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In Christian theology, the incarnation is the belief that Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, also known as God the Son or the Logos (Koine Greek for "word"), "was made flesh"by being conceived in the womb of a woman, the Virgin Mary, also known as the Theotokos (Greek for "God-bearer"). The doctrine of the incarnation, then, entails that Jesus is fully God and fully human.
In the incarnation, as traditionally defined by those Churches that adhere to the Council of Chalcedon, the divine nature of the Son was united but not mixed with human naturein one divine person, Jesus, who was both "truly God and truly man". This is central to the traditional faith held by most Christians. Alternative views on the subject (see Ebionites and the Gospel of the Hebrews) have been proposed throughout the centuries, but all were rejected by Nicene Christianity.
The incarnation is commemorated and celebrated each year at Christmas, and also reference can be made to the Feast of the Annunciation; "different aspects of the mystery of the incarnation" are celebrated at Christmas and the Annunciation.
The noun incarnation derives from the ecclesiastical Latin verb incarno , itself derived from the prefix in- and caro , "flesh", meaning "to make into flesh" or, in the passive, "to be made flesh". The verb incarno does not occur in the Latin Bible but the term is drawn from the Gospel of John 1:14 "et Verbum caro factum est" (Vulgate), King James Version: "and the Word was made flesh" .
Incarnation refers to the act of a pre-existent divine person, the Son of God, in becoming a human being. While all Christians believed that Jesus was indeed the Unigenite Son of God,"the divinity of Christ was a theologically charged topic for the Early Church." Debate on this subject occurred during the first four centuries of Christianity, involving Jewish Christians, Gnostics, followers of Arius of Alexandria, and adherents of Pope Alexander of Alexandria, among others.
Ignatius of Antioch taught that "We have also as a Physician the Lord our God, Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the virgin."Justin Martyr argued that the incarnate Word was pre-figured in Old Testament prophecies.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses the Incarnation in paragraphs 461–463 and cites several Bible passages to assert its centrality ( Philippians 2:5-8 , Hebrews 10:5-7 , 1 John 4:2 , 1 Timothy 3:16 ).
The Nicene Creed is a statement of belief originating in two ecumenical councils, the First Council of Nicaea in 325, and the First Council of Constantinople in 381. As such, is it still relevant to most Christian churches today.The Incarnation is always professed, though different Rites use different translations. The current translation of the Roman Catholic Church is: "For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man."
The Apostles' Creed includes the article of faith "He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary."According to Pope John Paul II, by his incarnation Jesus is a figure of and has united himself to every human being, including the unborn at the moment of their life at conception.
Eventually, teaching of Alexander, Athanasius, and the other Nicene Fathers, that the Son was consubstantial and coeternal with the Father, were defined as orthodox dogma. All divergent beliefs were defined as heresies. This included Docetism, Arianism, Nestorianism, and Sabellianism.
The most widely accepted definitions of the incarnation and the nature of Jesus were made by the First Council of Nicaea in 325, the Council of Ephesus in 431, and the Council of Chalcedon in 451. These councils declared that Jesus was both fully God: begotten from, but not created by the Father; and fully man: taking his flesh and human nature from the Virgin Mary. These two natures, human and divine, were hypostatically united into the one personhood of Jesus Christ.According to the Catholic Church, an ecumenical council's declarations are infallible, making the incarnation a dogma in the Catholic Church.
The incarnation implies three facts: (1) The Divine Person of Jesus Christ; (2) The Human Nature of Jesus Christ; (3) The Hypostatic Union of the Human with the Divine Nature in the Divine Person of Jesus Christ. Without diminishing his divinity, he added to it all that is involved in being human.In Christian belief it is understood that Jesus was at the same time both fully God and fully human, two natures in one person. The body of Christ was therefore subject to all the bodily weaknesses to which human nature is universally subject; such are hunger (Matthew.4:2), thirst (John 19:28), fatigue (John 4:6), pain, and death. They were the natural results of the human nature he assumed.
The incarnation of Jesus is also one of the key factors which, alongside humans made in the image and likeness of God, forms Christian Anthropology. Specifically, incarnation is vital for understanding the concept of Divinisation of the Man, most well and elaborately developed in Orthodox Christianity and most well expressed by Church Fathers, such as St. Athanasius of Alexandria ("Therefore He was not man, and then became God, but He was God, and then became man, and that to deify us"), St Cyril of Alexandria ("For we too are sons and gods by grace, and we have surely been brought to this wonderful and supernatural dignity since we have the Only Begotten Word of God dwelling within us." ) and numerous others.
