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Dimensions of Bahā’ī Soteriology: Some Notes on the

Bahā’ī theology of the Salvific and Redemptive role of

Stephen Lambden.

Turn to me and you are saved, all ends of the

As I am God and God alone, I swear by myself.
. . that every knee
shall bow to me, and every tongue swear
loyalty (Isa. 45:22-23.)
. . . the rules of my religion I send forth to
light up every nation (Isa. 2:4.)
I now appoint you to bring light to the
nations, that my salvation may reach the
world's end” (Isa. 49:6.)

The word soteriology (Gk. sozein = "to save"; soter =

"saviour", "deliverer"; soteria, "salvation") indicates the

theology of the redemption and salvation of human beings. In

Christian terms it is that part of systematic theology which

"seeks to interpret the saving work of Jesus Christ" (Hopper,

1992:452). While Christology indicates the doctrine

respecting that Galilean messianic claimant viewed by

millions as Jesus the Christ (fl. 1st cent CE) and variously

estimated as being human yet "God"-divine, soteriology has

to do with the saving work, status and influence of Jesus

Christ. Soteriology encompasses such doctrines as atonement

(loosely), the salvific consequences Christ's death on the

cross and its effect on the past and future status of "sinful"

individuals. This is related to the doctrine of justification

which has to do with God's act of declaring or making

somebody "righteous" through the "righteousness" of Christ"

and to that of sanctification (Lat. sanctificare) the making of

someone pure or holy. Closely related are questions include

those of “repentance”, "sin" and the "forgiveness of sin", the

means of grace and man's final individual destiny which

constitutes personal eschatology.

These above and related concerns and teachings are

central to the faith and attendant theology of many

Christians. Bahā'īs, in communicating their own religion, their

own "theology" of the (Per.) maẓhar-i ilāhī (“Divine

Manifestation” / “Divine Theophany”), have done little to

articulate Bahā’ī soteriological teachings. In Bahā’ī dialogue

the relationship of the seeking individual to God is often

completely bypassed in favour of a listing of socio-economic

perspectives and global solutions to world problems which

(important though they are) bypass the very rich

soteriological and related Bahā’ī doctrines. The latter

doctrines pertain to and highlight the importance of the

abiding search for individual spirituality and intellectual

integrity within and without the universe of Bābī-Bahā'ī


In presenting their religion to the general public,

contemporary Bahā’īs have generally neglected soteriological

scriptural texts. The personal relationship of the individual

with God through Bahā’-Allāh and the interior dimensions of

the Way to God, are not often in the forefront of Bahā’ī

religious proclamation. What Baha’-Allāh has accomplished

for collective or individual salvation, for the redemption of

humankind is not frequently articulated even though Baha’-

Allāh himself frequently voiced these teachings in

innumerable scriptural alwāḥ (“Tablets”) addressed to a wide

variety of individuals, groups and nations. For several

decades, presentations of Bahā’ī doctrine have frequently

been impersonal and socio-economically oriented; somewhat

soulless and lacking in the mystical. Varieties of the `twelve

principles’ (important thought they undoubtedly are) are

often selectively set forth in a depersonalized manner. [1]

This is unfortunate. Bahā’ī theological issues need much more

scholarly attention.

Bahā’ī dialogue sometimes appears too cerebral or

impersonal. The desire not to appear "evangelical" or to act

like "born-again" Christian preachers has consciously or

unconsciously left many western Bahā’ī communities unable

to highlight the theology of the inner path of the individual.

There is, a good deal in Bahā’ī sacred scripture that bears

upon the question of individual and collective salvation. The

purpose of these notes will be to highlight and in a tentative

manner explore some neglected soteriological-theological

areas of Bahā’ī scholarship.

Bahā’īs need not be intimidated by the `born-again’

style, the salvation-soteriological language of evangelical

Christians. As it is the case that "In, Protestantism, salvation

is conceived basically in terms of a restoration of a broken

personal relationship [with CHRIST / GOD]" (Harvey

1964:192), Bahā’īs would do well to assure their audience of

the claim to a renewal of personal relationships with God

through Bahā’-Allāh. He, like Christ, offered personal

salvation to his devotees though servitude to humanity in

faith and spirituality. Bahā’ī soteriology is closely related to

Islamic – especially Shī`ī-Shaykhī -- theology and soteriology

Islamic soteriology

Bahā’ī soteriology has its most central roots in Islam

or more specifically in Shī`ī-Shaykhī Islam as it was expressed

in 19th century Qajar Iran. Concern with "sin" and personal

salvation are not very marked in Islam though the Qur'ān

does include soteriological terminology and Shī`ī Muslims

make much of the salvific importance of the immaculate

persons of the (Twelver) Imams who are the loci of salvation.

