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TAGS: Christianity; Interfaith dialogue; Women
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Abstract:
Comparison of Baha'i and Christian morality, archetypal events and people (e.g. the ideal woman) in early Christian and Bábí-Bahá'í history plus concepts of Christ (Christology) and the Messiah compared to Prophets, Messengers and Manifestations of God.
Notes:
M.A. thesis at Landegg Academy (Switzerland).

Selected Topics of Comparison in Christianity and the Bahá'í Faith

by Peter Mazal

1999
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Table of Contents
  1. "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" - Christian and Bahá'í doctrines of moral development
  2. "The Woman and the Child" - A comparison of archetypal key elements in early Christian and Bábí-Bahá'í History
  3. "Son of man and Son of God - Concepts of Christologies in the New Testament
  4. "The Son and the Father - A Bahá´í View

Chapter 1

"The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak"

Christian and Bahá'í doctrines of moral development — A Comparison


1. The Moral Domain

A theory of moral development tries to explain where moral values come from, how they are being acquired, and how they can be best put into practice, enabling human beings to become "moral beings", both individually and socially.

R. Murray Thomas has provided a valuable framework for comparing and evaluating different theories of moral development, both secular and religious, which will be used here in part as the basic structure for the intended comparison.[1]

The moral domain of each theory encompasses certain "objects" that need to be identified. Typically, moral values focus on human relationships and determine proper individual and social conduct. In the case of religious theories, the relationship between humans and their Creator is an essential part of the moral domain as well. Sometimes, the context is extended further and includes guidelines to deal also with animals, plants, and the environment in general.

In Christianity, the relationships to God and to one's fellow human beings are being regarded as equally important and closely connected. When asked, which of the laws was the most important, Jesus quoted Moses, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind".[2] He than added, that there was a second law, equally important, again referring to Mosaic law, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself".[3]

On another occasion, Jesus had already greatly expanded the concept of the "neighbour" to include one's enemies as well,[4] and so it could be postulated that a proper Christian ethical perspective would be universal, inclusive and non-discriminatory.

Although Christ had emphatically raised the call for universal love, his adherents have not yet been able (or willing) to overcome the barriers of religious, racial, social, and gender prejudices.[5]

Partly, this phenomenon could be explained with the dichotomous world-view, characteristic for a world, traversing the childhood and youth stages of social and spiritual evolution.[6]

Characteristic of the collective age of immaturity is a polaric, dualistic perspective. 'Abdu'l-Bahá explains how "in all religious teachings of the past the human world has been represented as divided into two parts: one known as the people of the Book of God, or the pure tree, and the other the people of infidelity and error, or the evil tree".[7] The challenge today consists in overcoming the pattern of such a polaric and exclusive thinking, and to give way to an integral, inclusive perspective.

Consequently, in the Bahá'í Writings we find the concept of universal love more explicitly expressed: "You must manifest complete love and affection toward all mankind. Do not exalt yourselves above others, but consider all as your equals, recognizing them as the servants of one God. Know that God is compassionate toward all; therefore, love all from the depths of your hearts, prefer all religionists before yourselves, be filled with love for every race, and be kind toward the people of all nationalities".[8]

As in Christianity, this concept of universal love is based on and motivated by the love of God. It is even asserted, that "love of God, and consequently of men, is the essential foundation of every religion".[9]

Focussing on our common origin, on God's love towards all His creatures, and on His divine trust (spiritual qualities) placed in all of us, we can easier overcome feelings of antipathy towards others, that naturally arouse on the human level because of perceived differences and short-comings.[10]

As part of an extended view of the moral domain, we will now briefly look at the relationship towards animals and the environment in both belief-systems.

Animals have never played a great role in the moral domain of Christianity (with the notable exception of Francis of Assisi). Following Roman Law, which only distinguishes between persons and objects, animals have been regarded as objects and treated according to their level of utility. Only recently it has been acknowledged, that animals, at least high-developed mammals, are capable of feeling emotions, such as pain, fear, and pleasure. Consequently, modern interpretations of Christian ethics, regarding the treatment of animals, focus more on the values of responsibility, caring, and the concept of being trustees of God rather than rulers and exploiters.[11]

Admonitions to treat animals responsibly and moderately are scattered throughout the Bible (especially the Torah), such as their right to rest on the Sabbath,[12] not to inflict unnecessary pain on them,[13] or provide relief when they are over-burdened.[14] The attempt to highlight these admonitions, to give them "paradigmatic meaning", [15] is praiseworthy. However, these arguments have not yet played a major role in current ethical discussions about animal rights, animal experiments (for the cosmetic industry), mass breeding of animals in "factories", or genetic manipulation.

The situation is similar with regards to the environment - no explicit guidelines for ecologically correct behaviour can be concretely deduced from the Bible. Moral theologists today, in the light of so many symptoms of an environmental crisis, call for an expanded concept of the "Golden Rule", to include the non-human aspects of creation as well.[16] God's instruction for humanity to "have dominion ... over all the earth" and "subdue it"[17] should be likened to the attitude of a just king towards his subjects or a loving shepherd towards his flock. Such an attitude would imply feelings of love, compassion and caring, rather than greed, aloofness and exploitation.[18]

Last but not least, the attempts to improve the ecological situation of our planet can be based on Paul's assurance, that the whole of creation will be saved and renewed in the times to come.[19]

With regards to the eating of animals, theologians draw attention to the fact, that originally human diet consisted of seed-containing plants, fruits and nuts.[20] In the times of Noah, it became lawful to eat animals as well.[21]

Certain food restrictions (consumption of meat of strangled or sacrificed animals, or of meat still containing blood) were cancelled in the early Christian community[22] and Paul exhorted his fellow believers to be tolerant towards each other: "For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him".[23] Some Christians (and Jews) believe that in the peaceful future to come, the 'Golden Age', no meat will be eaten anymore.[24]

In the Bahá'í Faith, there are no restrictions concerning food. 'Abdu'l-Bahá points out, that human teeth were not designed to eat meat (which provides an interesting parallel to the original human diet, according to the book of Genesis), and consequently, we could live healthily on a vegetarian based diet.

However, this matter is left to the conscience (and constitution) of the individual.[25] Nevertheless, there are indications in the Bahá'í Writings, that the eating of meat will decrease and eventually stop.[26] This trend will be based on the findings of a science of nutrition, still in its early stage of development, but also on an increasing sense of compassion.[27]

To facilitate such a process of aquiring a more refined sense of compassion towards animals, 'Abdu'l-Bahá recommends that children should be entrusted with pets, so that they can learn to take responsibility for them. The main underlying reason is precisely the recognition of the fact that animals share with humans the capacity for feelings. Unlike humans however, they are unable to verbalize their emotions and appeal for just treatment. Their fate is determined by our good will and they depend on our care and protection.[28]

With regards to the environment, Bahá'u'lláh emphatically reiterates the Biblical concept of nature, being the "will" and "creation" of God.[29]

Equally, God's command for humanity to "subdue the earth" has not been abrogated,[30] in spite of having misused this trust so badly. But exploitation of the earth's resources is not a recent phenomenon, although its impact on a global basis is certainly more dramatic than ever before.

Already in the Old Testament, we find the warning of the prophet Isaiah, directed against the king of Babylon, foretelling his fall, because he has ruined the land and enslaved his people.[31] But the prophet does not only provide a vision of doom, he also offers one of hope. The prospect for nature is to recover[32], the prospect for the people is to be able to return to the City of God, to Zion.[33]

Babylon and Zion are used throughout the Hebrew and Christian Bible (Revelation of John) as spiritual images, archetypal in nature - counterpoles of selfishness, presumptiousness, and exploitation vs. a life in harmony with spiritual principles.[34]

The moral lesson, that we can learn, according to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, is that "allegiance to the essential foundation of the divine religions is ever the cause of development and progress, whereas the abandonment and beclouding of that essential reality through blind imitations and adherence to dogmatic beliefs are the causes of a nation's debasement and degradation".[35]

As this example shows, environmental issues are closely connected to man's moral attitude, and this legitimizes an extended view of the moral domain.

2. Sources of Evidence

The main source of evidence for the various Christian denominations is the Bible, consisting of the "Old Testament"[36], and the "New Testament".[37]

Less important, and only selectively used, are the writings of the "Church Fathers" (early Christian scholars, most notably St. Augustine) and later scholars (above all, Thomas Aquinas, with his monumental work "Summa Theologica").

The Catholic Church also includes the Papal decrees (formulating binding beliefs, the "dogmas") into the canon of "primary literature" and pays respect to many other Papal writings (such as the Encyclicas, with non-binding character, written for guidance, admonition, and edification).

There is at least one Christian sect, the Mormons, who regard another text (the "Book of Mormon") as Holy Scripture besides the Bible.

In the Bahá'í Faith, the Writings of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh are regarded as holy (divinely inspired), but the canon of primary literature includes also the writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and of Shoghi Effendi.[38] The letters of the Universal House of Justice provide a valuable source for moral guidance as well, but fall into a different category.[39]

"Investigative techniques" are used to approach and understand the various "sources of evidence". Thomas basically distinguishes between "divine inspiration" and a "scientific approach".[40]

Whilst the latter is subject to falsification and verification, and to a constant process of evaluation and refinement, proponents of the first take the truth of "revelation" as granted and absolute.

The problem of course is, that divine "truth" still depends on human interpretation, and how diverse such understanding can be, is amply demonstrated by the belief-systems of the various Christian sects and denominations.

In the Bahá'í Faith, the coherence of the community is safeguarded by the "Covenant",[41] but certainly there is a variety of individual beliefs and preferences, that ideally can all unfold under the umbrella of "Unity in Diversity".

The Bahá'í Faith also introduces the concept of `the relativity of religious truth'. It explains that "Divine Revelation is a continuous and progressive progress", the different religious teachings being "but facets of one truth", with "complementary functions", differing only in the "nonessential aspects of their doctrines" and that "their missions represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society".[42]

Ignoring this scheme of inter-connectedness, clinging on to obsolete, divisive orthodox doctrines, is one of the main causes for the state of confusion that the world is in.[43]

Within Christianity, there is a wide spectrum of opinions regarding the authenticity of the Bible, and, consequently, the degree of divine inspiration. Fundamentalist Christians take every word for true and literal, others take a more liberal approach, allowing different (historic and symbolic) interpretations. Many appreciate the wisdom and beauty of Christ's teachings, but are uncertain about their status (whether they come from a divine source and are infallible, or are mere expressions of human wisdom, with the risk of containing possible errors).[44]

Catholics have always relied on the sermons and interpretations by the priest. Until the time of Reformation, no translation into a modern language was available, and the majority of people did not speak Latin. Protestants used the Bible (Luther's German translation) extensively in their criticism of the corruptive state of the Catholic Church, and the counter-reaction was suspicion of anyone reading the Bible privately. Consequently, independent Bible study became somehow a Protestant domain (the first Catholic translation appeared only hundred years after Luther's work), and was discouraged as late as in 1897 by Pope Leo XIII.

A change came with the Second Vatican Council (1965), which expressed the hope that the Word of God will provide new motivation for the spiritual life. But centuries of Church authorities' suspicion of the private use of the Bible seems still to linger in the collective memory of the people. Bible reading is a recent and still marginal phenomenon among Catholics.[45]

In the Bahá'í Faith, great emphasis is placed on both inspirational reading[46] and a thorough study of the Holy Writings. Studying the Writings in depth is encouraged from different angles:

  • It helps to develop an increasing understanding of mystical truths: "Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths".[47]
  • It corresponds with the principle of "Independent Investigation of Truth": "I urge them to study profoundly the revealed utterances of Bahá'u'lláh and the discourses of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and not to rely unduly on the representation and interpretation of the Teachings given by Bahá'í speakers and teachers".[48]
  • It facilitates the success in teaching: "To deepen in the Cause means to read the writings of Bahá'u'lláh and the Master so thoroughly as to be able to give it to others in its pure form".[49]
  • It provides vision and a sense of purpose: " [T]he more you study the Cause and its teachings the more you will realize what a mission it has to give to this world at this time".[50]
  • It helps to understand better the preceding religions: "The one who ponders over that book [Iqan] and grasps its full significance will obtain a clear insight into the old scriptures".[51]
  • And, above all, it provides the impetus for moral behaviour: "To study the principles, and to try to live according to them, are, therefore, the two essential mediums through which you can ensure the development and progress of your inner spiritual life and of your outer existence as well".[52]
  • "It behoveth us one and all to recite day and night both the Persian and Arabic Hidden Words, to pray fervently and supplicate tearfully that we may be enabled to conduct ourselves in accordance with these divine counsels. These holy Words have not been revealed to be heard but to be practiced."[53]

Personal interpretation is welcomed and encouraged. It is "considered the fruit of man's rational power and conducive to a better understanding of the teachings ...". One important condition qualifies this statement, which continues: "...provided that no disputes or arguments arise among the friends and the individual himself understands and makes it clear that his views are merely his own".[54]

The freedom of thought and expression should be balanced with humility and tolerance, in order to avoid heated and unproductive arguments, or even worse, "dissension and strife".[55]

3. The Nature of Personality

An important issue to start with, is the question whether we are born intrinsically good or evil.

The Catholic Church has developed the doctrine of the original sin. The fall of Adam and Eve, their disobedience against God, has been inherited to the generations that followed. Consequently, children are born sinful and salvation can only be obtained through baptism and belief in Christ. Other Christian denominations, which do not subscribe literally to this doctrine, would still view human beings as naturally being inclined towards evil. Moral education therefore aims at overcoming one's sinful nature, of battling against temptations, with the help of promises of reward (Heaven), respectively threats of punishment (Hell).

The Bahá'í Writings affirm that humans are being born noble[56] and refute a literal interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve, on which the doctrine of original sin is based, as "unreasonable and evidently wrong"[57]. A symbolic interpretation instead is provided, explaining that it is not sin per se, but "attachment of the soul and spirit to the human world", that is being inherited, preventing humans from attaining "essential spirituality".[58]

This earthly attachment it is, symbolized by the snake in the Bible, referred to in the Bahá'í Writings as "ego", as "animal", "physical", "material", "lower", "insistent" and "satanic" self/nature, metaphorically equated with a "prison", a "tomb", a "sheath", a "veil", "fire" and "dust", that we have to struggle against, and try to subdue, in order to manifest our "true", "higher" or "spiritual" self/nature.

Tempting as it may be, to regard this concept of a higher and lower self as a dualistic one, we are cautioned not to do so. The metaphoric distinction is one of function or manifestation, not of identity.[59]

Christian Theologians are divided over the question, whether heart, soul, spirit, and mind are different components/aspects of our inner reality, or merely synonyms, describing this inner reality from different perspectives. The Bible does not provide much clarity on such psychological issues. Statements like "thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength",[60] or "I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless",[61] seem to imply a distinction. In other passages the terms "heart", "soul" and "spirit" seem to be used interchangeably.[62]

Difficulties of interpretation arise, because such statements were never intended to provide an anthropological or psychological description, rather they are religious sentiments, moral exhortations and spiritual images. Further ambiguity derives from the problem of various translations.[63]

In the Bahá'í Writings, numerous passages deal with the inner human reality, and shed a lot more light on the subject. Besides references, which list these faculties only in passing, like in the Bible,[64] we find texts that go into great detail and provide the reservoir for a Bahá'í inspired psychology to evolve.[65]

Based on such passages, Jordan identifies the twin capacities of "loving and knowing" as the ones, which "constitute the basic nature of human potential" and sees in their development the goal of "becoming your true self".[66] Consequently, he defines a spiritual person as one "who knows and loves God, and who is committed to the struggle of developing these knowing and loving capacities for service to humanity".[67]

Implicit in this definition is the third main power of the human soul, the faculty of free will, that expresses itself in commitment, struggling, and service. It is this third element, that Danesh adds explicitly to a triade model of "knowledge, love and will".[68] He develops this model further, by correlating these three main human powers with three primary human concerns (Self, Relationships, and Time). Moreover, each section contains three hierarchical levels of development, thus arriving at a fairly complex model of the human soul, strongly being based on the Bahá'í Writings.

For McLean, the Bahá'í Writings provide "a divine anthropology", a necessary bridge between psychology and religion, by coinciding with many insights of modern psychology, and by reviving, clarifying, and developing the concepts of `spirit', `soul' and `God'.[69]

One such `clarification', or `re-definition', concerns the concept of personality.[70] Usually, `individuality' and `personality' are interchangable terms. The differences in personality, our specific character traits, attitudes and behaviour patterns, are the expression of our individuality.

'Abdu'l-Bahá however, distinguishes two kinds of personality: the God-given attributes, an unchangeable set of qualities, in the state of potentiality, as opposed to the actualization of this `spiritual heritage', acquired in the course of our lives, which entail both vices and virtues.[71]

This definition reconciles the apparent contradiction between the Biblical concept of man, being created in the image of God, and the actual outcome, often not resembling such a noble state.

It also emphasizes our responsibility (and of those who are in charge of our education), to refine and develop those original virtues, "in the same way that the beauty of the statue is a refinement of the original marble".[72]

4. Moral versus Immoral

Each theory offers guidelines (moral values), which help us to decide whether a thought or act is moral or immoral. Thomas proposes that moral values can be represented as principles or conditions. Principles are "unqualified statements of belief",[73] which means that their application to daily life is not modified by any personal or exterior factor, such as quality of character, moral conscience, or social versus personal determinism. Such factors (conditions) usually affect the application of moral principles, and need to be identified, when assessing a theory's version of moral development.

Thomas gives as examples of principles the Ten Commandments, but contradicts himself, when he says, "rarely, if ever, does anyone apply a moral principle in an identical manner in all situations".[74] Situations, that can even neutralize some of the Ten Commandments, are known as `moral dilemmas', when two (or more) moral principles clash.

I would like to illustrate this point with a fictitious (but realistic) example: A Christian was hiding a Jew during the time of Hitler's regime. When asked, if he knew about this Jew's whereabouts, he denied, thereby saving this person's life. Only by violating one of the Commandments (not to lie), he could remain faithful to the higher maxime of preserving human life.

Moral dilemmas can only be solved, if we accept the notion of a hierarchy of values (principles). The way out of the dilemma lies in breaking a (relatively) less important principle, in order to remain loyal to a higher one.[75]

To establish a hierarchy of values is necessary, but not sufficient. In the example given above, the Christian may have hidden the Jew out of an ulterior motive (greed, for example - the Jew promised him a large amount of money if he survived). Clearly, the moral quality of such an act would have been much less, even though the outcome (the person's survival) was the same. We can therefore conclude, that one of the most important conditions is the moral intention, the inner motivation, with which an action is carried out.[76]

Obviously, we cannot look into another person's heart, to assess the moral intention of their deeds. This is one of the reasons, why both Christ and Bahá'u'lláh have emphatically discouraged us from judging somebody else. We can only judge ourselves, and are exhorted to do so.[77]

Another important differentiation that is often made, is to distinguish between individual and collective ethics. Whether or not (respectively, in which cases) such a distinction is justified, has often been a controversial issue in the religious history of mankind. The most important example (with the most dramatic consequences) is certainly the question, whether it is legitimate to kill (not on an individual basis, as every religion forbids murder, but on a collective basis, as in the case of war).

The early Christians took Christ's admonition, to refrain from violence, as "unqualified statement of belief".[78] All the prominent Church Fathers of the second and third century condemned any act of violence and made no difference between individual crimes (murder) and collective killing (war).[79] Soldiers, who converted to Christianity, were allowed to remain in the army, but Christians, who wanted to become soldiers, were threatened with excommunication.[80]

All this changed, when Emperor Constantine started to favour Christianity. Moral values, that have held the Christian community together for 300 years, were turned upside down, when the Church gained power and aligned with politics. The strict anti-militarism and pacifism of the early Church turned into active participation in the expansion of the Roman (now Christian) Empire. The Christian community was glad that the era of persecution was over, and that they found themselves on the winning side.[81]

Around 350, Church Teacher Basilius recommends that, at least, soldiers "with their unclean hand should refrain from communion for three years", but his contemporary, the patriarch Athanasius, already postulates, that "Murder is not allowed. But in wars it is both legal and praiseworthy, to kill enemies". Augustine formulates the theory of a "just war", in which case it is legitimate to "take revenge for injustice". And it can be safely said that "just wars" have been fought ever since.
Despite Christ's admonition, to leave the judgement of good and evil to God (on the Day of Judgement)[82], the Catholic Church has massacred millions of "heretics", who posed a danger to the doctrine and life-style of the "official" church.[83] It has been said, that "from Augustine goes a straight line to the Albigensian Wars, the Inquisition, the condemnations of Huss and Servet, the martyrs of the Reformation and of the religious wars".[84]The list could be extended easily, but the point is clear. Theologians throughout the centuries have tried very hard to justify this dramatic paradigm shift from the original concept of pacifism to a militant religionism.[85] Most of the arguments are weak and unconvincing, and some are even based on false premises.[86]

Other moral issues, that have experienced a radical re-definition over the course of centuries, include the question of poverty vs. wealth,[87] the status of women,[88] and the issue of celibacy.[89]

In the Bahá'í Faith, the concept of religiously motivated war and, in a wider context, any activities aiming at discriminating the followers of other religions have been categorically denounced.[90]

However, the Bahá'í Faith does not advocate an absolute pacifistic position. Bahá'ís are advised to serve in the civic sector of society rather than do active army service, but not everywhere such alternatives exist. In such a case, the principle of loyalty to the government would overrule the concept of strict pacifism.[91]

Even in a future era of global peace, when war will be internationally outlawed, occasional outbursts of violence of one country against another cannot be excluded. It is precisely for this reason, that Bahá'u'lláh foresees the installation of an international army, ready to rise unanimously against any aggressor, who threatens to destabilize a peaceful and united world society.[92]

5. Good and Bad Development

From an objective point of view, this distinction seems to be straightforward. Good moral development refers to a person's character "changing in a way that more closely approximates a particular theory's conception of desired morality", whereas the opposite development "signifies thought and action that depart from the path of desired morality". [93] Thomas suggests, that "regression, retrogression, deviance, backsliding, or deterioration" stand for bad moral development.

However, from a subjective perspective, the issue of moral development becomes more complex. Both religions provide the insight, that each person has been equipped with different talents and capacities.[94]
Any comparison becomes problematic, considering the fact, that people who seem to be very highly morally advanced, may have been endowed with more "talents" than others, their "receptacle" may be larger, but they have not (yet) developed their potential to the extent possible. Whereas others may appear to be less morally developed, but may already have tried much harder to fulfill their potential.

The keyword is "striving" - Shoghi Effendi confirms, that "[t]he harder you strive to attain your goal, the greater will be the confirmations of Bahá'u'lláh, and the more certain you can feel to attain success", whereas "a quick and rapidly-won success is not always the best and the most lasting."[95]

Both religions confirm the influence of "Satan", who hinders and sabotages the continuous moral development of people. In Christianity, the "devil" is personalized and regarded as external force, entering the souls of people and tempting them. In the Bahá'í Faith, the allegoric nature of "Satan" is explained, referring to the lower nature of man.[96]

But even if we postulate, for argument's sake, the existence of an external satanic force, such an assumption would not justify the notion of being a helpless victim. Tempting as it may be, to blame "Satan" for one's shortcomings and failures to advance morally, we find no evidence for such conclusions in the Bible. What we do find, are exhortations to be vigilant and prayerful, and other guidelines to guard ourselves against and ward off any negative influence.[97]

We also find the promise that we will never be tempted beyond our capacities, in other words, we could always find ways and means to defeat such negative forces.[98]

Moral development can be seen as a constant struggle between the lower ("satanic") and the higher ("heavenly") aspects of Self. Occasional "backsliding" seems to be inevitable, and I would hesitate to label this already as "bad moral development".[99] If "backsliding" turns into a gradual process of "deterioration", if less and less energy in "striving" to overcome one's weaknesses is invested, or even if a prolonged phase of stagnation in the process of developping moral qualities can be witnessed, we may with more justification speak of a phase of "bad moral development".[100]

The Catholic Church has, over the centuries, implanted a lot of guilt-feelings into the hearts of her adherents, when they failed to live up to the high ideals of their religion. In my view, it is important to accept the struggle of our dual nature, as outlined above, as a natural consequence of our human design. This is not to say to treat shortcomings lightly and not to try to overcome them. This is to say that the nurturing of guilt-feelings impedes this process of transformation, it has a discouraging effect, as we are inclined to perceive of ourselves as 'bad', 'unworthy', and incapable of improvement.

It may be comforting to realize that we are not alone in this struggle for becoming better human beings, and in the frustrating failure to translate our belief into action. Even prominent figures, like the apostles Peter and Paul, struggled and slipped occasionally, as the New Testament reveals.[101]

The difficulty of this perennial struggle is also acknowledged in the Bahá'í Writings. 'Abdu'l-Bahá provides an illuminating analogy in comparing the process of spiritual transformation to the four lunar phases:
Know thou, verily, the brilliant realities and sanctified spirits are likened to a shining crescent. It has one face turned toward the Sun of Truth, and another face opposite to the contingent world. The journey of this crescent in the heaven of the universe ends in (becoming) a full moon. That is, that face of it which is turned toward the divine world becomes also opposite to the contingent world, and by this, both its merciful and spiritual, as well as contingent, perfections become complete.[102]

McLean observes, how, during the first two stages, the "soul's earthward face, however, is still in shadow, indicating the persistence of old habits and darker mental predispositions". Only gradually, not in clear-cut stages, the soul becomes more illumined "with the consistent and patient practice of spiritual virtues expressed in a life of service", and finally reflects fully "the light of the sun", a station that has been reffered to as that of a "true believer".[103]

This process is really the work of a lifetime, and even beyond, as the Bahá'í Writings indicate:
Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. [104]

However, progress in the next world is not dependent on our volition anymore, but rather on prayers and intercessions of other people, of good works performed in our name, and, of course, on the bounty of God.[105]

Even if the general Christian concept of the next world is more static, intercession and prayers for the dead are still known and used. This practice would be useless, if the souls would not profit by those means and develop further, closer to God.[106]

Conclusion

It has been the purpose of this paper to show how remarkably alike the concept of moral development in both Christianity and the Bahá'í Faith is. Even if in Christianity, due to the lack of a unifying source of authoritative interpretation, a variety of theological opinions exist, a close reading of the original sources reveal a fundamental spiritual compatibility with the Bahá'í Writings. In all the areas discussed, the moral domain, the nature of personality, the concept of morality and the development of the soul, we find similar guidelines that can help believers to advance spiritually and to work for the betterment of both their individual selves and their environment. Concentrating on these similarities, rather than on theological differences, would also be conducive to the process of interfaith dialogue, and to the eventual development of a global ethical system.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1983.
—— The Hidden Words.Oxford: Oneworld Publ., 1992.
—— The Kitab-i-Aqdas. The Most Holy Book. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1992. —— The Kitab-i-Iqan. The Book of Certitude. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1974.
—— The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1986.
—— Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh: Revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas. Haifa: World Centre, 1978.
Bell, Richard W., and Seow, Jimmy, eds. The Environment. Our Common Heritage. Mona Vale NSW (Australia): Association for Bahá'í Studies, 1994.
Danesh, H.B. The Psychology of Spirituality. Manotick, Ont.: Nine Pines Publ., 1994.
Deepening. A Compilation on the Importance of Deepening our Understanding and Knowledge of the Faith. Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre, 1983.
Deschner, Karlheinz. Abermals krähte der Hahn. Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1979 [1962].
Fischer, Udo. Linker Jesus, Rechte Kirche. Wien-Klosterneuburg: Edition Va Bene, 1994.
Franzen, August. Kleine Kirchengeschichte. 5th ed. Freiburg/B.: Herder, 1975 [1965]. Gebser, Jean. Ursprung und Gegenwart. München: Hugendubel, 1973. Grundy, Julia M. Ten Days in the Light of Akka. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1979.
Häring, Bernhard. Frei in Christus: Moraltheologie für die Praxis des christlichen Lebens. Vol.3. Freiburg/B.: Herder, 1989 [1981].
Jordan, Daniel C. Becoming your true self. London: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1993.
Khoury, Theodor, and Hünemann, Peter, eds. Wer ist mein Nächster? Die Antwort der Weltreligionen. Freiburg/B.: Herder, 1988.
Lights of Guidance. Compiled by Helen Bassett Hornby. 4th rev. ed. New Delhi: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1996 [1983].
McLean, J.A. Dimensions in Spirituality. Oxford: George Ronald, 1994. Thomas, R. Murray, Moral Development Theories - Secular and Religious. A Comparative Study. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997.
Schilling, Otto. Grundriss der Moraltheologie. 2nd ed. Freiburg/B.: Herder, 1949 [1948].
Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1990.
—— God Passes By. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1974.
—— Living the Life. Ipswich, Suffolk: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1984.
—— The Promised Day is Come. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1996.
—— Unfolding Destiny. London: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1981.
—— World Order of Bahá'u'lláh. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1991.
Smith, Peter. The Babi and Bahá'í Religions. From messianic Shi'ism to a world religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
Stoeckle, Bernhard, ed. Wörterbuch der ökologischen Ethik: Die Verantwortung des Christen für den Bestand der Schöpfung. Freiburg/B.: Herder, 1986.
The Universal House of Justice. The Promise of World Peace. Oxford: Oneworld Publ., 1990.

