AskDefine | Define incarnation

Dictionary Definition



1 a new personification of a familiar idea; "the embodiment of hope"; "the incarnation of evil"; "the very avatar of cunning" [syn: embodiment, avatar]
2 (Christianity) the Christian doctrine of the union of God and man in the person of Jesus Christ
3 time passed in a particular bodily form; "he believes that his life will be better in his next incarnation"
4 the act of attributing human characteristics to abstract ideas etc. [syn: personification]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. An incarnate being or form.
  2. A living being embodying a deity or spirit.
  3. An assumption of human form or nature.
  4. the Incarnation The doctrine that the second person of the Trinity assumed human form in the person of Jesus Christ and is fully divine and fully human.
  5. A person or thing regarded as embodying or exhibiting some quality, idea, or the like
    The leading dancer is the incarnation of grace.
  6. The act of incarnating.
  7. The state of being incarnated.

Related terms


Extensive Definition

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 is used to mean the descent of a divine being or the Supreme Being (God) in human form on Earth. 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 Buddhist tradition, an incarnation is a person believed to be the next rebirth of someone deceased, in most cases a lama or other important master/teacher. This concept differs from reincarnation in Hduism, however, since the Buddhist teaching of anatta (non-self) implies that there is no fixed soul that could move from one life to another.


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, and most Protestants. 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. This person, Jesus, some churches believe was both truly God and truly man. This doctrine is specifically referenced in the Bible in John 1:14 and Colossians 2:9. It is known as the hypostatic union.


The term avatara literally means "descent" and usually implies a deliberate descent into lower realms of existence for special purposes. It is not a synonym of incarnation, as the incarnation presumes taking a material body, but the word avatara also assumes descent in the original form. Many denominations of Hinduism, such as Vaishnavism and Saivism, teach that occasionally God comes to Earth as a human being to help humans in their struggle toward enlightenment and salvation (moksha). Such an incarnation or discent of God is called an avatar. In some respects, the Hindu concept of avatar is similar to the belief found in Christianity that God came to the earth in the form of Jesus. However, whereas most Christians believe that God has assumed a human body only once, Hinduism teaches that there have been multiple avatars throughout history and that there will be more and does not assume material body, thus some disagree with this assumption.
The most famous of the divine incarnations are Rama, whose life is depicted in the Ramayana, and Krishna, whose life is depicted in the Mahabharata and the Bhagavata Purana. The Bhagavad Gita, which contains the spiritual teachings of Krishna, is one of the most widely-read scriptures in Hinduism.


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


Rabbinic Judaism rejects this doctrine.


The Rastafari movement views Haile Selassie as God incarnate, in much the same way as Christians view Jesus.
incarnation in Arabic: تجسد
incarnation in Bulgarian: Инкарнация
incarnation in Catalan: Encarnació
incarnation in Danish: Inkarnation
incarnation in German: Menschwerdung Gottes
incarnation in Modern Greek (1453-): Ενσάρκωση
incarnation in Spanish: Encarnación (cristiandad)
incarnation in Esperanto: Enkarniĝo
incarnation in French: Incarnation (christianisme)
incarnation in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Incarnation
incarnation in Dutch: Incarnatie
incarnation in Japanese: 受肉
incarnation in Norwegian: Inkarnasjon
incarnation in Norwegian Nynorsk: Inkarnasjon
incarnation in Polish: Inkarnacja
incarnation in Portuguese: Encarnação (religião)
incarnation in Finnish: Inkarnaatio
incarnation in Swedish: Inkarnation
incarnation in Slovak: Inkarnácia

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