Incarnation Vs. Avatar: 8 Differences

Some tend to confuse the incarnation of Christ with the avatars of Hinduism. There are a few who even consider Christ to be the tenth avatar or the Kalki avatar. However, there are significant fundamental differences between the incarnation and the avatars. Following are a few of them:

1. Real. Christ truly incarnated in flesh, real flesh.
1. Appearance. The avatar appears to be in flesh. The physical body is a mere garment that the soul puts on and puts off (Bhagavad Gita 2.22).
2. Permanent. The incarnation was permanent and irrevocable. Christ continues to be in flesh.
2. Impermanent. The avatar returns to its former form after the fulfillment of its mission.
3. Complete. Christ became full man. He is full man and full God.
3. Partial. The avatar is semi and partial. It is never fully incarnated. The avatar is considered to be purna (full) when the divine is fully manifested in the human; however, it does not mean that the avatar is also fully human at the same time, i.e., fully participates in human pain.
4. Propitiatory. Christ’s incarnation was propitiatory. He came in flesh to represent man to God as a Mediator and High Priest, and to sacrifice His body for the sins of the world. There would not be a need for omnipotent God to incarnate in order to destroy sinners.
4. Vindicatory. The avatar appears to destroy the sinners and to save the righteous.
5. Revolutionary. Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection destroys the old order and establishes a new order. The new order is the Kingdom of believers in Christ, who partake of the resurrection from the dead and inherit the Kingdom of the Son.
5. Restorative. The avatar restores the world to its original state of balance (dharma) by removing the elements of wickedness (adharma). The world then moves along in the same way until the surge of iniquity again invokes another avatara.
6. Impartational. The virtue of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ is imparted to the believer who is reckoned to be united with Christ in His Body.
6. Segregated. The avatar preserves a discontinuity between the world and the deity throughout. They are never united in one.
7. Final. Christ’s incarnation was final. It can’t be repeated again.
7. Several. The avatars are many and cyclical.
8. Trinitarian. The doctrinal setting of incarnation is Trinitarianism. There is only One God who is Triune, Tri-personal, and distinct from the universe.
8. Polytheistic. The setting of avatars is polytheistic that avouches myriads of finite gods, demons, the world of magic, and a cyclical and evolutionary view of the universe.

© Domenic Marbaniang, February 2010.

Updated November 24, 2015


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