The link between the incarnation and the atonement within systematic theology is complex. Within traditional models of the atonement, such as Substitution, Satisfaction or Christus Victor, Christ must be human in order for the sacrifice of the cross to be efficacious, for human sins to be "removed" and/or "conquered". In his work The Trinity and the Kingdom of God,Jürgen Moltmann differentiated between what he called a "fortuitous" and a "necessary" incarnation. The latter gives a soteriological emphasis to the incarnation: the Son of God became a man so that he could save us from our sins. The former, on the other hand, speaks of the incarnation as a fulfilment of the Love of God, of his desire to be present and living amidst humanity, to "walk in the garden" with us. Moltmann favours "fortuitous" incarnation primarily because he feels that to speak of an incarnation of "necessity" is to do an injustice to the life of Christ.
The significance of the incarnation has been extensively discussed throughout Christian history, and is the subject of countless hymns and prayers. For instance, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (c. 400), as used by Eastern Orthodox Christians and Byzantine Catholics, includes this "Hymn to the Only Begotten Son":
O only begotten Son and Word of God,
Who, being immortal,
Deigned for our salvation
To become incarnate
Of the holy Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary,
And became man without change;
You were also crucified,
O Christ our God,
And by death have trampled Death,
Being one of the Holy Trinity,
Glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit—
Additionally, the Divine Liturgy of Saint James includes this chant of "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" in its offertory:
Let all mortal flesh be silent,
and stand with fear and trembling,
and meditate nothing earthly within itself:—
For the King of kings and Lord of lords,
Christ our God, comes forward to be sacrificed,
and to be given for food to the faithful;
and the bands of angels go before Him
with every power and dominion,
the many-eyed cherubim,
and the six-winged seraphim,
covering their faces,
and crying aloud the hymn,
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
The West Syriac Churches – Syriac Orthodox, Malankara Orthodox, Syro-Malankara Catholic, Syriac Catholic and Maronite Catholic – principally celebrating the Holy Qurbono of St. James (c. AD 60) have a similar ma‛neetho,a poetic hymn, traditionally attributed to St. Severus, the Patriarch of Antioch (c. 465–538):
I exalt Thee, Lord and King,
Only-begotten Son and Word
of the heavenly Father,
immortal by nature, Thou came down by grace
and life for all human race; was incarnate
of the holy
glorious, pure Virgin
Mary, Mother of God
and became man without any change;
was crucified for us.
O Christ, our God,
Who by Thy death trampled and slaughtered our death,
Who are One of the Holy Trinity,
worshipped and honored with
the Father and the Holy Spirit,
have mercy on us all.
During the Reformation, Michael Servetus taught a theology of the incarnation that denied trinitarianism, insisting that classical trinitarians were essentially tritheists who had rejected Biblical monotheism in favor of Greek philosophy. The Son of God, Servetus asserted, is not an eternally existing being, but rather the more abstract Logos (a manifestation of the One True God, not a separate person) incarnate. For this reason, Servetus refused to call Christ the "eternal Son of God" preferring "the Son of the eternal God" instead.
In describing Servetus' theology of the Logos, Andrew Dibb (2005) comments: "In Genesis God reveals Himself as the Creator. In John He reveals that He created by means of the Word, or Logos. Finally, also in John, He shows that this Logos became flesh and 'dwelt among us'. Creation took place by the spoken word, for God said 'Let there be...' The spoken word of Genesis, the Logos of John, and the Christ, are all one and the same."
Condemned by both the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches on account of his heterodox Christology, Servetus was burnt at the stake for heresy in 1553, by the Reformed Protestants in Geneva, Switzerland. The French reformer John Calvin, who asserted he would ensure the death of Servetus if he set foot in Geneva because of his non-Reformed views on the Trinity and the sacrament of baptism, requested he be beheaded as a traitor rather than burned as a heretic, but the authorities insisted on executing Servetus by fire.
Post-Reformation Arians such as William Whiston often held a view of the incarnation in keeping with the personal pre-existence of Christ. Whiston considered the incarnation to be of the Logos Who had pre-existed as "a Metaphysick existence, in potentia or in the like higher and sublimer Manner in the Father as His Wisdom or Word before His real Creation or Generation."
Jacob Bauthumley rejected that God was "onely manifest in the flesh of Christ, or the man called Christ". Instead, he held that God "substantially dwells in the flesh of other men and creatures" rather than solely Christ.
