1

All human beings share a common nature/essence, yet are not one "being", but the 3 persons of the Trinity share a common essence/nature and are one being. I have 3 questions here:

  1. What exactly does "essence" mean? I've seen a lot of answers like "nature" or "being" but that doesn't really explain the meaning of the term.

  2. What is the significance of sharing one divine essence/nature? If humans have a common essence/nature but are not in perfect union, why does sharing one divine essence/nature mean the 3 persons of the Trinity are in perfect union?

  3. What is it that makes the perfect union (and the biblical-basis for it)?

5
  • Welcome to C.se. This is a profound question indeed. Unfortunately one of the criteria for questions here is that they encourage answers which will not need to be opinion-based. I suspect the question will be closed for that reason or because it is overly broad. Perhaps you could narrow it down by asking for an answer based on a certain perspective, such as Greek Orthodoxy, or according to a given theologian. Also it is best not to combine three questions in one (even if they are about the Trinity!) See the Tour and Help sections at the bottom of the page for further guidance. Oct 23, 2023 at 15:30
  • @DanFefferman Sorry I am new here, I am honestly open to any perspective as I see that sometimes its hard to find an answer for these types of questions.
    – User2280
    Oct 23, 2023 at 21:33
  • 2
    "All human beings share a common nature/essence" — what is the source of this statement? An explicit citation would help. Oct 24, 2023 at 0:38
  • 1
    I think I have answered this already here: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/78877/… Oct 28, 2023 at 21:38

3 Answers 3

4

Let me see if I can clarify this issue for you, especially your first paragraph. The Greek word for nature is, "phusis" (as used by Paul in Galatians 4:8 to distinguish God from those who are NOT gods, for example), "Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by "NATURE" are no gods."

According to Thayer as well as Strong, the Greek word, refers to the "sum of innate properties and powers" by which one kind of thing differs from another kind of thing. It refers to the distinctive native peculiarities, natural characteristics" of its subject.

Aristotle stated, "Essence indicates those properties that define what a thing is." You made the following statement: "All human beings share a common nature/essence, yet are not one "being", but the 3 persons of the Trinity share a common essence/nature and are one being."

First of all there is only one being of God by nature/essence. This one being of God chose to reveal Himself in Scripture as three "distinct" persons. And you rightly said, "All human beings share a common nature/essence and we human beings are also distinct persons. Your not the person of your father or mother but what we all have in common is our human nature which separates us from all that is not human.

It appears that you are mixing up the difference between the word, "being" and the word, "person. "Being," is the state or quality of having existence. Person, or personality is the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individuals distinctive character.

For example, we humans do not have the attributes of "omniscience, "omnipotent," or "omnipresence," only God does. Hope this helps.

4
  • So I fully agree that there is one being of God by nature/essence, but what makes it so that the 3 persons that have a divine nature are in a trinity, is a concept of "divine oneness" an attribute of God and therefore part of the divine nature? Or is that the mystery part of the doctrine of trinity (Note: I am not opposed to divine mysteries as a concept im just want to make sure I fully understand trinitarian doctrine)
    – User2280
    Oct 23, 2023 at 21:36
  • The distinction between why humans have a common essence but distinct beings/existences while God has one essence/being (hence the Trinity is 3 persons in 1 essence) is not due to any generic aspect of what an essence or person is (we can use the terms analogously for both humans and God) but specific attributes of the Divine essence, namely its simplicity
    – eques
    Oct 24, 2023 at 17:43
  • 1
    @eques I think you misunderstand. The nature/essence of humanity is human. Your nature/essence is what separates you from all that is not human. God's nature or essence is Deity, and His deity separates Him from all that is not deity, hence one God. And yes, the Trinity is 3 persons in one essence. And human persons are distinct persons from each other, not distinct beings. Just like there are not three beings of God which of course would be Polytheism. It's a universal law that a son shares the same nature or essence of its father. This is why Jesus Christ is the ONLY begotten Son of God.
    – Mr. Bond
    Oct 24, 2023 at 20:44
  • @Mr.Bond Misunderstand which part? None of what you said in your comment I dispute nor did my comment attempt to counter. Furthermore, it seems you misunderstood my comment. The point was that it is not the concepts of essence or person which explain why deity has 3 persons yet 1 being but humans share essence/nature yet are different beings.
    – eques
    Oct 25, 2023 at 18:36
3

Let’s focus on biblical terminology (nature) and not essence. Human nature is the sum total of the qualities that make us who we are. It is a person’s inherent character and that which constitutes his or her individuality.

The Bible book of Romans informs us in no uncertain terms that every human being is born with Adam’s nature and we have a natural bent toward pleasing self. Because of our sin nature, we cannot have fellowship with a holy and righteous God. This sin nature keeps us in bondage and leads to spiritual death, as well as physical death, because we are all sinners and the wages of sin is death. (Romans 5:12; 6:16, 23; 7:14; 8:8)

In other words, the common nature that all humans share is that of sin. This is not a popular view, especially among liberal-thinking people. But it’s why the Son of God had to take on human form and pay for our sins. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been working together in perfect harmony to save us from the consequences of our sin nature, and they continue to work together in perfect harmony in accord with the will of God, resulting in the vindication of God’s holy name.

