The following consideration deals with the Father-Son relationship Christian faith professes to be found within the immanent life of God Himself. The context is thus Trinitarian; the one to whom both filiation and divinity are attributed is such independently of the incarnation since God cannot but be Father and Son, each distinct from the other. And yet man encounters that strictly divine Son of a natural, divine Father only in the historical figure Jesus of Nazareth. Until enfleshed in the latter, that relation of filiation, or concretely God the Son in His distinction from the Father, is simply not a reality affecting man sufficiently to evoke recognition and acceptance. It may be asked whether, prescinding from God as the Word of Revelation to man historically, there is within the Deity a Word distinct from the Father. An affirmative reply does not by any means deny the fact that God the Son is known in His eternal and necessary relationship to god the father only through the manifestation, or Word, that He is not merely in relation to the Father's thought but also in reference to historical man.
Sacred Scripture. The New Testament in particular serves as source for human knowledge of God's inner life; its perspective, however, is anything but direct in this case. The preoccupation quite clearly is not with divine vitality in itself and in its implications. Far more than being, action is in focus; and that is divine action. The question "Who is Jesus of Nazareth?" is answered in response to the query "What does He do in relation to mankind?" For it is precisely His salvific-illuminative creative function that presents Him in a frame of reference in which He occupies an utterly unique relation with God His Father or the Father.
His preexistence is asserted (Jn 1.1–3). If He is already the word before creatures exist, He is no less Son (Jn 1.14, 18). That same state is not one of inertia; it is represented as involving activity. In this way, Scripture associates Him with Creator rather than creature (Col1.15–17; Heb 1.1–3, 10–12). Let it be noted that He is the intermediary or guide through whom all things have their reality, in distinction to the Father as the source, or one from whom (1 Cor 8.6). Both are said to be goal, or one to whom all things are ordered (Col 1.16; Rom 11.36), without a denial that even in this the Son depends on the Father (1 Cor 15.28). Nor is His function of guide or intermediary denied of God (the Father)—Romans 11.36.
Thus Jesus stands in relation to God before becoming a son of Mary (Phil 2.6–7). Before the world came to be, the Son was in glory with the Father, who loved Him (John 17.1, 5, 24).
The glorified Jesus is also presented, in retrospect, as endowed with a role in universal origins, and therefore not only in terms of a preexisting Son but as well in those of a preexisting Lord actually reigning (1 Cor 8.6). If all this points to equality with the Father in the order of operation (Jn 5.17, 26) and unity with Him (Jn 10.28–30;14.10), it unmistakably as well implies a definite dependence in the Son (Jn 5.19).
The perspective of the Synoptics is somewhat different. Still Jesus is presented as Son in a unique sense (Mk 12.1–11; 13.32). Though son of man appears frequently, it introduces Him into contexts where He exercises divine prerogatives: forgiveness of sins (Mk 2.10), mastery over the law of Moses (Mk 2.28), Redemption (Mk 10.45; Mt 26.28), ultimate jurisdiction (Mk 13.26), exigence of love from men for their salvation (Mt 19.17–18; 25.40; Lk 10.27–28). His sonship is not the same as that of others in relation to the same Father.
It has not only ontological implications but psychological repercussions. Concretely this involves a mutual interchange between personal beings, at once intellectual and affective (Mt 11.25–27; Lk 10.21–22). United completely with His Father (Jn 4.34; 6.38; 10.17; 10.29–30), He is convinced that He has ready access to that Father's hearing (Jn 11.42), approval (Mk 1.11), and efficacious assistance (Mt 26.53). Thus His sonship is found connected with reverence and obedience (Heb 5.7–8).
To ask whether the New Testament presents Jesus as God the Son (see the variant reading of Jn 1.18; see also Jn 3.16, 18; 1 Jn 4.9) is to inquire about His consub stantiality and seek a frame of reference for Him that was developed only later. In the Biblical context a preexistent Son is related uniquely to the Father in counterdistinction to creatures; this in terms of their mutual activity with regard to the welfare of mankind. Consubstantiality, however, is a different perspective; in it Father and Son are related to each other as identified with a single divine substance and prescinding from their relations with humanity. To assert a difference of perspective is necessary; it is, however, the same utterly unique relationship that is expressed in both.
