Incarnation of God

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The incarnation of God represents a theological , dogmatic teaching of Christianity . It belongs to the core of all Christian faith traditions. It is also called the Incarnation of God ( incarnation , from Latin caro , flesh).

The incarnation of God presupposes a pre-existence of Christ before his incarnation, mostly in the sense of an eternal existence (see Trinity ).


In the New Testament

The New Testament says literally: "And the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory as the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth."

The theme of the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ was already part of the liturgy in the early Church , as for example the cantica in Philippians ( Phil 2,5–11  EU ), Colossians ( Col 1,15–20  EU ) and in the prologue of the Gospel of John ( Jn 1.14  EU ).

In the Christian tradition

However, it took centuries before the Christology based on it was definitively formulated in numerous disputes. A milestone was the first Council of Constantinople in the year 381, in which, at the end of the Arian dispute in the Nicano-Constantinopolitanum, the formulation of the first Council of Nicaea , that Jesus of Nazareth was begotten from the nature of the Father and was of the same nature, was confirmed .

Christianity sees Jesus of Nazareth as the eternal Son of the Father, who was born, taught and healed, suffered, died on the cross and rose from the dead. This incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth is the core of all main directions of Christian faith to this day. The Incarnation is celebrated at Christmas under the aspect of birth, at Easter under the aspect of death and resurrection and at Pentecost under the aspect of the permanent presence. It is also at the center of belief in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist .

The church father Gregory of Nazianz formulated in his third theological speech of 379:

“He was baptized as a man , but as God he forgave sins - not because he needed purification rites himself, but to sanctify the element of water. He was tempted as a man and conquered as a god. Yes, he asks us to be of good cheer because he has overcome the world. He was starving, but he fed thousands. Yes, he is the bread that gives life and that comes from heaven. He was thirsty, but he called out, whoever is thirsty, come to me and drink. Yes, he promised that springs of living water flow from those who believe. He was tired, but he is the refreshment of those who are tired and burdened. He pays the temple tax, but with a coin made from a fish. Yes he is the king of those who asked for it. [...] He prays, but he also answers prayers. He cries but dries tears. He asks where Lazarus is buried because he is human; but as God he raises Lazarus from death. He is betrayed for only thirty pieces of silver, but he redeems the world for a high price because the price was his own blood. He is brought to the slaughter as a lamb, but he is the Shepherd of Israel and now of the whole world. [...] He dies, but he gives life and destroys death by his death. He is buried, but has risen again. "

The christological definition of the Council of Chalcedon was also essential for the framework of further theological development .

In the art of the Middle Ages, God was shown in the Garden of Eden and other Old Testament references as God the Son , already in the figure of Jesus , as here in the triptych 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' by Hieronymus Bosch .

Anselm of Canterbury writes on the question of the Incarnation:

“The question now is, how can God become man? For the divine and the human nature cannot be transformed one into the other, so that the divine becomes human, or the human becomes divine; nor can they be mixed up in such a way that a new third emerged from the two, which would then be neither entirely divine nor entirely human. In general, if that could happen that one would merge into the other, either only God and no man, or only man and no God would remain. Or if they were so mixed up that from the two mutilated a third nature emerged (as if from two individual animals of different species, a male and a female, a third is born, which has neither the whole nature of the father nor that of the mother, but one from both mixed third); so this would be neither God nor man. The God-Man, in whom we demand divine and human nature, cannot consequently arise through the transformation of one nature into the other; not even by blending the two into a third, because all of this would either be impossible or, if possible, meaningless for what we demand. But should the two total natures also be connected in some way, for example, in such a way that another - man and again another - would be God and consequently would not be God who is man; so it is impossible for the two to achieve what is essential to achieve. For God will not do it because he does not need to do it; but man will not do it because he cannot do it; In order for the God-Man to achieve this, it will be necessary that he should be both perfectly God and perfectly human, in that he brings about a satisfaction which only he can do - as true God; and should accomplish at the same time - as a true person. While a God-man must therefore be found - without prejudice to the completeness of both natures - it is no less necessary that the two complete natures meet in one person, as soon as the body and the rational soul meet in one person, since it is only in this way it is possible that one and the same perfect God and perfect man may be. "

For Meister Eckhart the incarnation of God is not a one-off event: "The father gives birth to his son without ceasing [...] He gives birth to me as his son and as the same son". God not only became man “there” - as Jesus of Nazareth - but “here as there”, “and he became man for the reason that he also gave birth to you as his only begotten Son and no less”.