Footnotes

[1] Thomas, Moral Development Theories - Secular and Religious. A Comparative Study.
Thomas asserts that "a multifaceted, balanced understanding of any moral-development theory is gained from learning the theory's answer to a comprehensive set of questions" (p. 2) and he provides such a set, consisting of twelve "Guide Questions" (The Moral Domain, Moral vs. Immoral, Good/Bad Development, Sources of Evidence, Moral-Development Reality, Moral Human Nature, Length of Development, Personality Structure, Directions, Processes, and Stages, Causal Factors, Individual Differences, Nomenclature, Popularity).

As a next step, he selected eight criteria, by which each theory's adequacy can be evaluated, judging to what extent they are understandable, explanatory, practical, verifiable, adaptable, fertile, lasting, and self-satisfying.

For a detailed overview and explanation of the `12 Guide Questions' and the `8 Evaluation Criteria', see Thomas, Moral Development Theories, chapter 1.

[2] Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37.

[3] Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39.

[4] See Matt. 5:38-48.

[5] It is remarkable, how often the Catholic Church found excuses to flagrantly violate Christ's truly universal and inclusive message of love. Christian groups with conflicting views were persecuted as "heretics", Jews were discriminated and periodically persecuted, women were burnt as "witches", scientists faced enmity and opposition, indigenous peoples were forcefully converted, and "Holy Wars" were conducted against the "heathens" (i.e. Muslims, with a more distinct monotheistic belief system than Christians themselves).

[6] For the concept of social and spiritual evolution, see for example, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 439, or Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pp.165 and 202; see also the concept of evolving structures of consciousness in the philosophy of Jean Gebser, Ursprung und Gegenwart (Origin and Present).

[7] 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 454

[8] Ibid., p. 453.

See also 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Will and Testament, p. 14: "Consort with all the peoples, kindreds and religions of the world with the utmost truthfulness, uprightness, faithfulness, kindliness, good-will and friendliness, that all the world of being may be filled with the holy ecstasy of the grace of Baha, that ignorance, enmity, hate and rancor may vanish from the world and the darkness of estrangement amidst the peoples and kindreds of the world may give way to the Light of Unity".

[9] Shoghi Effendi, Living the Life, p. 21.

[10] "Love the creatures for the sake of God and not for themselves. You will never become angry or impatient if you love them for the sake of God. Humanity is not perfect. There are imperfections in every human being, and you will always become unhappy if you look toward the people themselves. But if you look toward God, you will love them and be kind to them, for the world of God is the world of perfection and complete mercy" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 93).

[11] See Hilpert, Entry on `Tier' (Animal), in Woerterbuch der oekologischen Ethik (Dictionary of Ecological Ethics), pp. 122-27.

[12] Ex. 20:10; 23:12.

[13] Deut. 25:4.

[14] Ex. 23:5.

[15] Hilpert, p. 124.

[16] Beutter, Entry on `Umwelt' (Environment), in Woerterbuch der oekologischen Ethik, p. 137.

[17] Gen. 1:26-28.

[18] See Brunner, Entry on `Schoepfung' (Creation), in Woerterbuch der oekologischen Ethik, p. 115.

[19] "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility,
not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its
bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Romans 8:18-21).

[20] Gen.1:29.

[21] Gen. 9:3.

[22] See Rom. 14:14.

[23] Rom. 14:2-3.

[24] See Isaiah 11:6-9; 65:25.

[25] "All the teeth of man are made for eating fruit, cereals, and vegetables...But eating meat is not forbidden or unlawful, nay, the point is this, that it is possible for man to live without eating meat and still be strong. Meat is nourishing and containeth the elements of herbs, seeds, and fruits; therefore sometimes it is essential for the sick and for the rehabilitation of health. There is no objection in the Law of God to the eating of meat if it is required" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Health and Healing, p. 463).

"In regard to the question as to whether people ought to kill animals for food or not, there is no explicit statement in the Bahá'í Sacred Scriptures (as far as I know) in favour or against it. It is certain, however, that if man can live on a purely vegetarian diet and thus avoid killing animals, it would be much preferable. This is, however, a very controversial question and the Bahá'ís are free to express their views on it" (Shoghi Effendi, quoted in Lights of Guidance, p. 297).

[26] "[M]an's food is intended to be grain and not meat. When mankind is more fully developed, the eating of meat will gradually cease" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.171).

"The time will come when meat will no longer be eaten. Medical science is only in its infancy, yet it has shown that our natural diet is that which grows out of the ground. The people will gradually develop up to the condition of this natural food." ('Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted in Julia M. Grundy, Ten Days in the Light of Akka, pp. 8-9).

[27] "Truly, the killing of animals and the eating of their meat is somewhat contrary to pity and compassion, and if one can content oneself with cereals, fruit, oil and nuts, ... it would undoubtedly be better and more pleasing" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted in Lights of Guidance, p. 296).

[28] "Briefly, it is not only their fellow human beings that the beloved of God must treat with mercy and compassion, rather must they show forth the utmost loving-kindness to every living creature. For in all physical respects, and where the animal spirit is concerned, the selfsame feelings are shared by animal and man... And yet in truth, what difference is there when it cometh to physical sensations? The feelings are one and the same, whether ye inflict pain on man or on beast. There is no difference here whatever. And indeed ye do worse to harm an animal, for man hath a language, he can lodge a complaint...But the hapless beast is mute....Therefore is it essential that ye show forth the utmost consideration to the animal, and that ye be even kinder to him than to your fellow man. Train your children from their earliest days to be infinitely tender and loving to animals. If an animal be sick, let the children try to heal it, if it be hungry, let them feed it, if thirsty, let them quench its thirst, if weary, let them see that it rests" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, pp. 158-159).

[29] "Say: Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity there are signs for men of discernment. Nature is God's Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world. It is a dispensation of Providence ordained by the Ordainer, the All-Wise. Were anyone to affirm that it is the Will of God as manifested in the world of being, no one should question this assertion. It is endowed with a power whose reality men of learning fail to grasp. Indeed a man of insight can perceive naught therein save the effulgent splendour of Our Name, the Creator. Say: This is an existence which knoweth no decay, and Nature itself is lost in bewilderment before its revelations, its compelling evidences and its effulgent glory which have encompassed the universe" (Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 142).

[30] "All creation is made subject to the laws of nature, but man has been able to conquer these laws ... to man God has given such wonderful power that he can guide, control and overcome nature ... man can govern nature ... man has been created master of nature, how foolish it is of him to become her slave" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, pp. 122-123).

[31] "They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to
tremble, that did shake kingdoms; That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not
the house of his prisoners?" (Isaiah 14:16-17).

[32] " The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing. Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars
of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us" (Isaiah 14: 7-8)

[33] "Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and
none shall be alone in his appointed times. What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the LORD
hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it" (Isaiah 14:31-32).

[34] Peter Newman discusses these two images in more detail, with regards to ecology, in his essay "Our Environment - Past, Present and Future", in The Environment. Our Common Heritage.

[35] 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 363.
See also ibid., p.407, and Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 78.

[36] This term is used, from a Christian point of view, to refer to the Jewish Bible. The original Jewish Bible consisted of 24 books (certain books were put together and counted as one - counting each book separately, it would come up to 39 books).
In 300 B.C., Jews in the Greek Exile translated the Bible into Greek ("Septuaginta"), and added 7 more books to the canon (46 books total). The Catholics (in 382 C.E.) and the Orthodox (in 692 C.E.) accepted this compilation, whereas the Protestants do not include those additional 7 books in their Bible translations (thus having only 39 books).

[37] The New Testament consists of 27 books, namely the 4 Gospels (lit. "glad tidings"), portraying the ministry of Christ, the Acts (recounting the ministry of the Apostles), 14 letters of Paul and 7 letters by other Apostles, giving guidance to the early Christian communities, and the Revelation of John (attributed to St. John, the Evangelist), a mystic visionary work, about the fate of the world, the battle between Good and Evil ("Armageddon"), and the ultimate victory ("New Jerusalem"). Those 27 books were selected and translated into Latin in the 4th century; other documents (such as the Gnostic Gospels) were discarded ("Apocrypha", extra-biblical collections of texts - this term applies both for Hebrew and Christian texts).

[38] The Bahá'í Holy Writings are too numerous to be listed here in detail; what follows, is a very brief presentation of the most important texts; for a comprehensive list of Bahá'í Writings, available in English, see Peter Smith, The Babi and Bahá'í Religions, pp. 229-35.

Among the major works of Bahá'u'lláh are the Most Holy Book (Kitab-i-Aqdas), containing the laws of the new dispensation; the Book of Certitude (Kitab-i-Iqan), the major doctrinal work of the Faith, The Hidden Words, "jewel-like thoughts cast out of the mind of the Manifestation of God to admonish and counsel men" (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 456); The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys, his major mystical treatises; and the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas.

Some Answered Questions
, a collection of authenticated table-talks, can be considered as most important work of 'Abdu'l-Bahá (See Shoghi Effendi, The Importance of Deepening, pp. 26-8, 37); Paris Talks and Promulgation of Universal Peace are further, albeit less authoritative collections of talks given by 'Abdu'l-Bahá (see Universal House of Justice, quoted in Lights of Guidance, p.439).

[39] Shoghi Effendi wrote a condensed history of the first century of the Bahá'í Faith (God Passes By), and several extensive, book-like letters, like The Advent of Divine Justice, The Promised Day is Come and a collection of letters, The World-Order of Bahá'u'lláh, among which 'The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh' is of invaluable theological importance, claryfying the station of the Central Figures of the Faith.

The estimated figures for the total number of individual tablets are as follows: Bahá'u'lláh, 7,160 tablets archived, 15,000 total estimated to have been written; 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 15,549 tablets archived, 30,800 total estimated to have been written; Shoghi Effendi, 16,370 letters archived, 30,100 total estimated to have been written (Bahá'í Archives: Preserving and Safeguarding the Sacred Texts," in 'Andalíb magazine, 12.48 (Fall 1993).

"It must always be remembered that authoritative interpretation of the Teachings was, after 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the exclusive right of the Guardian, and fell within the 'sacred and prescribed domain' of the Guardianship, and therefore the Universal House of Justice cannot and will not infringe upon that domain" (Lights of Guidance, p. 312).

[40] Thomas, Moral Development Theories, p. 10.

[41] The Covenant regulates the question of authorized successorship and deals with the issues of interpretation (conferred upon 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, respectively), and legislation (The Universal House of Justice, instituted by Bahá'u'lláh).

[42] Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, rm 5.

[43] The Universal House of Justice addresses this issue in a message to the "peoples of the world", written in 1985, in commemoration of the UN International Year of Peace: "Those who have held blindly and selfishly to their particular orthodoxies, who have imposed on their votaries erroneous and conflicting interpretations of the pronouncements of the Prophets of God, bear heavy responsibility ... Had humanity seen the Educators of its collective childhood in their true character, as agents of one civilizing process, it would no doubt have reaped incalculably greater benefits from the cumulative effects of their successive missions. This, alas, it failed to do."

[44] One "error" that many Christians attribute to Christ, was his expectation to return soon, i.e., within the life-time of his followers (see Matt. 10:23; 16:28; 24:34).

[45] For the historic information of this paragraph see Fischer, Linker Jesus, Rechte Kirche (Leftwing Jesus, Rightwing Church), pp. 123-4.

[46] The term "inspirational reading" is used here to refer to the obligation of reading in the Writings twice a day (mornings and evenings). "[T]o read a single verse with joy and radiance" is preferable to reading " with lassitude all the Holy Books of God" - we should "lighten" and "uplift" our souls, not "weary them and weigh them down" (Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 73).

[47] Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 85.

[48] Shoghi Effendi, The Importance of Deepening, p. 19.

[]49 Ibid., p. 24.

[50] Ibid., p. 24.

[51] Ibid., p. 25.
See also the numerous explanations of 'Abdu'l-Bahá on Christian subjects and Shoghi Effendi's mandate to reconciliate the followers of the other religions (for example, The Promised Day Is Come, p. 107).

[52] Ibid., p. 30.

[53] 'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Importance of Deepening, p. 9.

[54] Universal House of Justice , cited in Lights of Guidance, pp. 312-3.

[55] "Nothing whatever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than dissension and strife, contention, estrangement and apathy, among the loved ones of God" (Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 9).

[56] See Hidden Words, Arabic # 13 and # 22.

[57] 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 120 (Chapter 29). The main point, that 'Abdu'l-Bahá makes in this talk is, that even the Prophets of God would, "without committing any sin or fault, but simply because they are the posterity of Adam, have become without reason guilty sinners, and until the day of the sacrifice of Christ were held captive in hell in painful torment".

[58] Ibid., p. 123 (Chapter 30).

[59] "According to the Bahá'í conception, the soul of man, or in other words his inner spiritual self or reality, is not dualistic. There is no such thing, as the Zoroastrians believe, as a double reality in man, a definite higher self and a lower self. These two tendencies for good or evil are but manifestations of a single reality or self. The latter is capable of development in either way. All depends fundamentally on the training or education which man receives. Human nature is made up of possibilities both for good and evil. True religion can enable it to soar in the highest realm of the spirit, while its absence can, as we already witness around us, cause it to fall to the lowest depths of degradation and misery." Shoghi Effendi, quoted in Lights of Guidance, p. 208 (#698).

[60] Mark 12:30.

[61] 1 Thess. 5:23.

[62 ]See Gen. 2:7; Luke 1:47; Rom 1:9; 2 Cor. 2:13 a.o.

[63] For example the "living soul " (King James, Darby), that man became, when God had "breathed into his nostrils the
breath of life" (Gen. 2:7), has been translated with "living being" in other versions (RSV). The original Hebrew word
"nefesch" stands for any living being, filled with the "breath of life" (Hebrew: "ruach"). "Ruach" is usually translated
with "spirit" (see for instance, Gen. 6:17), but also used when describing thoughts or emotions - and thus becoming
synonyms with "mind" and "heart" (For example, 1 Sam. 1:15: "I am a woman of a `sorrowful spirit' (King James,
Darby)/'sorely troubled' (RSV): I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the
LORD"; 1 Kings 1:5: "Why is thy spirit so `sad' (King James)/'sullen' (Darby)/'vexed' (RSV), that thou eatest no
bread?"; Gen. 41:8: "And it came to pass in the morning, that his spirit was troubled" a.o.).

[64] "How much more grievous would it be, were aught else to be mentioned in that Presence, were man's heart, his tongue, his mind, or his soul, to be busied with any one but the Well-Beloved" (Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 55);

[65]"...thou hast, with all thine heart, thy soul and inmost being, busied thyself with the vanities of the world"
(Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 226).

See, for example, Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, chapters 80-83, 86; 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, Part 4 (chapters 46-73); Paris Talks, chapters 11, 18, 20, 29, 31, 34, 35, 57.
Among the first books, that correlate the Bahá'í teachings to Psychology and Pedagogy, are Daniel C. Jordan, Becoming your true self; H.B.Danesh, The Psychology of Spirituality; J.A.McLean, Dimensions in Spirituality.
Other Bahá'í authors, notably in German speaking Europe, link Bahá'í ideas to their field of expertise (Erik Blumenthal - Adlerian Psychology; Toni & Theo Schoenacker - Consultation; Nossrat Peseschkian - Family Therapy).

[66] Becoming your true self, pp. 18-19.
The key passage, that Jordan is alluding to, reads as follows: "Having created the world and all that liveth and moveth therein, He, through the direct operation of His unconstrained and sovereign Will, chose to confer upon man the unique distinction and capacity to know Him and to love Him - a capacity that must needs be regarded as the generating impulse and the primary purpose underlying the whole of creation" (Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 65).

[67] Ibid., p. 18

[68] Danesh, The Psychology of Spirituality, p. 63.

[69] McLean, Dimensions in Spirituality, p.162.

[70] Ibid., pp. 169-13.

[71] "Personality is one of two kinds. One is the natural or God-given personality which the Western thinkers call individuality. Individuality is the inner aspect of man which is not subject to change. The second is personality. Personality is the acquired virtues and perfections, with which man is adorned. When the individuality of man, i.e., his God-given natural virtues, is adorned with acquired virtues and perfections then we have character".
'Abdu'l-Bahá, Star of the West, vol. 4, no. 2, p. 38 (quoted in McLean, p. 171).

[72] J.A.McLean, Dimensions in Spirituality, p. 172.

[73] Thomas, Moral Development Theories, p. 6.

[74] Ibid., p. 9.

[75] Christ provided such an example, when he broke the Sabbath, in order to perform a healing miracle (i.e., "to do well"): "And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on
the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall
have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a
man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days" (Matt. 12:10-12).

In the Bahá'í Writings, many times moral principles are worded very strongly; at the same time, they are often balanced
with the concept of a situational ethics: "Consider that the worst of qualities and most odious of attributes, which is the foundation of all evil, is lying. No worse or more blameworthy quality than this can be imagined to exist; it is the destroyer of all human perfections and the cause of innumerable vices. There is no worse characteristic than this; it is the foundation of all evils. Notwithstanding all this, if a doctor consoles a sick man by saying, "Thank God you are better, and there is hope of your recovery," though these words are contrary to the truth, yet they may become the consolation of the patient and the turning point of the illness. This is not blameworthy" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, pp 215-216).

[76] Christ's admonitions not to be proud of one's good deeds and not to seek approvement for them, are a case in point:
"Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and
in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward... And when thou prayest,
thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets,
that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward... Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the
hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto
you, They have their reward" (Matt. 6:2; 6:5; 6:16).

[77] "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be
forgiven...And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own
eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself
beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then
shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye" (Luke 6:37; 6:41-42).

The same notion can be found in the Bahá'í Writings: "If the fire of self overcome you, remember your own faults and
not the faults of My creatures, inasmuch as every one of you knoweth his own self better than he knoweth others"
(Bahá'u'lláh, Hidden Words, Persian # 66); "How couldst thou forget thine own faults and busy thyself with the faults
of others? Whoso doeth this is accursed of Me... Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner.

Shouldst thou transgress this command, accursed wouldst thou be, and to this I bear witness...Know thou of a truth: He
that biddeth men be just and himself committeth iniquity is not of Me, even though he bear My name" (Bahá'u'lláh,
Hidden Words, Arabic # 26 - 28).

[78] "Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword" (Matt. 26:52).

[79] See Karlheinz Deschner, Abermals kraehte der Hahn (And the cock crew again), pp. 505-6.

Deschner quotes Tertullian, for whom "love for the enemy" was the main command, and who wrote, that with
the disarmament of Peter "the Lord has taken away the sword of every soldier". Cyprian complained, that "the
whole earth is soaked with blood"; he critized the morality of condemning an individual who committed murder, but
regarding "murdering in the name of the state" as "bravery". Origines regarded Isaiah's prophecy of peace
("and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword
against nation, neither shall they learn war any more", Isaiah 2:4) as fulfilled and binding for the Christians.

[80] Ibid., p. 506.

[81] See Fischer, Linker Jesus, Rechte Kirche, pp. 129-32.

In Hellenistic times, wars were fought with the assistance of Gods, and the Roman Church continued this tradition. The "labarum", a banner with the initials of Christ, created as early as 317, was carried in front of the army of the first Christian emperor. The synode of Arelate (314) decided to excommunicate deserting soldiers, whereas 80 years earlier (235), the Roman bishop Hippolyt forbid Christians to become soldiers, and threatened them with excommunication if they disobeyed.

See also Deschner, Abermals kraehte der Hahn, chapter 65.

[82] In the words of Christ, to let the "tares and the wheat grow together until the harvest" (Parable of the good and bad seeds, Matt. 13:24-30).

[83] Many of these groups have attacked the corruption and luxury of the Papal Court (like the "radical Franciscans"), or developped doctrines which, even though opposed to Church doctrine, were equally based on the Bible (like the Arians). In other words, it is not always so clear, whose views were right or wrong, and Christ's warning in the parable mentioned above, not to root up the tares, "lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them", gets an ominous overtone. It is impossible to justify for example the complete extinction of a population, as in the case of the Albigensians in France, which meant the "uprootal" and destruction of the whole Provencialian culture during a 20year crusade in the 13th century.

[84] Berkhof, Kirche und Kaiser, quoted in Deschner, p.479 (in my translation).

[85] It should be noted, however, that certain Christian groups, like the Mennonites (16th cent.) and the Quakers (17th cent.) have rejected warfare categorically, and tried to re-connect to the spirit of early Christianity. The Quakers received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1947 (Deschner, p. 514)

[86] With reference to the rejection of war in early Christianity, moral theologists claim that this was because of the dangerous influence of the Emperor's cult in the pagan army, not because of a general rejection of a "just war". This argument can easily be refuted by the fact, that some of the early Christians were not against the profession of soldiery during times of peace, only against participation in wars. The "dangerous influence" of the Emperor's cult would have been effective during times of peace as well. Furthermore, not only participation in wars was forbidden in early Christianity, but any activity, that would have led to the death of a person (self-defense, death penalty, even denunciation, leading to capital punishment).
See Schilling, Moraltheologie, p.430 (for the argument) and Deschner, pp.508-9 (for the counter arguments).

Christ's expulsion of the money-changers out of the temple (John 2:14-17) has been taken as justification for violence, but is is a long way from the "cleansing of the temple" without any bloodshed to the funeral piles of the Inquisition (Deschner, p. 495).
Christ's statement, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword" (Matt.
10:34) was used as excuse as well. It is clear, both from Christ's description of the outcome (not to kill, but to "to set a
man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in
law"), and from a contextual interpretation (see Hebrews 4:12; Rev. 1:16) that this is a metaphoric reference to the
"Word of God", separating believers from unbelievers, and not a proclamation of war. For a comprehensive list of
"excuses" see Deschner, pp. 495-8.

[87] For Christ's repeated admonitions to beware of "the deceitfulness of riches" and to focus on spiritual rather than material wealth, see, for example, Mark 10:21-25; Luke 6:20-24; Matt. 6:19-21; 13:22; 19:23-24.

[88] For Christ's indiscriminatory attirude towards women, see, for example, Matt. 9:20-22; 15:22-28; 26:6-13; Luke 7:19-21; 10:38-42; John 4:6-30; women accompanying and supporting him (Matt. 27:55-56; Mark 15:39-40; Luke 8:2-3); women being chosen first (!) to witness the resurrected Christ and instructed to inform the apostles (Mark 16:1011; Matt. 28:1-10; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18); women as leaders in the early community (Rom. 16:1-6, 12-16; Phil. 1:2; Kol. 4:15; 2 Tim. 4:19-21).

[89] See 1 Tim. 3:4; Titus 1:6.

[90] "The first Glad-Tidings which the Mother Book hath, in this Most Great Revelation, imparted unto all the peoples of the world is that the law of holy war hath been blotted out from the Book" (Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets, p. 21).
"In former religions such ordinances as holy war, destruction of books, the ban on association and companionship with other peoples or on reading certain books had been laid down and affirmed according to the exigencies of the time; however, in this mighty Revelation, in this momentous Announcement, the manifold bestowals and favours of God have overshadowed all men, and from the horizon of the Will of the Ever-Abiding Lord, His infallible decree hath prescribed that which We have set forth above" (Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets, p. 28).

[91] "In connection with your application for exemption from active military service, the Guardian trusts that the authorities will give careful consideration to this matter, and will find it possible to relieve the Bahá'í friends from the necessity of serving in the army in a combatant capacity. Should they, however, refuse to grant such exemption, the believers should unhesitatingly assure them of their unqualified obedience and of their readiness to join and serve in the army in whatever manner the government deems best" (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p.134).

[92] On the societal level, the principle of collective security enunciated by Bahá'u'lláh (see Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CXVII) and elaborated by Shoghi Effendi (see the Guardian's letters in The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh) does not presuppose the abolition of the use of force, but prescribes "a system in which Force is made the servant of Justice", and which provides for the existence of an international peace-keeping force that "will safeguard the organic unity of the whole commonwealth" (Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab-i-Aqdas, Notes, p. 241).

[93] Thomas, Moral Development Theories, p. 9.

[94] In the Bible, this concept is expressed in the parable of the talents (see Matt. 25:14-30).
Bahá'u'lláh uses a similar allegory: "The whole duty of man in this Day is to attain that share of the flood of grace which God poureth forth for him. Let none, therefore, consider the largeness or smallness of the receptacle. The portion of some might lie in the palm of a man's hand, the portion of others might fill a cup, and of others even a gallon-measure" (Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 8).

[95] Shoghi Effendi, quoted in Lights of Guidance, p. 581
It is interesting to note that the word "strive" appears around 380 times in the Bahá'í Writings (mostly in the context of moral development and teaching the Faith).

[96] "...Satan, by which we mean the natural inclinations of the lower nature. This lower nature in man is symbolized as Satan - the evil ego within us, not an evil personality outside" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.287).
See also 'Abdu'l-Bahá's explanation of the Non-Existence of Evil (Some Answered Questions, chapt. 74).

"Regarding your question relative to the condition of those people who are described in the Gospel as being possessed of devils: This should be interpreted figuratively; devil or satan is symbolic of evil and dark forces yielding to temptation" (Shoghi Effendi, quoted in Lights of Guidance, p. 514).

There is at least one indication in the Bible, that would back up an allegoric interpretation of "Satan", as suggested in
the Bahá'í Writings: "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil,
neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed" (James
1:13-14).

[97] "Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak" (Mark 14:38).
See also the exhortation for married couples to balance their spiritual and physical needs (1 Cor. 7:5).
The same concept is expressed by Bahá'u'lláh (Gleanings, p. 106; 107).

[98] "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be
tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it"
(1 Cor.10:13).

[99] Thomas, Moral Development Theories, p. 9.

[100] 'Abdu'l-Bahá defined stagnation as the beginning of a process of deterioration: "You must ever press forward, never standing still; avoid stagnation, the first step to a backward movement, to decay" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 90).

[101] Peter recognizes the true station of Christ and his faith becomes the foundation-stone of Christianity (see Matt. 16:18), only to be addressed as "Satan" a moment later, when he does not want to accept the necessity of Christ's sacrifice (see Matt. 16:21-23). He claims to be prepared to die for Christ (Matt. 26:35), but denies him thrice, when put to the test (Matt. 26:69-75). Other incidents report traits of violence (John 18:10) and dishonesty (see Gal. 2:11-14).

Paul renders a moving description of his soul's struggle against human temptations in his letters to the Romans (Rom. 7:14-25). The topos of the "weak flesh", fighting against the "willing spirit", has already been expressed by Christ (Matt. 26:41), and it may well be, that Paul's reflections are rather philosophical than autobiographical in nature, expounding the concept of man's dual nature.

[102] 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Tablets pp. 108-9; quoted in McLean, Dimensions in Spirituality, p. 88.

[103] McLean, p. 88.

[104] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, pp. 155-156.

[105] See 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 240 (chapter 66).

[106] See 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, pp. 87-88 (chapter 29).

Chapter 2

"The Woman and the Child"

A comparison of archetypal key elements in early Christian and Bábí-Bahá'í History

Introduction

The underlying premise for my comparing certain key features of Christianity and the Bahá'í Faith is the phenomenon of recurring archetypal events and dramatis personae in each religious dispensation. Such an axiom is based on the notion of 'spiritual forces', being at work in the universe[1], and a spiral concept of history.[2]

In my understanding, the 'return', i.e., the archetypal reccurence of main characters unto the stage of life constitutes one of these 'spiritual forces' operant in the world, and I will focus on this feature in the following chapters.

The first chapter acknowledges the fundamental limitation, due to the lack of sources, which characterizes the comparison of a twothousand year old religion with one that only started last century. However, the phenomenon of 'reconstructing history' is not determined by access to historical information alone. Selective perception is still at play, governed by our worldview and premises. Two problematic and reductionistic perspectives are addressed. The first, a sexist orientation, is briefly touched upon, the second, a materialistic-secular outlook on life is dealt with more extensively.

The second chapter provides a brief overview of the doctrine of 'return' from a Bahá'í perspective.

The third chapter deals with the archetypal appearance of one or more prominent women in each religion, and explores the link between Tahirih, the immortal heroine of the Bábí-Bahá'í Era, and Mary Magdalene who might just as well have been a Christian antecedent of hers.

The fourth chapter argues for the validity of miracles and takes Jesus' virgin birth as a case in point.

The fifth chapter looks into the mysterious source of divine knowledge that all the Prophets claimed to have access to, and which is quite distinct from traditional, acquired knowledge.

The sixth chapter suggests that this capacity of divine knowledge is inherent in these prophetic figures and, consequently, is observable already during their childhood years.

Finally, it is one more time emphasized that a fruitful study of religions, both intrinsically and comparatively, would have to apply an integrative paradigm, enriching the historical critical method and a rationalistic orientation with spiritual principles.

1. Reconstruction of history

For scholars of religion and historians, it has been equally fascinating to try to reconstruct the formation of the early Christian community, as it has proven difficult, due to the lack of written sources and the difficulty of distinguishing fact from fiction from the few sources available. The process of reconstruction becomes even more complex, when one takes the various ideological positions and historic axioms into account, that have stressed and idealized certain features of this original community.

