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Bahá'í Apocalypticism:
The Concept of Progressive Revelation

by Zaid Lundberg

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Chapter 2

II. Literature review

This chapter addresses in brief the third area discussed above — the scholarly context. Yet, a literature review of apocalyptic studies in other fields will not be included here, but it may suffice to say that the field of apocalypticism has recently been revisited. The International Colloquium on Apocalypticism,[33] held in Uppsala 1979, testifies to this, as do the reprinting of old titles and the publishing of new themes of revelation.[34] It is perhaps no surprise that scholars of the Bahá'í-religion was absent at the International Colloquium on Apocalypticism. There are least three reasons for this. First, the Bahá'í-religion, despite its geographical spread,[35] is still relatively unknown, both among the general population and in the academic world. Secondly, although there have been quite a few scholarly studies in various areas of the Bahá'í-religion, there have been very few scholarly studies pertaining to the study of Bahá'í-apocalypticism. Third, since the Bahá'í-religion is fairly unrecognized in the academic sphere, most scholarly research is being conducted and published by the Bahá'ís themselves, even though there are, and has been, a few notable exceptions.[36]

The following studies, however, have all been conducted by Bahá'ís, and in general, they represent some disparate dimensions of Bahá'í-apocalypticism. One such study is the monumental study of Adib Taherzadeh's (1974-87) The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh (vol.'s 1-4) which primarily focuses on the textual level, or the content of revelation and its historical development, i.e., what did Bahá'u'lláh write where and when? This type of research could be classified as an historical content-analysis, although it is more descriptive than analytical. Taherzadeh also includes some interesting passages of an eye-witness who has recorded the process of the actual writing down of revelation, and references to how the writings of Bahá'u'lláh have been classified into specific genres.[37] Taherzadeh has furthermore translated some original writings from Persian and Arabic to English.

The only academic pursuits to the study of Bahá'í-apocalypticism are Hugh Adamson's (1974) The Concept of Revelation in Islam and Bahá'í, and Nicola Towfigh's (1989) Schöpfung und Offenbarung aus der Sicht der Bahá'í-Religion. The former is a M. A. thesis which is a general survey of the Muslim- and Bahá'í-concepts of revelation. However, the concept of progressive revelation is only dealt with in a cursory fashion. This approach to the study of Bahá'í-apocalypticism could be described as comparative. The latter study is a Ph.D. dissertation and is to date the most scholarly and comprehensive research in the field of Bahá'í-apocalypticism. It not only gives a preliminary introduction to the relationship between God, creation (schöpfung) and revelation (offenbarung), but it further discusses these Bahá'í-concepts from the background of Islámic theology and philosophy. Moreover, Towfigh's dissertation also contains some relevant original (Arabic/Persian) texts by the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, which have been translated into German by the author. This type of study could be classified as mainly a philological and conceptual approach to Bahá'í-apocalypticism. However, the concept of progressive revelation has in this study been treated tentatively and is therefore far from exhausted.

Finally, one important study, and which is significant for this thesis, is S. Fazel and K. Fananapazir's (1993) A Bahá'í Approach to the Claim of Finality in Islam. This paper centers on the issues of finality and the "Seal of Prophets" that will be discussed at the end of this thesis. However, Fazel and Fananapazir's paper may be classified primarily as an apologetic approach to Bahá'í-apocalypticism.

Consequently, the above approaches to Bahá'í-apocalypticism classify as either textual, historical, comparative, philological, conceptual, or apologetic, and none of them have systematically studied the various structural levels of Bahá'í-apocalypticism or focused specifically on the concept of progressive revelation. Thus, the present study is the first attempt to address and fulfill this need.

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