Rejection of the idea of ​​God's Incarnation

In the history of Christianity, the doctrine of the incarnation of God was rejected by Arianism , later by the Unitarians , Jehovah's Witnesses, and other groups. The non-Trinitarian communities speak only of the Incarnation of the Word or the Incarnation of the Word .

Incarnation of God in other religions

Oldest stories in Hinduism

The incarnation of a god is mentioned for the first time in Hinduism . Hundreds of stories tell of Shiva visiting believers in human form to test their willingness to make sacrifices and their faith. See also Avatara .

Mythology of the Greco-Roman antiquity

As a bull, Zeus kidnaps the beautiful king's daughter Europa in Ovid's " Metamorphoses " ; Gods incarnate as Greek or Trojan warriors on the battlefield in the Iliad ; Gods speak to people in human form; Demigods arise from the union of gods with humans by birth:

The appearance of a god in human form is also a common mythological motif in Greco-Roman antiquity . For example, right at the beginning of the Odyssey , Homer describes that Pallas Athene, following the advice of the gods, rushes to the house of Odysseus , where she speaks to his son Telemachus in the form of a stranger in order to strengthen his resistance to the suitors of his mother Penelope and thus threatened injustice to prevent.

The term Incarnation near the demigod who is born from the divine act of procreation between God and man human woman or the female deity - this divine proportion is human!

This is where the pagan incarnation differs from the Christian incarnation . In his divinity, the Son of God is completely God and not just demigod, or a righteous person, as today's Judaism interprets the Son of God . From the Virgin Mary the human nature of the Son of God was born, which has become new. Both different natures unite in the one person of Jesus without intermingling.



The philosopher Slavoj Žižek sees Christianity as the only religion in which God himself was for a moment an atheist and doubted himself (at the crucifixion) ( Mk 15.34  EU ). His reading of Christianity emphasizes that when God has become “one of us”, the ability to doubt is implied, since it is a logical consequence of conscious existence . Without this doubt , God's incarnation would have been incomplete.

The classic Christian interpretation of Mark 15:34, on the other hand, sees in the quotation from the beginning of Psalm 22 called out by Jesus a clear reference to the good omnipotence of God and the fulfillment of prophecies through Jesus (They distribute my clothes among themselves and cast lots for mine Robe; Ps 22.19  EU ). Since Jesus was without sin ( 2 Cor 5:21  EU ), he never doubted the truth, especially not that of the Father in Heaven.


In Judaism, with its strict ethical monotheism , there has always been a resolute rejection of the Gentile Christian concept of the Incarnation of the Son of God . Throughout the Jewish Bible there is resistance to the heretical idea that a man created by God is God or God is man .

“God is not a man that he should deceive, no son of Adam that he should consider. Should he speak and not do, speak and not stop? "

- Num 24:19

The first verses of the ten word summarize:

Ex 20.3-7  EU Dtn 5.7-10  EU
"You shouldn't have any other gods besides me."
"You should not make yourself an image of God and no representation of anything in the sky above, on the earth below or in the water below the earth." "You should not make an image of God for yourself that represents anything in the sky above, on the earth below or in the water below the earth."
“You should not prostrate yourself to other gods or commit yourself to serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God: with those who are enemies of me, I pursue the guilt of the fathers to the sons, to the third and fourth generations; with those who love me and keep my commandments, I show my graces to thousands. "
“You shall not abuse the name of the Lord your God; for the Lord does not leave him unpunished who misuses his name. "

Even Philo of Alexandria (around 10 BC - 40 AD), the most important philosopher of Hellenistic Judaism , leaves his lógos λόγος , the model for the " Christian Logos "in the prologue of the Gospel of John , not to become sárx (Greek σάρξ flesh, i.e. man), as happened later in the Gospel of John.

