incarnation, 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 Jesus, 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 avatara.

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 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. 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 emanate from God, in that all things have been realized by him and have attained to existence. 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. In expressing God's intent, these Manifestations are seen to establish religion in the world. 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.


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 Hinduism, 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. Thus Krishna, who is not only viewed as an incarnation but also source of all incarnations, svayam bhagavan, says:

Whenever righteousness declines
And unrighteousness increases,
I make myself a body;
In every age I come back
To deliver the holy,
To destroy the sin of the sinner,
To establish righteousness.

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.


Sikhism supports the concept of incarnation.According to sikhism there are 84 million forms of life. And one goes through these forms with human being as the supreme form of life. According to Sikhism, it is the one's deeds which decide how many time he will be incarnated. Meditation is the only form to liberate a soul from the process of incarnation.


Islam completely 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.


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