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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For other uses, see Incarnation (Christianity) or Incarnate (disambiguation)

Incarnation which literally means embodied in flesh or taking on flesh, refers to the conception and birth of a sentient creature (generally a human) who is the material manifestation of an entity, god or force whose original nature is immaterial.[1]

In its religious context the word is used to mean the descent of a god, embodiment of the logos, a divine being or the Supreme Being in human form on Earth.


Traditions with a conception of Incarnation

While Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism are perhaps the most widely-known traditions to employ this concept within the context of their respective belief systems, they are by no means the only ones to do so.


Ancient Egypt

The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt were sometimes said to be incarnations of the gods Horus and Ra.


In the Bahá'í Faith, God is described as a single, imperishable God, the creator of all things, including all the creatures and forces in the universe. The connection between God and the world is that of the creator to his creation.[2] God is understood to be independent of his creation, and that creation is dependant and contingent on God. God, however, is not seen to be incarnated into this world and is not seen to be part of creation as he cannot be divided and does not descend to the condition of his creatures. Instead, in the Bahá'í understanding, the world of creation emanates from God, in that all things have been realized by him and have attained to existence.[3] The Bahá'í concept of the intermediary between God and humanity is expressed in the term Manifestation of God, which are a series of personages, such as Jesus and Bahá'u'lláh, who reflect the attributes of the divine into the human world for the progress and advancement of human morals and civilization.[4] In expressing God's intent, these Manifestations are seen to establish religion in the world.[4] The Manifestations of God are also not seen as an incarnation of God, but are instead understood to be like a perfect mirror reflecting the attributes of God onto this material world.[4][5]


Illustration of the Ashoka Chakra, as depicted on the National flag of the Republic of India.

In the teaching of the Buddha sentient beings incarnate due to the psychological factors of clinging and ignorance which results in the phenomenon of becoming and rebirth. To be born human is considered a great privilege because unlike other mammals even a person of average intelligence with sufficient effort and proper guidance can walk the path of dharma and become liberated from the cycle of rebirth. The motive force in the process of material incarnation and becoming (popularly known as 'life') is attachment to and identification with matter. This ignorance gives rise to the volitional factors which are called sankharas. These sankharas through the infinite possibilities of worldly desires propel the human being through the pattern of repeated birth and death until the dawning of wisdom (awakening) brings about the desire for liberation.

According to Buddha's teaching the soul (as that structure of sankharas that gives rise to incarnation and animates the body during 'life') is not a fixed entity but in a state of constant flux - being modified over time by actions of body, speech and mind. The constant transmutation and interdependence of phenomena mean that nothing can be said in terms of ultimate truth to have a fixed identity. This is the doctrine of anatta, the no-self doctrine applying to all phenomena (see Three marks of existence).

Liberation in Buddhism is achieved when the stock of accumulated sankharas buried in the unconscious have been dissolved through the practise of the eightfold path, a path leading to the experience called enlightenment (Bodhi in Sanskrit and Pali). At enlightenment all the causes for future rebirth have been deleted and the sage abides in a state of being called deathlessnes (Amaravati or Amrta). Such a one - called an arhat or Buddha is no longer destined for reincarnation after death.

In Tibetan Buddhism, an enlightened spiritual teacher (lama) may choose to reincarnate after death in order to continue to help people. Such a teacher is called a tulku


Christ Pantocrator, God incarnate in the Christian faith, shown in a mosaic from Daphni, Greece, ca. 1080-1100.

The doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ is central to the traditional Christian faith as held by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Anglican Church, Protestants and the Bible. Briefly, it is the belief that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, also known as the Son or the Logos (Word), "became flesh" when he was miraculously conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary. In the Incarnation, the divine nature of the Son of God was perfectly united with human nature in one divine Person. The vast majority of churches believe this person, Jesus, was both truly God and truly man. Some Christians claim that this doctrine is specifically referenced in the Bible in, amongst other places, John 1:14 and Colossians 2:9. It is known as the hypostatic union.


Varaha, the boar avatar of Vishnu

In Hinduism, avatar generally implies to the incarnation of Vishnu, the preserver in the Trimurti. Ganesha and Shiva do have avatars, but these are less popular than those of Vishnu.


The Rastafari movement views Haile Selassie I. as God incarnate, who has come the second time as a deliverer.

Traditions with no conception of Incarnation of God


Shalom, a name of God (Hebrew characters)

Judaism totally rejects any doctrine of an incarnation of God and absolutely rejects any concept of an incanation of God in any form.[6] Jews especially rejected vehemently - even under penalty of death or threats of torture - the Christian idea of Jesus as a divine incarnation of God, and neither see Jesus as a Prophet nor Messiah.

The Kabbalah has an idea of "gilgul" (Hebrew for reincarnation) as part of the soul's journey to achieve perfection.


Islam completely rejects the doctrine of the incarnation of God in any form. In Islam God is one and neither begets nor is begotten.[7] Islam specifically rejects the Christian idea of Jesus as a divine incarnation, but rather Jesus is seen as a prophet (nabī) and messenger (rasūl) of God.


  1. ^ Like in Chili con carne (literally "Chili with meat") - carne originates from latin, meaning flesh or meat.
  2. ^ Smith, Peter (2000). "God". A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. p. 116. ISBN 1-85168-184-1. 
  3. ^ `Abdu'l-Bahá (1981). Some Answered Questions. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. pp. 202–203. ISBN 0877431906. 
  4. ^ a b c Cole, Juan (1982). "The Concept of Manifestation in the Bahá'í Writings". Bahá'í Studies monograph 9: 1–38. 
  5. ^ Hatcher, W.S.; & Martin, J.D. (1998). The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. San Francisco: Harper & Row. p. 118. ISBN 0877432643. 
  6. ^ L. Jacobs 1973 A Jewish Theology p. 24. N.Y.: Berman House
  7. ^ Qur'an, (112:1-4).

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Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

that act of grace whereby Christ took our human nature into union with his Divine Person, became man. Christ is both God and man. Human attributes and actions are predicated of him, and he of whom they are predicated is God. A Divine Person was united to a human nature (Acts 20:28; Rom. 8:32; 1 Cor. 2:8; Heb. 2:11-14; 1 Tim. 3:16; Gal. 4:4, etc.). The union is hypostatical, i.e., is personal; the two natures are not mixed or confounded, and it is perpetual.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Simple English

Incarnation is the process by which a spiritual being takes form in a body (incarnates). Examples of incarnations among various religions include:


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