Original Research

Imago Dei identity as embodied in the incarnation: Kenosis as a catalyst towards identity formation

Walter P. Maqoma
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 41, No 1 | a1992 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v41i1.1992 | © 2020 Walter P. Maqoma | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 March 2019 | Published: 06 April 2020

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Walter P. Maqoma, Unit for Reformational Theology and the Development of the South African Society, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

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This article is a study of Philippians 2, verses 5 through 11, and reflects on Paul’s presentation of Christ in his incarnation as the identity which fully embodies the imago Dei. The image presented in the foundational biblical text for this article is known as the kenotic image, which serves as the catalyst towards the identity of the imago Dei, as anticipated by the biblical narrative – introduced in Genesis 1:26–27 and accomplished in the New Testament. Philippians has had a great influence on the thought of many theologians because of the significant ideas expressed in this passage. Thus, the hymn recorded in Philippians 2 is one of the great examples of the New Testament, which describes both the process and the goal of the transformation of any individual towards the formation of the imago Dei identity. Christ is presented as the perfect model of the imago Dei, and his incarnation undertook different stages or phases.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This passage, as a hymn, reflects literary, historical, and theological contexts. Its literary context considers the source, the grammatical, and the redaction criticisms; its historical context considers the historical criticism that reflects on the author, date, and recipients of this text in its original format; and its theological context reflects on the tradition and canonical criticisms. Reading this passage in these various contexts reflects a pattern for a particular identity. Hence, the imperatives found within this passage serve as the catalyst to form the identity of the imago Dei.


Christ; identity; incarnation; kenosis; Philippians


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