There's a question about the LDS definition of Divinity and I'm reading from Jehovah's Witnesses and Unitarians that their definition of divinity doesn't necessarily imply the person who is divine is also God, only godly. I don't see a definition in the Old Catholic Encyclopedia on New Advent. I have seen old writings referring to some saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary as divine, and I understand the phrase "to share in divinity", etc... referring to life in the Beatific Vision. But in concrete theological (non-flowery) terms, are only the three Persons of the Trinity appropriate to refer to as divine, according to the Catholic Church?

  • Where did you see that Mary and the Saints are divine? That sounds like something an anti-catholic would say about Catholicism
    – Dash Ivey
    Mar 2, 2021 at 14:26
  • 2
    @dash I think it was something St. Louis DeMontfort wrote which struck me, but ultimately made sense, but there's other examples like like "St. John the Divine" and I think St. Thomas Aquinas as called The Divine something or other.
    – Peter Turner
    Mar 2, 2021 at 14:46
  • The old Catholic Encyclopedia has what you want under Divine Attributes!
    – Ken Graham
    Mar 2, 2021 at 16:38

1 Answer 1


What is the Catholic definition of divinity?

Catholic Culture puts it in a nutshell!



The attribute of being divine. In an absolute sense only the infinite God is divine. but the term is sometimes loosely applied to others than God, either mistakenly or because of some relationship they have to God. (Etym. Latin divinus, belonging to God.)

Knowing me that is just too short, so I will expound this a little more.

Divine Attributes

Our natural knowledge of God is acquired by discursive reasoning upon the data of sense by introspection, "For the invisible things of Him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; His eternal power also, and Divinity" (St. Paul, Romans 1:20). Created things, by the properties and activities of their natures, manifest, as in a glass, darkly, the powers and perfections of the creator. But these refracted images of Him in finite things cannot furnish grounds for any adequate idea of the Infinite Being. Hence, in constructing a synthetic idea of God, before one can apply to the Divinity any concept or term expressing a perfection found in created being, it must be subjected to rigorous correction. The profound disparity between the Divine perfection and the intimations of it presented in the world-copy may be broadly laid down under two heads:

  • Number: The perfections of creatures are innumerable, the Divine Perfection is one.

  • Diversity: Created perfections differ endlessly in kind and degree; the Divine perfection is uniform, simple. It is not a totality of various perfections; absolutely simple, the Divine perfection answers to every idea of actual or conceivable perfection, without being determined to the particular mode of any. Hence, when any attribute expressing modes characteristic of the world of being that falls within the range of our experience is applied to God its signification ceases to be identical with that which it has in every other case. Yet it retains a real meaning in virtue of the ratio which exists between the finite being and its Infinite analogue. In philosophical phrase, the use of terms is called analogical predication, in contra-distinction to univocal, in which a word is predicated of two or more subjects in precisely the same sense.

Essence and attributes

Transcendentally one, absolutely free from composition, the Divine Being is not, and may not be conceived as, a fundamental substrate in which qualities or any other modal indeterminations inhere. The reality to the various attributes are ascribed is one and indivisible.

"Quae justitia," says St. Augustine, "ipsa bonitas; quae bonitas, ipsa beatitudo."

In this respect, the relation of the attributes to the Divine nature might be illustrated by the various reflections of one and the same object from a concave, a convex, and a plane mirror. Nevertheless, to systematize the idea of God, and to draw out the rich content of the knowledge resulting from the proofs of God's existence, some primary attribute may be chosen as representing one aspect of the Divine perfection from which the others may be rigorously deduced. Then arises a logical scheme in which the derivative attributes, or perfections stand towards one another in a relation somewhat similar to that of the essence and the various properties and qualities in a material substance. In this arrangement the primary perfection is termed the metaphysical essence, the others are called attributes. The essence, too, may be regarded as that characteristic which, above all others, distinguishes the Deity from everything else. Upon the question, which attribute is to be considered primary, opinions differ. Many eminent theologians favour the conception of pure actuality (Actus Purus), from which simplicity and infinity are directly deduced. Most modern authors fix on aseity (Aseitas; a = "from" se = "himself"), or self-existence; for the reason that, while all other existences are derived from, and depend on, God, He possesses in Himself, absolutely and independently, the entire reason of His uncaused infinite Being. In this, the most profound and comprehensive distinction between the Divinity and everything else, all other distinctions are implicitly expressed. Whether, and in what way, the distinctions between the attributes and the metaphysical essence, and among the attributes themselves have an ontological basis in the Divine nature itself was subject which divided Nominalists and Realists, Thomists and Scotists, in the age of Scholasticism (cf. Vacant, Dict. de théol. cathol., I, 2230-34).

Division of attributes

Taking as the basis of classification the ways by which the attributes are developed, they are divided into positive and negative. Among the negative attributes are simplicity, infinity, immutability. The chief positive attributes are unity, truth, goodness, beauty, omnipotence omnipresence, intellect and will, personality. Some authors divide them into incommunicable and communicable. The former class comprises those which belong to God alone (e.g., all-wise, self-existent, omnipotent) to the latter belong those which are predicable, analogically, of God and creatures as good, just, intelligent. Again, the divine nature considered either as static or as the source activity; hence another division into quiescent and active. Finally, some perfections involve a relation to things distinct from God, while others do not; and from this standpoint theologians divide the attributes into absolute and relative. The various classifications adopted by modern Protestant theologians are due partly to the results of philosophical speculation and partly to new conceptions of the nature of religion. Schleiermacher, e.g., derives the attributes of God from our threefold consciousness of absolute dependence, of sin, and of grace. Others, with Lipsius, distinguish the metaphysical attributes from the psychological and the ethical. A simpler division groups omnipotence, omnipresence, eternity, omniscience, and unity as the metaphysical predicates, justice and goodness as the moral attributes. The fundamental attribute is, according to Ritschl, love; according to Professor Royce, omniscience. The main difficulty with these writers centres about the idea of God as a personal being. - Divine Attributes

St. John The Evangelist, who is styled in the gospel, “The beloved disciple of Christ," and is called by the Greeks "The Divine.” This accolade and that of The Theologian have been given to St. John because of his lofty teachings concerning the Son of God, God the Word. In reality St. John is not Divine, but wrote about things Divine!

It was customary in the Middle Ages to designate the more celebrated among the saints by certain epithets or surnames which were supposed to express their characteristic excellence or dignity. This was especially the case with the doctors in law and theology.

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