Servetus rejected Arianism because it denied Jesus' divinity Ps. 33:6 having been made human by a virgin birth. Sozzini, Przypkowski and other Socinian writers were distinct from Servetus in stating that Jesus having "come down from heaven" was primarily in terms of Mary's miraculous conception and not in Jesus having in any literal sense been in heaven. Today the number of churches with Socinian Christology is very small, the main group known for this are the Christadelphians, other groups include CoGGC and CGAF. Modern Socinian or "Biblical Unitarian" writers generally place emphasis on "made flesh" not just meaning "made a body", but incarnation (a term these groups would avoid) requiring Jesus having the temptable and mortal nature of His mother.so it is certain that he would have also rejected Socinianism as a form of Arianism which both rejects that Jesus is God, and, also that Jesus consciously existed before his birth, which most Arian groups accept. Fausto Sozzini and writers of the Polish Brethren such as Samuel Przypkowski, Marcin Czechowic and Johann Ludwig von Wolzogen saw the incarnation as being primarily a function of fatherhood. Namely that Christ was literally both 'Son of Man' from his maternal side, and also literally 'Son of God' on his paternal side. The concept of the incarnation —"the Word became flesh and dwelt among us"— was understood as the literal word or logos of
In contrast to the traditional view of the incarnation cited above, adherents of Oneness Pentecostalism believe in the doctrine of Oneness. Although both Oneness and traditional Christianity teach that God is a singular Spirit, Oneness adherents reject the idea that God is a Trinity of persons. Oneness doctrine teaches there is one God who manifests Himself in different ways, as opposed to a Trinity, where God is seen as one being consisting of three distinct persons.
To a Oneness Pentecostal, Jesus is seen as both fully divine and fully human. The term Father refers to God Himself, who caused the conception of the Son in Mary, thus becoming the father of the child she bore. The term Son refers to the fully human person, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost refers to the manifestation of God's Spirit inside of and around His people. Thus the Father is not the Son – and this distinction is crucial – but is in the Son as the fullness of His divine nature.Traditional Trinitarians believe that the Son always existed as the eternal second person of the Trinity; Oneness adherents believe that the Son did not come into being until the incarnation, when the one and only true God took on human form for the first, last and only time in history.
According to Latter-day Saint theology, two of the three divine beings of the Godhead have perfected, glorified, physical bodies, namely God the Father (Elohim) and God the Son (Jehovah). Instead of considering the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost as one in substance or essence with one another, Latter-day Saints understand the oneness of the Godhead as symbolic of Their perfectly united characteristics and purpose. To explain this divergence from Trinitarian oneness as literal rather than symbolic, Latter-day Saints commonly citeChrist's Intercessory Prayer in John 17:20-23, which reads:
This conception of the Godhead differs from the Trinitarian view of the Incarnation in which only God the Son, temporarily possessed an incarnated, physical body while God the Father is and has always remained unembodied. Despite these differences, Latter-day Saint doctrine accepts a similar version of so-called ethical monotheism (which developed out of the Jewish tradition), in that Latter-day Saints believe that the Light of Christ (alternatively referred to as the Spirit of Christ) emanates from God the Son throughout the world, thereby influencing all people everywhere to do good and eschew evil. This teaching is best exemplified in the Book of Mormon in Moroni 7:13-19, which states:
Arianism is a Christological doctrine first attributed to Arius, a Christian presbyter in Alexandria, Egypt. Arian theology holds that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who was begotten by God the Father with the difference that the Son of God did not always exist but was begotten within time by God the Father, therefore Jesus was not co-eternal with God the Father. Arianism holds that the Son is distinct from the Father and therefore subordinate to Him. The term Arian is derived from the name Arius; it was not what the followers of Arius's teachings called themselves, but rather a term used by outsiders. The nature of Arius's teachings and his supporters were opposed to the theological doctrines held by Homoousian Christians, regarding the nature of the Trinity and the nature of Christ.
Adoptionism, also called dynamic monarchianism, is an early Christian nontrinitarian theological doctrine, which holds that Jesus was adopted as the Son of God at his baptism, his resurrection, or his ascension.
In Christianity, Sabellianism is the Western Church equivalent to Patripassianism in the Eastern Church, which are both forms of theological modalism. Condemned as heresy, Sabellianism is the belief that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three different modes or aspects of God, as opposed to a Trinitarian view of three distinct persons or hypostases within the Godhead.
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity holds that God is one God, and exists in the form of three coeternal and consubstantial persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct, yet are one "substance, essence or nature" (homoousios). In this context, a "nature" is what one is, whereas a "person" is who one is.
Theotokos is a title of Mary, mother of Jesus, used especially in Eastern Christianity. The usual Latin translations are Dei Genitrix or Deipara. Familiar English translations are "Mother of God" or "God-bearer" – but these both have different literal equivalents in Greek, Μήτηρ Θεοῦ and Θεοφόρος.
Nontrinitarianism is a form of Christianity that rejects the mainstream Christian doctrine of the Trinity—the belief that God is three distinct hypostases or persons who are coeternal, coequal, and indivisibly united in one being, or essence. Certain religious groups that emerged during the Protestant Reformation have historically been known as antitrinitarian.
