as well as affirm the truine Godhead. When communicating it in contemporary English, homooúsios is sometimes translated as 'of the same being.'

It is the foundational conception of the Trinity of all major forms of Christianity still in existence: Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant. So no, it is not a distinctly Catholic belief. The substance in question is the 'divine being' of the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each is of the same substance in that they are all fully divine, inseparable yet distinct. It is through this concept of substance that Christians describe the Trinity as 'one God in three persons.' The three persons of the Trinity all share the same divine 'substance' in the sense that they constitute one God -- but they are each distinct from each other in their persons.


To say "The Son and the Father are of the same substance" (consubstantialem as the word is in the Latin Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed) is to say that they have the same being (ousia in Greek); that is, that they are the same kind of thing—God.

Traditionally, Catholic theology has said that even though the Son and the Father are of the same substance (consubstantiales in Latin; a semi-reasonable translation of the Greek homoousioi), the Son proceeds from the Father. Thomas Aquinas uses the simile of a word or a thought, which is part of a person (in that thoughts are part of one's mind), but is also in a sense distinct from, and "comes from", one's mind.

Procession, therefore, ... is to be understood by way of an intelligible emanation, for example, of the intelligible word which proceeds from the speaker, yet remains in him. In that sense the Catholic Faith understands procession as existing in God. ... it is clear that the more a thing is understood, the more closely is the intellectual conception joined and united to the intelligent agent; since the intellect by the very act of understanding is made one with the object understood. Thus, as the divine intelligence is the very supreme perfection of God, the divine Word is of necessity perfectly one with the source whence He proceeds, without any kind of diversity.

(Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 27, Article 1)

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