incarnation


incarnation
A term, not found in the Bible, meaning ‘becoming flesh’, or ‘human’. It is claimed that in the NT there are imprecise and sporadic expressions of this doctrine concerning Jesus but there was no precise definition until there had been five centuries of strenuous debate. Councils of the Church eventually agreed that the orthodox faith in Jesus was that united in his one person were the two natures, full divinity and genuine humanity. That Jesus was truly human carries the corollary that he could not have believed himself to be God, an incompatibility with authentic humanity.
There are few indications in the synoptic gospels that Jesus was regarded, or regarded himself, as other than a man with unique gifts of teaching with authority and healing [[➝ healings]]; but soon after the resurrection there are accounts of apostolic preaching in which Jesus is proclaimed as Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:32–6) and Son (Rom. 1:3–4). The gospels even mention him as ‘beloved Son’ of God at his baptism (Mark 1:11) and transfiguration (Mark 9:7). The two narratives of the virginal conception, in which Joseph is relegated to a powerless background role, push the status of Jesus as Son of God back beyond his birth. There is thus a hint of pre-existence which is confirmed by Paul in Gal. 4:4. Moreover, Paul identifies Christ as ‘the wisdom of God’ (1 Cor. 1:24), and this echoes the personification of Wisdom (Wisd. 7:25; 8:3) in the inter-testamental period: for wisdom is said to have pre-existed with God before particular manifestations. In the hymn extolling Christ's voluntary humiliation in becoming man, Paul appears to accept that he was in the divine arena previously (Phil. 2:6–11); similarly Col. 1:15. An incipient doctrine of incarnation in Heb. 1:1–3 becomes clearer in the gospel of John (1:14) where Jesus' prior existence with God (John 6:62) and association with Abraham (John 8:58) imply a strong notion of pre-existence. But this is not allowed to diminish the clarity of Jesus' humanity; the Word became flesh (John 1:14); Jesus had human frailties (John 4:6), he wept (John 11:35), he died (John 19:30), and yet without contradicting that humanity he was a revelation of God (John 10:38; 20:28). The epistles of John combat the belief that Jesus' humanity was a mere appearance (the belief called docetism; 1 John 4:2–3).
The traditional doctrine of incarnation is regarded as unsatisfactory by some modern theologians. For example, an alternative way of interpreting the action of God in Christ has been in terms of the Spirit [[➝ spirit]]. The Spirit works through the whole evolutionary process of creation and evolution, and in this continuous divine activity the decisive and focal point is the person of Christ. In him divine self-sacrificing love achieves its full expression in a human personality. Defenders of the doctrine reject any interpretation in which truths about God could be regarded as independent of the life and career of an individual and insist that Jesus Christ is indispensable for the believer's relation, here and now, to God.

Dictionary of the Bible.

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  • incarnation — [ ɛ̃karnasjɔ̃ ] n. f. • 1113; lat. incarnatio 1 ♦ Action par laquelle une divinité s incarne dans le corps d un homme ou d un animal. Les incarnations de Jupiter (⇒ métamorphose ) , de Vishnu (⇒ avatar) . ♢ Dans la religion chrétienne, Union… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Incarnation — which literally means embodied in flesh , refers to the conception and birth of a sentient creature (generally a human) who is the material manifestation of an entity or force whose original nature is immaterial.In its religious context the word… …   Wikipedia

  • Incarnation — (christianisme) Pour les articles homonymes, voir Incarnation (homonymie). Nativité de Georges de La Tour (1644) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Incarnation — In car*na tion, n. [F. incarnation, LL. incarnatio.] [1913 Webster] 1. The act of clothing with flesh, or the state of being so clothed; the act of taking, or being manifested in, a human body and nature. [1913 Webster] 2. (Theol.) The union of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • incarnation — [in΄kär nā′shən] n. [ME incarnacion < OFr incarnatiun < LL(Ec) incarnatio < pp. of incarnari: see INCARNATE] 1. endowment with a human body; appearance in human form 2. any person or animal serving as the embodiment of a god or spirit 3 …   English World dictionary

  • incarnation — Incarnation. s. f. v. Mystere par lequel le Fils de Dieu, le Verbe eternel s est fait homme. Le mystere de l Incarnation …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • incarnation — ► NOUN 1) a living embodiment of a deity, spirit, or abstract quality. 2) (the Incarnation) (in Christian theology) the embodiment of God the Son in human flesh as Jesus Christ. 3) (with reference to reincarnation) each of a series of earthly… …   English terms dictionary

  • incarnation — index embodiment Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • incarnation — (n.) c.1300, embodiment of God in the person of Christ, from O.Fr. incarnacion (12c.), from L.L. incarnationem (nom. incarnatio), act of being made flesh (used by Church writers especially of God in Christ), noun of action from pp. stem of L.… …   Etymology dictionary

  • incarnation — (in kar na sion ; en vers, de cinq syllabes) s. f. 1°   Acte par lequel ce qui n était pas chair devient chair, ou ce qui était pur esprit prend un corps.    Par excellence, action de la Divinité qui s incarne ; résultat de cette action. •   L… …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • incarnation — incarnational, adj. /in kahr nay sheuhn/, n. 1. an incarnate being or form. 2. a living being embodying a deity or spirit. 3. assumption of human form or nature. 4. the Incarnation, (sometimes l.c.) Theol. the doctrine that the second person of… …   Universalium


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