Oneness Pentecostalism is a nontrinitarian movement within the Protestant Christian family of churches known as Pentecostalism. It derives its distinctive name from its teaching on the Godhead, which is popularly referred to as the "Oneness doctrine," a form of Modalistic Monarchianism. This doctrine states that there is one God, a singular divine spirit, who manifests himself in many ways, including as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This stands in sharp contrast to the doctrine of three distinct and eternal persons posited by Trinitarian theology.
God the Son is the second person of the Trinity in Christian theology. The doctrine of the Trinity identifies Jesus as the incarnation of God, united in essence (consubstantial) but distinct in person with regard to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
Hypostatic union is a technical term in Christian theology employed in mainstream Christology to describe the union of Christ's humanity and divinity in one hypostasis, or individual existence.
Binitarianism is a Christian theology of two persons, personas, or aspects in one substance/Divinity. Classically, binitarianism is understood as a form of monotheism—that is, that God is absolutely one being—and yet with binitarianism there is a "twoness" in God, which means one God family. The other common forms of monotheism are "unitarianism", a belief in one God with one person, and "trinitarianism", a belief in one God with three persons.
Homoiousios is a Christian theological term, coined in the 4th century by a distinctive group of Christian theologians who held the belief that God the Son was of a similar, but not identical, essence with God the Father. Homoiousianism arose as an attempt to reconcile two opposite teachings, homoousianism and homoianism. Following Trinitarian doctrines of the First Council of Nicaea (325), homoousians believed that God the Son was of the same essence with God the Father. On the other hand, homoians refused to use the term οὐσία, believing that God the Father is "incomparable" and therefore the Son of God can not be described in any sense as "equal" or "same" but only as "like" or "similar" to the Father, in some subordinate sense of the term. In order to find a theological solution that would reconcile those opposite teachings, homoiousians tried to compromise between the essence-language of homoousians and the notion of similarity, held by homoians. Their attempt failed, and by the First Council of Constantinople (381) homoiousianism was already marginalized.
Homoousion (ὁμοούσιον), the accusative case form of homoousios (ὁμοούσιος), meaning "consubstantial" or "of the same substance," was used in the Nicene Creed, formulated at the First Council of Nicaea (325) in order to say that the Son of God is of the same substance as the Father.
Subordinationism is a belief that began within early Christianity that asserts that the Son and the Holy Spirit are subordinate to God the Father in nature and being. Various forms of subordinationism were believed or condemned until the mid-4th century, when the debate was decided against subordinationism as an element of the Arian controversy. In 381, after many decades of formulating the doctrine of the Trinity, the First Council of Constantinople condemned Arianism.
God in Christianity is the eternal being who created and preserves all things. Christians believe God to be both transcendent and immanent. Christian teachings of the immanence and involvement of God and his love for humanity exclude the belief that God is of the same substance as the created universe but accept that God's divine nature was hypostatically united to human nature in the person of Jesus Christ, in an event known as the Incarnation.
Whether the earliest Church Fathers believed in the Trinity is a subject for debate. Some of the evidence used to support an early belief in the Trinity are triadic statements from the New Testament and the Church Fathers. The view that the Son was 'of the substance of the Father, God of God...very God of very God' was formally ratified at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. The Holy Spirit was included at the First Council of Constantinople, where the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as one substance (ousia) and three co-equal persons (hypostaseis) was formally ratified.
Servetism refers to the theology of Michael Servetus, which affirms that Christ was God manifested in the flesh, yet not as part of a tri-personal God, and that he did not exist previously as the Son, but as the divine Logos that became the Son after incarnation.
In the history of Christianity, the first seven ecumenical councils include the following: the First Council of Nicaea in 325, the First Council of Constantinople in 381, the Council of Ephesus in 431, the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, the Third Council of Constantinople from 680–681 and finally, the Second Council of Nicaea in 787.
Only-Begotten Son, sometimes called "Justinian's Hymn", and/or the "Hymn of the Incarnation", was composed around the 4th or 5th centuries. This hymn is chanted at the end of the Second Antiphon during the Divine Liturgies of St John Chrysostom, St Basil the Great and of St Gregory the Illuminator.
The pre-existence of Christ asserts the existence of Christ before his incarnation as Jesus. One of the relevant Bible passages is John 1:1–18 where, in the Trinitarian interpretation, Christ is identified with a pre-existent divine hypostasis called the Logos or Word. There are nontrinitarian views that question the aspect of personal pre-existence or the aspect of divinity or both.
Christian theology is the theology of Christian belief and practice. Such study concentrates primarily upon the texts of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, as well as on Christian tradition. Christian theologians use biblical exegesis, rational analysis and argument. Theologians may undertake the study of Christian theology for a variety of reasons, such as in order to:
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "The Incarnation". Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.