Re: Christology: Baha'i and the Koran

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Posted by James Goldsmith on January 28, 19101 at 13:59:34:

In Reply to: Christology: Baha'i and the Koran posted by James Turpin on December 16, 19100 at 04:19:29:


In general we don't have much of a problem with the authenticity of the New Testament. This includes the epistles as well- 'Abdu'l-Baha said that the letters (ie. epistles) were part of the Word, although I doubt it was a pun in Persian! There are factual discrepencies, such as Mary giving birth under a palm tree, which Baha'is would look to the Qur'an first before the Bible, but we wouldn't consider that to be of such great importance. Now the issues you raised obviously go right to the heart of Christianity. The way the Baha'is solve this apparent contradiction is to interpret the scriptures differently. Take Sonship for example. I do not know enough about the Bible to say how the Jews at the time of Christ would have understood the term "Son of God". I gather though that this was not a completely new title for them. Christ expounded on His station at length, almost exclusively in the Gospel of John. What is clear from John is that is it true to say that Christ is God, but it is also true to say that He is not God. Christians have interpreted this with the doctrine of the Trinity and the concept of "Completely human, completely God". Baha'is interpret it a bit differently. As Christ said "Why do you call me good? No-one is good but God." (sorry - paraphrasing and no reference), it is quite difficult for us to accept Christ as "completely God". But of course "the Word was God" as well. The Baha'i interpretation of this is that both perspectives of Christ can be accepted, but not that Christ was literally God. Rather, Christ is God to all humans, as we can never come anywhere close to God. Christ is the mouthpiece of God and as such can claim to be God Himself. It's like looking in a mirror at the sun and claiming the sun is in the mirror -right, but only partially right. After all,throughout the Gospels, particularly John, Christ continually said that He is doing His Master's will, and is not acting of His own accord.

So in other words, we have an interpretation of the Bible which we feel is not at odds with the text itself (the relationship between Christ and God is way over our heads anyway), but is not the traditional interpretation of the Church. So coming back to the Qur'an. We have to look at the Qur'an as a document which, while admittedly discussing immortal themes, is directed to a certain group of people at a certain time. If you want to have a look at a sympathetic Christian account of the life of Muhammad, you could do worse than to get Martin(?) Lings' biography of Muhammad. Anyway, in pre-Islamic Arabia God (Allah) had 3 daughters, and these were the major foci of worship. So when it says that God is above having sons, the Qur'an is trying to get away from this very human concept of Allah which the polytheistic Arabs had. Other statements of Muhammad (which I will have to paraphrase for now) are completely in line with the Gospels. For example "I am God Himself, and He is Me, Myself, except that I am that I am and He is that He is". At least that is the gist of the statement, which is a hadith, ie. ex-Qur'anic, but as reliable as the Gospels. The Muslims at the time of the Prophet were also extremely attracted to Muhammad personally. They would often make statements such as "May my father and mother be a ransom for Thee". There were special rules enforced so that Muhammad could do His work without being disrupted by his passionate followers. Historically though, there has been very little focus on the Prophet Himself,compared to during His lifetime. Baha'u'llah says that the Muslims "grieviously failed" to appreciate Muhammad's station.
Basically what you have is two different Faith communities trying to understand a relationship which has only been hinted at in their scriptures, and their interpretations (maybe due to mutual hostility) have diverged more than maybe necessary. What is in common however is that both groups see their scripture as the Word of God. Qur'anic claims that Christians had "perverted" or "corrupted" their Scriptures had more to do with their interpretation of Scripture than the text itself, such as Christians believing along Arab lines that Christ was the physcial son of God. This is understandable as it is as if the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary to produce God's offspring.

The final point about the physical death of Jesus has been, in my opinion, completely misinterpreted by the Muslims. The whole of the emphasis in the Qur'an is that true life is the life of the spirit and life in Heaven. There are several very direct statements in the Qur'an to this effect. This being the case, a far more appropriate understanding of this verse is the same as the essence of the resurrection -that the Spirit of Christ was not affected by His death at all. Not only had He left behind His teachings, but He was now maybe evenmore accessible to His followers after He left His human form, although this is only a personal opinion.
The Romans thought that they had killed Jesus, which they had, but they did not realise that they did not kill the Christ, the true power behind His teachings. Christianity began with Christ's death, it did not die with it.

So it's not a matter of giving the Qur'an superority over the Gospels, but of selecting an interpretation that fits both, whilst staying well within the limits of plausible interpretations according to the texts.


James (Goldsmith)

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