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incarnation

JOHN MACQUARRIE


Subject Religion

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631198963.2005.x


Extract

Incarnation is a central Christian doctrine, according to which the Son or Word of God, the second Person of the divine Trinity, assumed a fleshly human body in Jesus Christ and lived a historical existence on this planet, subject to all the constraints and limitations of such an existence. As will be explained, this is a highly complex belief and its full elaboration is peculiar to Christianity. However, it should be noted that in other religions too there has been belief that divine beings have appeared on Barth as human beings; for instance, in Hinduism Krishna is claimed to have been an avatar or descent of the high god Vishnu. The non-Christian parallels differ in various respects from what Christians understand by incarnation, but there is enough resemblance to make it clear that something like incarnation is a widespread and radical idea in the history of religion. This is not surprising, for if the goal of religion is some form of union between the human and the divine, then incarnation would seem to instantiate such a union in the most intimate way conceivable. Because of the difficulties and complexities of the belief, it took a long time to formulate in a satisfactory manner. It was already taking shape in the New Testament, but it continued to be the subject of controversies and conciliar pronouncements for three or four centuries. The solutions worked out during that ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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