The doctrine of 'original sin' which became central to

Christian thought from the early centuries via the thought of

Tertullian (d.c. 180 CE), Augustine (d. 430 CE) and others, was

never adopted within the Qur'ān or mainstream Islamic

thought Muslims adopted and sometimes articulated a

concept of fiṭrah (a qur'ānic term see Q. ADD) meaning

(loosely) "innate nature", the pristine, individual proto-faith

infused status of humans at the genesis of their existence.

This concept was generally adopted in line with various

Qur'an texts and ḥadīth statements attributed to the Prophet

or the Shī`ī Imams. ADD refs.

From the Arabic triliteral root N-J-W comes the verb ‫نجا‬
najā / (II) najjā = "to escape, be delivered" while from the

verb is formed the noun ‫نجججججاة‬ najāt = "deliverance”,

“salvation". This verbal noun najāt ("salvation") occurs only

once in the Qur'ān. God, through the Prophet Muhammad,

calls the people "to salvation" while they call him "to the Fire"

of hell (Qur'ān 40:41[44]). The verb najjā ("to deliver,

rescue…), however, is quite common occurring around 40

times (see Kassis, 837-839). This doubtless reflects the

Christian rooted concern with issues soteriological.

Shī`ī Soteriology

In Imami Shī`ī Islam, the recognition of the divinely

appointed Imam is viewed as fundamental to the wellbeing of

humanity and to the attainment of individual salvation.

Individual salvation demands recognition of the locus of

Reality in the person of the successors of the Prophet

Muhammad who are known as the Imams; for twelver Shī`ī

Muslims the line of twelve Imams extending from the first

Imam `Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (d. 40/661) up till the awaited twelfth

messianic Imam or Qā’im (“Ariser”), named Imam

Muhammad al-Mahdī believd to have been born in the mid 8th

century CE and existing today in ghaybat (“occultation”)

pending his Christ-like eschatological second coming or


In the oration ascribed to the first Shī`ī Imam and fourth

Sunnī Caliph, `Alī son of Abū Ṭālib known as the Khuṭbah al-

ṭutunjiyya (“Sermon of the Gulf”), a distinctly Shī`ī

soteriology is expressed in the following third paragraph:

O People! turn ye repentantly unto my party

(shi`ah, Shī`ī Islam) and adhere to a pledge of

fealty unto me. Be persistent in the [Imami

Shī`ī] religion (al-dīn) with the excellence of

certainty (bi-ḥusn al-yaqīn). Adhere

steadfastly to the successor [legatee] (waṣī)

[= Imam `Alī himself] of your Prophet (nabī,

Muhammad) through whom is your

salvation (najat). By virtue of his love (ḥubb),

on the [eschatological] Day of Assembling

(yawn al-hashr), is your safe haven [place of

salvation] (manjāt)” (K-ṭutunjiyya cited Rajab

al-Bursī, Mashāriq anwār, 166).

Having said this `Alī, as the locus of salvation, makes

numerous elevated claims. They include a Christ-like `I am’

saying rooted in the Gospel of John:

“I am the hope and I am the One hoped for (cf. Q. 15:3;


‫فأنا المل والمأمول‬

I am the one who is stationed over the two Gulfs (wāqif `alā


‫انا الواقف على الطتنجين‬

I am the one who beholds the "two Easts" and the "two


(al-maghribayn wa'l-mashriqayn) (cf. Q. 55:17)….

“I am the Truth”


(`-L-Y-U-TH-U-TH-A = Gk. Έγç ..[ή] άλήθgια , ego eimi

aletheia ) (John 14:6a).

■ Early Qajar dialogue and Christian soteriology.

In the early-mid Qajar period a number of European

Protestant missionaries and orientalists wrote anti-Islamic

tracts in which Muhammad and the Qur’an were denigrated

and the need for salvation through Christ alone underlined.