It has been portrayed as pure and holy, following the true teachings of Christ (as opposed to the later process of corruption), and as united and loving, having overcome all ethnic and social differences. It has been regarded as detached and voluntarily poor, sharing all the possessions with each other ("Christian communism"). It has been described as democratic and decentralized (as opposed to the evolving authority and exclusivity of the Catholic Church), but equally as having been under the guidance and leadership of the Apostles (justifying the Papal authority). It has been seen as liberal and favourable towards women (as opposed to the later exclusion and degradation of women), but also as conservative and patriarchal, exhorting women to be submissive and obedient. All these perspectives reveal more about the viewer than the viewed and confirm Gustave Le Bon's dictum of "Reason creates science; sentiments and creeds shape history."

With regards to the history of the Bahá'í Faith, the interested reader finds a wealth of written sources, diaries, biographies, community histories, reports and official documents, much of it authenticated and available for study, much still waiting to be translated into Western languages. There are basically no documents available, describing the development of the early Christian community from an external perspective, whereas the early history of the Babi and Bahá'í Faith has attracted considerable attention from orientalists, diplomats and scholars, as well as from antagonistic proponents.

However, the premise of the subjective reconstruction of history remains valid, in spite of having so many sources available, and still being so close to the time of the events. One of these reductionist approaches to history, in fact to reality as a whole, is based on sexism, on the supposed superiority of men over women. Such a limited perspective naturally pays little attention to the contribution of women to the process of advancing civilization.

Nakhjavání points out how in Nabíl's Dawn-Breakers, an extensive historical narrative about Bábí and early Bahá'í history, most of the Bábí women, who endured the same sufferings as the men, "have no names and Nabíl does not go out of his way to mention them."

She acknowledges the context of nineteenth-century "chauvinistic" Persia, and Nabil's simple background, but omitting, for example, the story of Mulla Husayn's sister, who was given the title "Nightingale of Paradise" by Bahá'u'lláh, is for her "the most damning evidence of our failure, as Bahá'ís, to live according to the ideal of equality." She invites the reader "to reassess what we consider 'significant' in history, to explore the drama from a fresh perspective, with new actors, to marvel at the old story rewritten."[3]

Another premise, commonly accepted by contemporary historians, is a secular approach to history.[4] Concepts deriving from religious doctrine, such as the possibility of divine intervention, and the distinct nature of the founders of religion (being endowed with a preexistent soul, innate knowledge, and supernatural powers) are ruled out categorically. Consequently, any 'miraculous' events and phenomena are denied, ignored, downplayed, or rationalized. A meta-historic perspective, such as Shoghi Effendi provided for the first Bahá'í Century (covering the period from 1844-1944),[5] would not be taken seriously in the academic world, and so it is understandable, yet unfortunate, that also some Bahá'í scholars yield to such a reductionistic paradigm.[6]

It seems to be an archetypal reaction of the learned of each age, in which a Manifestation of God[7] appears, to denounce their claim for divine inspiration and the originality of their writings. The following passage, in which Bahá'u'lláh bemoans the plight of the Báb, could easily refer to Christ or any of the other "Chosen Mouthpieces" as well:
No sooner did He reveal Himself, than all the people rose up against Him. By some He was denounced as one that hath uttered slanders against God, the Almighty, the Ancient of Days. Others regarded Him as a man smitten with madness ...Still others disputed His claim to be the Mouthpiece of God, and stigmatized Him as one who had stolen and used as his the words of the Almighty, who had perverted their meaning, and mingled them with his own.[8]

Modern historians would generally take a more positive stance. They would acknowledge that the founders of religion sincerely believed in their divine mission, that they were extraordinary individuals, with high moral qualities, alert to the needs of their time. They would not, however, accept their "claim to be the Mouthpiece of God", but rather try to sketch their 'development', to analyze the body of knowledge they had access to, the interactions they had had, which would have led them to their 'subjective belief' to be divinely inspired.

The following quote is a good example of such an approach. Amanat tries to identify "traces of Christian influence" in the Báb's Writings, and notices the Báb's "preoccupation with Christ", which he explains with the like-mindedness of the two characters, and the 'role-model' that the personality of Christ must have provided for the Báb.
This preoccupation with Christ was beyond the common Muslim knowledge of the time, which was mainly confined to the Qur'an and other Islamic sources. He must have taken his references directly from the Gospel, the study of which had given him an understanding of revelation and divinity some- what different from that of the Qur'an. No doubt the Báb found the personality of Christ appealing and his message of affection and self-sacrifice in conformity with his own... The idea of Second Coming, once blended with the apocalyptic role assigned to Jesus in Shi'ism, had become a very compelling model for a notion of a savior considerably different from the destructive and vengeful Mahdi of the Shi'ite prophecies.[9]

Amanat further describes the "active role", that the Báb's early believers had played, combining, on their part, "a strong desire to discern the messianic signs", rooted in their background of Islamic (Shaykhi) millenial expectancy, with the Báb's "sincere belief in his own inspiration". Revelation, in other words, as result of an interactive group-work, with the Prophet depending on able disciples, who would help Him to formulate and develop His doctrines.
One can suggest, then, that if Mulla Husayn at that particular moment had not met him in Shiraz, the course of Sayyid 'Ali Muhammad's spiritual development might have taken a very different direction. The role performed by Mulla Husayn and other early believers, who directed this undefined and still unintelligible inspirations of the Báb into the preconceived framework of Shaykhi prophecies, was far greater than is usually attributed to them. The ideas contained in the Báb's writings soon created a theoretical system different from that of Shaykhi or in some instances Shi'ite thought. Yet in practice the early believers elaborated on these ideas, mostly with the benefit of their own Shaykhi outlook.[10]

Cole employs a similar perspective, highlighting the influence of "hundreds of women", who must have contributed to Bahá'u'lláh's thoughts on gender equality.
It is clear that Bahá'u'lláh carried on an extensive correspondence with female believers. Although he was hardly alone among Middle Eastern men in rethinking gender relations in the 1880s, it is remarkable that he did so through correspondence with hundreds of women themselves. Although Bahá'í orthodoxy would insist that in these letters he revealed the truth to them, and so that the relationship was highly unequal, it seems clear that in other areas Bahá'u'lláh was influenced by his followers (he had not wanted to write a book of laws, for instance, but yielded to a flood of requests to do so), and there is no reason to reject out of hand the notion that his reformist ideas about women derived in part from an extensive interaction with them through correspondence.[11]

Space does not permit a detailed analysis of these (and other) passages, which attempt to 'explain' and de-mystify the source of knowledge the Prophets have access to. My purpose was to provide some examples of seemingly 'objective' historical analysis, which nevertheless rests on a priori premises, based on a secular worldview.[12]

It is not the method of critical historical analysis per se that is problematic, but rather the implicit premises of a secular paradigm, which categorically (but rarely expressis verbis) exclude any metaphysical considerations.

Historical analysis, operating within a Bahá'í doctrinal framework, can be a useful, even necessary tool. Lambden highlights the importance of employing this methodology for the sake of studying primary, nineteenth-century Bábí and Bahá'í historical sources.
In studying these sources, it is important to develop an awareness of their frequent hagiographical, apologetical, or polemical orientations and an ability to recognize and understand the function of such levels of thought as meta-historical legend and myth. Failure to acknowledge or to understand such dimensions in the sources can result in an unconscious fundamentalism that will lead both to a distorted presentation of historical facts and an inability to divine the religious message conveyed in these sources... It is thus important that the study of Bábí and Bahá'í doctrine - the universe of religious discourse - go hand in hand with any historical analysis. The precritical nature of a good many of the sources demands this methodological orientation.[13]

I agree in principle. What is necessary though, is a careful evaluation of the underlying premises, and the eventual integration of scientific and religious axioms.[14] Historical analysis should not be used to "cast the Faith into a mould, which is essentially foreign to its nature, taking no account of the spiritual forces, which Bahá'ís see as its foundation."[15] And Bahá'í scholars are warned not to fall "into the trap of distorting the picture by adopting what is, in essence, a materialistic and localized stance."[16]

2. Aspects of a spiritual paradigm

The doctrine of 'return' [17]


One aspect of this 'spiritual foundation', that can be fruitfully employed in a historic comparison, is the doctrine of 'return', not to be confused with the belief in 'reincarnation'.
The Bahá'í view of "reincarnation" is essentially different from the Hindu conception. The Bahá'ís believe in the return of the attributes and qualities, but maintain that the essence or the reality of things cannot be made to return. Every being keeps its own individuality, but some of his qualities can be transmitted.[18]

The last sentence of this quote deserves special attention. It suggests that some kind of personal connection between individual souls could be assumed, as opposed to a strictly impersonal reccurence of qualities and attributes. Such a personal linkage was alluded to by Báb, with regards to his main disciples, the 'Letters of the Living', being the 'return' of the holy figures of the Islamic dispensation.[19]

Bahá'u'lláh broadens this concept by affirming that, with the coming of each founder of religion, both faithful followers and opponents 'return'. The early believers "can be regarded, in name, in reality, in deeds, in words, and in rank, as the 'return' of those who in a former Dispensation had achieved similar distinctions",[20] while "those people of wickedness were the self-same people who in every age opposed and caviled at the Prophets and Messengers of God, till they finally caused them all to suffer martyrdom."[21]

Obviously, not all the Prophets and Messengers of God have suffered martyrdom in the literal sense of the word. Hence, it can be inferred from Bahá'u'lláh's statement, that the archetypal reccurence of central religious themes is not necessarily an exact re-enactment of "established 'roles' in the dispensational drama."[22] Rather, we can witness "a recurrence of certain patterns in human behaviour",[23] different events, with the same spiritual message to divine.[24]

Momen, in comparing the lives of the founders of six world religions, has highlighted several such archetypal patterns. An initiatory event signals the start of their ministry, often followed by a period of seclusion and spiritual preparation. Then they first gather a small group of disciples whom they teach, before they start to preach in public and declare openly their mission (including announcements to religious and political rulers). The gradual development of their teachings, first perceived as to reinvigorate the old religion, leads eventually to a decisive break with the past traditions, and a clash with the established priesthood. Such (external) opposition often causes 'migration' (having to wander around, or even being exiled), and there is also internal opposition, out of jealousy or envy. Finally, all of them promise the coming of a future, eschatological figure, and a 'Golden Age'.[25]

Momen's comparisons constitute a first summary of such 'archetypal patterns', based on dispersed statements in the Bahá'í primary writings, and invites further research.[26]
Among the themes that Momen suggests for further exploration, is "the presence of a prominent woman in each religious dispensation and the role that she plays in supporting either the prophet himself or his followers after the prophet's death."[27]

3. Archetypal Images of an Ideal Woman

Every religion tells the tale of an outstanding woman. Such prominent women who, according to Shoghi Effendi, "in the course of successive Dispensations, have towered, by reason of their intrinsic merits and unique position, above the rank and file of their sex,"[28] include Sarah, Asiyih, the Virgin Mary, Fatimih, Tahirih and Bahiyyih Khanum.

Most of the time, it is qualities like love, compassion, and support, which distinguish and characterize these figures. Sarah was a life-long and faithful wife and companion to Abraham. Asiyih, the daughter of the Pharaoh, saved Moses' life and raised him like a mother. Jesus' mother was completely devoted to her son, although there is reason to believe that she was not fully aware of his ministry. Fatimih is described as faithful daughter of Muhammad, and loving wife to Ali. Bahiyyih Khanum served and supported selflessly her father Bahá'u'lláh, her brother 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and her nephew Shoghi Effendi who paid following tribute to her:
Banishing from her mind and heart every earthly attachment, renouncing the very idea of matrimony, she, standing resolutely by the side of a Brother whom she was to aid and serve so well, arose to dedicate her life to the service of her Father's glorious Cause. Whether in the management of the affairs of His Household in which she excelled, or in the social relationships which she so assiduously cultivated in order to shield both Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá, whether in the unfailing attention she paid to the every day needs of her Father, or in the traits of generosity, of affability and kindness, which she manifested, the Greatest Holy Leaf had by that time abundantly demonstrated her worthiness to rank as one of the noblest figures intimately associated with the life-long work of Bahá'u'lláh.[29]

Tahirih, the immortal heroine of the Bábí Faith, certainly "presents a startling contrast to the former models."[30] She continually opposed her father in theological questions, she left her husband (and children), when he failed to support her on her spiritual quest, and she challenged both Muslims and fellow Babis with her radical and uncompromising way of proclaiming the new Faith.

The most famous incident of such a challenge is certainly the legendary scene at the Conference of Badasht in 1848, when Tahirih appeared unveiled in front of the assemblage, announcing the inauguration of a new dispensation. Shoghi Effendi has vividly described this scene and the reactions she caused among her fellow believers.
Fear, anger, bewilderment, swept their inmost souls, and stunned their faculties. 'Abdu'l-Khaliq-i- Isfahani, aghast and deranged at such a sight, cut his throat with his own hands. Spattered with blood, and frantic with excitement, he fled away from her face. A few, abandoning their companions, renounced their Faith. Others stood mute and transfixed before her. Still others must have recalled with throbbing hearts the Islamic tradition foreshadowing the appearance of Fatimih herself unveiled while crossing the Bridge (Sirat) on the promised Day of Judgment. Quddus, mute with rage, seemed to be only waiting for the moment when he could strike her down with the sword he happened to be then holding in his hand.

Undeterred, unruffled, exultant with joy, Tahirih arose, and, without the least premeditation and in a language strikingly resembling that of the Qur'an, delivered a fervid and eloquent appeal to the remnant of the assembly, ending it with this bold assertion: "I am the Word which the Qa'im is to utter, the Word which shall put to flight the chiefs and nobles of the earth!" Thereupon, she invited them to embrace each other and celebrate so great an occasion. [31]

Contrary to popular Bahá'í belief, this was not the only time that Tahirih unveiled herself publicly. It seems that sometimes, when she wanted to make a special point, to raise the 'Clarion call' so to speak, she would unveil, in order to increase the dramatic effect of her message.
During the month of Muharram, 1847, while Shiite Muslims donned mourning clothes to commemorate the martyrdom of the Imam Husayn, Tahirih deliberately excited their reaction by dressing in gay colors and appeared unveiled. She urged the Bábís to celebrate the Báb's birthday, which fell on the first day of that month.[32]

Other events are similarly less known among non-Persian Bahá'ís. Following scene took place during the 1848 conference, mentioned above.
At one time when Quddus was rapt in his devotions, Tahirih rushed out of her tent brandishing a sword. "Now is not the time for prayers and prostrations," she declared, "rather on to the field of love and sacrifice!"[33]

Tahirih's fervour calls Joan of Arc's heroism to mind, her religious fervour and compassionate belief in being guided aright - a parallel that has not gone unnoticed. 34

Less known, generally, are also Tahirih's leadership qualities. Her arrival in Karbila, 1843, and the influential position she soon acquired within the Shaykhi community, remain unexplored in Western accounts. Legendary, as Tahirih has become among Bahá'ís worldwide, these accounts toned her down considerably, as Maneck observes.[35]

The paradigmatic ideal, which Tahirih presents, stresses qualities like courage, assertiveness, passionate devotion to a higher ideal, intelligence, and eloquence. Traditional 'female' qualities, such as gentleness, submissiveness and devotion to family, are absent. 'Abdu'l-Bahá challenges the cliché, which would regard the qualities mentioned above, as typically 'male'.
Often in history women have been the pride of humanity - for example, Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was the glory of mankind. Mary Magdalene, Asiyih, daughter of Pharaoh, Sarah, wife of Abraham, and innumerable others have glorified the human race by their excellences. In this day there are women among the Bahá'ís who far outshine men. They are wise, talented, well-informed, progressive, most intelligent and the light of men. They surpass men in courage. When they speak in meetings, the men listen with great respect. [36]

It is interesting to note that the qualities 'Abdu'l-Bahá lists above, describing the virtues of contemporary Bahá'í women, relate to Tahirih's personality the best, as the following description of hers shows.
She discomfited the learned men of Persia by her brilliancy and fervor. When she entered a meeting, even the learned were silent. She was so well versed in philosophy and science that those in her presence always considered and consulted her first. Her courage was unparalleled; she faced her enemies fearlessly until she was killed.[37]

But Tahirih is not mentioned in this summary of outstanding women.[38] Who then provides the best historical example that 'Abdu'l-Bahá may have had in mind, for qualities such as being well educated, courageous, and eloquent?
It is now that we turn our attention to Mary Magdalene, a woman who 'Abdu'l-Bahá, seemingly in passing, has included in this list. This must have been startling for a Christian audience, to hear the name of the 'fallen woman' mentioned alongside with the revered "Mother of God."[39]

What was her special role, her contribution to humanity, seemingly forgotten and ignored, that 'Abdu'l-Bahá was alluding to? What are the object lessons that we can learn from her, and are there archetypal parallels to Tahirih (and, quite likely, to other outstanding women in religious history), waiting for us to be uncovered?

A survey of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's writings and talks makes clear that the reference to Mary Magdalene was no coincidence, no singular occurence. On at least eight other occasions he draws on her example to make a specific point.[40]
Again, it is well established in history that where woman has not participated in human affairs the outcomes have never attained a state of completion and perfection. On the other hand, every influential undertaking of the human world wherein woman has been a participant has attained importance. This is historically true and beyond disproof even in religion. Jesus Christ had twelve disciples and among His followers a woman known as Mary Magdalene. Judas Iscariot had become a traitor and hypocrite, and after the crucifixion the remaining eleven disciples were wavering and undecided. It is certain from the evidence of the Gospels that the one who comforted them and reestablished their faith was Mary Magdalene.[41]

The role of Mary Magdalene to confirm the Apostles in their faith, is the recurrent theme in most of the passages. In the passage above, this act is being placed into a larger context, the need for men and women to complement each other, in order to achieve the best results.
Just as physical accomplishment is complete with two hands, so man and woman, the two parts of the social body, must be perfect. It is not natural that either should remain undeveloped; and until both are perfected, the happiness of the human world will not be realized.[42]

'Abdu'l-Bahá then links the issue of equality and education to the question of peace, and asserts that "universal peace is impossible without universal suffrage." He predicts,
So it will come to pass that when women participate fully and equally in the affairs of the world, when they enter confidently and capably the great arena of laws and politics, war will cease; for woman will be the obstacle and hindrance to it. [43]

This prophetic outlook evokes images of the scene again, when Mary entered 'confidently and capably' the assemblage of the disciples, meeting them on 'equal grounds', and hindered them from giving in into their fears and doubts. She 'participated fully and equally in the affairs' of the early community, and played a crucial role in overcoming the temporary crisis. Her success was not only due to her eloquence and steadfastness, but also to the power of her own exemplary actions, as following passage suggests.
At the time of the ascension of the Spirit (Jesus Christ), the company of those who accepted the new Revelation numbered no more than a few souls. So intense was the alarm and perturbation to which that event gave rise that, for a time, these souls were quite overcome by their agitation and confusion. Then, a few days later, a woman by the name of Mary Magdalene arose, and, by her own example, instilled into them a constancy and firmness which enabled them to arise for the propagation of the Word of God (emphasis added).[44]

Here 'Abdu'l-Bahá portrays Mary as a courageous woman, venturing out into a hostile and dangerous environment, firmly determined to fulfill her mission and propagate the Cause of God. By doing so, she provided a role-model for the fearful and inhibited group, which had gone into hiding. The parallels to Tahirih, in terms of courage, determination and leadership qualities, cannot be overlooked.

The suggested link between Mary Magdalene and Tahirih becomes even stronger, when one looks at following passage in yet another of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's talks:
After the martyrdom of Christ, to Whom be glory, the disciples were greatly disturbed and disheartened. Even Peter had denied Christ and tried to shun Him. It was a woman, Mary Magdalene, who confirmed the wavering disciples in their faith, saying, "Was it the body of Christ or the reality of Christ that ye have seen crucified? Surely it was His body. His reality is everlasting and eternal; it hath neither beginning nor ending. Therefore, why are ye perplexed and discouraged? Christ always spoke of His being crucified." Mary Magdalene was a mere villager, a peasant woman; yet she became the means of consolation and confirmation to the disciples of Christ. In the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh there have been women who were superior to men in illumination, intellect, divine virtues and devotion to God. Among them was Qurratu'l-'Ayn. When she spoke, she was listened to reverently by the most learned men. They were most respectful in her presence, and none dared to contradict her. Among the Bahá'í women in Persia today there are Ruhu'llah and others who are gifted with knowledge, invincible steadfastness, courage, virtue and power of will. They are superior to men and well-known throughout Persia. [45]

Knowledge, steadfastness, courage, virtue and will power - these attributes, according to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, characterize contemporary Persian Bahá'í women who emulate the example of Tahirih. These assertions have been confirmed by anthropologist Judith Goldstein, who did field work on the various religious communities of Yazd, central Iran, between 1973-5. She observed how Bahá'í women would participate in religious discussions "in a manner quite different from the style of more traditional women's conversation...The Bahá'í women's active stance is expressed in eloquence." Goldstein also reports that the model for these self-confident and articulate women is Tahirih.[46]

Equality of the sexes, education, and peace were interdependent and central themes on 'Abdu'l-Bahá's agenda for his Western, mostly Christian audiences. It seems that by drawing repeatedly on Mary Magdalene's example, and establishing a link to Tahirih and her influence in the East, 'Abdu'l-Bahá is suggesting to adopt Christ's leading female disciple as a role model in the West and to explore and exploit the potentialities this paradigm has to offer.

'Abdu'l-Bahá's eulogies form a strange contrast to the attempts of Christian theologians, to downplay the importance of Mary Magdalene's role and influence among the early disciples. At worst, she was denounced as a mad woman, "out of whom he [Christ] had cast seven devils" (Mark 16:9, Luke 8:2), and at best, she was mythologized as "remorseful sinner", which became a popular topos in Christian mysticism.

A good example would be Schenke's analysis of the period, following the death of Christ. He challenges the "complete breakdown" of the Apostle's morale (and therefore, sees no need to address the role of Mary Magdalene in strengthening their faith). He also completely ignores the apparitions of Christ, the women have had (see Mark 16:9-11, Matthew 28:9-10, John 20:14-18), and starts with the 'first' vision of Peter (according to 1 Cor. 15:4-5), dismissing the Gospel accounts as "later constructs with apologetical tendencies" (my translation).[47]

Kraft has a similar view but tries to be more diplomatic. He makes a distinction between the first apparitions at the empty grave and the ones before the apostles and believers, which Paul lists.[48] Since the apostles had all left Jerusalem (according to Kraft's reading of Mark 14:50, and Matthew 26:56)[49], the women's role was to act as witnesses for the empty grave, and to "provide the initial testimony of the realization of Jesus' resurrection."[50] What Kraft subtly implies here, and later explicitly suggests, is that the apparitions in front of the women were irrelevant for the gathering of the dispersed believers and the formation of the early community. This was the task and achievement of Peter, which he undertook, after Christ appeared to him 'first'.

Kraft goes to great lenghts, to 'prove' that the apostles had all left Jerusalem. This would indeed solve the dilemma, which has puzzled many theologians - why would Jesus reveal Himself to the women first, and not to the Apostles? Also, given that the disciples had all left, the embarrassing situation of women having had to comfort and confirm the men, would not have to be addressed (as Schenke and Kraft demonstrate). Unfortunately, the gospels are quite explicit about the role that the women played and the evidence that the disciples had not left Jerusalem is quite strong.[51]

Kraft's attempts to devalue these accounts remain less than convincing. Finally, he urges the reader not to deviate from Paul's list, which provides 'the oldest and most reliable historical account', suggesting, in effect, to give preference to Paul over the accounts in three of the Gospels.

Conzelmann sympathizes with the view that a second community (or group of communities) of early Christians existed in Galilee (above all, in Kapernaum). This would resolve the contradictions between the various gospel accounts, concerning the place of the first apparitions of Christ. He further challenges the (common) view that the Galilee apparitions are the older, more authentic ones. Why would the disciples have returned to Jerusalem, if Galilee was the "land of the experience of salvation?"[52]
He is concerned with many more details and ambiguities, but bypasses completely the issues mentioned above, involving the women in general, and Mary Magdalene in particular.

Schillebeeckx, in contrast to the more conservative theologians discussed above, gives sufficient credit to the role of the female disciples. He affirms that historically, the women have obviously first spread the news of the resurrected Jesus. He defends Paul's list as representing the official self-understanding of the church, to base their belief on the apostolic testimony. He rejects the notion of anti-feminism, pointing out that also the account of the two Emmaus disciples has only been accepted after Peter's testimony (and is not included in the list). In other words, he differentiates between official and lay experiences of theophanies, the latter ones still having their "legitimate place in the biblical report, which is not at all being concealed in the New Testament." And he concludes with quite a remarkable concession (compared to the silentium above): "At the contrary: Also on the basis of these women's experiences, the cause of Jesus seems to have been set in motion."[53]

Schillebeeckx puts more emphasis on the subjective experience of theophany and suggests that the disciples, at a turning point and orientating themselves anew, sensed Christ to be alive (a realization, which would not be essentially different from one that we could arrive at). This "life experience", he argues, "has been articulated in eschatological language." In this context, he concedes that Mary Magdalene may have played an important role (a consideration, which comes close to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's point of view).
Perhaps Mary Magdalene played a role, unknown to us, helping to convince the disciples that the new orientation in life, which this Jesus has caused in her life, has not become meaningless through Jesus' death, quite the opposite. In these accounts of socalled private apparitions - accounts of very intimate, personal religious experiences - the community recognizes their own experience.[54]

Stressing the inner experience of the resurrection, Schillebeeckx critizes the "crude and naïve realism", with which Jesus' apparitions have been seen and understood later on. Nevertheless, miraculous events form an intrinsic part of religious history. Often, such phenomena are explained as being expressions of mythology rather than historical facts. But sometimes, in addition to their inner, symbolic meaning, such phenomena do have an outer, material manifestation.[55]

4. Aspects of a spiritual paradigm The acceptance of 'miracles'

A prime example of such a 'miraculous event' would be the birth of Jesus. Not many scholars would be found nowadays, who would accept the doctrine of the 'virgin birth' as historical. The occurrence of a 'virgin birth' has been a widespread concept, and a sign for divinity, in the antique world, and the assumption, that Christianity had laid claim to, and adapted such a popular notion, seems quite plausible.[56]

However, that a certain 'miraculous' event resembles the mythological concepts of other cultures, is not automatically a proof for its own ahistorical origin. We can equally assume that some myths contain a historical kernel, lost in the mists of the past. Other myths again, may have had a symblic origin altogether, destined to convey a spiritual rather than a historical message.
In the case of Christ's virgin birth, its authenticity has been confirmed in both the Quran and the Bahá'í Writings.[57]

The line of argument differs substantially though, from the various myths of the past and the subsequent deification of Christ. Rather than a proof of divinity, it was a "grievous test" for the people, to recognize such a divinity in someone, "Who was known amongst the people as fatherless".[58]

Primarily, it must have been a "grievous test" for Mary, who "bitterly regretted she had ever been born", anticipating "the cavilings of the infidel and perverse"[59], and for Joseph, who, "being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily."[60] He was persuaded by a dream though, not to do that. Consequently, he accepted the legal fatherhood, and the couple, already having been engaged, got married.[61] It is only logical, to assume that the newly-weds would have tried to conceal this embarrassing episode as much as possible, and it seems, successfully.[62]

Early Christians paid little attention to the virgin birth, let alone regarded it as a proof of Christ's divinity. It is neither mentioned in the gospels of Mark and John, nor in the Acts of the Apostles, and it does not play a role in the theology of Paul. The Codex Syrus Sinaiticus[63] even mentions explicitely Joseph as being the father of Jesus.[64] It was only during the third and forth century, that this concept came to play an important role, because of divergent views and ongoing disputes over the nature of Christ, and the evolving doctrine of Trinity.[65]

To find themselves "in entire agreement with the most orthodox church views"[66], seems to have posed a challenge not only to modern scholars and critical Christians, but also to many early (Western) Bahá'ís.

'Abdu'l-Bahá's Some Answered Questions had been published as early as in 1908,[67] and Bahá'u'lláh's Kitab-i-Iqan was available in English in 1931. Nevertheless, Shoghi Effendi had to repeatedly clarify and emphasize the Bahá'í position regarding the Virgin Birth.

