September 24, 1992
Dear Bahá'í Friend:
The National Spiritual Assembly has received your letter dated 21 September 1992
concerning Francis Beckwith and questions he has raised in his book the Bahá'í
Faith about the text of recent editions of J.E. Esselmont's Bahá'u'lláh and the New
Era, we are sending the following.
Mr. Francis Beckwith is a Christian who has spoken and written against the Bahá'í Faith
from the point of view of fundamentalist Christian doctrine. The National Assembly has
not written any refutations of his work and does not feel this would be productive at the
present time. However, the National Assembly does provide the following comments
about the prophecy of Daniel of the 1335 days and the reason for the removal of passages
pertaining to this prophecy from J.E. Esslemont's Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era to
individuals who inquire.
In a letter dated 11 November 1969, the Universal House of Justice has discussed the
changes made for the new edition of Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era. Although Mr.
Esslemont had interpreted certain statements made by `Abdu'l-Bahá to mean that
Universal Peace would be firmly established in the year 1957, the explanations of the
fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel are somewhat complicated and incomplete.
Therefore, the paragraph in which Mr. Esslemont calculates the date from the Hijrah has
been omitted in recent editions of the book.
In a letter dated 4 May 1946 written on behalf of the Guardian, the following clarifications
of Mr. Esslemont's comments were given:
As regards the statement in Esslemont: We cannot be absolutely certain of
what the Master said because it is not in a Tablet; He did state, however, in 2 Tablets, that
this date will see the triumph of the Cause. Reference is made to these Tablets in "The
Passing of `Abdu'l-Bahá," and the Master's words quoted.
`Abdu'l-Bahá, in a Tablet quoted on page 28 of "The Passing of `Abdu'l-Bahá", appears to
identify the prophecy with the year 1963:
Now concerning the verse in Daniel, the interpretation whereof thou didst
ask, namely, "Blessed is he who cometh unto the thousand three hundred and thirty five
days." These days must be reckoned as solar and not
lunar years. For according to this
calculation a century will have elapsed from the dawn of the Sun of Truth... (i.e., a century
Another Tablet quoted in the same place indicates:
O servant of God! The afore-mentioned thousand three hundred and
thirty-five years must be reckoned from the day of the flight of His Holiness Muhammad,
the Apostle of God, (Hegira) salutations and blessings rest upon Him, at the close of
which time the signs of the rise, the glory, the exaltation, the spread of the Word of God
throughout the East and the West shall appear.
(Further prophecies of Daniel are discussed by `Abdu'l-Bahá in Some Answered
part 1, chapter 10).
The Guardian indicated that Daniel's prophecy alluded to the year 1963. Referring to the
Declaration of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad , the Guardian indicated:
The "hundred lunar years" destined to immediately precede that blissful
consummation (1335 days), announced by Daniel in that same chapter, had commenced."
(God Passes By, page 151).
In another letter written on behalf of the Guardian in December 1953, the prophecy is
linked to the completion of the goals of the Ten Year Crusade (1953-63):
....The 1335 days is figured according to the solar calendar, but in adjusting
the 1335 days, one must take into consideration the time at which the prophecies were
given and change them into solar time, which would bring the date to 1963. There is one
thing of importance for the Bahá'ís to understand; and that is, that this prophecy refers to
happenings within the Faith, not occurrences outside the Faith. It refers specifically to the
spread of the Faith over the face of the earth. This will be accomplished when the Bahá'í
Faith is firmly established in all the virgin areas outlined in the Ten-Year Crusade, and the
other goals of the Crusade are completed. Thus it behooves us to work day and night to
accomplish this glorious goal.
The Universal House of Justice explains in its letter of November 11, 1969, mentioned
these passages do not give exactly the same date and cover a period of time
rather than a specific year. However, it is apparent from the Guardian's letter dated 30th
June 1952 that the crucial date in this period is Ridvan 1963, the occasion of the
celebration of the centenary of the Declaration of Bahá'u'lláh.
Thus, it is clear that Mr. Esslemont's interpretation of the statements made to him by
`Abdu'l-Bahá cannot be wholly supported by the authorized texts of `Abdu'l-Bahá and the
explanations of the Guardian. As you know, Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era has often been
used to introduce the Bahá'í Teachings to the public, and, as such, it was important that
the teachings be represented as accurately as possible in the text. The fact that changes
have been made to Mr. Esslemont's original text has been clearly pointed out in the
prefaces to the various editions of the book. The preface to the 1937 edition, prepared by
the Bahá'í Publishing Committee, explained:
As Dr. Esslemont himself recognized, the Faith entered a new phase of its
history after the ascension of `Abdu'l-Bahá. The result is that the author's views, some of
them written prior to 1921, no longer on certain aspects of the subject correspond to the
evolutionary character of the Faith. His treatment of events and social conditions then
existing, moreover, no longer appears fully relevant. Unavoidably, a few errors of fact had
entered his text, while his explanation of the stations of the Bab and of `Abdu'l-Bahá have
been replaced in the minds of Bahá'ís by the authoritative interpretations since made by the
first Guardian of the Faith, Shoghi Effendi. The present edition therefore represents a
revision made by the American National Spiritual Assembly, acting under the advice and
approval of Shoghi Effendi. These revisions in no respect alter the original plan of Dr.
Esslemont's book, nor affect the major portion of his text. Their purpose has been to
amplify the author's discussion in a few passages by the addition of material representing
the fuller knowledge available since his lamented death, and newer translations of his
quotations from Bahá'í Sacred Writings.
From the Preface to the 1950 Edition:
...This edition does not displace the text as it has appeared since major
revision was made in the book under the direction of the Guardian of the Faith in 1937, as
the time has not come for anything like a thorough recasting of the book to make its
references to world conditions completely contemporaneous...It should be added that any
further revision of the text in the future is subject to approval by Shoghi Effendi. The
Committee has no authority to pass upon revisions which may be desired by Bahá'ís of
other countries for their particular need.
Finally, the Bahá'í Publishing Trust prefaced its 1970 edition as follows:
Since 1937 no revision has been made to the text of
Dr. Esslemont's book, although in 1950 some minor corrections were introduced. On the
other hand, the diffusion and development of the Bahá'í Faith since that time have been
tremendous, and there has been added to the Bahá'í
bibliography a rich legacy of
incomparable expositions, translations, and historical accounts from the pen of Shoghi
Effendi, Guardian of the Faith and the appointed interpreter of its Sacred Writings. It has
therefore been deemed necessary to bring the book up to date in order to maintain its
usefulness for modern readers. This has been done with a minimum of alteration to the
text, and chiefly by the use of footnotes and of an epilogue giving the current statistics of
the Bahá'í Faith...
We thank you very much for your response to the questions of the seeker who had read
this book and hope that the above will be of use should you encounter such questions
again in the future. We are also enclosing a copy of a review of a book by William Miller
which refutes issues similar to those raised by Francis Beckwith.
With warm regards,
For the Office of the Secretary
Enclosure: Douglas Martin, Missionary as Historian: William Miller and the Bahá'í Faith