Henry Martyn (d. 1812) the English translator of the New

Testament into Persian and the German polemicist Carl

Gottlieb Pfander (c.1805-1865) in particular, penned several

works in which evangelical Jesus-centered Christian

perspectives about sin, salvation and judgment, were

propagated amidst anti-Islamic polemic. Translated early into

Persian (1831) and other languages, the latter’s Miftāḥ al-

asrār (“Keys to the mysteries”) was very much on these lines

and called for Shī`ī responses as did Pfander’s better known

Mīzān al-ḥaqq (The Balance of Truth) (Persian, 1836,1839…).

Shī`ī mujtahids responded with treatises about the taḥrīf

(“corruption”) of the Bible and the importance of

imamocentric faith and salvation through the Islamic wilāya

(“providence”) centered in the Prophet Muhammad and his

infallible successors the rightly guided Imams.


■ Bābī-Bahā’ī Soteriology.

This word ‫نجججات‬ "salvation" (Ar. najat) and related

Arabic and Persian words are very much present in the

voluminous Arabic and Persian Bābī and Bahā’ī scripture. In

fact the presence of weightly soteriological concepts

consonant with a new era of judgment and divine guidance

are common. A few examples from the writings of the Bāb and

Bahā’-Allāh will follow with occasional notes.

■ The Bāb QA 68:275,

"God hath written salvation (al-najāt) for

such as ride the Ark (al-fulk) with you…" (cf.

Qur'ān 7:62[64];10:73 [74];26:119;

In Persian Bayān V:5 we read,

"Seek ye refuge in God from whatsoever

might lead you astray from the Source of His

Revelation and hold fast unto His Cord, for

whoso holdeth fast unto His allegiance, he

hath attained and will attain salvation (najāt)

in all the worlds" (Per. 58-9; trans. SWB: 85)

The Persian Bayān of the Bāb has clear soteriological

dimensions… ADD

ADD EGB Index LXXXIX Salvation:

"action in accordance with the precepts of

the Bayān suffices to secure ------ [salvation]

of the Day of Resurrection, VI,8; what ----is

VI,15; how good ----is, VII,2."

ibid,p.LVII on Bāb:"salvation is obtained by

belief in him V,11.

“Now consider the Revelation of the Bayan. If the followers of

the Qur'án had applied to themselves proofs similar to those

which they advance for the non-believers in Islam, not a

single soul would have remained deprived of the Truth, and

on the Day of Resurrection everyone would have attained

salvation” (the Bab, SWB: 119)

In the above extract, as elsewhere in his writings, the Bāb

makes acceptance of his person and revelation the key to

eschatological salvation.


■ Alwāḥ (Scriptural Tablets) of Bahā’-Allāh

In part due to Shī`ī and Christian influences,

soteriological language and motifs are quite common in the

numerous Arabic and Persian alwāḥ (scriptural Tablets) of

Bahā’-Allāh. In his Lawḥ-i iḥtirāq “(The Tablet of

Conflagration”), popularly known as the “Fire Tablet”, for

example, Bahā’-Allāh utilizes the motif of the “Ark of

salvation” when he supplicates God during a period of

extreme difficulty (the during the early Acre or West Galilean

period c. 1871-2):

“Bahá is drowning in a sea of tribulation:

Where is the Ark of Thy salvation (ADD) O

Savior of the worlds?”

The Lawḥ-i Haft Pursish (Tablet of the Seven


O [Zoroastrian] HIGH priests! Ears have been given you

that they may hearken unto the mystery of Him Who is the

Self-Dependent, and eyes that they may behold Him.