In 1935, he refutes as heretical the notion that Jesus might have been born illegitimately, and provides an extensive and convincing argument for the plausibility of miracles. His reasoning is particularly
interesting and instructive, with regards to reconciling the axioms of a spiritual paradigm with a rationalistic framework.
It would be sacrilege for a Bahá'í to believe that the parents of Jesus were illegally married and that the latter was consequently of an illegal union. Such a possibility cannot be even conceived by a believer who recognizes the high station of Mary and the Divine Prophethood of Jesus Christ. It is this same false accusation which the people of His Day attributed to Mary that Bahá'u'lláh indirectly repudiated in the Iqan. The only alternative therefore is to admit that the birth of Jesus has been miraculous. The operation of miracles is not necessarily irrational or illogical. It does by no means constitute a limitation of the Omnipotence of God. The belief in the possibilities of miracles, on the contrary, implies that God's power is beyond any limitation whatsoever. For it is only logical to believe that the Creator, Who is the sole Author of all the laws operating in the universe, is above them and can, therefore, if He deems it necessary, alter them at His Own Will. We, as humans, cannot possibly attempt to read His Mind, and to fully grasp His Wisdom. Mystery is therefore an inseparable part of true religion, and as such, should be recognized by the believers.[68]

Three years later, he wrote again to an individual, who was apparently not satisfied or convinced with the initial response he got. This letter is strongly worded, which may have been a reaction to the insistence of the questioner.
Again with regard to your question relative to the birth of Jesus: He wishes me to inform you that there is nothing further he can add to the explanation he gave you in his previous communication regarding this point. One thing, however, he wishes again to bring to your attention, namely that miracles are always possible, even though they do not constitute a regular channel whereby God reveals His power to mankind. To reject miracles on the ground that they imply a breach of the laws of nature is a very shallow, well-nigh a stupid argument, inasmuch as God Who is the Author of the universe can, in His Wisdom and Omnipotence, bring any change, no matter how temporary, in the operation of the laws which He Himself has created.[69]

It is not stupid, to believe in miracles. It is stupid, not to believe in them. Apart from the refreshing polemics, this quote provides one more time the premise, outlined above, that a scholar with a
'spiritual foundation' would adhere to.

Finally, in a lenghty and weighty epistle to the American believers, Shoghi Effendi summarizes the Christian doctrines, which are in unison with Bahá'í beliefs:
As to the position of Christianity, let it be stated without any hesitation or equivocation that its divine origin is unconditionally acknowledged, that the Sonship and Divinity of Jesus Christ are fearlessly asserted, that the divine inspiration of the Gospel is fully recognized, that the reality of the mystery of the Immaculacy of the Virgin Mary is confessed, and the primacy of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, is upheld and defended.[70]

Even though such a dramatic incidence has not occurred during His Dispensation, as in the case of Moses, killing an Egyptian, or Jesus, being an allegedly illegitimate child - linked by Bahá'u'lláh, suggesting yet another archetypal plot - people would have reacted similarly as in the past. This, at least, is Bahá'u'lláh's dire prediction.[71]

5. Aspects of a spiritual paradigm - Intuitive and inspirational knowledge

Every Manifestation of God claims to be the channel for divine knowledge and grace, and to propagate the Will of God for their day and age.

Jesus:
I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.[72] I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.[73]
Bahá'u'lláh:
This is the Dayspring of Divine knowledge, if ye be of them that understand, and the Dawning-place of God's commandments, if ye be of those who comprehend.[74]

... the breezes of the All-Glorious were wafted over Me, and taught Me the knowledge of all that hath been. This thing is not from Me, but from One Who is Almighty and > All-Knowing.[75]
Many Messengers of God stressed the fact that their wisdom and knowledge of the world was not aquired by traditional means of studying. We know that many of them were raised in simple conditions, having been exposed only to basic education.

Bahá'u'lláh, in a letter to the Shah of Persia, assured him: "The learning current amongst men I studied not; their schools I entered not. Ask of the city wherein I dwelt, that thou mayest be well assured that I am not of them who speak falsely."[76]

Bahá'u'lláh alludes to a kind of "intuitive" knowledge, when He relates the visit of a delegate of a congregation of clerics, "who, when attaining Our presence, questioned Us concerning certain sciences, and whom We answered by virtue of the knowledge We inherently possess."[77]

On another occasion, He alludes again to this mysterious power, of having full and direct access to any kind of information, He may wish to quote from or refer to.
Thou knowest full well that We perused not the books which men possess and We acquired not the learning current amongst them, and yet whenever We desire to quote the sayings of the learned and of the wise, presently there will appear before the face of thy Lord in the form of a tablet all that which hath appeared in the world and is revealed in the Holy Books and Scriptures.[78]

Similarly as Christ, the Báb only received basic education and was trained in the profession of His family.
God beareth Me witness, I was not a man of learning, for I was trained as a merchant. In the year sixty[79] God graciously infused my soul with the conclusive evidences and weighty knowledge which characterize Him Who is the Testimony of God - may peace be upon Him - until finally in that year I proclaimed God's hidden Cause and unveiled its well-guarded Pillar, in such wise that no one could refute it.[80]

Such mystic ways of receiving knowledge only play a marginal role, according to the worldview of secular historians. They would focus on the rational learning process, and would examine the different schools of thought that the Prophet had access to, and must have been influenced by.

In the case of the Báb, Amanat did a thorough research of all the sources that the young merchant of Shiraz did know or might have known. Concluding, he describes the learning process of the Báb as an ordinary, "unsystematic" accumulation of knowledge, and is confident that this is what the Báb meant by "unlearned knowledge." Amanat notices critically that "weaknesses of presentation and the handicaps of a still maturing mind are often detectable", but, taking into account the "brief time span" and the "random opportunity" for the Báb "to study, memorize, and contemplate", he admits that "his accomplishments are impressive".[81]

The category of mystic intuition, of divinly-received knowledge, so characteristic for the origin of religion, has no place in contemporary history and social science. Back in 1941, Sorokin
emphatically emphasized the major role of this phenomenon for the progress of civilization.
All great religions are founded by mystics endowed with the charismatic gift of mystic experience... And mystic experience, which reveals the truth of faith, has little, if anything to do with ordinary cognition attained through the sense organs or rational discourse. Without mystic intuition, mankind could hardly have possessed any religion worthy of the name. Since religion in general, and the world religions in particular, constitute one of the foremost achievements of human culture, they testify to the significance of the role played by intuition - especially by mystic intuition - in the history of human thought and civilization.[82]

Based on a crude and reductionistic, essentially materialistic view, of human nature, however, human interactions and achievements are interpreted accordingly, in a degrading manner.
A legion of contemporary psychoanalytical and 'scientific' biographers, debunk and debase every personage - no matter how exalted - of whom they treat. Everybody and everything they touch - God, as well as noble men and achievements - is mockingly interpreted as something passive, commonplace, abnormal or pathological, impelled by prosaic, egotistical and, for the most part, physiological drives...Piety is identified with ignorance and superstition; moral integrity, with hypocrisy; signal achievements, with mere luck; and so forth.[83]

6. Early childhood episodes in the lives of the Prophets

Archetypal expressions of intuitive wisdom and the question of 'embellishment'

If we take the notion of 'inherent knowledge' seriously, then it is not surprising that this 'miraculous wisdom' should reveal itself already early on in the lives of the Prophets. Such early childhood incidents, which can be found in the various religious traditions, seem to be yet another archetypal feature in the history of religion.

By the time Mirza Husayn-Ali [Bahá'u'lláh] was fourteen, Balyuzi writes,
His rare understanding, His complete mastery of argument, and His unparalleled powers of exposition were remarked in all circles. Yet He was never assertive nor argumentative; rather, always courteous and patient. Only one thing aroused His ire, and that was any disrespectful reference to the Messengers of God and His Chosen Ones. Even then He would admonish the offender with kindliness and calm.[84]

Balyuzi then relates several incidents of Bahá'u'lláh's youth, which highlight His wisdom and insights.
In one of them, Bahá'u'lláh was visiting a distant relative, a famous mujtahid (Doctor of Law), who "had a thousand scholars of divinity around him, whom he taught and, from time to time, presented with a complex question to resolve."[85] The mujtahid had asked his students to explain an Islamic tradition, which states that 'Fatimih is the best of women of this world, but for the one born of Mary.' None of the scholars could provide a satisfactory answer, and Bahá'u'lláh was asked to resolve this puzzle.
Bahá'u'lláh replied that the initial statement emphasized the impossibility of its alternative, since there could be no other woman comparable to Fatimih. It was like saying that a certain monarch is the greatest of the kings of this world, except for the one who comes down from heaven; since no king has or will come down from Heaven, the uniqueness of that one monarch is stressed.[86]

It is then reported how the mujtahid kept silent, but scolded his students later, disappointed, that an "unturbaned youth" could outdo them.

In the case of Jesus, only one such incident is reported in the Bible, where the extraordinary wisdom of twelve-year old Jesus astonishes the teachers in the Temple.[87] Other such episodes, especially the so-called Alpha-Beta-Logion, can be found in apocryphal writings.[88]

The central plot of the Alpha-Beta-Logion, contained in stories about the young Jesus and various teachers in Nazareth, goes like that: "The master attempts to teach Jesus the alphabet. But, he cannot get beyond the first two letters, for Jesus demands that he explain the meaning of the letter Alpha. In most versions, he himself then expounds the mystic meaning of the alphabet."[89]

Lambden compares and analyzes the similarities between these stories, adapted versions in Islamic sources, and various accounts of the Báb's first day in school. The parallels are indeed remarkable, and so he concludes that "[i]t is doubtless these Muslim transformations of the Christian story that have contributed to both the form and the content of the stories of the Báb's first day at school."[90]

The second reason, indicating "the fundamentally nonhistorical nature of these stories",[91] lies in their "discrepancies", which Lambden observes. Since the existence of these 'discrepancies' play a major role in Lambden's argument, it is necessary to take a close look at the four narratives in question.[92]

The first two narratives are both attributed to the Báb's teacher, a certain Shaykh Abid. They are indeed only "loosely parallel", as Lambden observes. However, the second report seems to describe the events of "one day" at school, not the "first day". This could be deduced from the Báb's uncle reaction, to whose shop the bewildered teacher brings the child, and who rebukes his nephew "sternly", because He did not follow his instructions, to be silent, and listen attentively, as all the other pupils would do.

Such a 'stern rebuke' suggests a series of similar episodes, rather than a one-time event. And indeed, such incidents happened more often than once, as the teacher himself testifies. "No discipline could repress the flow of His intuitive knowledge. Day after day He continued to manifest such remarkable evidences of superhuman wisdom as I am powerless to recount."[93]

We can therefore exclude the second account from the comparison. Its 'discrepancies' can be resolved as different details of another incident.[94]

The third narrative is attributed to the assistant of the teacher, and describes the opening scene of the first day. The Báb's uncle had accompanied his nephew to school, sat next to the teacher, and the Báb was asked to recite a certain verse. Inspite of the teacher's persistence, the Báb remained silent for a long time, until He finally challenges the teacher with relating the verse ("He is the Opener, the All-Knowing") to Himself. The teacher is understandably upset and threatens to punish him, the uncle gives some kind advice and leaves.

The fourth narrative, related by a fellow pupil, describes the same opening scene, during which the Báb remained silent for a prolonged time. Only his two neighbours, at one point, could hear how the Báb recited quietly a couplet from Hafez, which obviously refers to His own situation, feeling like a bird, entrapped in the "snare" of the narrow earthly sphere.[95]
"That is your answer", the Báb had told his neighbour.[96]97 We don't know the question to this answer, but
it might have been the same as the teacher's one, wondering why the Báb would not comply with his request to recite certain verses. Captured birds don't sing.

With some good will, we can reconcile the third and the fourth account, arguing that they may have taken place synchronously. Two different perspectives are presented - the one of the teacher (and his assistant), being faced with the Báb's silence - and the one of the fellow pupils, overhearing the Báb's lowly muttered couplet.

We could also integrate the first account into the first day scenario, since it took place later during the day (the story opens with the teacher returning from some business, and overhearing the Báb reciting the Quran).

These observations do not devalue Lambden's point - that there is often an element of embellishment and historical inaccuracy in such anecdotes.[98] And I completely agree with his concluding remarks, which clearly aim at reconciling a religious with an academic perspective.
That certain narratives in well-known Bábí-Bahá'í sources can be shown to be essentially legendary or meta-historical does not mean that they become less meaningful for the Bahá'í believer. They may, in fact, become more meaningful, and less historically problematic. The modern scholarly recognition that the Gospels are not exactly concrete historical narratives does not make them spiritually meaningless for the mature Christian believer.99

This reasoning resembles very much the approach 'Abdu'l-Bahá took towards the Bible, with regards to its textual and historical inaccuracies. He regarded them as being secondary as opposed to the primary spiritual meaning they convey.
When Abdu'l-Bahá states we believe what is in the Bible, He means in substance. Not that we believe every word of it to be taken literally or that every word is the authentic saying of the Prophet.[100]

In one of His Tablets 'Abdu'l-Bahá refers to this [the Ishmael/Isaac] discrepancy, and explains that, from a spiritual point of view, it is irrelevant which son was involved. The essential part of the story is that Abraham was willing to obey God's command to sacrifice His son. Thus, although the account in the Torah is inaccurate in detail, it is true in substance.[101]

This is a classic example of what is called theologumenon in Christian theology. That term refers to any subject, which does not address a normative interpretation of truth, and cannot be verified historically, either. The dispute of Jesus' birthplace (Bethlehem vs. Nazareth) would be another such theologumenon.[102]

Outlook

Traditionally, hagiography has always been concerned with the spiritual message of a story, paying little attention to historic accuracy. And so it is not surprising, to find many details, both in the Old and New Testament, which are inaccurate and contradictory. The attempts of theologians, motivated by a literal understanding of the Bible, to 'explain' and reconcile such inconsistencies, have often created more contradictions, which then later scholars tried to solve, and so forth.[103]

Modern historical accounts, on the other hand, are often obsessed with details, and completely disregard the 'essential part of the story'. To balance these two aspects, to reconcile these two polarities, will be one of the challenges for a new scientific-religious synthesis.[104] The development, the conditions, and implications of such a synthesis are currently much debated.[105]

Only the future will show how "bottom-up science" and "top-down religion"[106], or, as far as history is concerned, a spiritual and critical-historical perspective, will be satisfactorily integrated.

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Author Refer System), Version 2.0. Crimson Publ., 1997.
--- The Promised Day is Come. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1996.
--- World Order of Bahá'u'lláh. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1991.
Sorokin, Pitirim A. The Crisis of OurAge. Oxford: Oneworld 1992 [1941].
Sours, Michael. Preparing for a Bahá'í/Christian Dialogue Vol. 2: Understanding Christian Beliefs.
Oxford: Oneworld, 1991.
Smith, Peter. The Babi and Bahá'í Religions. From messianic Shi'ism to a world religion. Cambridge:
University Press, 1987.
Universal House of Justice. "A Compilation of Bahá'í Writings on Scholarship," The Bahá'í Studies
Review, Vol. 5, 1 (1995): 103-41.

Footnotes

[1] see note 15.
[2] A spiral concept combines the cyclical notion of history repeating itself with the linear model of history ever-advancing, in the sense that recurrent themes happen on a higher, more complex level.
[3] Bahíyyih Nakhjavání, Asking Questions, pp. 126-33.
[4] The term "secular" is used interchangeably with the term "materialistic", referring to a philosophy, which excludes or ignores spiritual concepts, as are mentioned above.
[5] Shoghi Effendi, after describing the fate of the rulers, who received (and largely chose to ignore) messages of Bahá'u'lláh, provides further examples of divine intervention: "The conversion of the Portuguese and Spanish monarchies, as well as the Chinese empire, into republics; the strange fate that has, more recently, been pursuing the sovereigns of Holland, of Norway, of Greece, of Yugoslavia and of Albania now living in exile; the virtual abdication of the authority exercised by the kings of Denmark, of Belgium, of Bulgaria, of Rumania and of Italy; the apprehension with which their fellow sovereigns must be viewing the convulsions that have seized so many thrones; the shame and acts of violence which, in some instances, have darkened the annals of the reigns of certain monarchs in both the East and the West, and still more recently the sudden downfall of the Founder of the newly established dynasty in Persia - these are yet further instances of the infliction of the "Divine Chastisement" foreshadowed by Bahá'u'lláh ... and show forth the divine reality of the arraignment pronounced by Him against the rulers of the earth." (God Passes By, pp. 227-8).
[6] The Universal House of Justice has expressed its concern over this development in several letters (see "A Compilation of Bahá'í Writings on Scholarship", in The Bahá'í Studies Review, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 103-41.
[7] The term "Manifestation of God" is used interchangeably with the term "founder of religion", and "Messenger of God", as all of them manifested divine attributes and proclaimed the Divine Will (logos) for their respective age.
[8] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, pp. 145-6.
[9] Abbas Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal, p. 198.
[10] Ibid., p. 174.
[11] Juan Cole, Modernity and the Millenium, p. 178.
[12] The underlying premise of aquired vs. intuitive and inspirational knowledge will be discussed later.
[13] Stephen Lambden, "An Episode in the Childhood of the Báb", in Peter Smith, ed., Studies in Bábí & Bahá'í History: In Iran. Vol. 3, p. 20.
[14] This point will be discussed later in more detail.
[15] The Universal House of Justice, quoted in "A Compilation of Bahá'í Writings on Scholarship", in The Bahá'í Studies Review, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 138.
[16] Ibid., p. 139.
[17] The terms "integral", "holistic", and "spiritual paradigm" are used interchangeably throughout this paper. Many thinkers have analyzed the "crisis of our age"(Sorokin), the "turning point" (Capra) towards a New Age, which will be characterized by globalisation (from universal currency to universal ethics), and by a shift of consciousness. This social and spiritual evolution will integrate the polar view of science and religion (and other polarities) into a holistic framework.
[18] Shoghi Effendi, Dawn of a New Day, p. 201.For the concept of 'return', see Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab-i-Iqan, pp. 148-198; Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 183-7; 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, chapters 33 (The 'Return' spoken of by the Prophets) and 81 (Reincarnation).
[19] The eighteen disciples represent "the fourteen Infallibles - the Prophet Muhammad, the twelve Imams, and Fatima - plus the four Archangels." Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal, p. 191.
[20] Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 159.
[21] Ibid., p. 151.
[22] Peter Smith, The Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, p. 43.
[23] Bahíyyih Nakhjavání, Asking Questions, p. 125.
[24] In the case of the 'pattern' of sacrifice, Shoghi Effendi puts the death of Bahá'u'lláh's son, Mirza Mihdi, in the same rank with " those great acts of atonement associated with Abraham's intended sacrifice of His son, with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the martyrdom of the Imam Husayn" (God Passes By, p. 188). On the other hand, Bahá'u'lláh's own life, full of sufferings, has a similar redemptive function as the crucification of Christ. " Whoso will reflect upon the tribulations We have suffered, his soul will assuredly melt away with sorrow. . . . We have sustained the weight of all calamities to sanctify you from all earthly corruption, and ye are yet indifferent." (Gleanings, p. 307).That a sacrificial life can be equated with a martyr's death, is shown in the fact, that Shoghi Effendi designated several distinguished Bahá'ís as 'martyrs', although they all died a natural death. (See Messages to America pp. 3; 39-40; Light of Divine Guidance Vol.1, p. 263).
[25] Moojan Momen, "Bahá'u'lláh's prophetology: archetypal patterns in the lives of the founders of world religions", in The Bahá'í Studies Review, Vol. 5, No. 1 (1995), pp. 51-63.
[26] Shoghi Effendi provides many of these examples in God Passes By. He compares and links the various images of the 'initiatory event' (p. 101), and of the eschatological expectations (p. 94). He talks about internal opposition (and broadens the concept of 'Antichrist' (p. 164), and external opposition (pp. 121, 174). He also provides a condensed and compelling comparison of the ministry and sacrifice of Christ and the Báb, "a parallel which no student of comparative religion can fail to perceive or ignore." (pp. 56-57).
[27] Momen, p. 60.
[28] Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 75.
[29] Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í Administration, p. 189.
[30] Susan Maneck, Tahirih: A Religious Paradigm of Womanhood, in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, Vol. 2, Number 2, p. 40.
[31] Shoghi Effendi. God Passes By, pp. 32-33.
[32] Amanat Resurrection and Renewal, p. 305, quoted by Maneck, Tahirih, p. 44.
[33] H. Noghabai. Tahirih, p. 60, quoted by Maneck, Tahirih, p. 46.
34" 'The Persian Joan of Arc, the leader of emancipation for women of the Orient ...' thus was she acclaimed by a noted playwright whom Sarah Bernhardt had specifically requested to write a dramatized version of her life." Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 76.
[35] Maneck lists as examples Tahirih's leadership with the Shaykhi community of Karbala, and the scene disturbing Quddus' devotions. She suspects that "the tendency of Bahá'ís to minimize the militant aspects of the Bábí religion in keeping with their present-day political quietism" may be partly responsible for this (p. 52).
[36] 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 174-5.
[37] 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 74-5.
[38] However, her link to these women is clearly established. The statement above seems to have provided the reference for Shoghi Effendi, when he writes about Tahirih: "Little wonder that Abdu'l-Bahá should have joined her name to those of Sarah, of Asiyih, of the Virgin Mary and of Fatimih, who, in the course of successive Dispensations, have towered, by reason of their intrinsic merits and unique position, above the rank and file of their sex." Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 75.Later on, Bahiyyih Khanum, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's sister is included for the Bahá'í Era (p. 347). (ctd.) I regard this list as being descriptive rather than dogmatic-exclusive. It would make little sense to argue that Bahiyyih Khanum enjoys a higher position than, for example, Navvab, the wife of Bahá'u'lláh, or that Mary Magdalene (included in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's list) plays a less important role in supporting the Cause of Christ than Jesus' mother. In other words, the superlative description of the women mentioned above still leaves room for other central female figures whose characteristics may indeed complement each other.
[39] For Christian perspectives on Mary Magdalene, see below (pp. 10-11).
[40] In four of his talks in America (not counting the statement above), 'Abdu'l-Bahá referred to Mary Magdalene (Promulgation, pp. 134, 282, 395, 421). In his writings (as far as they are available in English), we find four more references (Selections, pp. 105, 123; Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 40; Crisis and Victory, p. 5).
[41] 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 134.
[42] Ibid., p. 134.
[43] Ibid., p. 135.
[44] 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Crisis and Victory, p. 5.
[45] 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 282-3.
[46] Judith Goldstein, "Interwoven Identities: Religious Communities in Yazd, Iran." Diss. Princeton University, 1978, p. 227.Quoted by Maneck, Tahirih, p. 52.
[47] Ludger Schenke, Die Urgemeinde, pp. 13-18.
[48] 1 Cor. 15:3-8.
[49] Mark and Matthew only mention the flight of the disciples from the scene of Jesus' imprisonment, i.e., the Garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mount of Olives. They may just as well have fled into Jerusalem and remained in hiding there (as Luke and John suggest).
[50] Heinrich Kraft, Die Entstehung des Christentums, p. 207 (my translation).
[51] See Acts 1:4, where Jesus "commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem."
[52] Hans Conzelmann, Geschichte des Urchristentums, p. 29 (my translation).
[53] Edward Schillebeeckx, Jesus. Die Geschichte von einem Lebenden, pp. 305-6 (my translation).
[54] Ibid., p. 306 (my translation).
[55] See, for example, Kitab-i-Iqan, pp. 62-3, for Bahá'u'lláh's discourse on the symbolic and material meaning of "stars".
[56] Such a myth existed in Egypt, Babylon, India, Persia, and Greece. Especially the religion of Isis offers striking parallels to Christianity. Isis, the 'virgin mother' of Horus, was revered as 'mother of God' (gr.:'theotokos'). Origines, a third century Egyptian (!) theologian, was the first who claimed this title for the mother of Christ. This designation became popular throughout the Christian Empire, until it was officially sanctioned at the Council of Ephesus (431). Little wonder, that many scholars have suggested a direct influence. (For further details, see Deschner, Abermals kraehte der Hahn, pp. 360-372.)
[57] See Quran, Surah 19; Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab-i-Iqan, pp. 56-57; 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, chapter 17.
[58] Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 57. Bahá'u'lláh likens the severity and function of this 'grievous test' to the incident, when Moses killed an Egyptian.
[59] Ibid., p. 56.
[60] Matthew 1:19.
[61] It can only be concluded by implication, that Joseph accepted legal fatherhood for Jesus. Otherwise, Mary would have been liable to be put to death (by stoning), according to the Jewish Law concerning adultery. To take this legal statement as an admission of his guilt (of having been the illegitimate father), as some scholars have done, remains speculation.
[62] In public, Mary referred to Joseph as Jesus' father (see Luke 2:48). During the ministry of Christ, i.e., 30 years later, this issue was not being raised by any of Christ's opponents, in order to refute His message. On the contrary, Joseph was commonly perceived to be Jesus' father (see Matthew 13:55, John 6:42, Luke 3:23, 4:22).
[63] The Syrian version of the Gospel, rediscovered only several decades ago.
[64] In the genealogy of Jesus, according to Matthew 1:16. This has been identified as "misunderstanding", based on translation, but it could equally had reflected the belief of the early Syrian Christians. Likewise, Judeo-Christians rejected the belief in a virgin birth until the third century.
[65] The different concepts of the nature of Christ will be discussed in a subsequent paper (chapter).
[66] "What science calls a virgin birth we do not associate with that of Jesus Christ, which we believe to have been a miracle and a sign of His Prophethood. In this matter we are in entire agreement with the most orthodox church views." Shoghi Effendi, High Endeavors, p. 70.
[67] This refers to the British edition; the first US edition was published in 1918.
[68] From a letter of the Guardian to an individual believer, October 1, 1935: Canadian Bahá'í News, February 1968, p. 11, quoted in in Lights of Guidance, p. 491, cit. 1641.
[69] From a letter dated February 27, 1938 written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, quoted in Lights of Guidance, p. 490, cit. 1638.
[70] Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 109. Further letters can be found in the same section of Lights of Guidance, where the two previous quotes come from.
[71] "And now, take heed, O brother! If such things be revealed in this Dispensation, and such incidents come to pass, at the present time, what would the people do? I swear by Him Who is the true Educator of mankind and the Revealer of the Word of God that the people would instantly and unquestionably pronounce Him an infidel and would sentence Him to death... Were a myriad voices to be raised, no ear would listen if We said that upon a fatherless Child hath been conferred the mission of Prophethood, or that a murderer hath brought from the flame of the burning Bush the message of "Verily, verily, I am God!" Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 58.
[72] John 8:28.
[73] John 5:30. See also John 14:24, 15:15 a.o.
[74] Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 87.
[75] Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 11.
[76] Ibid.
[77] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 131.
[78] Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 149.
[79] 1260 A.H., i.e., 1844 C.E.
[80] Báb, Selections from the Báb, p. 12.
[81] Abbas Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal, p. 146.
[82] Sorokin, The Crisis of OurAge, p. 92.
[83] Ibid., p. 100.
[84] H. M. Balyuzi, Bahá'u'lláh, the King of Glory, p. 21.
[85] Ibid., p. 21.
[86] Ibid., p. 22.
[87] Luke 2:41-50.
[88] Most prominently, in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.
[89] Brian McNeil, quoted by Stephen Lambden, "An Episode in the Childhood of the Báb." In Peter Smith, ed., Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History: In Iran. Vol. 3, pp. 12-3.
[90] Ibid., p. 13.
[91] Ibid., p. 8.
[92] For reasons of brevity, only a condensed version and the conclusion of a textual analysis can be provided here.
[93] Ibid., p. 4 (see also Nabíl's Narrative, p. 52).
[94] According to the first report, the teacher had delivered the Báb at home, at His grandmother's. Lambden explains this 'discrepancy' with the "confusion surrounding the date of the Báb's father's death and who thereafter took care of him." (p. 18)
[95] "From the pinnacles of the Throne they whistle down to thee; How is it that in this snare thou now entrapped be?"
[96] Ibid., pp. 7-8.
[98] Lambden has undoubtedly knowledge of and access to many more descriptions, which could prove their fundamental incompatibility, and thus historical inaccuracy. Based on my reading of the four accounts presented, the historical kernel of the Báb's first day in school is still quite recognizable.
99 Ibid., n. 38, pp. 30-1.
[100] From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer and cited on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, March 13, 1986 in a letter to a believer, in Lights of Guidance, p. 495.
[101] Universal House of Justice, from a letter to an individual believer, July 19, 1981, quoted in Michael Sours, Understanding Christian Beliefs, p. 56.
[102] See Schillebeeckx, Jesus, p. 656.
[103] The following example is also illuminating in terms of 'reconstructing history', and concerns the appariations of Christ. There are inconsistencies in terms of who saw Christ first (see note 27), but also in terms of where He appeared to the apostles. According to Mark and Matthew, in Galilee, according to Luke and John, in Jerusalem (John 21 relates another apparition in Galilee, but it is commonly accepted among Bible scholars, that this 'epilogue' is a later addition). In Luke, the disciples are exhorted not to leave Jerusalem until they would be "endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49), which excludes an encounter in Galilee. The attempts of 'reconstructing history' existed in inventing a locale named 'Galilee' near Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives - Galiläa auf dem Ölberg (Hoffmann, 1896), Das Galiläa bei Jerusalem (Resch, 1910) - attempts, which were passed over in silence later on. Scholars then contended, whether it was Mark or Luke, who made a mistake. (For more details, see Karlheinz Deschner, Abermals krähte der Hahn, pp. 98-113.)
[104] For a discussion of such a synthesis, see Robert Barry, A Theory of Almost Everything, pp. 111-23.See also Mark Foster, "Suggestions for Bahá'í Hermeneutics". Foster builds on Stephen Jay Gould's NOMA (non-overlapping magistera) principle, and argues that religion and science, "though complementary, are not really separate." He explores the interdependencies of a "Structural Dialectics Paradigm", based on the Bahá'í principle of "Unity in Diversity".
[105] For discussions among Bahá'í scholars, see various recent contributions (June/July 1999) on Bahá'í-Studies List (accessible on the Internet at http://www.escribe.com/religion/bahaist).
[106] Foster, "Suggestions for Bahá'í Hermeneutics", p. 4.

