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A person is a being, such as a human, that has certain capacities or attributes constituting personhood, which in turn is defined differently by different authors in different disciplines, and by different cultures in different times and places. In ancient Rome, the word persona (Latin) or prosopon (πρόσωπον; Greek) originally referred to the masks worn by actors on stage. The various masks represented the various "personae" in the stage play.
The current concept of person was developed during the Trinitarian and Christological debates of the 4th and 5th centuries in contrast to the word nature. During the theological debates, some'philosophical tools (concepts) were needed so that the debates could be held on common basis to all theological schools. The purpose of the debate was to establish the relation, similarities and differences between the Λóγος/Verbum and God. The philosophical concept of person arose, taking the word "prosopon" (πρόσωπον) from the Greek theatre. Therefore, Christus (the Λóγος/Verbum) and God were defined as different "persons". This concept was applied later to the Holy Ghost, the angels and to all human beings.
Since then, a number of important changes to the word's meaning and use have taken place, and attempts have been made to redefine the word with varying degrees of adoption and influence. In addition to the question of personhood, of what makes a being count as a person to begin with, there are further questions about personal identity and self: both about what makes any particular person that particular person instead of another, and about what makes a person at one time the same person as he or she was or will be at another time despite any intervening changes. The common plural of "person", "people", is often used to refer to an entire nation or ethnic group (as in "a people"). The plural "persons" is often used in philosophical and legal writing.
- Geddes, Leonard (1911). "Person". Catholic Encyclopedia 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 2011-03-09. "The Latin word persona was originally used to denote the mask worn by an actor. From this it was applied to the role he assumed, and, finally, to any character on the stage of life, to any individual."
- Thisleton NIGNTC commentary on 1 Corinthians "Thinkers in ancient times had a difficulty in expressing the notion of personality"; Barfield in History of English Words “Take, for instance, the word person...Its present meaning of an individual human being is largely due to the theologians who hit upon it when they were looking for some term that would enable them to assert the trinity of Godhead without admitting more than one 'substance'"; John Zizioulas in Being as Communion 1985 New York:St Vladimirs Press p27writes: "although the person and “personal identity” are Widely discussed nowadays as a supreme ideal, nobody seems to recognize that historically as well as existentially the concept of the person is indissolubly bound up with theology"
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