Wherefore flee ye? The Incomparable Friend is manifest. He

speaketh that wherein lieth salvation. Were ye, O high

priests, to discover the perfume of the rose-garden of

understanding, ye would seek none other but Him, and would

recognize, in His new vesture, the All-Wise and Peerless One,

and would 106 turn your eyes from the world and all who

seek it, and would arise to help Him. (Baha'u'llah, The

Proclamation of Baha'u'llah, p. 105)

In his Lawḥ-i Haft Pursish (Tablet of the Seven Questions)

addressed to the Zoroastrian Ustād Javān Mard, "salvation"

(najat) is related to that "wisdom" which is born of spiritual

insight. In response to a fourth question about his latter-day

advent as the expected Zoroastrian messianic Shāh Bahrām,

Bahā’-Allāh states that it is "insight" (bīnā'ī) which leads to

"wisdom" (dānā'ī) and results in that true faith which is

salvation. "Keenness of wisdom (dānā'ī-yi khirad; lit. `the

wisdom of wisdom') he further teaches, derives from

"insightful vision" (bīnā'ī-yi baṣar) (see Daryā-yi -Danish,

68f). Similar statements are found, among other places, at

the end of Bahá'u'lláh's first Ṭarāz (Ornament) where we

read, "in the estimation of men of wisdom (sāḥibān-i ḥikmat)

keenness of understanding (again, dānā'í-yi khirad) is due to

keenness of vision" (see Tablets of Baha’u’llah 35 and the

Persian original)..

From the Lawḥ-i haft pursish :

"The fourth question: "Our books have announced

the [future] appearance of Shāh Bahrām with

manifold signs for the guidance of mankind" :

O friend! "Whatsoever hath been announced in

the Books hath been revealed and made clear.

From every direction the signs have been

manifested. The Omnipotent One [yazdān] is

calling, in this Day, and announcing the

appearance of the Supreme Heaven [mīnū-yi

a`ẓam]" (PDC: 77)." The world is illumined by the

lights of His appearance, yet rare indeed are the

eyes endowed with insight. Ask of the one true

God to bestow insight upon His servants. Insight

leadeth to wisdom (dānā'ī) and hath ever been the

cause of salvation. Keenness of wisdom (dānā'ī-yi

khirad) is derived from insightful vision. Were the

peoples of the world to gaze with their own eyes,

they would see that the world is, in this Day,

illumined with a new radiance. Say: the Day-Star

of Wisdom (khurshīd-i dānā'ī) is manifest and the

Sun of Knowledge (āftāb-i dānish) evident. Happy

the one who attaineth thereunto, who seeth

clearly and hath recognised Him" ( trans. Shahriar

Razavi , BSB 7:3-4 [June 1992] pp. ADD)

Some further soteriologically significant passages:

O concourse of divines! Be fair, I adjure you

by God, and nullify not the Truth with the

things ye possess. Peruse that which We have

sent down with truth. It will, verily, aid you,

and will draw you nigh unto God, the Mighty,

the Great. Consider and call to mind how

when Muhammad, the Apostle of God,

appeared, the people denied Him. They

ascribed unto Him what caused the Spirit

(Jesus) to lament in His Most Sublime Station,

and the Faithful Spirit to cry out. Consider,

moreover, the things which befell the

Apostles and Messengers of God before Him,

by reason of what the hands of the unjust

have wrought. We make mention of you for

the sake of God, and remind you of His signs,

and announce unto you the things ordained

for such as are nigh unto Him in the most

sublime Paradise and the all-highest Heaven,

and I, verily, am the Announcer, the

Omniscient. He hath come for your salvation,

and hath borne tribulations that ye may

ascend, by the ladder of utterance, unto the

summit of understanding.... Peruse, with

fairness and justice, that which hath been

sent down. It will, verily, exalt you through

the truth, and will cause you to behold the

things from which ye have been withheld, and

will enable you to quaff His sparkling Wine.

79 (Baha'u'llah, The Proclamation of

Baha'u'llah, p. 77)

WE, verily, have come for your sakes,

and have borne the misfortunes of the world

for your salvation. Flee ye the One Who hath

sacrificed His life that ye may be quickened?

Fear God, O followers of the Spirit (Jesus), and

walk not in the footsteps of every divine that

hath gone far astray... Open the doors of your

hearts. He Who is the Spirit (Jesus) verily,

standeth before them. Wherefore keep ye afar

from Him Who hath purposed to draw you

nigh unto a Resplendent Spot? Say: We, in

truth, have opened unto you the gates of the

Kingdom. Will ye bar the doors of your houses

in My face? This indeed is naught but a

grievous error. (Baha'u'llah, The Proclamation

of Baha'u'llah, p. 91)


■ The Lawḥ-i ibn-i dh'ib (Epistle to the Son of the

In his last major work the Lawḥ-i ibn-i dh'ib (Epistle to the

Son of the Wolf, c. 1891 CE) Bahā’-Allāh at one point alludes

to Qayyūm al-asmā’ LVII when he addresses the antagonistic

Muslim cleric Shaykh Muhammad Taqī Najafī (d.1914):

"O Shaykh! Seek thou the

shore of the Most Great

Ocean, and enter, then, the

crimson Ark which God hath

ordained in the Qayyúm-i-

Asmā for the people of Bahā.