Chapter 3

Son of man and Son of God:

Concepts of Christologies in the New Testament


In the Gospels we find different titles that were attributed to Jesus. He preferably spoke of himself as the Son of man (Hebr. ben adam), he was addressed as "Teacher" (Hebr. rabbi), and revered as Son of David, Son of God, Lord (Hebr. mar, Gr. kyrios), the Word (Gr. logos), the Saviour, and the Messiah (Hebr. masiah, Gr. christós). Each of these designations was in fact more than just a title, they revealed certain perspectives, understandings, expectations and beliefs people had, and they could in a sense be regarded as seeds of various Christological concepts. In this chapter, we will focus on the designations Son of man and Son of God and examine their different meanings.[1]

Son of Man

This is the title that, according to the Gospels, Jesus more or less consistently used for himself. This title is the one most explored during the last hundred years of biblical scholarship. It has different layers of meaning and so it is not surprising that scholars have come to different conclusions.[2]

Some scholars have argued that Son of man is no title at all. It had been used in an indefinite sense, without concrete expectations, simply meaning "I" (Vermes), "someone" (Bauckham), or "mortal one" (Fitzmeyer). That Son of man has been used interchangably with "I" in the Gospels can be detected in several places.[3] However, to assume that this exhausts the meaning of the term is a somewhat minimalist position, as we will see.

It is also self-evident that this term denotes the human station of Jesus. He was the 'son of humanity'[4], so to speak, and was fully involved in this earthly life. He showed signs of physical exhaustion (John 4:6), of strong emotions (John 11:33-5), and was bound to suffer and die (Matt. 17:22-3). In the apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas, the generic meaning is clearly intended, when Jesus' human station is juxtaposed with his divine nature: "See again Jesus, not as son of man, but as Son of God, but manifested in a type of the flesh" (Barnabas 12:10).

On the other hand, this designation is linked to Jewish messianic expectations, most prominently formulated in the apocalypse of Daniel. If understood in such a context, the self-reference includes an eschatologic aspect as well.

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (Dan. 7:13-14).
Daniel's use of a simile ("one like the Son of man") is quite telling. The two dimensions, the human and the messianic one, seem to be merged. The future messiah will appear in a human form, but he is so much more. In the discourse on his return, Christ referred explicitely to Daniel (Matt. 24:15) and alluded to his apocalypse several times, including the passage cited above:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matt. 24:29-30).

A messianic use of the term Son of Man can also be found in the (Ethiopian) Book of Enoch, one of several apocalyptic texts circulating at the time of Jesus' ministry.[5]

And there I saw One who had a head of days, And his head was white like wool, And with him was another whose countenance had the appearance of a man, And his face was full of graciousness, like one of the angels. And I asked the angel who went with me and showed me all the secret things, concerning yonder Son of man, who he was, and whence he was, (and) why he went with the Chief of Days? And he answered and said unto me: This is the Son of man to whom belongs righteousness And righteousness dwells with him: And all the treasures of that which is hidden he reveals Because the Lord of spirits has chosen him And whose cause before the Lord of spirits triumphs by uprightness for ever.[6]

Enoch's vision bears striking parallels to Daniel's one. In both cases, the human-like and yet angelic Messiah figure is situated next to God (called the Ancient of Days, respectively the Chief of Days). He is depicted with great glory, chosen to reveal the wisdom of God and establish an everlasting dominion. Whether Jesus knew and alluded to apocryphal apocalypses such as Enoch's as well, remains uncertain, but they are instructive in illustrating the prevalent messianic expectations.[7]

Jesus' self-references as being the Son of Man certainly reminded his Jewish audience of their rich apocalyptic heritage with its messianic theme. David Flusser has even argued that "[t]he one like a man [the Son of man] who sits upon the throne of God's glory, the sublime eschatological judge, is the highest conception of the Redeemer ever developed by ancient Judaism."[8]

It is easy to see how Jesus' description of his return fitted the apocalyptic messianic imagery of his Jewish audience. The challenge for them was to come to terms with Jesus' own messianic claims, which could not, if understood literally, be harmonized with their eschatological expectations. It became a main apologetic task of early Christianity to remove the "stumblingblock" and justify the apparent "foolishness" of a suffering and crucified Messiah (1 Cor. 1:23).


But Jesus reminded his listeners that the Scriptures not only spoke of the glorious station of the
Messiah, sitting on the throne of David. They also told of the servant of God, a "man of sorrows",
"despised and rejected by men" (Isaiah 53:3)[9], who sacrificed his life for mankind, and through whose sacrifice his kingdom will be raised.[10] In merging the images of Isaiah's suffering servant and Daniel's portrayal of the victorious Son of man, Jesus' use of this term reveals its depth and explains its ambiguity.

Brad Young has rightly criticized the notion of scholars who opt exclusively for either a generic or a messianic meaning of the term Son of Man. He suggests merging those two levels into "a complex combination of the two previous meanings as in the passion predictions of Jesus." That would mean that we regard Jesus "as a human being in his sufferings and death (first meaning), and also he is more than an ordinary human being in his resurrection and triumph (associated with second meaning)." He acknowledges that the generic meaning may sometimes be intended, but recommends that "the context of the Gospels should be studied in order to determine if a deeper significance is given to the name."[11]

Unfortunately, Young falls short of his own advice, when he quotes Matt. 12:32 as an example for a mere generic use of ben adam.[12]

And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven;
but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven,
either in this age or in the age to come.

While it is certainly possible to understand Son of man in a generic sense in this passage, the deeper meaning that Young advocates to look for may be lost. In analyzing the passage, Young notes "the beauty of strong parallelism" and the "son of man" being "the antithesis of the Holy Spirit", the latter often used as referring to God in Jewish tradition. According to this reading, to say something evil against other human beings or to oppose them strongly (connotations of the Hebrew idiom "to speak against") would be forgiven, but not to turn against the Holy Spirit (God). However, when we include verse 31 into our analysis, we see that this meaning is already expressed there.

Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.

And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

The first line of verse 32 would thus only be a repetition of the one in verse 31, and even a less emphatic one. From a stylistic and rhetoric point of view, it seems more plausible to read the first line of verse 32 as a climax, rather than a weak repetition. Even if one turns against the (messianic) Son of man, he would be forgiven, as long as this person does not oppose the light of the Holy Spirit (God) itself. Following such an interpretation, Jesus would make a distinction between himself (his specific mission), and the Holy Spirit (God). While such a reading may be rejected with a trinitarian
concept in mind, it should be noted that Jesus on several occasions did make such a distinction.[13]
It is also interesting to note that Jesus mentions blasphemy apart from "all manner of sin". To be blasphemous, is to show disrespect for God or religious matters. The climax would then be that one, out of prejudice, fanaticism, or ignorance, can show disrespect even for God's Messenger (not just to secondary religious matters, such as sacred objects) and be forgiven, as long as one does not turn against the Source of all good itself. Such an interpretation is also confirmed from a Bahá´í point of view. In the words of ´Abdu´l-Bahá, elucidating the biblical verse in question:

The meaning is this: to remain far from the light-holder [i.e. the Son of Man] does not entail everlasting banishment, for one may become awakened and vigilant; but enmity toward the light [i.e. the Holy Spirit] is the cause of everlasting banishment, and for this there is no remedy.[14]

The implications of such an understanding can not be elaborated upon here. Suffice it to say that they are far-reaching in terms of challenging an exclusivist concept of salvation, and providing a broader basis for an inclusivist or pluralist perspective for interfaith dialogue.[15]

Having extensively argued that Matthew 12:32 is an important reference for the messianic rather than merely the human dimension, I would like to propose that similar enriching insights could be gained, whenever we take the messianic (as well as the moral and allegorical) aspect of the Son of man sayings (or incidents) into account.[16] In other words, it was always the Messiah speaking, with spiritual implications and challenges, for those "who have ears to hear" (Mark 4:23).

Let us look briefly at one such instance, which is commonly understood as a reference to Jesus' humanity (Matt. 8:19-20, Luke 9:58):

And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

Certainly this statement bears vivid testimony to the kind of life Jesus led during the three years of his ministry. Several aspects contributing to his homelessness can be identified in the reports of the Gospels. He had left his temporary residence at Capernaum and any material comfort he might have had behind, in order to preach throughout Galilee (Mark 1:38-39, Luke 10:1). As his fame as inspired teacher and healer spread, crowds of people beleaguered him everywhere he went (Mark 6:56). Often he was forced to retreat (John 6:15) but could not for long remain in hiding (Mark 7:24). Many times his teachings provoked opposition and he had to withdraw (John 8:59, 10:39), and at other times he was rejected and no hospitality was shown towards him and his disciples
(Luke 9:52-56). It was after such an occasion that Jesus commented on his homelessness.[17]

Recognizing the context of being rejected and homelessness, it will be instructive to view Jesus' fate in the light of the messianic 'Servant of God' paradigm. As portrayed in Isaiah's songs, the Servant of God "is despised and rejected of men" (Isaiah 53:3). This may at first glance seem contradictory to the above-mentioned fact of people crowding around him. But the initial enthusiasm of people seeking healing and miracles often turned into rejection when challenged by Jesus' "hard sayings" (John 6:60), which also prompted many of his followers to abandon him (John 6:66).

In a moving passage, alluding to this quote, Bahá´u´lláh also views rejection and enmity as reasons for Jesus' homelessness:

Reflect how Jesus, the Spirit of God, was, notwithstanding His extreme meekness and perfect tender-heartedness, treated by His enemies. So fierce was the opposition which He, the Essence of Being and Lord of the visible and invisible, had to face, that He had nowhere to lay His head. He wandered continually from place to place, deprived of a permanent abode.[18]

Following the classical (Christian) fourfold level of interpretation[19], I want to briefly look for possible allegorical readings of this quote. In one sense, Jesus regarded the Temple ("the House of God") as his true home (Matt. 21:13, Luke 2:49). Being "homeless" then, might refer to the desecration of the Temple (Mark 11:17), or his being continually harrassed by the priests, whenever he wanted to teach there (Luke 19:47). In another sense, the "true home" of the spirit of Christ is in the hearts of the believers. The lack of hospitality shown to him in the Samaritan village would then be the outer image of people's inner reality, refusing to let the spirit of Christ dwell in their hearts. Bahá´u´lláh in the Hidden Words has repeatedly described such a symbolic relationship:

O SON OF DUST! All that is in heaven and earth I have ordained for thee, except the human heart, which I have made the habitation of My beauty and glory; yet thou didst give My home and dwelling to another than Me; and whenever the manifestation of My holiness sought His own abode, a stranger found He there, and, homeless, hastened unto the sanctuary of the Beloved. Notwithstanding I have concealed thy secret and desired not thy shame.[20]

Here of course the allegorical and moral levels of interpretation merge. And it is the latter one that I feel is the most relevant to investigate. After all, Jesus' statement was given as response to a learned Jew who wanted to become a disciple. Jesus wanted the scribe to be aware of the consequences of such a decision. Jesus was not complaining about his own fate but indirectly asking the man if he were prepared to give up his home and material comfort if that is what was needed. Following Jesus' footprints calls for detachment and spiritual strength, for the readiness to accept suffering and even martyrdom, in order to gain eternal life:

And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it (Matt. 10:38-39).

Luke and Matthew do not tell us how the scribe decided. But the relevance of the moral level of interpretation is that it is not about the historicity of the event, but about our own personal response. Moral interpretation invites contemplation and a renewal of personal commitment. To what extent are we prepared to follow the Son of man?

The predominant use of the term Son of man in the Gospels gives way to the title Son of God in the Pauline (and Apostolic) letters. Paul has been often accused of having started the process of Christ's deification, but it has been overlooked that Paul's usage of this term had eschatological messianic connotations as well, as will be shown below. Furthermore, the complementary use of both these titles can be gleaned from the Gospels themselves.

Whenever people addressed Jesus as Son of God, he never rejected this title as unqualified but exhorted them not to disclose it. Several times this happened during the process of healing obsessed people:

For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues. And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known.[21]

Similarly, Jesus exhorted his disciples not to disclose his station prematurely (Mark 8:30; 9:9). This strategy of gradually unfolding his messianic claim has been coined as "messianic secret". That the title Son of God was used and understood in this messianic context, will be discussed in more detail below.


Son of God


This term is equally multi-faceted as the former one discussed. The prevalent understanding adopted by the Christian churches is based on the Johannine diction of the "only begotten Son" (John 1:18). Before dealing with this statement and the doctrines that evolved from it, I would like to address older meanings of this term as they were used and understood in Judaism.

In Christian polemics, the God of Israel has usually been depicted as a God of wrath, as opposed to the God of love in the New Testament. Furthermore, his remoteness and unaccessibility has been contrasted with the intimate relationship that Jesus as the Son had with God, whom he called abba (Father). That this is a simplistic characterization and a polemic contrast can be easily deduced from the Hebrew biblical texts.

God assures Moses of his help to liberate his people from the Egyptian bondage and instructs him to proceed as follows:

And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn (Ex. 4:22-23). The image of the father-son relationship is carried on through the fourty years of exodus in search for the Promised Land. Whenever the Israelites got discouraged, Moses would assure them of the continuous help and assistance of God and remind them "that the LORD thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place" (Deut. 1:31).

This theme is then greatly expanded by the prophets following Moses who depicted God as Father figure for the people of Israel. Isaiah, in one passage (Isaiah 63: 15-16) recalls how God has saved Israel in the past and implores him to do so again, calling upon him as father:

Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of thy holiness and of thy glory:
where is thy zeal and thy strength, the sounding of thy bowels and of thy mercies toward me?
are they restrained? Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel
acknowledge us not: thou, O LORD, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting.

In Jeremiah (3:19-22) it is God speaking through the prophet's voice who laments over the faithlessness of Israel and urges his "sons" to return.

"'I thought how I would set you among my sons, and give you a pleasant land, a heritage most
beauteous of all nations. And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from
following me. Surely, as a faithless wife leaves her husband, so have you been faithless to me,
O house of Israel, says the LORD.'"

In this passage the image of God as the Father calling his children, and as the husband grieving over his wife's faithlessness, are intertwined. The latter image is often employed by Isaiah and Jeremiah and appears again in the New Testament, when Jesus refers both to himself and the eschatological Christ as the bridegroom (see Mark 2:19-20; Matt. 1:1-13). God's call (in the passage above) does not remain unheard, the children repent and return (the topic is taken up again by Christ in the parable about the prodigal son):

A voice on the bare heights is heard, the weeping and pleading of Israel's sons,
because they have perverted their way, they have forgotten the LORD their God.
"Return, O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness."
"Behold, we come to thee; for thou art the LORD our God."

So we can summarize that there has always been a love relationship (characterized as parental or marital) between God and the people of Israel. This relationship is characterized by alternate stages of closeness and alienation, of loyalty and betrayal, of happiness and suffering, of rebellion and return. The prophets have always been sent to renew the eternal Covenant and to call the children back to the Father.[22] Unique as Christ's position is in many ways, it has also to be seen within this framework of perpetual divine guidance, which is both specific (in the context of Judaism) and universal.

As discussed above, we are all God's children but it is through our love to God and following his laws that we deserve to be called as such. Similarly, Christ declared that "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" (Matt. 5:9).
In a more specific sense, God has promised King David through the prophet Natan that through his seed the kingdom of God will be raised and that God will regard David's descendant as his own son:

And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee,
which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my
name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son.
If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:
But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine
house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.[23]

This is the earliest reference that nourished the hope for a royal Messiah to come and re-establish the kingdom of Israel.[24] Such hopes were eventually defeated and subsequent prophets presented different perspectives of the Messiah-King figure.[25] However, at various times throughout Jewish history these hopes were revived, and Jesus was equally faced with such hopes and expectations (e.g., Matt. 21:9) and had to explain that his kingdom was about spiritual transformation (e.g., Luke 17:20-21) as opposed to rebel against the Romans. This of course was a radical redefinition of the original concept as it was commonly understood, and a rejection of political aspirations to establish a dynastic Monarchy again.

Nevertheless, it is important to realize that when Jesus was addressed as Son of God in the Gospels, it predominantly was done so in the context of the messianic expectations outlined above. This is clearly shown in the following dialogue where Jesus responds to the royal messianic expectations of Nathanael, "an Israelite in whom is no guile" (John 1:47), with linking them to Daniel's eschatological scheme:

Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King
of Israel.Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the
fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. And he saith unto him,
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God
ascending and descending upon the Son of man (John 1:49-51).

The oldest text that preserved the Jewish messianic expectations is the socalled "small messianic hymn" in Luke 1:32-35, with the angel Gabriel foretelling the greatness of Christ:

He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give
unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever;
and of his kingdom there shall be no end...that holy thing which shall be born of thee
shall be called the Son of God.


When interrogated by the High Priests (Mark 14:61-62), Jesus not only confirmed that he was the
Son of God (verse 61), but immediately linked this title to the eschatological Son of man concept
(verse 62), just as in the dialogue quoted above. The merging of the messianic and eschatological
concepts happens also by combining the images of Ps. 110:1 ("Sit thou at my right hand") with
Dan. 7:13 (coming "with the clouds of heaven") in verse 62 itself.

Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?
And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power,
and coming in the clouds of heaven.

Jesus confirms to be the Messiah and the Son of God in speaking of his eschatological function, in other words, he accepts and "interprets" Messiahship as a primary (if not exclusive) reference to his future mission at the time of his return (Gr. parousia). The Gospel of Mark certainly reflects the oldest messianic concept and it is interesting to see how Matthew and Luke have rendered their accounts of this scene in a slightly different way, extending the role of Jesus' Messiahship and Sonship to his earthly mission as well.[26]

Such an original (eschatological) understanding of Messiahship can still be detected in the early tradition of the Hellenistic Community.[27] When Paul praises the Thessalonian community for their exemplary belief and steadfastness, he goes on to say that they

turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven,
whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come (1 Thess 1:9-10).

The coming "from heaven" and Jesus' role as redeemer (Gr. soteros) from "the wrath to come"
allude to the apocalyptic Judgement Day. More importantly, as can be seen in this passage, the designation Son (of God) is not yet used as a general title, but specifically to describe Jesus' eschatological function.

Equally challenging as the understanding of "kingdom" was the understanding of the relationship between God and his "adopted" son. The Gospel of Mark starts with the baptism of Jesus, and for many early Christians this constituted the event of God "adopting" Jesus as his son, showering his spirit upon him to start his mission. God's affirmation, "Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Mark 1:11) provides the basis for such a belief. It links this act to the messianic adoption (Ps. 2:7) and to Isaiah's model of the Servant of God (Is. 42:1). It is interesting to note that Paul's letter to the community in Rome starts out with such an "adoptionist" description as well:

Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David
according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according
to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:3-4).

If taken to an extreme, this perspective would crystallize in a belief that Jesus was an ordinary human being and his divinity rests solely on his being "adopted" as Son of God. Proponents of such a view have come to be known as "Adoptionists" and their Christology proved influential until the third century.[28]

At the other end of the spectrum, equally one-sided, would be the belief that the divine Sonship of Jesus implies his absolute divinity. Proponents of this view were called "Modalists" because they regarded, in trinitarian terms, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit only as different appearances (L. modi) of the one (undivided) God. Modalism was equally influental during the early time of Christianity and even, as Deschner pointed out, official Church doctrine during the reign of at least three consecutive popes.[29]

In order to understand how such a doctrine could have developed, we have to analyze yet another Christological concept as it is expressed in the Gospel of John.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not...
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world...
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory
as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth...
No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the
Father, he hath declared him (John 1:1-5, 9,14, 18).

Here we encounter a radically different image of the Son of God. He is the embodiment of the Word (Gr. logos), which is one with God, pre-existent, the creator of the universe, and the universal source of guidance and illumination. We find similar descriptions, in hymnal form, in some letters of Paul (Phil. 2:6-11; Hebr. 1:3-4; Col. 1:15-20).

No other theologian has been more critized and misunderstood than Paul, the 'Apostle to the Gentiles'. He has been accused of having changed the 'Faith of Jesus' into 'Faith in Jesus'. "Pauline heresy", so Schonfield, "served as the basis for Christian orthodoxy, and the legitimate Church [i.e., Jewish Christianity] was outlawed as heretical".[30] Similarly Schoeps, who regards the Ebionites (see note 27) as "Conservatives who could not go along with the Pauline-cum-Hellenistic elaborations".[31]
A great deal of the criticism is directed against the 'deification' of Christ, of changing the messianic title Son of God into "an ontological reality".[32] It seems unfair that Paul gets all the blame, when John is equally "guilty" of subscribing to such a cosmology. Furthermore, many scholars agree that the hymns mentioned above are actually pre-Pauline and reflect the thinking and belief of the Hellenistic Judaeo-Christian community.[33]

In one of these hymns, the station and mission of Jesus is summarized thus:

Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made
in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became
obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him,
and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should
bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue
should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:6-11).

The theme of these hymns is the myth of pre-existent Wisdom (Gr.sophia) transferred to Jesus. In the form of a cosmic drama (Gr. dromenon), the various scenes of pre-existence, descent, ascent (return), and exaltation are applied to the life of Jesus. The parallels between the Hellenistic-Jewish concept of sophia and the logos or Wisdom Christology of John (and Paul) are indeed striking.

Sophia is pre-existent and involved with the creation of the cosmos (Ps. 33:6; Prov. 8:22-29). She[34] is pictured as God's beloved child ("Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him" [Prov. 8:30].)[35]. She is being sent down to earth to reveal the will of God (Prov. 8:32-36), and returning unto Him after having fulfilled her mission (Is. 55:
10 -11). She is the light of guidance (Prov. 4:18; 6:23; Ps. 119:105), offering heavenly food (Prov. 9:1-6; Sir. 15:3; cf. with John 6:35). So it is not surprising that from very early on Jesus has been identified as perfect expression of sophia.[36] Rather than assuming "pagan" influences, we can attest that Wisdom Christology has strong roots in Jewish Wisdom literature and is complementary with (not contradicting) the other Christological concepts.
We should not overlook that references and allusions to the complex of Wisdom literature can also be detected in the Synoptic Gospels.[37]

This is not to deny that Hellenistic cosmology and terminology shaped the Greek speaking Jewish community in the Diaspora. But the notion that due to this Zeitgeist (whether through Paul or anyone else) the "true" character of Christianity had been changed and perverted is not correct and
cannot remain unchallenged. The Hellenistic Jews, as Schillebeeckx pointed out, who had moved to Jerusalem out of religious reasons, were deeply imbued with Biblical spirituality and more authentically "Jewish" than the established orthodoxy. Converted to Christianity, these Diaspora Jews proved to be the most active members of the community.[38] Wisdom Christology then is one of the strands of pluralist concepts that have been developed and intertwined in the Judaeo-Christian community but it eventually became the dominant (orthodox) view, providing the basis for the Nicaean creed.

When challenged from both Jewish and (pagan) Greek side, how the reverence of Jesus (as
expressed in the developing liturgy) could be reconciled with their claimed Monotheism, the early
Christians had to resort to sometimes complicated apologies. Either they would play down the divinity of Jesus as it was confessed in the communal prayer or they felt obliged to deny any difference between God and Jesus, in order to avoid "Di-Theism". The former strategy led to "Adoptionism" mentioned above, or " dynamic Monarchianism", as it is also referred to.[39] The latter led to "Modalism" (or "modalistic Monarchianism"), in which Jesus and God are seen as alternate expressions of one and the same reality. This latter view gained more popularity because it provided the theological justification for the growing reverence for Christ. The tension between Jesus' humanity and divinity and the attempts to explain the "inexplicable" have characterized the Christological discussions ever since.[40]

While the extreme variants of "Monarchianism" represented only minority views, most theologians of the second and third century would concede that Christ had a divine nature/essence (Gr. hypostasis), which was subordinate to God's essence. It is often said that Arius caused a major schism because of his extreme view of Christ being subordinate to the Father (and the logos to the Son). What is often overlooked or downplayed, is that subordinate Christology was the common Church doctrine during the second and third century. Proponents of subordinate Christology had strong Scriptural evidence for their claims. Even in the Gospel of John, which presented (in contrast to the synoptic Gospels) Christ as pre-existent incarnation of the logos, Christ attested to the superiority of the Father (see John 14:28). For Paul, God was the head of Christ, just as Christ was the head of man (1 Cor. 1:3). Tertullian declared that "there was a time (before creation) when God had no Son".

Based on Jesus' statement that even he does not know the hour of his return (Mark 13:32), Church teacher Irenaeus declared that the Father stands above all and is also greater than the Son. Origines, the greatest theologian of the first three centuries, defended the transcendency of God by claiming that the "immutable God" is not affected by experiences – in soul or body – of the human Christ.

When in the fourth century, in Alexandria, Arius propagated his views, he could refer to a long and
well established tradition. Not surprising, his views were quite popular and threatened the authority of his Bishop Alexander who had him expelled to Antiochia. There, Arius sided with the followers of Origines who likewise championed a subordinate position of Christ. Prominent Christians such as Bishop Euseb of Caesarea (the Church historian) or Bishop Euseb of Nikodemia embraced Arius' views. The dispute between Antiochia and Alexandria soon threatened to divide the whole Eastern Church.[41]

Emperor Constantine tried unsuccessfully to mediate between the two rivalling parties and finally summoned in 325 C.E. an ecumenical council (a universal gathering of all bishops) in his summer residence of Nicaea. Constantine was less concerned about the theological side of the dispute but rather to foster the political stability in his empire by the means of a uniting (and united) Christian belief. Arius' claims were refuted and a creed, based on the Syrian-Palestinensian credo with certain additions, was formulated. The additions were necessary because the original creed was so general that Arius' views could fit into it as well. The key passage of the creed (with the additions in italics)[42] reads as such: [Christ is] begotten as the first-born out of the essence of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not created, of one (the same) essence with the Father.

The catchword that was introduced to refute Arius' theology was the one of the "same essence" (Gr. homousios). Whether Constantine imposed this term on the council, as Deschner claims (p. 395), or it repesented the common consensus of the majority of the Bishops, remains unclear. But one can safely say that the will and theological orientation of the Emperors of that epoch determined, which Church doctrine was "right" or "heretical".[43]

The new concept of homousios was too ambiguous and unreflected and gave rise to further disputes among the Christian clergy. Many theologians rejected the idea of God's essence being the same as Christ's and preferred to speak of the similarity (Gr. homoeios) of the essences. A compromise was agreed upon at the Synod of Alexandria (362 C.E.), which allowed Christians to speak of three natures (hypostasis) but also of one, when referring solely to God.
Meanwhile, the Cappadocian theologians Basilius, Gregor of Nazianz and Gregor of Nyssa developed the concept of the Trinity (one God in three persons). This doctrine, which elevated the Holy Spirit as being of the same essence as the Father and the Son, was officially accepted at the Second Council of Constantinople (381 C.E.). The similarity to ancient Greek and Egyptian religious concepts has not gone unnoticed and many scholars hold such influences responsible for
the development of this doctrine.[44] The famous German theologian Adolf von Harnack has analyzed
Jewish and Hellenistic concepts, which have provided "an abundance of mythologies and
meanings" for the development of dogmatic theology. The equally prominent Protestant theologian Rudolf Bultmann writes about the influence of Gnostic mythology.[45] Deschner even suggested that the special interest of the three Cappadocian theologians in developing the doctrine of Trinity could be explained by the popularity of pagan Trinities in that region.[46] While it might have been the case that these theologians were directly influenced by pagan concepts, it seems more likely that they rather tried to present Christianity in such a way that it appealed to their countrymen.

The Bible itself provides hardly any evidence for the Trinitarian concept. The combination God, Christ and the Angels can be found many times[47], which might have prompted Justin (around 150) to speak even of the Quaternity of God-Father, Son, the army of Angels, and the Holy Spirit. But the combination of Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost) is so rare that one of the most famous New Testament interpolations was added, probably sometime during the fourth century, the socalled "Johannine Comma". In the first letter of John, the statement "And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one" (1 John 5:8) lent itself to an addition, which found its way into various Codices: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one" (1 John 5:7).
Most scholars likewise agree that Jesus' command, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matt. 28:19) is a later interpolation.

The term "Holy Ghost" is most often used for the power of inspiration, which had inspired the prophets and ordinary people alike.[48] Sometimes it refers to the indwelling spirit of humans.[49]
It is the force, which begot Jesus (Matt. 1:18; 20) and led him into the wilderness after his baptism (Luke 4:1). Blasphemy against it can never be forgiven, but any other blasphemy, even against Jesus, could (Luke 12:10). It is also equated with the Comforter (Gr. paraklet) that Jesus foretold (John 14:26).[50]
It is evident that not all of these concepts can be easily reconciled with the doctrine of Trinity.
In order to find additional support for this doctrine, theologians have sometimes stretched the interpretation of certain verses. Gregor of Nyssa for instance interpreted Ps. 33:6, "By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth" in such wise that the "word" refers to Jesus, and the "breath" to the Holy Ghost.

