Incarnation and “De-carnation” in the Hermeneutics of Gianni Vattimo

Branko Klun

Abstract: The idea of the incarnation as God’s kenotic descent and renunciation of his transcendent status plays a central role in Gianni Vattimo’s interpretation of Christianity. The self-weakening of the Christian God is intrinsically linked and structurally related to the historical emergence of (post)modern hermeneutics with its criticism of strong and of potentially violent metaphysical thinking. However, Vattimo’s understanding of incarnation harbours a paradox, as the incarnation should not be taken in a literal sense, as it is itself an interpretation brought to us through the message of the Bible. Reduced to its spiritual meaning, the incarnation in Vattimo’s approach undergoes a specific “de-carnation”. However, this seems to be a problem not only for Vattimo’s reading of Christianity, but also for his conception of hermeneutics as such. The hermeneutic spiritualisation of being as an event in language loses reference to any “fleshly” givenness, and calls for a phenomenological reconsideration of hermeneutic presuppositions.

 

Keywords: Hermeneutics, Vattimo, Christianity, Incarnation, Kenosis, Phenomenology.