Scriptures of Previous Dispensations
by Bahá'u'lláh, Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi, and Universal House of Justicecompiled by Research Department of the Universal House of Justice
Department of the Secretariat
January 1, 1981
Dear Bahá'í Friends,
The Universal House of Justice has asked us to acknowledge your letter of 21 October 1980, and in reply to your inquiry about what Writings constitute the Holy Scriptures of previous Dispensations, to send you a brief compilation of passages on this subject.
The House of Justice deeply appreciates the desire of the friends to abide by the Teachings of our beloved Faith, and values their determined efforts to spread the healing Word of God. We are requested to assure you that prayers will be offered at the Holy Shrines on your behalf.
For Department of the Secretariat
cc: The National Spiritual Assembly of the United States
"Every discerning observer will recognize that in the Dispensation of the
Qur'an both the Book and the Cause of Jesus were
"...the Torah that God hath confirmed consists of the exact words that
streamed forth at the bidding of God from the tongue of Him Who conversed
with Him (Moses)."
"Know ye that the Torah is that which was revealed in the Tablets to
Moses, may peace be upon Him, or that to which He was bidden. But the
stories are historical narratives and were written after Moses, may peace
be upon Him."
"This Book is the Holy Book of God, of celestial Inspiration. It is the
Bible of Salvation, the noble Gospel. It is the mystery of the Kingdom and
its light. It is the Divine Bounty, the sign of the guidance of God."
(Written by 'Abdul-Baha in the Bible of the pulpit of the City Temple in
London, quoted in "Star of the West", Vol. 2, No. 11, p.
"In regard to your question concerning the authenticity of the Qur'an. I
have referred it to the Guardian for his opinion. He thinks that the
Qur'an is, notwithstanding the opinion of certain historians, quite
authentic, and that consequently it should be considered in its entirety
by every faithful and loyal believer as the sacred scriptures of the
"As to the question raised by...in connection with Bahá'u'lláh's statement
in the 'Gleanings' concerning the sacrifice of Ishmael; although this
statement does not agree with that made in the Bible, Genesis 22:9, the
friends should unhesitatingly, and for reasons that are only too obvious,
give precedence to the saying of Bahá'u'lláh, which, it should be pointed
out, is fully corroborated by the Qur'an which book is far more authentic
than the Bible, including both the New and Old Testaments. The Bible is
not wholly authentic, and in this respect is not to be compared with the
Qur'an, and should be wholly subordinated to the authentic writings of
"...we cannot be sure how much or how little of the four Gospels are
accurate and include the words of Christ and His undiluted teachings, all
we can be sure of, as Bahá'ís, is that what has been quoted by Bahá'u'lláh
and the Master must be absolutely authentic. As many times passages in the
Gospel of St. John are quoted we may assume that it is his Gospel and much
of it accurate."
"Regarding your questions: We cannot possibly add names of people we (or
anyone else) think might be Lesser Prophets to those found in the Qur'an,
the Bible and our own Scriptures. For only these can we consider authentic
"Concerning your comment that '...a contradiction appears to exist between the words of the beloved Guardian and the statements of scholars concerning his reference to the Tenth Avatar in the Bhagavad-Gita...', it is essential to recognize that there is also wide disagreement among scholars about the authorship of the scriptures of the Hindu religion; and considerable difference of opinion exists between them as to the time the Bhagavad-Gita was written. Nevertheless, they do seem to agree that this poem contained in the Indian epic, the Mahabharata, is a great religious classic, and acknowledge its influence on the religious thought and life of Hinduism in its many branches.
"However, Shoghi Effendi has pointed out more than once that not all the
scriptures of the divinely-revealed religions of the past can be relied
upon as being the words of their respective Founders. For example, in a
letter dated November 25, 1950 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an
individual believer, there is this statement: 'We cannot be sure of the
authenticity of the scriptures of Buddha and Krishna...'. Yet, exercising
his special wisdom as Guardian, in God Passes By he applies to Bahá'u'lláh
the several titles to which you refer in your letter. As Bahá'ís, we
obviously accept as authoritative whatever he has enunciated in such
"We have your letter of 21 January, 1974 asking about 'authentic editions of the Buddhist and Hindu Scriptures' to be used as readings in the House of Worship.
"In a letter to an individual believer written on behalf of the beloved Guardian on 25 November, 1950 it is stated, 'We cannot be sure of the authenticity of the scriptures of Buddha and Krishna...' In another letter to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia and New Zealand dated 26 December, 1941 it is said, 'The Buddha was a Manifestation of God, like Christ, but his followers do not possess his authentic writings.'"
"When the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States asked a similar question about readings for
use in the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar we said: "Your Assembly is free to use its discretion in choosing excerpts
from the generally recognized scriptures of the older religions.' (13th March,
". . . we are requested to inform you that the House of Justice does not
know the exact context of the references quoted by Shoghi Effendi (in 'God
Passes By') from the Bhagavad-Gita, but it you have been unable to locate
them in the book of that name it may be because the beloved Guardian was
using the name of the book to stand for the entire Hindu Scripture, as it is
common to refer to the entire Old Testament as the Torah, to the New
Testament as the Gospel, or the Báb's Revelation as the Bayán."
"Concerning Hindu prophecies of the coming of Bahá'u'lláh and the
relationship of the Hindu and Bahá'í Faiths, nothing authentic and specific
is available at the World Centre, apart from the Guardian's statement in God
Passes By that 'To Him the Bhagavad-Gita of the Hindus had referred as the
"Most Great Spirit," the "Tenth Avatar", the "Immaculate Manifestation of
the Krishna"', (p. 95);
and a brief reference to Bahá'u'lláh as 'to the Hindus the reincarnation of
Krishna . . .' (p. 94). Bahá'í teachings on progressive revelation do, of
course, bear on the relationship of these Faiths. In a letter written on
behalf of the beloved Guardian it is also written that 'We cannot be sure of
the authenticity of the scriptures of Buddha and Krishna . . . ' (November
25, 1950); and in reply to a question as to whether Brahma is 'to be
considered as referring to absolute diety' and Krishna 'as the Prophet of
the Hindu Religion', his secretary wrote '. . . such matters, as no
reference occurs to them in the Teachings, are left for students of history
and religion to resolve and clarify.' (April 14, 1941)"