This is what 2 Peter 1:3-4 (ESV) has to say about how believers and followers of Christ Jesus share in the divine nature:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

What that means is that when we come to saving faith in Christ Jesus we receive a new nature – we become “a new creation in Christ”:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! And all this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

We experience a spiritual rebirth (John 3:3), whereby our corrupt and sinful human nature no longer condemns us. We are given the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Because of the great mercy and love of God, as shown to us when Jesus walked amongst us, and through the power of the Holy Spirit which transforms us, we receive a new nature – we become partakers of the divine nature.

This is what God has promised to all who repent and turn to God, trusting in His promises because we know that He is faithful and true. For those who refuse to repent they remain condemned.

With regard to the nature of God more information in this article.

I realise I have not delved into the nature of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit working together in perfect unity, mainly because that is a H-U-G-E topic. Suffice to say (for now) that since before the founding of the world, all three are united in bringing to an end the evil wrought by the adversary (Satan) who is still in rebellion against his creator. They are unified in establishing God’s kingdom and seeing that God’s will shall be done, on earth as it is done in heaven.

EDIT: For clarification, allow me to point to the answer given by Mr. Bond. Galatians 4:8 distinguishes God from those who are not gods, or divine. Essence (according to Aristotle) is the properties that define what a thing is. God’s essence is divine. Human essence is human and it is our human nature that separates us from God.

Christ Jesus, however, was fully divine as well as fully human when he agreed to give up the glory he shared in heaven alongside his Father and become a little lower than the angels and dwell with us as a human. It is the divine essence of Deity that is shared by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and always has, even before the founding of the world.

3
  • -1;The question quite explicitly asks about essence means especially in relation to God, yet you start by ignoring that. How can this actually answer the stated question?
    – eques
    Oct 24, 2023 at 17:41
  • 1
    @eques The question asks about essence/nature. I focused on nature to show how human nature and God's divine nature are quite different. Human nature/essence is what separates us from the divine nature/essence. We are not divine. If the OP is dissatisfied with my focus on how human and divine natures are not the same then I would expect a comment. As it is, the OP is now asking about the One Being of God.
    – Lesley
    Oct 25, 2023 at 7:38
  • @Lesley and yet you fail to use nature as used in the context of the question; your answer is more about sin and redemption than it is about ontology, yet the question is asking about ontology
    – eques
    Oct 25, 2023 at 18:33
1

What exactly does "essence" mean?
The Biblical significance of essence is described in experiential terms. Here is one example:

John 14:16-17 NET

Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth...

Receiving the Spirit of Truth (1) comes after Jesus (2) asks the Father (3). From the perspective of truth, those who receive the Spirit of Truth do so only because Jesus, who is the Truth, (14:6) asks the Father. There is no direct mention of truth and the Father, yet Jesus says He and the Father are one. Therefore, Jesus who is the Truth, asks the Father, who likewise is the Truth, to send the Spirit of Truth. To say truth is an essence would fail to capture the dynamic component. Each of the three has a different part of the believer's experience of truth, and yet truth is not only singular; it is the same for all believers.

There is an additional component to the Spirit of Truth whom Jesus calls, allos (another) parakletos. Another parakletos means a second one. The first is Jesus:

1 John 2:1 ESV

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

Greek has two words which mean "another, allos and eteros. Allos is another of the same type; eteros is another of a different type. Even though Jesus is in human form, He calls the Spirit allos not eteros. Despite what could be seen as different, man and spirit; Jesus says they are the same, despite differences in appearance. The meaning of the Greek is straightforward and unambiguous. The difficulty in defining essence comes when the definition is divorced from experience and given in philosophical terms.

What is the significance of sharing one divine essence/nature?
If humans have a common essence/nature but are not in perfect union, why does sharing one divine essence/nature mean the three persons of the Trinity are in perfect union?

Since man is marred by sin, it is usually not a fruitful approach to use the human experience to understand the divine essence/nature. However, the OP has placed the issue in a contrast of imperfection (man) with perfection (God).

Man is not only imperfect; there is that which is distinctly different, male and female. A perfect union is one in which that which is distinctly different acts as one. When that occurs, as in creation or love (see below) the result is the evidence of perfect union. The penultimate evidence of sharing one divine nature is making children of God. Father, Son, and Spirit are distinctly different, and each acts in distinctly different ways to give authority to those who believe in becoming children of God. If any one of the three was not in perfect union with the others, there would not be children born of the will of God.

Here, as before, it is the experience from the union which both demonstrates and defines the divine union.

What is it that makes the perfect union (and the biblical basis for it)?
Two things stand out which show the perfect union of the Trinity.

One may be found in the creation of man:

Genesis 1:26-27

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness... 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

The plan (1:26) is described using plural pronouns, us, our. The work (1:27) is described as singular. Also, the planning speaks of man, אדם, literally Adam and the work speaks of man, האדם, literally the Adam despite the physical reality there are male and female. The exact meaning of being made in the image of God is debated. Yet, God can speak of creating the Adam as if there is a perfect union, male and female. That is, the Adam is written as one despite the fact there is a male and a female. The image of God is one of union between two which are distinct yet are one.

Another may be found in what could be considered a definition of the essence of God:

1 John 4:7-8

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

God is love and this singular love is given by the Holy Spirit and preserved by Christ:

Romans 5:5

and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 8:35, 39

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?... 39 nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

One can look back on Genesis and say the planning of our, God's image and our, God's likeness is accomplished through the perfect union of love from God poured into the heart by the Holy Spirit and preserved in eternity by Christ Jesus our Lord.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .