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Trinitarians believe that God exists as three distinct but equal persons (yes, I'm simplifying), known as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

They also believe that Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. — Matthew 1:18 (NKJV)

… that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. — Matthew 1:20

How do Trinitarians explain why the title "Father" is given to a person in the Trinity other than "The Holy Spirit"?

Note:

What I am looking for is an official explanation by the Church that explicitly addresses this naming confusion.
Ideally, there would also be an explanation of whether this event was effected by God's impersonal spirit (power), or by the third Person.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Ken Graham
    Mar 21 at 19:14

4 Answers 4

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I think the simple answer is... because that's the terminology that Christ and the NT authors used.

I could list verses for days; seriously, just look for "Father" in the NT (especially the Gospels). Here are a few examples from John:

  • 1:14: we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father
  • 1:18: No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
  • 2:16 do not make my Father's house a house of trade
  • 3:35 The Father loves the Son
  • 4:23 the Father is seeking such people to worship him
  • 5:17 My Father is working until now
  • 5:20 For the Father loves the Son
  • 5:22 For the Father judges no one
  • 5:36 the Father has sent me.
  • 5:43 I have come in my Father's name
  • 6:27 For on [the Son] God the Father has set his seal
  • 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me

I could go on and on, but hopefully you get the idea! One last mention, however, is that when asked how we ought to pray, Christ starts with "our Father". So the answer is that Christ Himself used this terminology and even admonished us to use it as well.

I suppose, though, we must ask how we know that the Father is not the Holy Spirit. To this, we can look to Matthew 28:19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit". Further, Christ mentions the Holy Spirit on several occasions using other terminology, and in some cases as explicitly distinct from the Father. Since we've been looking at John:

  • 14:16-17 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth
  • 14:26 the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name
  • 15:26 when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father
  • 16:7 if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you
  • 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth

Thus, it should be clear that Christ speaks of the Holy Spirit (Helper, Advocate, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, etc.) as separate from the Father.

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  • @NigelJ, thanks! Do you mean "HS"? That's just how people that are too lazy to type it out every time write "Holy Spirit" 🙂.
    – Matthew
    Mar 22 at 14:33
  • @NigelJ, all right, all right. Edited 🙂. (You'd probably love my comparative religions professor, who made frequent references to the Catholic reverence of "the BVM".)
    – Matthew
    Mar 22 at 15:21
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You ask, "How do Trinitarians explain why the title "Father" is given to a person in the Trinity other than "The Holy Spirit"?

You see Matthew 1:18 & 20 as stating the Holy Spirit to be the Father of Jesus Christ. That's not how Trinitarians understand those verses, but it's intriguing that you do, and I just want to take it from there.

The Bible calls the son that was to be born "the Everlasting Father" in the prophecy of Isaiah 9:6. So, there you have the Son given the title of "Father".

The Bible calls the other person of the Godhead "Father" as well! One of dozens of examples is Matthew 3:16-17 where the Holy Spirit appeared as a dove over Jesus' head, and then came "a voice from heaven, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" - the Father in heaven (not the Holy Spirit on earth at that point.)

This means that the Father and the Son are both called "Father", plus you think the Holy Spirit is also called "Father". On the basis of your own belief (that the Holy Spirit is called "Father"), you now have to face the point that the other two persons are equally called "Father". This is a point of logic, based on your own comments. Official trinitarian explanations cannot be gone into until you either agree or disagree with the logic of this.

You also hope there will be "an explanation of whether this event was effected by God's impersonal spirit (power), or by the third Person." However, it is illogical to expect a trinitarian explanation of something that trinitarians do not believe - that God has impersonal spirit power, for that is what groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses believe, and they are anti-trinitarian.

This means I can hardly get going with your question because your rationale is at odds with trinitarian thinking. But I've done the best I can, based on your own comments. Please do not start asking me more questions in comment boxes below, for - really - you need to ask an entirely new question, for you are asking on the basis of what you think, and not what trinitarians think. They call the Father "Father" because the Bible does. That's the simple answer to your main question.

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  • In fewer words: From a Trinitarian perspective... you could say that the Spirit (God the Spirit) of the Father (God the Father) was made incarnate in the Everlasting Father (God the Son). Or you could say that God made Himself incarnate. It's only confusing if you deny that the three "persons" are the same God 🙂. Good answer; +1.
    – Matthew
    Mar 22 at 19:02
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    @Matthew Thank you, but your "fewer words" are not words I would choose. The complexity of the three Persons is such that 'sound-bites' just make the matter worse. Only the Son became incarnate. If the God of Jesus becomes our God, then we may also call him - 'Father'. But many misunderstand this and call Jehovah - 'Father' - mistakenly. He was a kind of father to Israel, but not in the sense that Jesus (the only begotten Son) calls him - 'Father'. Nor is it the way in which those begotten of Spirit, born again, born from above, call him - 'Father'. This is revelation of the Holy Spirit.
    – Anne
    Mar 23 at 14:57
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The Trinitarian answer to the question is that Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, has no bilolgical Father. God does not have "biology," that is to say flesh and DNA. The body of Jesus was biologically a product of Mary and Mary alone.

Galatians 4:4, "Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seen od David according to the flesh. Vs4, But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.

It is false that the idea of the birth of the Son of God was the result of procreation. Trinitarians properly teach that the birth of the Son of God was the result of an incarnation. This means that the Father was and is the Father of the Son because the Father always was the Father of the Son (which is why the Father is called the Father and the Son is called the Son).

The Son, who always existed with the Father, was incarnated in the womb of Mary, not created in the womb of Mary. The Holy Spirit was the agent in the incarnation of the Son, not in procreation. Once again, God has not DNA, Jesus was related biologically only to Mary, He had no biological father.

The following verse at Hebrews 1:5, "I will be a Father to Him and He shall be a Son to Me." is a "rhetorical" question. A rhetorical question is a figure of speech in the form of a question posed for rhetorical effect rather than to receive an answer. In other words, it's a "given" that Jesus Christ is the Son of God the Father and backed up by the context of Hebrews 1:1-14.

Also, at various times in Scripture Jesus Himself referred to Himself as the "Son of God" and as the "Son of Man." He's the Son of God on His Father's side and the "Son of Man" on His mother's side. Meaning that the one person of Jesus Christ has two distinct natures. Question? Give me an example of a son who does NOT share the nature of his father? This is a universal law.

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  • +1 Lots of interesting points - how do you think Luke 1:35 fits into this? “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God." Mar 21 at 16:37
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    "The body of Jesus was biologically a produce of Mary and Mary alone." That's not possible, unless you're contending that Jesus had no Y chromosome (and was thus biologically female). That would also require Him to be a genetic clone of Mary (but the chromosome problem is "more acute"). This is silly, because if God can make Adam from nothing (genetically speaking, anyway; the dust didn't contribute genes), He can certainly add genetic information to one of Mary's ovum when He made the embryo that was Jesus. It would be more sensible to argue (as some do) that Mary made no contribution.
    – Matthew
    Mar 22 at 18:55
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    @Matthew I just noticed in your first sentence where you quoted me I used the word "produce" and the word should have been "product." The main point I was making is the fact that the birth of the Son of God was not the result of procreation. The Son always existed with the Father, was incarnated in the womb of Mary, not created in the womb of Mary. Again, God has no DNA. Jesus was related "biologically" only to Mary and Jesus has no biological father. The following talks about DNA. findinghopeministries.org/the-dna-of-jesus-who-contributed The Holy Spirit was the agent! Matt 1:20.
    – Mr. Bond
    Mar 22 at 21:34
  • @Matthew Your first sentence: "I think the simple answer is... because that's the terminology that Christ and the NT authors used." That is NOT why Trinitarians call the Father, the Father. He is called God the Father because the Bible is explicit in that there is only ONE God. He speaks of a Son because according to Him (and to scripture) this God had a Son, an extension of Himself of His own nature just like all sons. The way that the Father is deity is that He is the PERSON of the Father. The WAY that the Son is deity is that He is the Son. The difference is in persons, NOT in deity.
    – Mr. Bond
    Mar 22 at 23:10
  • Interestingly, the article you cite says pretty much what I said in my comment. Nor did I argue for "procreation". You can indeed argue that Jesus has no earthly biology except possibly from Mary, but unless you are arguing that he had no biology, period (which would seem to undermine his human nature), it came from somewhere. (IMHO, quibbling about "created" vs. "incarnated" is just that; quibbling. It came, in some manner, from God... which is, of course, to say "from Himself".)
    – Matthew
    Mar 23 at 14:34
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Trinitarians [...] believe that Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit.

How do Trinitarians explain why the title "Father" is given to a person in the Trinity other than "The Holy Spirit" ?

For roughly the same reason the title "father" is given to a person in the family other than "the mother".

I am looking for is an official explanation by the Church that explicitly addresses this naming confusion.

Not much of a confusion, other than a child usually having two parents; at any rate, various patristic references can be found in this scholarly article, as well as this encyclopedic entry, among many others.

God's impersonal spirit (power)

There are no impersonal spirits in scripture.


Also, compare the quoted passage(s) from Matthew 1:18-20, or the parallel text from Luke's gospel, with Genesis 2:7, for instance.

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