Verily, it passseth over land

and sea. He that entereth

therein is saved (NJW), and he

that turneth aside perisheth"

(ESW 164, trans. Shoghi

Effendi, 139).

■ The Kitāb-i `ahd (Book of the


The final lines of Bahā’-Allāh’s Persian Kitāb-i `ahd

(Book of the Covenant) or (more correctly) (Ar.) al-Kitāb al-

`Ahdī (lit. “The Book of My Covenant”) contains an explicit

and important reference to Bahā’ī soteriology:

"That which is conducive to

the regeneration of the world

(hayāt-i `ālam) and the

salvation of the peoples and

kindreds of the earth (najāt-i

umam) hath been sent down

from the heaven of the

utterance of Him Who is the

Desire of the world. Give ye a

hearing ear to the counsels of

the Pen of Glory. Better is this

for you than all that is on the

earth. Unto this beareth

witness My glorious and

wondrous Book." (TB:223).

■ The Crucifixion and Sacrifice of Jesus and the

"Crucifixion" and Sacrifice of Bahā’-Allāh.

From at least the time of his Arabic Jawāhir al-asrār

(Gems of the Mysteries) and Persian Kitāb-i īqān (The Book of

Certitude) (1861-2 CE), Bahā-Allāh, unlike mainstream Sunnī

and Shī`ī Muslims, cited and commented upon biblical texts

and accepted the historicity of the crucifixion of Jesus of

Nazareth (d. c. 32 CE). He referred to Jesus in his Book of

Certitude as a “Youthful Nazarene” (ADD refs.) and pictured

him as one pre-existent and eternal who existed in a state of

sublime, eternal and spiritual sovereignty subsequent to his

actual, historical crucifixion and apparent “death” on the

cross. Bahā'-Allāh's rejection of trenchant biblical taḥrīf

("falsification") from the early 1860s meant that he affirmed

Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross. In his Kitāb-I īqān

Jesus’ crucifixion and ascension in the Qur’an (4:156-


‫صجَلُبوُه َوَل ٰججِكن‬

َ ‫سوَل ٱلِّج َوَمججا َقَتُلججوُه َوَمججا‬
ُ ‫ن َمْرَيَم َر‬
َ ‫سى ٱْب‬
َ ‫عي‬
ِ ‫ح‬
َ ‫سي‬
ِ ‫َوَقْوِلِهْم ِإّنا َقَتْلَنا ٱْلَم‬

‫ن َوَمججا‬
ّ ‫ظج‬
ّ ‫ع ٱل‬
َ ‫عْلجٍم ِإّل ٱّتَبججا‬
ِ ‫ن‬
ْ ‫ك ّمْنُه َما َلُهمْ ِبِه ِم‬
َ ‫خَتَلُفوْا ِفيِه َلِفي‬
ْ ‫نٱ‬
َ ‫ن ٱّلِذي‬
ّ ‫شّبَه َلُهْم َوِإ‬

َ ‫عِزيزًا‬
َ ُّ‫ن ٱل‬
َ ‫ل ِإَلْيِه َوَكا‬
ُّ ‫َقَتُلوُه َيِقينًا َبل ّرَفعَُه ٱ‬

The above somewhat ambiguous verses of the Qur’an (4:156-

8]) have been translated by Arberry as follows (transliteration


“…[156b] and for their [Jewish]

unbelief, and their uttering against

Mary a mighty calamity, [157] and

for their saying, `We slew (qatalnā)

the Messiah (al-masīḥ), Jesus son

of Mary (`Īsā ibn Maryam), the

Messenger of God (rasūl Allāh) –

yet they did not slay him (mā

qatalū-hu), neither crucified him

(wa mā ṣalabū-hū), only a likeness

of that was shown to them

(shubbiha lahum). Those who are

at variance concerning him surely

are in doubt regarding him; they

have no knowledge of him, except

the following surmise;

