Re: Christology: Baha'i and the Koran

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Posted by Jonah on December 19, 2000 at 10:44:35:

In Reply to: Christology: Baha'i and the Koran posted by James Turpin on December 16, 2000 at 04:19:29:

Hi, James. I'm sorry I haven't yet responded to your question at . The Wilmette Institute is running a course on the Qur'an right now, and I asked a couple students to research and respond to your query as part of their study. But I don't have anything for you yet. If no-one responds in the next week or so, I can pull together some quotations from the Baha'i writings myself, which will answer the question.

In brief (very brief), each religion in a continuum (e.g. Hinduism --> Theravada Buddhism --> Mahayana Buddhism --> Advaita Vedanta or Judaism --> Christianity --> Islam --> Baha'i) affirms the veracity and legitimacy of the scriptures that preceded it, but also accords to itself the right to reinterpret and update its teachings. This includes the basic tenet (often unspoken but implicit) that the scriptural records of the previous religions have sometimes been transmitted incorrectly ("corrupted") and that the new revelation can deliver the authentic teaching. A good example of this is how the Story of Joseph, in the Qur'an Surah 12, is much longer and in places different from the same story as told in the Old Testament. The explanation a Muslim would give is that Muhammad, as divinely inspired, could re-reveal whatever portions of the story had been transmitted incorrectly or lost.

Now, I know that your questions were more doctrinal. But much the same response would hold true, I believe. A Muslim or Baha'i could and probably would say that Christ, Muhammad, and Baha'u'llah taught roughly the same explanations of the afterlife, the existential status of the prophets, etc., but that their followers might have interpreted and recorded these teachings incorrectly.

A second aspect, from a Baha'i perspective, is the concept of "progressive revelation." This holds that religious teachings are contextual, designed for a specific people at a specific time. For example, it was correct for Moses to teach the Jews not to eat pork, but this teaching would be irrelevant now. Similarly, as humanity's capacity for subtle reasoning and spiritual knowledge increased, religious doctrines and even mystical explanations would become more subtle and gradually ever-more accurate. Hence basic doctrines, such as the ones you mention about prophetology, could differ from one revelation to the next, yet without this difference invalidating the basic truth of each revelation.

Sorry, that's just a rushed explanation. I hope one of our students will write more.

Jonah Winters

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