Anti-Nicaean sentiments have never died out though, and in the sixteenth century, several critics have voiced their reservations. In 1553 C.E., in his polemics "Restoration of Christianity", the Spaniard Michael Servet recapitulated all the major arguments against the doctrine of Trinity and, refusing to recant, was burned at the stake the same year in Geneva. Georg Biandrata and Fausto Sozzini, arguing from different perspectives, reject the doctrine of Trinity as well.[51] Within Protestantism, the Unitarian congregation does not accept Trinity. Harnack, alluding to Augustin's maxim "credo quia absurdum esse" ("I believe because it is absurd"), observes not without irony that the most paradox doctrines were appreciated most, because they seem to guarantee that divine wisdom is being offered, as opposed to merely human and unreliable thinking.

Be that as it is, it remains a fact that for all the major Christian denominations this dogma represents the foundation, on which further doctrines concerning the nature of Christ and the interplay of the Holy Spirit rest.

Having agreed on the homousios of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit, the next question that needed to be clarified was about the human nature of Jesus in its relation to the divine one. Two rivalling positions can be identified. On the one side, the Alexandrian school of thought stressed the union of the two natures of Christ. Patriarch Cyrill of Alexandria spoke of a physical unification and of "one nature of the incarnate logos". In other words, the logos did not enter a human being, but became truly human, remaining divine at the same time. For this reason, Cyrill pleaded to call the Virgin Mary "Mother of God" (Gr. Theotokos).[52] On the other side, the Antiochean school of thought stressed the full humanity of Christ and placed both natures independently next to each other. The logos took residence, so to speak, in the temple of the human Jesus. Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople (an Antiochian) therefore rejected the title "Mother of God" for Mary and suggested to use the term "Mother of Christ" (Gr. Christotokos) instead.

The Council of Ephesus (431 C.E.) was supposed to clarify this issue. The Antiochian delegation had not yet arrived, when Cyrill opened the Council and, not surprisingly, his position was confirmed. When the Antiochian Bishops arrived, they initiated a counter-Council and the two sides excommunicated each other. Emperor Theodosius II had to temporarily detain the two main opponents, Nestorius and Cyrill. The former had to abdicate (and was granted retreat in his Antiochian Monastery, but was exiled several times later on) and the latter bribed his way back to his Alexandrian Patriarchate. This was a fateful precedence for finishing off any opponent through manipulation and "the terror of Council".[53]

Nestorius' concern that an unreflected belief in only one Christ-nature would threaten the true humanity of Jesus proved right when Cyrill's successors developed his teachings further and saw the two natures of Christ completely merged into one. The human nature of Christ would get dissolved in the divine one like "a drop of honey in the ocean". Monophysitism (Gr. mono [one] phusis [nature]) in effect cancelled the human nature in Christ, implying that his humanity was substantially different from ours.

This doctrine was branded as heretical at the Council of Chalcedon (451 C.E.), declaring the doctrine of the "hypostatic union" (i.e., two natures/substances/essences [Gr. hupostasis] unmixed and inseparable, in one person) as dogmatical. At the same time, the "heresy" of Nestorius was confirmed, although he was "factually rehabilitated"[54] through the (refined) doctrine of Christ's two natures. About this decision and its consequences for the Eastern Empire, Fowden writes:

But the theological definition Chalcedon offered was heavily influenced by Constantinople's
wish to keep in step with Rome, which always followed a two-nature Christology. The price
of this tribute to the West, to the old Roman ideal of a single Mediterranean world, was the
alienation of the East – and so of any prospect of world empire. By excluding them, Chalcedon
gave impetus and sharper profile to the two doctrines, Monophysitism and Nestorianism, that
did so much to focus the Byzantine Commonwealth's self-awareness.[55]

Nestorians had thus no choice but to emigrate and their denomination became particularly successful in the Persian Empire, where it established its doctrinal independence in 486 C.E., at the Synod of Seleucia-Ctesiphon.[56] Their inner force was demonstrated by a highly developed theology (Schools of Seleukia and Nisibis) and an impressive missionary zeal.[57]

Monophysitism violently opposed the Council's decisions and continued to spread in the Eastern Empire. In 490 C.E. Alexandria, Jerusalem and Antioch had Monophysist Patriarchs. In the sixth century, Monophysitism was preferred over Chalcedonism in Nubia, Ethiopia and Southern Arabia in the South, and in Armenia and Iberia (Southern Georgia) in the East.[58]
Chalcedon had presented an unsolvable predicament for the Byzantine Emperors. Either they identified themselves with and enforced the decisions of Chalcedon, which resulted in the dogmatic-national emigration of the Cyrillic-monophysite East, or they tried to reconcile with and appease the Monophysites, which promptly endangered the confessional unity with Rome. The history of the following centuries provides enough examples for both policies. It can safely be said that the seed for the eventual schism between East and West (1054 C.E.) was planted at Chalcedon.

With the Eastern Provinces having been reconquered from the Persians and the rise of Islam in the seventh century, the need to unify and strengthen the Byzantine Empire was more urgent than ever before. To re-establish ecclesiastical unity between the Chalcedonian and Monophysite Churches was therefore once again on top of the agenda of the Byzantine Emperor. Patriarch Sergios of Constantinople and others developed a formula that should reconcile the Monophysites with the Chalcedonian creed.

The compromise found was expressed in the formula of Christ having "two natures but only one will", a doctrine called "Monotheletism". Accepted even by Pope Honorius I, Monotheletism became Imperial Law in 638 C.E.[59]

However, the attempt to unify the Empire was only partial and with the Oriental Provinces being lost again, this time to Islam, the compromise formula became obsolete. Emperor Constans II tried
to end the theological dispute that had risen over this formula[60] by forbidding its use (648 C.E.).

This was the occasion for the newly elected Pope Martin I to challenge the Imperial authority on religious grounds by convening a Synode in Rome (649 C.E.) where Monotheletism and its proponents were declared as heretical. Because of their opposition and the political implications this Synod had (challenging the authority of Constantinople and reinforcing the latent danger of schism), both the Pope and Maximus, the main proponent of this dispute, were tortured and exiled.

However, under Constantine IV, the issue was taken up again at the sixth Ecumenic Council, again in Constantinople (680/681 C.E.). Monotheletism was rejected and the Chalcedonian doctrine was confirmed, by affirming that Christ had not only two natures, but also two wills. These two wills, the Council decreed, were not in conflict with each other, rather Jesus' human will must be thought of having completely and voluntarily surrendered to God's will. This did not annul Jesus' freedom of choice, since surrendering one's will to God constitutes the highest expression of human liberty. This Council basically confirmed, respectively anathematized the old (Chalcedonian) positions and marks the end of the "dogmatic epoch".

From a "post-dogmatic", end-of-twentieth century's point of view one can only pause and wonder with what vigour, violence and fanatism the "representatives" of Christ had opposed each other. In developing ever more complex (critics would say abstruse) doctrines about the ontological reality of Christ, and in an attempt to define the "undefinable" with increasingly sophisticated (and often ambigious) terminology, the "object of study's" basic message of love and unity seems to have been largely ignored.

Again I say to you, that if two of you shall agree on the earth concerning any matter,
whatsoever it may be that they shall ask, it shall come to them from my Father who is in [the] heavens.
For where two or three are gathered together unto my name, there am I in the midst of them
(Matt. 18-20, Darby).

Christ's statement to his disciples seems to be both a promise and an admonition. Agreement and unity of vision, it is suggested, are the key ingredients for attaining wisdom (following Solomon's example) or whatever united and faithful souls may ask for. Applying this spiritual principle to the various Counsels where hundreds of Bishops were "gathered together unto [Christ's] name" and contrasting it with the "terror" of verbal and physical abuse, of manipulation and intrigues that were so characteristic of these meetings one seriously wonders how "inspired" all the decisions and formulas were.

More seriously than the nature of the conduct in which the Councils were held is the fact that their outcome was to a large extent already predetermined. Depending on the theological (and political) orientation of the Emperors who convened (and often controlled) the Councils, it was clear beforehand, which positions would be rejected, or even anathematized and declared as "heretical" and which one would become official and "orthodox" doctrine. "Dogmatical orthodoxy and political loyalty", as Beyschlag remarks, "became inseparable and can be considered as interchangable terms" (116, translation mine).

This is not to reject out of hand and entirely all the insights that the Church has gained about the nature of Christ over the centuries. But to postulate that they were divinely inspired and of equal value as the Gospels themselves, is more a political than a theological statement, meant to secure the position of power and authority.[61] To oppose one of the Councils' dogmas is still today considered formally as heresy. In the words of Harnack, the author of the classic seven-volume Dogmengeschichte (History of Dogma), "according to the conception of the church, dogma can be
nothing else than the revealed faith itself."[62]

Of course, the equation of dogma (revealed doctrine) with Christ's revelation itself is problematic, given the various Christologies that exist, as the historical overview has shown. Such an exclusivist view is therefore rejected by all other Christian denominations that nevertheless share the claim of Christian exclusivity.[63] This claim for exclusivity, in turn, is rejected by most other religions, which, ironically, have similar claims of their own. In the light of interfaith dialogue however, this position has to be respected and addressed as well[64] and the following chapter will deal with these Christological questions from a Bahá´í point of view.

Bibliography

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Bahá´u´lláh. Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá´í Publishing Trust, 1988.
-----. Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá´u´lláh. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá´í Publishing Trust, 1983.
-----. The Hidden Words. Oxford: Oneworld Publ., 1992.
-----. The Proclamation of Bahá´u´lláh. Haifa: Bahá´í World Centre, 1972.

Beyschlag, Karlmann. Grundriss der Dogmengeschichte II (Gott und Mensch), Teil 1 (Das
christologische Dogma). Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1991.

Buck, Christopher. Paradise and Paradigm. Key Symbols in Persian Christianity and the Bahá´í
Faith. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1999.

Dembowski, Hermann. Einführung in die Christologie. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche
Buchgesellschaft, 1976.

Deschner, Karlheinz. Abermals krähte der Hahn. Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1979 [1962].

Fazel, Seena and Fananapazir, Khazeh. "A Bahá´í Approach to the Claim of Eclusivity and
Uniqueness in Christianity." The Journal of Bahá´í Studies 3.2 (1990-91): 15-24.

Fowden, Garth. Empire to Commonwealth. Consequences of monotheism in late antiquity.
Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Franzen, August. Kleine Kirchengeschichte. Freiburg: Herder, 1975 [1965].

Hahn, Ferdinand. Christologische Hoheitstitel. Göttingen: Vandenhoek und Ruprecht, 1995 [1963].

Heaton, E.W. A Short Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets. Oxford: Oneworld Publ., 1997
[1977].

Hünermann, Peter. Jesus Christus. Gottes Wort in der Zeit. Eine systematische Christologie.
Münster: Aschendorff, 1994.

McLean, J.A. "Prolegomena to a Bahá´í Theology." The Journal of Bahá´í Studies 5.1 (1992):
24-67.

Schillebeeckx, Edward. Jesus. Die Geschichte von einem Lebenden. Freiburg: Herder, 1992.

Schäfer, Udo. The light shineth in darkness. Oxford: George Ronald, 1979 [1977].

Swidler, Leonard and Mojzes, Paul, eds. The Uniqueness of Jesus. A Dialogue with Paul F. Knitter
(Faith meets Faith Series). Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1997.

Young, Brad. Jesus. The Jewish Theologian. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publ., 1995.

Notes

[1] Of course it would be too simplistic to assume that any of these titles is exclusively related to and the origin of one specific Christology. These designations had various layers of meanings, and were consequently used in different contexts, as will be shown.
[2] For a detailed philological overview of the various scholarly positions on the five most important christological titles (Son of man, Kyrios, Christ, Son of David, Son of God) see Hahn, Christologische Hoheitstitel.
[3] Cf. e.g. "Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God"
(Luke 12:8) with " Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is
in heaven" (Matt. 10:32).
[4] It should be noted that the Hebrew word adam not only refers to someone of the male gender, but also to a human being in the generic sense.
[5] Heaton writes that between 300 BC and 300 CE apocalyptic writings "emerged and flourished in Judea", and he lists The Book of Enoch, The Apocalypse of Abraham, The Assumption of Moses and The Testament of Job. However, only the book of Daniel has been accepted into the canon of Hebrew scriptures (see Heaton, A Short Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets 157).
[6] 1 Enoch 46:1-3, quoted in Brad H. Young, Jesus the Jewish Theologian 248.
[7] The Apocalypse of Enoch is included in the Abessinian Bible, and one reference to it can be found in the apocryphal Gospel of Jude (verse 14, referring to Henoch 1:9). Quoted in Deschner, Abermals kraehte der Hahn 20.
[8] Flusser, Jesus in Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten, quoted in Young, Jesus the Jewish Theologian 243.
[9] In four songs, embedded in the 'Book of Consolation' (chapters 42, 49, 50, 52-53), Isaiah describes the
sufferings and ultimate victory of the 'Servant of God'. See also Ps. 22, which thematizes the sufferings and hopes of
the 'Just One', and whose opening line ("My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?") Jesus quotes on the cross,
before rendering up his spirit (Matt. 27:46).
[10] See Luke 22:37 for a direct reference to Isaiah 53:12. Other, more general allusions, Luke 22:19-20, Mark 10:45.
[11] Young, Jesus the Jewish Theologian 244, 247.
[12] Young, Jesus the Jewish Theologian 246. Young uses the RSV translation. All other quotes (unless mentioned otherwise) are taken from the King James Bible.
[13] See, for example, Matt. 19:17, 20:23, 24:36, 26:39, John 5:22, 5:30, 8:28 a.o.
[14] ´Abdu´l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions 128.
[15] John Hick has identified these three perspectives: the exclusivist one (accepting only one's faith as true and rejecting all others as false; the inclusivist one (giving some credence to other religions but claiming the "full truth" for one's own: and the pluralist one (regarding all religions as equally "true" and valid). Needless to say that for Hick, the most appropriate approach for interreligious dialogue would be the latter one. The advantages and limitations of this model will be discussed in the next chapter.
[16] Traditional Biblical exegesis has made use of a fourfold level of interpretation: the literal, the moral, the allegorical, and the eschatological (messianic) level.
[17] This connection is only described in the Gospel of Luke, not in Mark.
[18] Bahá´u´lláh, Gleanings 57. It was for this reason, Bahá´u´lláh explains in another context, that Jesus did not marry and lead a family life (see Proclamation of Bahá´u´lláh 95-6; Epistle to the Son of the Wolf 49-50).
[19] The four recognized ways of interpreting the Bible are the literal one, the allegorical (symbolic) one, the moral one, and the eschatological (referring to the 'end-time') one.
[20] Bahá´u´lláh, Hidden Words, Persian No. 27. See also Nos. 26, 28-31. These admonitions are reminiscent of Matt. 6:19-24.
[21] Mark 3:10-12. For similar instances, see Mark 1:24 (where Jesus was addressed as "the Holy One of God");
Mark 1:34; Luke 8:28.
[22] It is important to remember that the eternal Covenant, as it was firstly established with Noah (Gen. 9), and subsequently renewed with Abraham (Gen. 12:3), included all humanity. The privileged position with which God eventually favoured Israel (by inference, Judaism and Christianity) can therefore not be understood as excluding other peoples and religions from divine grace and guidance. Furthermore, this privilege is conditional, based on the twin obligation to love God and keep his laws (Deut. 7:6-12).
[23] 2 Samuel 7:12-16. The parallel report in the Chronicles (1 Chr. 17:11-14) omits the reference to the potential chastisement of the Messiah, possibly out of theological concern.
[24] The statement "I will be his father, and he will be my son" is a socalled formula of adoption or inthronisation (see also Ps.s 2:7, 89:21, 110:3), originally used to anoint a king, later also the Judges, priests and prophets. In this way, the term "messiah" (the anointed one) combined the notions of royal authority with the spiritual functions of guarding the (divine) Law and living a sanctified life.
[25] Ezekiel calls him "Prince" (as opposed to "King") and stresses his mediating and guiding (shepherd) functions (Ez. 34:23-24; 37:24-25); Zechariah describes the spiritual qualities (justice, humility) of the future Saviour (Zech. 9:9-10); Isaiah even lets the Persian king Cyrus take the role of the (political) Messiah (Isa. 45:1), while at the same time he develops the model of the suffering and humble "Servant of God" to bring spiritual liberation (see n. 6); and Daniel had his apocalyptic visions of a superhuman figure coming "with the clouds of heaven" (see above).
[26] Matthew (26:64) divides Jesus' answer in confirming the question and foretelling his return; Luke (22:67-70) goes even further and separates the question so that Jesus' confirmation to be the Son of God is detached from its eschatological context.
[27] See Hahn, Christologische Hoheitstitel 289-292.
[28] Prominent advocates of this belief were Theodotos of Byzantium (excommunicated end of the 2nd cent.), Artemon in Rome (around 235), and Paul of Samosata (d. after 272). It should also be noted that several Judaeo-Christian sects, already extinct in the fourth century, have rejected the notion of Jesus being "divine" (Ebionites, Nazarenes).

See Deschner, Abermals kraehte der Hahn 375-405, for more details of the following historical overview; Huenermann, Jesus Christus, Gottes Wort in der Zeit 128-56, for a parallel theological (Catholic) overview. The differences between these two positions could not be more profound. Deschner attacks mercilessly the development of the (Catholic) Church as "deviation" from the historical religion. Huenermann, on the other side, describes the gradual unfoldment and maturation of the Church, from early "unreflected" to ever more complex understanding of the transcendent verities.
[29] See Deschner, Abermals kraehte der Hahn 389. Important protagonists of Modalism were Bishop Noetos of Smyrna, Sabelius and Praxeas (all around 200). Ironically, Pope Victor I who excommunicated the Adoptionist Theodotos (see n. 27) did so under the premises of Modalism.
[30] Schonfield, Those incredible Christians 118, quoted in Schaefer, The light shineth in darkness 83.
[31] Schoeps, Theologie und Geschichte des Judenchristentums 322, quoted in Schaefer, The light shineth in darkness 83.
[32] Schaefer, The light shineth in darkness 82. It is unfortunate that Schaefer, a prominent German Bahá´í scholar, joins in the chorus of such critical one-sided voices. Space does not permit to even list (let alone dispute) all the allegations that have been brought up against Paul. (An apology doing justice to Paul from a Bahá´í point of view has yet to be written.) Suffice it to say that Paul never claimed that "God in his essence was walking on earth", as Schaefer insinuates. In fact, Paul's description of Christ being the "image of God" (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3) is quite compatible with the prominent 'Sun – Mirror' metaphor (describing the relationship between God and his manifestations) in the Bahá´í Writings.
[33] See Hahn, Christologische Hoheitstitel ch. 5; Schillebeeckx, Jesus 380-83; Commentary of Neue Jerusalemer Bibel to Phil. 2:6-11.
[34] Wisdom is a feminine noun in Hebrew (hokma) and Greek (sophia). Furthermore, the feminine gender is employed here, because Wisdom is being discussed in the context of the Hebrew Writings, where she is portrayed as Solomon's bride (Wis. 8:2, 8:9), and also likened to a Mother figure (Sir. 15:2).
[35] Further personifications of sophia can be found in Prov. 1:20-33; 3:16-19; 8 and 9.
[36] At least on one occasion, Jesus identifies himself with Wisdom (Matt. 11:19). Paul refers to Christ as "the power and wisdom (sophia) of God" (1 Cor. 1:24). The Church Fathers (Justin, Origen, Tertullian) regarded sophia, logos and "First-born" as synonymous expressions of the Holy Spirit (see Sours, "The Maid of Heaven, the image of Sophia, and the Logos. Personification of the Spirit of God in Scripture and Sacred Literature", Journal of Bahá´í Studies 4:1).
[37] Apart from the direct reference (see n. 35), Jesus also claims to be greater than Solomon (Matt. 12:42) who was known as embodiment of Wisdom. The incidents where Jesus exorcises evil spirits who know that he is the Son of God (cf. Matt. 8:29; Mark 3:11; Luke 4:41; 8:28) remain puzzling unless brought into context with Christ being superior to Solomon who had power over all evil spirits (who knew and dreaded him).
[38] Schillebeeckx, Jesus 430.
[39] God is defined as one Universal Cause (Gr. arche), Jesus as human being, empowered with this arche.
[40] A complete survey, however brief, of all the Christological models would go way beyond the scope of this chapter. The following historical and theological overview therefore covers only the first few centuries, during which the basic creeds were formed and refined. Suffice it to say that each epoch (from Medieval Scholasticism to Enlightenment Scepticism to Postmodern Pluralism) has produced different outlooks and insights into the Christological question.
For current (pluralistic) discussions see, e.g., Swidler and Mojzes, eds., The Uniqueness of Jesus. A Dialogue with Paul E. Knitter.
[41] In the West, as Deschner pointedly notes, the intellectual level of the theologians was not so advanced at that time, to be able to follow this theological dispute. The two only eminent theologians in third century Rome were counter-popes, Hippolyt (constantly opposed) and Novatian (excommunicated). It is also noteworthy that, at the Council of Nicaea, only seven delegates (out of approximately 300) were from the West.
[42] Quoted from Huenermann, Jesus Christus 144-5, in my translation.
[43] The Arian dispute is a good example for this political influence. When two years after the Council Constantine changed his mind, he summoned the Bishops to another Synod in Nicaea (327), where Arius was rehabilitated again. His main opponent Bishop Athanasius, on the other hand, was exiled five times under Constantine and his successors. During the reign of Constantine's son Constantius Arianism became official Church doctrine, but was forbidden again under the Catholic emperors Gratian (375 – 383) in the West and Theodosius (379 – 395) in the East.
[44] Aristoteles regarded the number three as sacred and defined threeness as number for the whole because it embraces beginning, middle and end. Already Xenokrates (400 BC) postulated a Trinity at the peak of the universe, and all the Hellenistic religions had trinitarian concepts, such as the "three-in-one" God Hermes in the theology of Hermes Trismegistos, or the triad of Zagreus, Phanes and Dionysos in the Dionysian religion. Among the Roman triads were Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, and in Egypt Isis, Sarapis (Osiris) and Horus (see Deschner, Abermals kraehte der Hahn 381-82).
[45] See Huenermann, Jesus Christus 151-52.
[46] See Deschner, Abermals kraehte der Hahn 386.
[47] See e.g. Matt. 16:27; 24:36; 25:31; Eph. 1:15; 1 Tim. 5:21; Rev. 3:5.
[48] See Mark 12:36 for David; Luke 1:15 for John the Baptist; for Christ himself (Luke 3:22; 4:1), and for pious people (Luke 1:41 and 1:67 for John the Baptist's parents; Luke 2:25 for Simeon; Acts 2:4 for the believers at Pentecoast; Luke 12:12 or Acts 5:5 for the apostolic mission).
[49] See 2 Tim. 1:14; Titus 3:5 speaks about the "renewing of the Holy Ghost" in the hearts of the believers.
[50] Christians believe that this prophecy found its fulfillment through the outpourings of the Holy Spirit at Pentecoast. Muslims regard this as a reference to Muhammad, and Bahá´ís see an archetypal function in the role of the Comforter, which is being displayed with the coming of every Manifestation of God. The latter perspective is supported by Stephen's final speech prior his martyrdom, "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye" (Acts 7:51).
[51] It is interesting to note that those critics argue from "classical" points of view. Servet from a Modalist perspective, Biandrata from an Arian one, Sozzini takes up Ebionite thoughts (Dembowski, Einführung in die Christologie 147-8.
[52] Cyrill was an active promoter of the cult that developed around the figure of the Virgin Mary. He established two Holy Days (Mary's Annunciation and Mary's Ascension), both overlapping with (and meant to surpress) pagan celebrations of Goddesses (see Deschner, Abermals kraehte der Hahn 368).
[53] Beyschlag, Grundriss der Dogmengeschichte 53.
[54] Ibid. 134.
[55] Fowden, Empire to Commonwealth. Consequences of monotheism in late antiquity 117. "Constantinople's wish to keep in step with Rome" was in fact a political turn, initiated by Theododius' II sister who (together with General Markian, her future husband and emperor-to-be) seized power after her brother's sudden death in 450. The threat of the Alexandrian Patriarch Dioskur becoming too powerful was one of the reasons for the approach towards Rome (see Beyschlag, Grundriss der Dogmengeschichte II 57-8).
[56] Today recognized as a misnomer, more appropriate designations would be East Syriac Christianity, or "Church of the East"(self-designation), or "Persian Christianity" (referring to the community in the Sasanian Empire). However, the term "Nestorianism" continues to be used out of convenience (see Buck, Paradise and Paradigm 4).
[57] Missionaries established communities in Malabar/India and Chinese Turkestan; in the ninth century they came as far as Central China and Tibet. The East Syrian Church "became the most influential form of extra-Roman Christianity" (Buck, Paradise and Paradigm 38), before it was destroyed and its adherents decimated by the Mongols. Parts of the Syrian Church (Chaldeans, Malabar Christians) united with Rome in the sixteenth century and today there are an estimated 80.000 believers in Irak, Iran and Syria, 5.000 in India, and 25.000 in America (Franzen, Kleine Kirchengeschichte 84).
[58] Fowden identifies political as well as theological reasons for such a preference. In the case of Armenia, for example, Nestorianism's growing success in Iran may have made it seem less attractive to Armenians. More significantly, the tensions against Constantinople who did not support them against the Persians, led the Armenians eventually to reject the Council of Chalcedon's decision and opt for Monophytism. The rise of Monophysitism in Ethiopia and Southern Arabia was similarly a symptom of the Byzantine Commonwealth's scope for independence, or, from Constantinople's viewpoint, disloyalty. This is best illustrated by Ethiopia's national epic, Kebra Nagast (The Glory of Kings), which provokes a counterclaim to universal authority by asserting to be even superior to Byzantine, because of their king's descension to Solomon's firstborn. Nubia (today Sudan) converted to the Egyptian (Coptic) brand of Monophysitism and, despite of being cut off from other Christian countries, remained Christian until its eventual Islamization in the sixteenth century (see Fowden, Empire to Commonwealth ch. 5).
[59] Sergios originally proposed the concept of "two natures and one energy", which was opposed by the Jerusaleme Patriarch Sophronius. He then converted to the notion of "one will", hardly more than a change of name. Concerning the Pope's consent it is said that he was not familiar enough with "Greek theology" to realize the Monophysite "disguise" of the formula (Franzen, Kleine Kirchengeschichte 88). When the formula was rejected in 681 and, as usual, their proponents anathematized, Pope Honorius was cursed as well. The "fall" of that Pope was brought to light again in 1870, during the preparations for the dogma of Papal Infallibility, and caused quite some embarrassment.
[60] The leading figure of the Chalcedonian orthodoxy's opposition was Maximus Confessor. He argued that the faculty of will belongs to the two natures of Christ, not to his one hypostasis. Christ therefore has two natures, two will, and two energies.
[61] Emperor Justinian was the first to make such a claim. For Beyschlag, this proves the "surpassing dignity in dogmatic- historical respect" (130, translation mine) of the (first four) Councils. For me, this is rather a dubious reference, given that under Justinian the persecution of "pagans" and "heretics" reached their climax. Not to accept the official Church doctrine and to engage in any other form of religious activity could lead to capital punishment. He also introduced coercive conversion and baptism and placed all non-Christians and non-orthodox Christians outside the law. Furthermore, he completely controlled and regulated internal Church affairs. As a typical representative of "Caesaropapism" even the Pope had to surrender to his will (see Deschner, Abermals kraehte der Hahn 327, 395-6, 450, 470). The political nature of this argument (and its devastating consequences for "heretics" and non-Christians) is equally valid for the Roman Catholic Church in the West, once it had assumed a similar role of secular leadership (from the eleventh century onwards).
[62] Harnack, History of Dogma 1:9, quoted in J.A. McLean, "Prolegomena to a Bahá´í Theology." The Journal of Bahá´í Studies 5.1 (1992): 34.
[63] "Christian exclusivity was later summarized in the traditional Roman Catholic doctrine, which stated that outside the Church there is no salvation, and in its Protestant missionary equivalent, that outside Christianity there is no salvation" (Fazel and Fananapazir, "A Bahá´í Approach to the Claim of Exclusivity and Uniqueness in Christianity." The Journal of Bahá´í Studies 3.2 (1990-91): 18).
[64] The struggle of Christian theologians engaged in interfaith dialogue to redefine and come to terms with the concept of "Christ's uniqueness" so that it does not become an impediment to "real dialogue", is well documented in Paul Knitter's "Five Theses on the Uniqueness of Jesus" and its twenty responses (Swidler and Mojzes, eds., The Uniqueness of Jesus. A Dialogue with Paul E. Knitter). The compatibility of many of these concepts with the Bahá´í Faith will be explored in the next chapter.