Patristic-Conciliar Development. If the New Testament identified Jesus with God's eternal Son, the Fathers early asserted His divinity [see Ignatius of Antioch:F. X. Funk, Patres apostolici (Tübingen 1901) 1:218, 226; Patrologia Graeca, ed. J. P. Migne, 5:649, 660]. Divine sonship involved divinity but also origin from God. To this the Apologists applied themselves and drew a similarity between the Son or Word originating from the Father and speech arising from mind or thought in man (see Theophilus of Antioch, Ad Autolychum 2.22; Enchiridion patristicum, ed. M. J. Rouët de Journel, 182). Such attempts were accompanied by protests that to inquire into the Son's generation was beyond man (see Irenaeus, Adversus haereses 2.28.6; Patrologia Graeca 7:808–09). If the Son was still considered in relation to the Father, His filiation as prior to and independent of creatures was of far more direct concern than was the case in the New Testament.
It was, however, at the Council of nicaea that the Church was constrained by circumstances to introduce non-Biblical categories into its authentic description of the Son's relation to the Father. The Arian controversy occasioned this determination. Consubstantial; taking origin neither from nothing nor from preexisting beings but from the Father's own substance; begotten, not made—these are His characteristics (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, ed. A. Schönmetzer, 125–26). The Cappadocians emphasized that the difference between Father and Son rests not in the one's positing and verifying in Himself a perfection the other lacks; rather in a relation by which the same Godhead exists in Father and Son, but in the latter from the former (see Gregory of Nazianzus, Orat. 29.16; Patrologia Graeca 36:96). Augustine sought in man's psychology or way of knowing the natural analogate for understanding the eternal generation of the Son (Trin. 12.6.6 and 15.11.20; Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne, 42: 1001, 1072).
Subsequent Theology. It was the contribution of the Latin Middle Ages to develop this analogy further. The Son's consubstantiality and procession were put into an intelligible and interrelated whole by Thomas Aquinas when he introduced the hypothesis of intellectual emanations within the Godhead (Summa theologiae 1a, 27.1; see processions, trinitarian).
Contemporary Christian theology has focused attention on the danger that exaggerated emphasis of the immanent aspect of Trinitarian life may be detrimental to a balanced view of the roles played by Divine Persons in the economy of salvation. Special interest has been regenerated in the fact that man's sonship of adoption is connected with the sonship of Jesus Himself. The former is a share in the latter, man acquiring a filial relation to the Father. This, however, involves no divine action of the Son distinct from that of the Father (Enchiridion symbolorum 1330).
What is required for God the Son to become man in Jesus Christ, what, in other words, the mission of God the Son involves besides His eternal procession, is another theological question that has aroused interest in the past few decades; the hypotheses of quasi-formal causality and contingent predications have been introduced in this context (see B. Lonergan, De Deo trino v.2:217–60).
If the modern world has investigated the relationship between person and consciousness, the same question has been asked about Divine Persons (ibid. 186–93). The answers that have been given indicate a diversity in the way consciousness is understood.
See Also: trinity, holy, articles on; generation of the word; holy spirit; logos
Bibliography: p. richard, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 1903–5) 5.2:2353–2476. h. de lavalette et al., Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed., j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 3:543–62. s. morenz et al., Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 1957–65) 6:118–25. f. bÜchsel g. kittel, Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Stuttgart 1935–) 4:747–49. b. lonergan, De Deo trino, 2 v.(v.1 2d ed., v.2 3d ed. Rome 1964). v. taylor, The Person of Christ in New Testament Teaching (New York 1959). p. mcshane, "The Hypothesis of Intelligible Emanations in God," Theological Studies 23 (1962) 545–68.
[c. j. peter]