See also



  • Anselm of Canterbury : Cur Deus homo. Latin and German = Why God became man . Translated by Franciscus Salesius Schmitt. Library of classical texts. Knowledge Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 5th edition 1993

Historical-theological studies

  • Walter Mostert : Incarnation. A historical and dogmatic study of the motif of the incarnation of the Son of God in Thomas Aquinas . (= Contributions to historical theology 57.) Mohr, Tübingen 1978, ISBN 3-16-140322-3 .
  • Dieter Zeller (Ed.): God becoming human, deification of people . (= Novum testamentum et orbis antiquus 7.) Univ.-Verl., Freiburg (CH) u. a. 1988, ISBN 3-7278-0604-4 .
  • Hans Küng : God's Incarnation: An introduction to Hegel's theological thinking as a prolegomena to a future Christology . (= Piper 1049 series.) Piper, Munich a. a. 1989, ISBN 3-492-11049-5 .
  • Frank Meessen: Immutability and God's Incarnation. A systematic study of the history of theology . (= Freiburg theological studies 140.) Herder, Freiburg i.Br. u. a. 1989, ISBN 3-451-21555-1 .
  • Theodore M. Snider: The Divine Activity. An Approach to Incarnational Theology . (= American University Studies 7/63.) Lang, New York a. a. 1990, ISBN 0-8204-0946-4 .
  • Hermann Brandt : God's presence in Latin America: Incarnation as the leitmotif of liberation theology . (= Hamburg theological studies 4.) Steinmann & Steinmann, Hamburg 1992, ISBN 3-927043-14-1 .
  • Michael Rieger: Incarnation: Christian understanding of salvation in the context of French-speaking theology of the Incarnation . (= EHS 23/496.) Lang, Frankfurt a. M. u. a. 1993, ISBN 3-631-46589-0 .
  • James DG Dunn : Christology in the Making. A New Testament Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation . Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 2nd ed. 1996, ISBN 0-8028-4257-7 .
  • Ulrike Link-Wieczorek : Incarnation or Inspiration? Basic Christological Questions in Discussion with British Anglican Theology. (= FSÖTh 84.) Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen 1998, ISBN 3-525-56291-8 .
  • Karin Ulrich-Eschemann: On being born: theological and philosophical explorations . (= Studies on systematic theology and ethics 27.) Lit-Verl., Münster u. a. 2000, ISBN 3-8258-5098-6 .
  • Richard Cross: The Metaphysics of the Incarnation. Thomas Aquinas to Duns Scotus Univ. Press, Oxford et al. a. 2002, ISBN 0-19-924436-7 .
  • Christian Uhrig: "And the word became flesh". On the reception of Jn 1,14a and on the theology of the Incarnation in the Greek Anticean patristic . (= Münster contributions to theology 63.) Aschendorff, Münster 2004, ISBN 3-402-03968-0 .
  • Jean-Bertrand Madragule Badi: Incarnation from the perspective of the Judeo-Christian dialogue . With a preface by Michael Wyschogrod . (= Studies on Judaism and Christianity.) Schöningh, Paderborn u. a. 2006, ISBN 3-506-72944-6 .
  • Wilson Paroschi: Incarnation and Covenant in the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel (John 1: 1-18) . (= EHS 23/820.) Lang, Frankfurt a. M. u. a. 2006, ISBN 3-631-54830-3 .
  • Anne Käfer: Incarnation and Creation. Creation theological prerequisites and implications of Christology in Luther, Schleiermacher and Karl Barth . (= TBT 151.) Berlin / New York 2010, ISBN 978-3110226331 .
  • Wichard v. Heyden: docetism and incarnation. The emergence of two opposing models of Christology. Francke-Verlag, Tübingen 2014, ISBN 978-3-7720-8524-6 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ "Metaphysics and Revelation", KURT HÜBNER in Markus Knapp and Theo Kobusch (eds.), Religion - Metaphysics (criticism) - Theology in the Context of Modernity / Postmodernism (Theological Library Töpelmann. Volume 112), Walter de Gruyter, Berlin-New York 2001, p. 29
  2. Anselm of Canterbury: Cur deus homo; Why God became man, Book Two, Chapter 7 . Regensburg, Rome, New York, Cincinnati 1902.
  3. Meister Eckhart: German Sermons and Tracts, edited and translated by Josef Quint, 1963, 7th edition, p. 185
  4. Meister Eckhart: German Sermons and Tracts, p. 357
  5. Who is the Archangel Michael? ; accessed on July 4, 2018
  6. Hayward A. Did Jesus really come down from heaven?
  7. Seligmann, in: Walter Homolka (ed.) Pick: Die Lehren des Judentums according to the sources , Faks.-Dr. the orig. edition published 1928–1930. Leipzig, new and adult Edition, Knesebeck, Munich 1999, ISBN 3896600583 , p. Volume II, 107-109.