Chapter 4

THE SON AND THE FATHER - A BAHÁ´Í VIEW

In the Bahá´í Writings, Jesus Christ is referred to several times as Son of Man. In the passage quoted below, Bahá´u´lláh pays a moving tribute to Jesus. He testifies of him, as foretold in the Bible (John 15:26), and confirms and elucidates the spiritual meaning of the Biblical healing miracles.[1] Most interestingly, the impact of Christ's sacrifice is described in inspirational terms, being universal and perennial in nature, complementing the traditional view of individual redemption, which is also confirmed in the Bahá´í Writings.[2] Cole writes that "Jesus' passion is here identified as the motive force behind Christian civilization, the unseen source of human advance" and acknowledges the innovative contribution of Bahá´u´lláh "in linking the redemption gained by the cross to ideas such as civilization, progress, and the arts and sciences."[3] Taking all these aspects into consideration, it is safe to say that here the title Son of Man has a messianic meaning rather than being a reference to the human station of Jesus.

Know thou that when the Son of Man yielded up His breath to God, the whole creation wept with a great weeping. By sacrificing Himself, however, a fresh capacity was infused into all created things. Its
evidences, as witnessed in all the peoples of the earth, are now manifest before thee. The deepest wisdom which the sages have uttered, the profoundest learning which any mind hath unfolded, the arts which the
ablest hands have produced, the influence exerted by the most potent of rulers, are but manifestations of
the quickening power released by His transcendent, His all-pervasive, and resplendent Spirit.

We testify that when He came into the world, He shed the splendor of His glory upon all created things. Through Him the leper recovered from the leprosy of perversity and ignorance. Through Him, the unchaste and wayward were healed. Through His power, born of Almighty God, the eyes of the blind were opened,
and the soul of the sinner sanctified.

Leprosy may be interpreted as any veil that interveneth between man and the recognition of the Lord, his God.
Whoso alloweth himself to be shut out from Him is indeed a leper, who shall not be remembered in the
Kingdom of God, the Mighty, the All-Praised. We bear witness that through the power of the Word of God
every leper was cleansed, every sickness was healed, every human infirmity was banished. He it is Who
purified the world. Blessed is the man who, with a face beaming with light, hath turned towards Him.[4]

The eschatological references to the coming of the Son of Man have, according to Bahá´í view, found their fulfillment in the subsequent missions of Muhammad, the Báb and Bahá´u´lláh. In the Kitab-i Iqan, we find an extensive exegesis of Matt. 24:29-31, where the apocalyptic scenario of the shaking of "the powers of heaven" is explained in spiritual terms, although the physical (literal) realization of some of the phenomena is acknowledged.[5] Primarily aimed at justifying the claim of the Báb, Bahá´u´lláh's apology is universal in character. Every prophet comes at a time when religion has lost its purity and illuminating power (one meaning of the darkening of sun, moon and stars). All of them are faced with the opposition of the clergy of previous religions who also prevent their followers to recognize the new divine Messenger (another meaning of the same imagery). The underlying motives of this clerical opposition, according to Bahá´u´lláh, are thirst for power and material wealth, ignorance, corruption, selfishness, pride and hypocrisy. These self-centered characteristics are also the cause for the rising of manifold sects, because "in leadership they have recognized the ultimate object of their endeavour, and account pride and haughtiness as the highest attainments of their heart's desire." This is the true meaning of the "oppression" (Matt. 24:29), when people, in their search for truth and divine knowledge, "should not know where to go for it and from whom to seek it".[6] Bahá´u´lláh's stern rebuke of the clergy is reminiscent of Christ's critique of the Pharisees and Bahá´u´lláh even compares the divine leaders with "a number of voracious beasts [that] have gathered and preyed upon the carrion of the souls of men."[7] This "oppression" and the other events described are "the essential feature of every Revelation."[8]

Consequently, in the scheme of 'eternal return', every divine Messenger succeeding Christ (i.e., Muhammad, Báb and Bahá´u´lláh) could be regarded as "the Son of man [coming] in the glory of his father" (Matt. 16:24). However, just as the title 'Son' is most appropriate for Jesus, and the designation 'Seal' most befitting for Muhammad, the station of 'Fatherhood' would best characterize the dispensation of Bahá´u´lláh.

This can be best explained with the doctrine of the 'twofold station' of the Messengers of God.
From the point of view of the "station of pure abstraction and essential unity",[9] every Manifestation of God could be addressed with the same name. Such an understanding helps to avoid the temptation of regarding a certain title as more prominent than others, and of elevating one religion above the rest. From the point of view of the second station however, the "station of distinction",[10] certain names and titles are surely more meaningful than others, because "each of the Manifestations of God hath a distinct individuality, a definitely prescribed mission, a predestined Revelation, and specially designated limitations."[11] Regarding the designation Son of God for instance, Stockman has aptly argued that "while all Manifestations exemplify perfect Sonship, it was a particular and central characteristic of Jesus Christ's mission to exemplify such a relationship."[12] Similarly it can be argued that the concept of 'Fatherhood' fits best both the personality and the mission of Bahá´u´lláh.[13]
The Father

It is not so much the image of the Son of Man that is taken up again with reference to Bahá´u´lláh, but the appearance "in the glory of the Father", shortened to "the Father", which is stressed when describing the station of Bahá´u´lláh.[14] In the following passage, it is Christ who, as the Son of Man, hails the advent of the Father. This quote is taken from a tablet that Bahá´u´lláh called Lawh-i Aqdas (Most Holy Tablet).[15]

The river Jordan is joined to the Most Great Ocean, and the Son, in the holy vale, crieth out: ´Here am I,
here am I O Lord, my God!', whilst Sinai circleth round the House, and the Burning Bush calleth aloud:
´He Who is the Desired One is come in His transcendent majesty.' Say, Lo! The Father is come, and that
which ye were promised in the Kingdom is fulfilled! This is the Word which the Son concealed, when to
those around Him He said: ´Ye cannot bear it now.' And when the appointed time was fulfilled and the
Hour had struck, the Word shone forth above the horizon of the Will of God.[16]

Likewise, in a tablet to the Pope Pius IX, Bahá´u´lláh raises the claim of being the 'Father' who the Christians have been waiting for for almost nineteen hundred years. Again, as in the passage quoted above, Bahá´u´lláh equals the station of the Father with that of the Word (Gr. logos) that had been concealed by Christ, because of the inability of his contemporaries to "bear" it (cf. John 16:12).

The Word which the Son concealed is made manifest. It hath been sent down in the form of the human
temple in this day. Blessed be the Lord Who is the Father! He, verily, is come unto the nations in His
most great majesty. Turn your faces towards Him, O concourse of the righteous... This is the day whereon
the Rock (Peter) crieth out and shouteth, and celebrateth the praise of its Lord, the All-Possessing, the Most
High, saying: ´Lo! The Father is come, and that which ye were promised in the Kingdom is fulfilled!...'
My body longeth for the cross, and Mine head waiteth the thrust of the spear, in the path of the All-Merciful,
that the world may be purged from its transgressions....[17]

In describing the fatherly characteristics of Bahá´u´lláh's life and mission, we can analyze the primary duties and responsibilities of a father towards his family and look for equivalent aspects promoted by Bahá´u´lláh for the family of humankind. A responsible father would provide for and support his family and would be concerned about the well-being of all its members. He would make sure that his children receive the best education possible and can develop their talents. He would also guide and counsel his children and foster the ties of family unity.[18] It is safe to say that all of these aspects – the well-being of humanity, education, guidance and consultation, and peace and unity – are central and interdependent themes in Bahá´u´lláh's Revelation.

Concerning the well-being of humanity, Bahá´u´lláh declares that his Teachings provide the basis for its achievement. "The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established. This unity can never be achieved so long as the counsels which the Pen of the Most High hath revealed are suffered to pass unheeded."[19] These teachings consist of Laws, Ordinances and Exhortations, covering all aspects of life, personal and social, spiritual and material. Bahá´u´lláh himself likens his teachings to parental educational measures. "We school you with the rod of wisdom and laws, like unto the father who educateth his son, and this for naught but the protection of your own selves and the elevation of your stations."[20]

Bahá´u´lláh has established the institution of the House of Justice and delegated his divine, 'parental' authority to its members who should "regard themselves as the guardians appointed of God for all that dwell on earth."[21] It seems that the children of mankind, on the verge of maturity, are still under age, so to speak, and in need of a guardian.[22] However, just as responsible parents would acknowledge the growing maturity and independence of their adolescent children and regard themselves more as partners and helpmates than as educators, the Bahá´í administrative institutions should play a similar role. Bahá´ís are encouraged to see in them "not only their elected representatives, but their helper, - one might almost say their father - and the one to whom they can confidently take their problem.[23] The guiding role of the Bahá´í institutions is also described by taking up the ancient imagery of the shepherd and his flock.[24]

O ye Men of Justice! Be ye, in the realm of God, shepherds unto His sheep and guard
them from the ravening wolves that have appeared in disguise, even as ye would guard
your own sons. Thus exhorteth you the Counsellor, the Faithful.[25]

The divinely ordained institution of the Local Spiritual Assembly operates at the first
levels of human society and is the basic administrative unit of Bahá'u'lláh's World Order...
It protects the Cause of God; it acts as the loving shepherd of the Bahá'í flock.[26]


The "Bahá´í flock" consists of people from every religious and ethnic background. Sears has therefore argued that Christ's statement, "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd" (John 10:16), relates to Bahá´u´lláh's mission as he "is the Shepherd of all the sheep from whatever flock they may have come."[27] This view has been popularized among Bahá´ís, as Sours observes.[28] However, the Christian interpretation that this refers to the uniting of diverse pagan peoples and the Jews, is certainly compatible with the Bahá´í point of view of "the progressive nature of prophetic fulfillment".[29] According to this perspective, "visible evidences of fulfillment will be greater in this age than in any past age, so much so that it can be said that such prophecies culminate in this age."[30]

But Bahá´u´lláh is not only adressing humanity as a whole in his role as 'universal Father'. He provides abundant guidance for parents, often addressing specifically the fathers. He confirms and reinforces the institution of marriage, which he regards as foundation of community life, calling it a "fortress for well-being and salvation".[31] He views it as a moral law to marry and upholds the primary purpose of raising children, prioritizing moral and spiritual education.[32] It is precisely in this area of comprehensive education that Bahá´u´lláh encourages and exhorts fathers to take a more decisive part.[33] The importance of the mother as "first educator" is being recognized as "the most important formative influence in his [the child's] development". On the other hand, "the father also has the responsibility of educating his children, and this responsibility is so weighty that Bahá'u'lláh has stated that a father who fails to exercise it forfeits his rights of fatherhood...."[34] This area of responsibility covers both the intellectual and artistic training of the children as well as their moral upbringing.

God hath prescribed unto every father to educate his children, both boys and girls, in the sciences
and in morals, and in crafts and professions....[35]

Unto every father hath been enjoined the instruction of his son and daughter in the art of
reading and writing and in all that hath been laid down in the Holy Tablet.[36]
In light of the paradigm shift mentioned before, fathers are encouraged and expected to develop and display characteristics such as love, tenderness and compassion that traditionally are viewed as 'female'. In Jungian terms, the Bahá´í Writings appeal to men to balance their personality by building up their anima. Following passage makes gender stereotypes look old by employing a classic female metaphor, the hen nurturing her chicken, and transfer it to describe a new role model for fathers.

If a wise father plays with his children, who has a right to say it is not good for them? He calls
them to come to him as the hen calls her chicks; he knows that they are little and must be coaxed
along - coaxed along because they are young and tiny.[37]

Concerning counselling and guidance, Bahá´u´lláh takes the same approach as outlined above with respect to his role as divine Educator and delegating this function to the elected institutions. Alluding to one of the Messianic titles given by Isaiah, Bahá´u´lláh calls himself the "true", "trustworthy", "faithful", or "benevolent Counsellor"[38] and exhorts the people to give ear unto his call and not to be heedless. With the ethical principles for and the method of consultation he provided an instrument that would ensure that "the lamp of guidance" continues to be lit.[39] "No welfare and no well-being can be attained except through consultation"[40], he says, a statement that consonates with and can be linked to the one about unity being the prerequisite for well-being (quoted above). Consultation and compassion, the frank and open exchange of thoughts in an appreciative and encouraging environment, could then be regarded as a means for achieving unity on any level of society.

The heaven of divine wisdom is illumined with the two luminaries of consultation and compassion.
Take ye counsel together in all matters, inasmuch as consultation is the lamp of guidance which
leadeth the way, and is the bestower of understanding.[41]

Consultation bestoweth greater awareness and transmuteth conjecture into certitude. It is a shining
light which, in a dark world, leadeth the way and guideth. For everything there is and will continue
to be a station of perfection and maturity. The maturity of the gift of understanding is made manifest
through consultation.[42]

The one-sided communication of the past, delivered by patriarchal fathers, rulers, and priests, is being replaced by the egalitarian setting of joint problem-solving and truth-finding. The quality of consultation, being the result and expression of intellectual maturity, as the quote above suggests, can be regarded as yardstick for the level of maturity a certain group or institution has reached.
The Everlasting Father

The designation Father (in the context of "glory of the Father") as messianic title is not confined to Christianity only. In a prominent passage of his writings, the prophet Isaiah gives five names by which the future Davidic Messiah would be known.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the
throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice
from henceforth even for ever. (Isa. 9:5-6).

It is important to understand that these names are not proper names in the modern sense but rather descriptive designations or titles. Even proper names, in Biblical tradition, are often descriptive in nature or sometimes replaced with new names, reflecting new spiritual characteristics.[43]
In a dream, Joseph was told to call Mary's son Jesus, "for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). The proper name here has a descriptive meaning referring to the redemptive character of Jesus' mission. Interestingly enough, the gospel narrative goes on to say that this event constituted the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy to King Ahas: "Behold, a virgin[44] shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14). In the New Testament passage, the clarification "Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" (Matt. 1:22-23) is being added, obviously to point out that this prophecy was not fulfilled literally but symbolically. People did not call Jesus by the name Immanuel but according to his own testimony, his presence signified the presence of God on earth.[45]

With this understanding of the descriptive nature of names in mind, we can further explore the name Everlasting Father. Bahá´u´lláh only once uses this designation (in the Writings translated so far) when he addresses the representatives of Christianity, challenging them with the claim of having fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy.

O concourse of bishops! Trembling hath seized all the kindreds of the earth, and He Who is the
Everlasting Father calleth aloud between earth and heaven. Blessed the ear that hath heard, and
the eye that hath seen, and the heart that hath turned unto Him Who is the Point of Adoration of
all who are in the heavens and all who are on earth....[46]

The allusion to Matt. 13:16 ("But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.") serves as a warning not to expect a literal fulfillment of these prophecies. It is only with spiritual senses, so to speak, that the advent of the Messiah would be witnessed. Referring to himself as a universal "Point of Adoration", Bahá´u´lláh reinforces the image of being the Everlasting Father for the whole of humanity and, by implication, of fulfilling the end-time prophecies of other (non-semitic) religions as well.[47] In a similar vein, the prophet Haggai referred to the universality of the future Messiah when he called him "the desire of all nations".

For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens,
and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all
nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts (Haggai 2:6-7).

On two occasions, Bahá´u´lláh takes up this designation, further supporting his claim to be a universal Prophet expected and desired by all peoples.

Glory be unto Thee, O Lord of the world and Desire of the nations, O Thou Who hast become
manifest in the Greatest Name...[48]

This is the Day, O my Lord, whereon every atom of the earth hath been made to vibrate and to
cry out: "O Thou Who art the Revealer of signs and the King of creation! I, verily, perceive the
fragrance of Thy presence. Methinks Thou hast revealed Thyself, and unlocked the door of
reunion with Thee before all who are in Thy heaven and all who are on Thy earth. I am persuaded
through the fragrance of Thy robe, O my Lord, that the world hath been honored through Thy
presence, and hath inhaled the sweet smell of Thy meeting. I know not, however, O Thou the
Beloved of the world and the Desire of the nations, the place wherein the throne of Thy majesty
hath been established, nor the seat which hath been made Thy footstool, and been illumined with
the splendors of the light of Thy face."[49]

In this second quote, the universality of the response is expressed as the desire of the whole creation, not only of its peoples but also of "every atom". The connection to the Davidic messianic kingship is established by reference to the "throne" and the "footstool".[50] In one sense, the whole earth serves as the footstool of the heavenly throne[51], more specifically, the Holy Land[52], respectively, Mount Carmel.[53]

The Tablet of Carmel, revealed by Bahá´u´lláh during his fourth visit to Haifa, one year before his passing, "contains significant allusions to the establishment of the World Centre of the Faith and is considered its charter."[54] Seventy-two years later, in 1963, the Universal House of Justice was elected for the first time and has guided the Bahá´í world ever since.
One of their means of guidance is an annual message to the Bahá´í world at Ridvan,[55] summarizing the previous year's achievements and highlighting the goals for the year to come. Often these messages contain some kind of visionary outlook, pointing towards the 'Golden Age' of universal peace and brotherhood. In the 1973 Message, the Biblical themes of the Everlasting Father, his Covenant, and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth are connected to the present-day activities of the Bahá´í community.

The progress of the Cause of God gathers increasing momentum and we may with confidence
look forward to the day when this Community ... shall have raised on this tormented planet the
fair mansions of God's Own Kingdom ... All this shall be accomplished within the Covenant of
the everlasting Father, the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh."[56]

Such references can be regarded as a continuation of ´Abdu´l-Bahá's approach to increase the awareness of the historical religious connections and the fulfillment of prophecies in our present day and age.[57]


The Ancient of Days

Bearing the twin revelation of the Báb and Bahá´u´lláh in mind, we can say that Daniel's vision (and similarly Enoch's) could also refer to the advent of both these two holy figures. Traditionally, the "one like the Son of man" (Dan. 7:13) is regarded as the Messiah and the "Ancient of Days" (Enoch: "Chief of Days") as symbolizing God. But when we interpret these visions as depicting the twin manifestations, the "Son of man" figure would represent the Báb and the "Ancient of Days" Bahá´u´lláh. The life and mission of the Báb equals in many ways that of Christ, summarized by Shoghi Effendi in the following passage:

The passion of Jesus Christ, and indeed His whole public ministry, alone offer a parallel to the
Mission and death of the Bab, a parallel which no student of comparative religion can fail to
perceive or ignore. In the youthfulness and meekness of the Inaugurator of the Babi Dispensation;
in the extreme brevity and turbulence of His public ministry; in the dramatic swiftness with which
that ministry moved towards its climax; in the apostolic order which He instituted, and the primacy
which He conferred on one of its members; in the boldness of His challenge to the time-honored
conventions, rites and laws which had been woven into the fabric of the religion He Himself had
been born into; in the role which an officially recognized and firmly entrenched religious hierarchy
played as chief instigator of the outrages which He was made to suffer; in the indignities heaped
upon Him; in the suddenness of His arrest; in the interrogation to which He was subjected; in the
derision poured, and the scourging inflicted, upon Him; in the public affront He sustained; and,
finally, in His ignominious suspension before the gaze of a hostile multitude - in all these we cannot
fail to discern a remarkable similarity to the distinguishing features of the career of Jesus Christ.[58]

It is therefore more than appropriate to see in the Báb the perfect resemblance of the Son of man imagery of Jesus. At least on one occasion (in the excerpts translated so far) the Báb refers to himself as the Son when he urges his mother, Fatimih-Bagum, to recognize the divine Sonship in her son. The equation of the Son with the divine Word (logos) echoes the Johannine prologue and
provides a further link to Christ.[59]
O Thou Mother of the Remembrance! May the peace and salutation of God rest upon thee.
Indeed thou hast endured patiently in Him Who is the sublime Self of God. Recognize then
the station of thy Son Who is none other than the mighty Word of God.[60]

Bahá´u´lláh, on the other side, refers to himself several times as the "Ancient of Days", respectively as representative of the "Ancient of Days", using the imagery of pen, voice, tongue, fingers, and countenance: "Wert thou to incline thine inner ear unto all created things, thou wouldst hear:
´The Ancient of Days is come in His great glory!'''[61]

All glory be to this Day, the Day in which the fragrances of mercy have been wafted over all
created things, a Day so blest that past ages and centuries can never hope to rival it, a Day in
which the countenance of the Ancient of Days hath turned towards His holy seat. Thereupon
the voices of all created things, and beyond them those of the Concourse on high, were heard
calling aloud: "Haste thee, O Carmel, for lo, the light of the countenance of God, the Ruler of
the Kingdom of Names and Fashioner of the heavens, hath been lifted upon thee...
Rejoice, for God hath in this Day established upon thee His throne..."[62]

Both these passages allude to the apocalyptic vision of Daniel. In the first, Bahá´u´lláh identifies himself directly with the Ancient of Days, which supports the interpretation suggested above. In the second, as in all the other representational passages[63], Bahá´u´lláh represents the Godhead. He is the visible expression and manifestation of God, the invisible Ancient of Days. "The Ancient of Days [Bahá´u´lláh] is come in His great glory" because "the door of the knowledge of the Ancient of Days [God]" is "closed in the face of all beings", including the Prophets of God.[64] He is one of the "sanctified mirrors" whose " beauty of their countenance is but a reflection of His [God's] image."[65]
The "snow-white Scroll" that the "Tongue of the Ancient of Days" writes upon could be a further allusion to the biblical Ancient of Days "whose garment was white as snow" (Dan 7:9).

Once again doth the Tongue of the Ancient of Days reveal, while in this Most Great Prison,
these words which are recorded in this snow-white Scroll...[66]

The relationship between garment and scroll becomes more apparent when it is being taken into consideration that the Ancient of Days is synonymous with the Word of God. The garment beautifies the outer form (the body) of the Prophet, just as the scroll beautifies the outer form (the letters) of the Word. Furthermore, both objects are of the same colour and of a similar form (longish, undulating). The colour symbolism refers in both cases to the essence. The whiteness of the garment represents the purity of the Prophet's reality, the whiteness of the scroll represents the purity of the message.

The second characteristic of the biblical Ancient of Days is his white hair. White hair, in consistence with the image of a dignified old man, signifies wisdom. Such a connotation is certainly appropriate for any of the Prophets of God who Bahá´u´lláh calls "Gems of knowledge" and "irreproachable and purest Symbols of wisdom".[67] But hair also turns white because of suffering and sorrows. The "iniquities" of the Shi'ih clergy, heaped upon Bahá´u´lláh in the form of imprisonment, torture and banisment have, according to Shoghi Effendi, "bowed down Bahá'u'lláh,
and turned His hair white, and caused Him to groan aloud in anguish.[68] This description is obviously a direct reference to Bahá´u´lláh's own testimony.

The cruelties inflicted by My oppressors have bowed Me down, and turned My hair white.
Shouldst thou present thyself before My throne, thou wouldst fail to recognize the Ancient
Beauty, for the freshness of His countenance is altered, and its brightness hath faded, by
reason of the oppression of the infidels.[69]

The self-portrayal of Bahá´u´lláh as Ancient Beauty sitting on his throne evokes the apocalyptic scene of Daniel's Day of Judgement and Isaiah's prophecies. He is the one who will sit "upon the throne of David" (Isa. 9:7) and "will come with strong hand" (Isa. 40:10) and "shall judge among the nations" (Isa. 2:4), "the Judge, the Lawgiver and Redeemer of all mankind"[70]. Bahá´u´lláh's lamentation provides a new emphasis though. It calls up Isaiah's description of the Messiah as 'suffering servant'. The impressive scene that Daniel foresaw, when "thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened" (Dan. 7:10) is tempered with the image of a suffering and grief-stricken king whose "countenance" has lost its "brightness". This shift of emphasis prompts us to take up the symbolism of the "garment" once more and explore another facet of a possibly intended meaning. Just as the white hair symbolizes wisdom but also suffering, the white garment stands not only for purity but for affliction as well. "We have made abasement the garment of glory, and affliction the adornment of Thy temple, O Pride of the worlds."[71]

In another passage, the images of purity and pain are merged. This makes it possible to visualize the messianic Judge in all his majesty and power and yet, in all his weakness and frailty because of his exposure to the world of humanity and the sufferings he had to endure. "I beseech Thee ... by Thy pure and spotless Beauty ... and by Thy Name, cloaked with the garment of affliction every morn and eve..."[72]

The life and mission of Christ was characterized by a stark contrast between material poverty, physical humiliation, and apparent defeat on one side and surrender under God's will, spiritual nobility, royal authority and ultimate victory on the other side. This paradoxical situation had challenged the established traditions of the Jews regarding the appearance and role of their Messiah. This contrast is also typical for the life and mission of Bahá´u´lláh. The spiritual authority of the Prophet is never endangered by any earthly conditions, dire as they may be. This is why Jesus, at the moment of utter helplessness in the hands of the Jewish council, could nevertheless boldly assert that he was indeed the Messiah, endowed with divine power.[73] Similarly, the spiritual authority of Bahá´u´lláh was never impaired regardless of his status as a prisoner, as "the Wronged One".[74]

May all existence be a sacrifice for Thy favour, and all that hath been and will ever be, a ransom
for Thy Word, O Thou the Wronged One amongst the people of enmity, O Thou in Whose grasp
are the reins of all who are in heaven and on earth....[75]

Briefly, this Wronged One hath, in the face of all that hath befallen Him at their hands, and all that
hath been said of Him, endured patiently, and held His peace, inasmuch as it is Our purpose, through
the loving providence of God - exalted be His glory - and His surpassing mercy, to abolish, through
the force of Our utterance, all disputes, war, and bloodshed, from the face of the earth.[76]

The thought that Christ upon his return would have to suffer again may well be a challenging one for many Christians, just as it was hard for the Jews to come to terms with the notion of a suffering Messiah in the first place. Taking the apocalyptic visions literally, expecting the descent of Christ in the clouds of the sky establishing the promised Kingdom of God on earth, leaves no place for his suffering, persecution, and rejection. Bahá´u´lláh repeatedly warns the Christians not to repeat the past mistakes of rejecting the Prophet of God because of the non-fulfillment of prophecies in a literal sense. These literal expectations, he says, constitute one of the intended meanings of the symbolism of the "clouds of heaven". Besides "those things that are contrary to the ways and desires of men", clouds also refer to "the appearance of that immortal Beauty in the image of mortal man with such human limitations as ... glory and abasement" among others.[77] In this context, following passage is illuminating, as it alludes to the suffering of Bahá´u´lláh, drawing on the "cloud" symbolism.

Open your eyes that ye may behold the Ancient Beauty from this shining and luminous station...
The Promised One Himself hath come down from heaven, seated upon the crimson cloud with
the hosts of revelation on His right, and the angels of inspiration on His left...[78]

According to Note 127 in the Kitab-i Aqdas, "the word "crimson" [in the Bahá´í Writings] is used in several allegorical and symbolic senses". One of the primary meanings is certainly the connotation with blood, in the context of suffering and martyrdom, as the following passages show.

O SON OF MAN! Write all that We have revealed unto thee with the ink of light upon the tablet
of thy spirit. Should this not be in thy power, then make thine ink of the essence of thy heart. If
this thou canst not do, then write with that crimson ink that hath been shed in My path. Sweeter
indeed is this to Me than all else, that its light may endure for ever. [79]
O God, my God! Thou seest this wronged servant of Thine, held fast in the talons of ferocious
lions, of ravening wolves, of bloodthirsty beasts. Graciously assist me, through my love for Thee,
that I may drink deep of the chalice that brimmeth over with faithfulness to Thee and is filled with
Thy bountiful Grace; so that, fallen upon the dust, I may sink prostrate and senseless whilst my
vesture is dyed crimson with my blood.[80]

Allusions to Akka as "Crimson Spot", to his cause and its followers as "Companions of the Crimson Arc", or to his Kitab-i Ahd (Book of Covenant) as "Crimson Book" are certainly more complex metaphors whose wide spectrum of meanings cannot be explored here.[81] Nevertheless, the intended meaning of 'suffering' can easily be deduced with reference to Akka as "Crimson Spot". Bahá´u´lláh repeatedly mentions the sufferings and trials that he had to endure in that penal colony, designated by him as the 'Most Great Prison'.[82] However, as the following passages suggest, Bahá´u´lláh sufferered not only or even primarily due to the machinations of his enemies but rather because of
the lack of response towards his divine call.

The eye of My loving-kindness weepeth sore over you, inasmuch as ye have failed to recognize
the One upon Whom ye have been calling in the daytime and in the night season, at even and at
morn. Advance, O people, with snow-white faces and radiant hearts, unto the blest and crimson
Spot, wherein the Sadratu'l-Muntaha is calling: "Verily, there is none other God beside Me, the
Omnipotent Protector, the Self-Subsisting!"[83]

My imprisonment doeth Me no harm, neither the tribulations I suffer, nor the things that have
befallen Me at the hands of My oppressors. That which harmeth Me is the conduct of those who,
though they bear My name, yet commit that which maketh My heart and My pen to lament.[84]

It is obvious that the colour symbolism of 'crimson' is not limited to the level of physical suffering, to the shedding of physical blood. In a broader sense, it can refer to emotional and spiritual suffering as well. The 'bleeding heart' may well cause more pain than any other wound. "From Our eyes there rained tears of anguish, and in Our bleeding heart there surged an ocean of agonizing pain", is Bahá´u´lláh's testimony in another context.[85]

Despite the trials and tribulations during his time of imprisonment in Akka, Bahá´u´lláh
"established His seat" in this "most desolate" of towns.[86] This filthy place then, from a spiritual
perspective, became an "exalted habitation", with strong allusions to the Biblical imagery of the seat of David's throne.

