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the assumption of human form by a god, an idea common in religion. In early times the idea was expressed in the belief that certain living men, often kings or priests, were divine incarnations. India and Egypt were especially rich in forms of incarnation in men as well as in beasts. Incarnation is found in various phases of Greek religion, in which the human body of a god was a disguise or a temporary means of communication. Among western cultures the most widely accepted belief in incarnation is in that of JesusJesus
or Jesus Christ
, 1st-century Jewish teacher and prophet in whom Christians have traditionally seen the Messiah [Heb.,=annointed one, whence Christ from the Greek] and whom they have characterized as Son of God and as Word or Wisdom of God incarnate.
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, held by Christians to be God in the flesh, partaking wholly both of divinity and of humanity, except in so far as human beings have a propensity to sin. This is the accepted understanding of the biblical "The Word was made flesh." See avataraavatara
[Skt.,=descent], incarnations of Hindu gods, especially Vishnu. The doctrine of avatara first occurs in the Bhagavad-Gita, where Krishna declares: "For the preservation of the righteous, the destruction of the wicked, and the establishment of dharma [virtue], I come into
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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

This doctrine, although it doesn't appear by name in the Bible, is the central tenet of Christianity. It states that Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity (see Arius), "took on" flesh (in carne, "in flesh"), or became a man. In other words, God became human, was born as a baby, and was later killed by humankind in order to become the substitute sacrifice for the propitiation of sin (see Christianity). This does not mean that God ceased to exist other than within the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth. It means that the eternal "Word" of God became the "Son" of God, present now in time. This concept is called the hypostatic union—perfect God and perfect man in one body. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1). Whenever the "other" steps across the line separating material from spiritual and becomes human, or "takes on" humanity, the divine is said to be "incarnate," or "in the flesh."

The term is used in a slightly different form outside of Christianity. Hindu belief, for instance, sees the human spirit (Atman) existing, over the course of many lifetimes, in many different bodies. When the spirit or soul incarnate in flesh takes on a new form, a new body, it is said to be reincarnate, or incarnated again. This is the doctrine of reincarnation.

The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints, and Seers © 2004 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


1. Christian theol the assuming of a human body by the Son of God
2. Christianity the presence of God on Earth in the person of Jesus
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Church leaders said, "Christ's Incarnation was fully accomplished not during His revelation to the world at His birth or during His adulthood but at the time when the 'Word' was made flesh at His conception in Mary's womb."
class="MsoNormalThe incarnation, meant to bring reconciliation and peace among humans, has generated controversies and deep divisions between Christians throughout the ages.
By knowing the understanding of Octaves, I was able to ask questions that unlocked an individual's incarnations within this Realm," Mark explains.
It's about time we had something to further the good name of Wolverhampton, and I can think of no better incarnation of the city than our own cross between Edward Scissorhands, and George Orwell's pig, Napoleon, from Animal Farm.
Referring to Jodie Whittaker who plays the Time Lord's latest incarnation as a "babe", Billie, 34, added: "If they're going to change the world and travel through time, they're gonna have to have a strong allegiance.
I understand the doctrine of Incarnation inclusively.
Incarnation is a metaphysical thriller in which Kelsey's dreams turn into nightmares.
This is not, however, a book about the affective significance of religious writing on the Incarnation, but instead its intellectual power.
Irigaray, incarnation and contemporary women's fiction.
THE Delhi High Court has come to the rescue of Lodro Chokyi Nyima, the fourth re- incarnation of Karmapa Jamgon Kongtrul, who has been asked by the Centre to go back to Tibet.
The Glasgow-born actor, whose appointment was shrouded in secrecy, was revealed as the 12th incarnation of the role on live television tonight.
Thank you so very much for supporting my incarnation of the Time Lord, number 11, who I might add is not done yet - I'm back for the 50th anniversary and the Christmas special," he said, "It's been an honour to play this part, to follow the legacy of brilliant actors, and helm the Tardis for a spell with 'the ginger, the nose and the impossible one'.