Rejoice with exceeding joy inasmuch as thou hast been remembered in the Most Great Prison and
the Countenance of the Ancient of Days hath turned towards thee from this exalted habitation.[87]

The prison of Akka and its Prisoner are portrayed in the contrasting colours of (physical) abasement and (spiritual) glory. The 'crimson cloud' and the 'Crimson Spot' symbolize simultaneously the sufferings of Bahá´u´lláh and the people's inability to perceive his hidden messianic reality.


The Ancient Beauty

A frequent designation of Bahá´u´lláh is Ancient Beauty. This title can be regarded as synonymous with Ancient of Days: "The Most Great Law is come, and the Ancient Beauty ruleth upon the throne of David.Thus hath My Pen spoken that which the histories of bygone ages have related.[88]

Furthermore, this designation could be regarded as a combination of two Biblical messianic terms, the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:9) and Wonderful (Isa. 9:5). Wonderful is one of the five names for the Messiah mentioned above. Bahá´u´lláh seemed not to have used this name specifically, although references to his "wonderful" personality can be found in the Bahá´í Writings.[89] Instead, Bahá´u´lláh coined a new designation, which merges the images of beauty with a range of images related to "ancient", such as age, continuity and wisdom. Similarly, the designation Everlasting Beauty combines these attributes, alluding to the terms Everlasting Father and Wonderful.[90]


The phenomenon of deification

Several times in the Bahá´í Writings reference to God is made by the term 'Father', respectively, 'Heavenly Father', following the usage in the New Testament.[91] It is important not to confuse the divine and the prophetic level, so that references to God as Father in the Bible are not wrongly
attributed to Bahá´u´lláh and also to remain alert against the danger of unduly deifying the Prophet-
founder of the Bahá´í Faith. Bahá´u´lláh clarifies, for instance, that the reference to the Father in Matt. 24:36 ("But of that Day and Hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father.") refers to God and not to himself: "By Father in this connection is meant God - exalted be His glory."[92] This explanation implies that in other cases Father refers to Bahá´u´lláh[93] but its main didactic function seems to be the caveat not to confuse the level of God as Heavenly Father with that of Bahá´u´lláh as being the Everlasting Father. Such caveats have obviously been necessary from Bahá´u´lláh's own lifetime up until today, judging from a variety of statements in response to individual inquiries, clarifying ambiguous and abstruse passages of the Bahá´í Writings.

On one such occasion, Shoghi Effendi clarifies that Bahá´u´lláh cannot be regarded as an "intermediary" between other Prophets and God. Such a view was probably based on Bahá´u´lláh's claim to having fulfilled a prophecy of the Imam Ali: "Anticipate ye the Revelation of Him Who conversed with Moses from the Burning Bush on Sinai."[94] Shoghi Effendi's interpretation rejects a literal reading of this prophecy and provides a key to an appropriate understanding of similar statements of doxology.[95]

Bahá'u'lláh is not the intermediary between other Manifestations and God. Each has His own
relation to the Primal Source. But in the sense that Bahá'u'lláh is the greatest Manifestation to
yet appear, the One who consummates the Revelation of Moses, He was the One Moses
conversed with in the Burning Bush. In other words, Bahá'u'lláh identifies the glory of the
God-Head on that occasion with Himself. No distinction can be made amongst the Prophets
in the sense that They all proceed from one Source, and are of one essence. But Their stations
and functions in this world are different.[96]

Another statement seems also to suggest that Bahá´u´lláh is superior to other Manifestations of God: "The Holy Spirit Itself hath been generated through the agency of a single letter revealed by this Most Great Spirit, if ye be of them that comprehend."[97] Bahá´u´lláh's caveat to "comprehend" this statement well seems to hint at a meaning beyond its literal sense. Superficially, one could assume that Bahá´u´lláh's source of inspiration, the "Most Great Spirit", is substantially different from the "Holy Spirit", the perennial source of guidance for God's Prophets. Following passage, although not directly addressing this mystical utterance, makes clear that the "Most Great Spirit" is identical with the "Holy Spirit". The statement above, therefore, seems to be doxological again, expressing the special station of Bahá´u´lláh, as opposed to any inferred essential distinction.

[T]he "Most Great Spirit," as designated by Himself, and symbolized in the Zoroastrian,
the Mosaic, the Christian, and Muhammadan Dispensations by the Sacred Fire, the Burning
Bush, the Dove and the Angel Gabriel respectively, descended upon, and revealed itself,
personated by a "Maiden," to the agonized soul of Bahá'u'lláh.[98]

Despite such clarifications, thre have always been attempts to deify Bahá´u´lláh, to see in him a fuller and higher expression of the Divine. Unlike in the past, where such notions have led to various religious conflicts and schisms, such thoughts find an outlet in the Bahá´í community and can be expressed freely. Such individual interpretations are appreciated because they "constitute the fruit of man's rational power and may well contribute to a greater comprehension of the Faith."
The only limitations are that personal points of view should be offered in a spirit of humility "as a contribution to knowledge", must not lead to strive and contention, and must not "deny or contend with the authoritative interpretation."[99]

Following excerpt from a tablet of Bahá´u´lláh[100] sheds further light on this issue. It gives room for different views, provided no "contention and disputation" arises.

[O]ne person envisages the Unseen the Transcendent, the Inaccessible One in the Person of the
Manifestation without making any distinction or connection. Others there are who recognise
the Person of the Manifestation as the Appearance of God and consider the commands and
prohibitions of the Manifestation to be identical with such as originate with the one True God.
These two positions are both acceptable before the throne of God. If however, the supporters
of these two positions should contend and quarrel with one another in their exposition of the
two perspectives, both groups are, and hath ever been, rejected. This inasmuch as the purpose
of the spiritual understanding and the exposition of the highest levels of the elucidation of the
teachings is to attract the hearts, cause fellowship between souls, and further the propagation of
the Cause of God. As a result of contention and disputation amongst those who hold to these
two positions, there hath been and will ever result the dissipation of the Cause of God and
both groups shall return to the hellfire despite the fact that they, in their own estimation, soar
in the highest horizon of spiritual understanding.

This is a sobering warning that bars the way to any legitimization of religious disputes. The criteria of establishing "right and wrong" are not to be found in the domain of intellectual arguments and theological propositions but in the process of community building, in overcoming estrangement and fostering love and fellowship. This has always been the case in the eyes of God, Bahá´u´lláh argues, although it may not have been formulated explicitly in previous sacred literature.[101] But since the mission of the "Father", the hallmark of his teachings, is to establish world unity, it is not surprising that this issue is taken up many times in the Bahá´í Writings and explored and dealt with from different angles.


The Relativity of Divine Truth

The relationship symbolized by the Son and the Father can also be described as one of promise and fulfillment. Christ has promised that, upon his return, the Kingdom of God will be established on earth and that humanity will be led "into all truth" (John 16:13).

Bahá´u´lláh's revelation does of course lead into "all truth", as foretold in the Bible. His hundred volumes of Sacred Writings far exceed the sayings and parables of Christ, but all of this nevertheless consists of the "many things" that Christ could have taught if the receptivity and maturity of the people had allowed it.

"All truth", however, is still relative. Humanity, at the threshold of collective maturity, has received abundant guidance for the next millenium, which could be regarded as 'completion' of the message of Christ. But the process of spiritual evolution is never-ending. So it is not surprising that Bahá´u´lláh on the one hand confirms the completion of his revelation[102] but relativizes this statement by referring to the limitations of the human mind in general, respectively to the present stage of intellectual and spiritual development in particular.

All that I have revealed unto thee with the tongue of power, and have written for thee with the pen
of might, hath been in accordance with thy capacity and understanding, not with My state and the
melody of My voice.[103]

The theme of limited human understanding and divine knowledge is addressed in the following two quotes as well. The first focusses on the infinity of divine knowledge, indicating that the process of divine Revelation can never come to an end. The second quote seems to imply that humanity at large could have 'matured' faster and would then have received an even greater amount of divine guidance. In other words, this passage deals with the ancient biblical theme of the reciprocal Covenant between God and humanity.

Behold, how many are the mysteries that lie as yet unravelled within the tabernacle of the
knowledge of God, and how numerous the gems of His wisdom that are still concealed in His
inviolable treasuries! Shouldest thou ponder this in thine heart, thou wouldst realize that His
handiwork knoweth neither beginning nor end.[104]

The generality of mankind is still immature. Had it acquired sufficient capacity We would
have bestowed upon it so great a measure of Our knowledge that all who dwell on earth and
in heaven would have found themselves, by virtue of the grace streaming from Our pen,
completely independent of all knowledge save the knowledge of God, and would have been
securely established upon the throne of abiding tranquillity.[105]

These passages balance the notion of fulfillment with yet another promise, albeit implicit and indirect. Bahá´u´lláh's Revelation constitutes, in the words of Shoghi Effendi, "the promise and crowning glory of past ages and centuries" and "the consummation of all the Dispensations within the Adamic Cycle". It is therefore both a climax and a turningpoint in religious history as it marks "the end of the Prophetic Era and the beginning of the Era of Fulfillment."[106]

From a different point of view, each religion within the Prophetic Era, in its relation to the previous one, was also one of fulfillment.[107] But all of them can rightly be regarded as prophetic, inasmuch as they all promised and focussed on a messianic era of global peace. Similarly it can be said that the Bahá´í Faith, in its relation to the religion to come, contains prophetic elements as well and the same can be expected from the subsequent religions within the "Era of Fulfillment".[108]
Contemplating on Bahá´u´lláh's role as inaugurator of a new cycle, the symbolism of his station as Father gets even a wider range of meaning. Beyond the fulfillment of messianic promises, and the notion of completion and fulfillment, Fatherhood marks the beginning of a new 'family' of divine Messengers to come within the Bahá´í cycle.

Concerning the Manifestations that will come down in the future 'in the shadows of the clouds',
know, verily, that in so far as their relation to the Source of their inspiration is concerned, they
are under the shadow of the Ancient Beauty. In their relation, however, to the age in which they
appear, each and every one of them 'doeth whatsoever He willeth.'[109]

Based on ´Abdu´l-Bahá's prediction that this new cycle "must extend over a period of at least five hundred thousand years"[110], and Bahá´u´lláh's explanation that divine Prophets appear roughly every thousand years[111], we can count with possibly five hundred Manifestations of God within the Bahá´í Era. Each one of them will carry on the torch of divine guidance and refine the human character. At the same time they will undoubtedly refer and pay tribute to the originator of this cycle, to the Everlasting Father.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Canada in 1912. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá´í Publishing Trust 1982 [1922-25].
---. Selections from the Writings of ´Abdu´l-Bahá. Haifa: Bahá´í World Centre 1978.
---. Some Answered Questions. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá´í Publishing Trust 1981.
---. Tablets of the Divine Plan. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá´í Publishing Trust 1977.
---. Will and Testament. MARS (The Multiple Author Refer System), Version 2.0. Crimson Publications 1997.
Arts. A compilation of extracts from the Bahá´í Writings. MARS (The Multiple Author Refer System), Version 2.0.
Crimson Publ. 1997.
Báb. Selections from the Writings of the Báb. Haifa: Bahá´í World Centre 1978.
Bahá´í Prayers. A Selection of Prayers revealed by Bahá´u´lláh, the Báb, and ´Abdu´l-Bahá. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá´í
Publishing Trust 1985 [1954].
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---. Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá´u´lláh. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá´í Publishing Trust 1983.
---. The Hidden Words. Oxford: Oneworld 1992.
---. The Kitab-i-Aqdas. The Most Holy Book. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá´í Publishing Trust 1993.
---. The Kitab-i-Iqan. The Book of Certitude. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá´í Publishing Trust 1974.
---. Prayers and Meditations. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá´í Publishing Trust 1987 [1938].
---. Tablets of Bahá´u´lláh: Revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas. Haifa: Bahá´í World Centre 1978.
---. "Tablet to Jamal-i Burundi". Provisional translation by K. Fananapazir, available on the Internet at
http://www.bahailibrary.com.
Cole, Juan. "Behold the Man: Bahá´u´lláh on the life of Jesus". Published on the Internet at
http:\www-personal.umich.edu/~jrcole/bahai
Consultation. A compilation of extracts from the Bahá´í Writings. London: Bahá´í Publishing Trust 1990.
Esslemont, J.E. Bahá´u´lláh and the New Era. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá´í Publishing Trust, 1980 [1950].
The Holy Bible. Authorized King James Version. London: Diamond Books 1994.
Lights of Guidance. Compiled by Helen Bassett Hornby. New Delhi: Bahá´í Publishing Trust 1996 [1983].
Sears, William. The Wine of Astonishment. Oxford: George Ronald 1985 [1963].
Shoghi Effendi. The Advent of Divine Justice. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá´í Publishing Trust 1990.
---. Bahá´í Administration. Selected Messages 1922-1932. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá´í Publishing Trust 1974.
---. God Passes By. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá´í Publishing Trust 1974.
---. The Light of Divine Guidance. The Messages from the Guardian of the Bahá´í Faith to the Bahá´ís of Germany
and Austria. Vol. I. Hofheim-Langenhain: Bahá´í Verlag 1982.
---. Messages to the Antipodes. Communications from Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá´í Communities of Australasia.
Mona Vale NSW: Bahá´í Publications Australia 1997.
---. The Promised Day Is Come. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá´í Publishing Trust 1996 [1941].
---. Unfolding Destiny. The Messages from the Guardian of the Bahá´í Faith to the Bahá´í Community of the British
Isles. London: Bahá´í Publishing Trust 1981.
---. World Order of Bahá´u´lláh. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá´í Publishing Trust 1991.
Sours, Michael. A Study of Bahá´u´lláh's Tablet to the Christians. Oxford: Oneworld 1990.
---. Understanding Biblical Prophecy. Oxford: Oneworld 1997.
Stockman, Robert. "Jesus Christ in the Bahá´í Writings". The Bahá´í Studies Review 2:1 (1992): 33-41.
Taherzadeh, Adib. The Revelation of Bahá´u´lláh. Vol. 4. Oxford: George Ronald 1988.
Women. Bahá´í Writings on the Equality of Men and Women. London: Bahá´í Publishing Trust 1990.

Notes

[1] The spiritual meaning of healing blindness and "hardened hearts" can be deduced from Isaiah 6:9-10, quoted and referred to in John 12:40 resp. John 9:39, whereas the elucidation of leprosy in spiritual terms is novel.
[2] Cf. Bahá´u´lláh, Gleanings 76.
[3] Juan Cole, "Behold the Man: Bahá´u´lláh on the life of Jesus" 8.
[4] Bahá´u´lláh, Gleanings 85-6.
[5] The "sign of the Son of man in heaven", for instance, refers both to the appearance of a "star" in the sky and to the coming of a herald, a fore-runner, who announces to and prepares the people for the coming of a new Manifestation of God (see Bahá´u´lláh, Kitab-i Iqan 62). For the whole excursus on the three verses of the minor apocalypse (Matt. chapters 24 and 25), which comprises almost a third of the Kitab-i Iqan, see pp. 20-93.
[6] Bahá´u´lláh, Kitab-i Iqan 30-1.
[7] Ibid., 31. This statement alludes to and sheds light on a similar saying in the minor apocalypse: "For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together" (Matt. 24:28). The New Jerusalem Bible Commentary assumes this to be an inserted proverb, conveying the same idea as the preceding verse (where the coming of the Son of man is compared to a "lightning"), namely being a reference to the "immediate visibility" of the coming of the Messiah. Bahá´u´lláh, on the other hand, links this verse with the succeeding one, reading it as a description of the "oppression" mentioned there.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Bahá´u´lláh, Kitab-i Iqan 152.
[10] Ibid., 176.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Stockman, "Jesus Christ in the Bahá´í Writings". The Bahá´í Studies Review 2:1 (1992): 37-8. Stockman lists the "deeper, more personal, more loving relationship" between God and humanity that Christ exemplified, than the historical fact that this title has been only applied to Jesus, third the "important and fitting counterpoint to the title 'Son of Man'", and fourth that it alludes to the virgin birth.
[13] This point will be discussed further below.
[14] The arabic title Bahá´u´lláh means Glory of God. Equating the term Father with God, it could also be rendered as Glory of the Father.
[15] This tablet is commonly known and referred to as 'Tablet to the Christians'. It adresses both the Christian clergy and Christian believers in general, presenting them with the claim of Bahá´u´lláh being the Messiah, the return of Christ. Why Bahá´u´lláh has called it 'most holy' is not entirely clear but Shoghi Effendi lists it among the tablets that are "most noteworthy", belonging to the "choicest fruits" of Bahá´u´lláh's Revelation (God Passes By 216). For a detailed study of this tablet, see Sours, A Study of Bahá´u´lláh's Tablet to the Christians.
[16] Bahá´u´lláh, Tablets 11.
[17] Bahá´u´lláh, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come 32.
[18] These functions are not to be taken exclusively of course as mothers share the same responsibilities. Undoubtedly the parental roles and functions will be more dynamic in their complementarity as in the past, due to the paradigm shift towards a new age "in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more evenly balanced" (´Abdu´l-Bahá, quoted in Esslemont, Bahá´u´lláh and the New Era 148).
[19] Bahá´u´lláh, Gleanings 286.
[20] Bahá´u´lláh, Kitab-i Aqdas 36.
[21] Bahá´u´lláh, Kitab-i Aqdas 31.
[22] It is important in this context to remember that the 'parental' authority lies with the Institution and not with its individual members who cannot regard themselves in any way superior to the community.
[23] Shoghi Effendi, Light of Divine Guidance Vol. I 168. Similarly, in a letter from the Universal House of Justice: "In caring for its community, a Spiritual Assembly should act as a loving father rather than as a stern judge..." Quoted in Lights of Guidance 363.
[24] The image of the "shepherd" is used for God (see, for instance, Psalm 23), and for priests and kings as his representatives on earth (see, for instance, Jer. 50:6). It also refers to the Messiah (see, for instance, Ez. 34:23) who will gather the "lost sheep" because "their shepherds have caused them to go astray" (Jer. 50:6). Christ takes up this theme with his parable of the lost sheep (Matt. 18:12-14) and his sermon about the "good shepherd" (John 10:11-18), alluding to his messianic role. Similarly, Bahá´u´lláh likens his role as Lawgiver to that of a shepherd (see Kitab-i Aqdas 63) and critizises the corrupt clergy as wearing "the guise of a shepherd" (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf 16). References to the members of Bahá´í institutions as "shepherds" allude to messianic promises such as: "And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding" (Jer. 3:13; see also 23:4).
[25] Bahá´u´lláh, Kitab-i Aqdas 38.
[26] Universal House of Justice, quoted in Lights of Guidance 3.
[27] Sears, The Wine of Astonishment 88.
[28] Sours, A Study of Bahá´u´lláh's Tablet to the Christians 76.
[29] Sours, Understanding Biblical Prophecy 65. See also ´Abdu´l-Bahá's interpretation of a related prophecy (Isa. 11:6-8) in Some Answered Questions 63.
[30] Sours, Understanding Biblical Prophecy 64.
[31] Bahá´u´lláh, Bahá´í Prayers (US) 105.
[32] Concerning the priority of moral education, see, for instance, ´Abdu´l-Bahá, Selections 135. About the importance of spiritual education, see, for instance, Shoghi Effendi, quoted in Lights of Guidance 211.
[33] "As the child grows older and more independent, the relative nature of its relationship with its mother and father modifies and the father can play a greater role." Universal House of Justice, quoted in Lights of Guidance 627.
[34] Universal House of Justice, quoted in Lights of Guidance 232.
[35] Bahá´u´lláh, quoted in the Compilation on Arts 1-2.
[36] Bahá´u´lláh, Tablets 128. Again, these are not exclusive statements, as others address both parents. See, for instance, ´Abdu´l-Bahá Selections 127: "... it is enjoined upon the father and mother, as a duty, to strive with all effort to train the daughter and the son, to nurse them from the breast of knowledge and to rear them in the bosom of sciences and arts." Such statements seem to stress the importance of the participation of fathers in the educational process as opposed to an imbalanced focus on the bread-winning aspect.
[37] ´Abdu´l-Bahá, quoted in Lights of Guidance 147.
[38] Cf. Bahá´u´lláh, Gleanings 218; Tablets 42, 44, 71 a.o. The prophecy of Isaiah will be discussed below.
[39] Ethical aspects include freedom from estrangement, devotion, courtesy, dignity, moderation of speech, detachment, frankness, honesty a.o. Concerning the method of consultation outlined by Bahá´u´lláh, see Kitab-i Aqdas 134.
[40] Bahá´u´lláh, quoted in the Compilation on Consultation 1.
[41] Bahá´u´lláh, Tablets 168.
[42] Bahá´u´lláh, quoted in the Compilation on Consultation 1.
[43] Examples for descriptive names are Samuel ('Heard by God'), Daniel ('God is my judge') and also Jesus (Hebr. Joshua, 'God is salvation'). Altered or new names include Abraham ('Father of many nations') for Abram, and Peter (Hebr. Kephas, 'Rock') for Simon. For more details concerning the Biblical use and meaning of names, see Sours, Understanding Biblical Prophecy chapter 17.
[44] The hebrew term alma is generally used for a young (unmarried, i.e. virgin) girl but can also refer to a young married woman. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (Septuaginta), rendering this word as 'virgin', gives an early record of Jewish exegesis which supports the Christian claim of the virgin birth of Jesus.
[45] See, for instance, John 8:29: "And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him." See also John 1:14; 10:30, 38; 14:9-10; 17:21 a.o.
[46] Bahá´u´lláh, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come 101.
[47] Cf. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By 94-5.
[48] Bahá´u´lláh, Tablets 33.
[49] Bahá´u´lláh, Prayers and Meditations 279-80.
[50] See Chron. I 28:2.
[51] See Isa. 66:1; Matt. 5:35; and also Bahá´u´lláh, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice 78; The Promised Day Is Come 124.
[52] ´Abdu´l-Bahá, Selections 235. See also Lam. 2:1.
[53] Cf. Bahá´u´lláh, Tablets 3-5. This tablet, called Lawh-i Karmil (Tablet of Carmel), could be regarded as a divine, mystic response to the earth's desire to be informed about the location of the heavenly Throne. During the lifetime of Bahá´u´lláh, the "Throne", symbolizing his spiritual authority, had been first 'erected' in Bagdad (Gleanings 112; God Passes By 110) and then in Akka (Prayers and Meditations 200). See also a related statement by the Báb, quoted by Bahá´u´lláh in the Kitab-i Aqdas 68: "The Qiblih is indeed He Whom God will make manifest; whenever He moveth, it moveth, until He shall come to rest."
[54] Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá´u´lláh 351-2.
[55] lit. Paradise. Marks both the place (a garden outside of Baghdad) and time (April 21 – May 2) of Bahá´u´lláh's public declaration as Manifestation of God for our day and age.
[56] The Universal House of Justice, quoted in Lights of Guidance 190.
[57] See, for instance, Tablets of the Divine Plan 49 (referring to Bahá´ís as "angels" and "apostles").
[58] Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By 56-7.
[59] A parallel to Jesus and his mother can be drawn here as well. Some passages in the Bible suggest that Mary did not immediately recognize the station of her son (cf. Matt. 12:46-50; Luke 2:43-51).
[60] Báb, Selections 52.
[61] Bahá´u´lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf 47.
[62] Bahá´u´lláh, Gleanings 14-15. The establisment of the throne, which, as seen by Daniel, "was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire" (Dan 7:9) on Mount Carmel could refer to the rulership and guidance of the Universal House of Justice.
[63] This term refers to designations such as "Pen of the Most High", "Tongue of Grandeur", "Hand of God" etc., which describe or rather only hint at the relationship between the Manifestation of God (Bahá´u´lláh) and God. Such passages are often ambiguous because the stress could be placed on either the representative (Bahá´u´lláh) or the Represented One (God), especially in cases where the designation (such as "Ancient of Days") can refer to both.
[64] Bahá´u´lláh, Kitab-i Iqan 99.
[65] Ibid., 100.
[66] Bahá´u´lláh, Gleanings 241.
[67] Bahá´u´lláh, Kitab-i Iqan 44.
[68] Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is come 90.
[69] Bahá´u´lláh, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By 169.
[70] Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By 93.
[71] Bahá´u´lláh, Bahá´í Prayers (US) 220 ("Fire Tablet").
[72] Bahá´u´lláh, Bahá´í Prayers (US) 98 ("Long Healing Prayer").
[73] Cf. Matt. 26:64.
[74] This designation has been used by Bahá´u´lláh more than 200 times, which indicates the predominant state of his sufferings. On one occasion, Shoghi Effendi even referred to him as "Great Sufferer" (Bahá´í Administration 190).
[75] Bahá´u´lláh, quoted in Women 1-2.
[76] Bahá´u´lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf 34.
[77] Cf. Bahá´u´lláh, Kitab-i Iqan 71-2.
[78] Bahá´u´lláh, Tablets 182.
[79] Bahá´u´lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic # 71.
[80] ´Abdu´l-Bahá, Will and Testament 9.
[81] See Kitab-i Aqdas, Note 127 (Crimson Spot), Note 115 (Crimson Arc and Companions), God Passes By 238 (Crimson Book).
[82] See, for instance, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf 108; Prayers and Meditations 200 a.o.
[83] Bahá´u´lláh, Kitab-i Aqdas 56.
[84] Bahá´u´lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf 23. Similarly, Gleanings 100: "I sorrow not for the burden of My imprisonment ... My sorrows are for those who have involved themselves in their corrupt passions, and claim to be associated with the Faith of God..."
[85] Bahá´u´lláh, Kitab-i Iqan 250, referring to his two years of seclusion in the mountains of Kurdistan.
[86] Cf. Prayers and Meditations 200.
[87] Bahá´u´lláh, Tablets 253-4.
[88] Bahá´u´lláh, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is come 76.
[89] See, for instance ´Abdu´l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace 431: "Yet these great numbers, instead of being able to dominate Him, could not withstand His wonderful personality and the power and influence of His heavenly Cause."
[90] This name occurs only four times in Bahá´u´lláh's Writings (translated so far, see Gleanings 72; Kitab-i Iqan 22; Hidden Words Persian # 10, 14), as opposed to the designaton Ancient Beauty, which is used around fifteen times by Bahá´u´lláh. Other variants of Beauty include Blessed Beauty (used primarily by ´Abdu´l-Bahá), Most Great Beauty, Abha Beauty (used mainly by Shoghi Effendi), and other descriptive, though not titular, adjectives, such as promised, most effulgent, pure and spotless, resplendent, a.o.
[91] See, for instance, ´Abdu´l-Bahá, Paris Talks 120: "God has created us, one and all - why do we act in opposition to His wishes, when we are all His children, and love the same Father?" Or idem, Promulgation of Universal Peace 266: "God is the Father of all." ´Abdu´l-Bahá often uses the Biblical term Heavenly Father with reference to God (see, for instance, Paris Talks 101, 113, 148; Promulgation of Universal Peace 48, 216, 373, 468 a.o.). For the use of this term in the New Testament, see Matt. 6:14, 26, 32; 15:13; 18:35; Luke 11:13).
[92]
Bahá´u´lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf 143.
[93] This seems to be mostly true for the predictions of Christ's return ("in the glory of the Father").
[94] Bahá´u´lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf 42.
[95] Another example would be Bahá´u´lláh's statement that God "out of utter nothingness, hath created the reality of all things, Who, from naught, hath brought into being the most refined and subtle elements of His creation" (Gleanings 64). What could easily be regarded as a reference to and confirmation of a theory of evolution ex nihilo, "should be taken in a symbolic and not literal sense. It is only to demonstrate the power and greatness of God" (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Antipodes 179).
[96] Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny 448.
[97] Bahá´u´lláh, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Bahá´u´lláh 109.
[98] Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By 101.
[99] See Notes in Kitab-i Aqdas 221-2.
[100] Bahá´u´lláh, "Tablet to Jamal-i Burundi" (provisional translation by K. Fananapazir, available on the Internet at http://www.bahailibrary.com).
[101] Christ's promise "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20) can be related to this exposition.
[102] Cf. Hidden Words, Arabic No. 70: " Know thou, that I have wafted unto thee all the fragrances of holiness, have fully revealed to thee My word..."
[103] Bahá´u´lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic No. 67.
[104] Bahá´u´lláh, Kitab-i Iqan 167.
[105] Bahá´u´lláh, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá´u´lláh 104.
[106] Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By 100.
[107] Concerning Christianity being the fulfillment of the Judaic Faith, see Luke 24:44, Matt. 5:17, Acts 3:18.
[108] Prophetic in nature, for instance, is Bahá´u´lláh's statement that the next Revelation of God cannot be expected "ere the expiration of a full thousand years" (Kitab-i Aqdas 32), or his prediction that the next Manifestation of God will have to suffer as well (see God Passes By 250).
[109] ´Abdu´l-Bahá, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Bahá´u´lláh 167.
[110] ´Abdu´l-Bahá, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Bahá´u´lláh 102.
[111] Cf. Bahá´u´lláh, Kitab-i Iqan 199: "Once in about a thousand years shall this City be renewed and re-adorned."
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