And they slew him not of a

certainty (wa mā ṣalabū-hū ),

[158] —no indeed; God raised him

up ( rafa`-hu Allāh `ilay-hi) to Him;

God is Almighty, all-Wise. “

The above qur’anic verses are interpreted by many Muslims

to mean that Jesus was not literally crucified several

traditions having it that the unclear ‫شّبَه َلُهْم‬

ُ (interpretations and

translations of this phrase vary considerably) indicates that another was

crucified in his place (e.g. Judas Iscariot). Bahā’ī sources do not

follow this post-qur’anic Islamic position but accept the literal

truth of the crucifixion and understand Q. 157 in a way that

does not contradict the biblical accounts of the death of Jesus

upon the cross. `Abd al-Bahā’ has interpreted Q. 4:157 in the

following, non-literal way:

“In regard to the verse, which is revealed in

tile Qur’ān [Koran], That His holiness, Christ,

was not killed and was not crucified [=Q.

4:157], by this is meant the Reality of Christ.

Although they crucified this elemental body,

yet the merciful reality and the heavenly

existence remain eternal and undying, and it

was protected from the obsession and

persecution of the enemies, for Christ is

Eternal and Everlasting” (from a `Tablet of

AB*’ June 8th 1911 to Thornton Chase cited in

English in Star of the West, Vol. 2, No. 7, p.


Such interpretations allows for deep salvific senses to

be given to the crucifixion of Jesus. For Bahā’īs Jesus death on

the cross was of cosmic soteriological import not something

which never took place. Jesus the maẓhar-I ilāhī

(Manifestation of God) never ceased to be or “died” away

around 33 CE., but from the moment of his physical death

eternally lived and lives on for the enlightened betterment

and spirituality of humankind.

In various alwāḥ (scriptural Tablets) `Abd al-Bahā’ has

stated that the eternal reality of Jesus bestows salvation from

the unseen kingdom of God where he ever shines

resplendent. For Bahā’īs Jesus did not die on the cross but his

Logos-like Reality was “lifted up” to God. From the “many

mansions” of the unseen realms through the power of the

Holy Spirit , he continues to inspire to spirituality and to the

progress of civilization.

There follows some annotated passages from select

writings of Bahā’-Allāh which bear upon this theme.

■ The `Tablet to a Christian Priest of Constantinople’

(Lawḥ qissīs-i naṣrānī SL).

The early (-mid.). Edirne [Adrianople] (c. 1864-6?)

Tablet of Bahā'-Allāh written in response to one of the ‫قسيسين‬

‫نصججججارى‬ "Priests of the Christians" of Constantinople

[Istanbul]) (referred to as the madīnat al-kabīra “Great City”)

may have been addressed to ADD IDENTITY … It is cited in

the Tablet printed in the 1893 compilation Iqtidarat va chand

lawh-i digar… (Powerful Realities and select other

Tablets…) , pp. 78-104 and in the Kitāb-I badī` and

elsewhere. Cole has translated and entitled the Iqtidarat

Tablet the "Tablet to the Son" (Lawḥ-i Ibn ) though this

phrase occurs in the `Tablet to the Priest of Constantinople’

cited therein not in the Tablet he translated.

This `Tablet to a Christian Priest of Constantinople’

includes two well-known passages relating to the crucifixion

of Jesus which have close parallels or recensions in the Kitāb-i

badī` as well as other Arabic and Persian Tablets of Bahā'-

Allāh from the Edirne and later West-Galilean (`Akkā= Acre)

periods; including, for example, his early Edirne Kitāb al-

asmā' (Book of Names) ADD refs. (pp.91-95 in Persian). These

paragraphs relating to the crucifixion of Jesus are found in

Iqtidarāt, 91and ADD (and INBA 38: [328], etc). and versions

of these texts were included in English translation in

Gleanings XXXVI and XLVII. What follows are the texts

translated by Shoghi Effendi (as identified and printed in the

Persian-Arabic 1984 original language edition of Gleanings

entitled Muntakhabātī az athār-I ḥadrat-I Bahā’-Allāh =

section 36 and 47 pp. 62 and 72) which is followed by the

often paraphrastic English translation of Shoghi Effendi along

with a few added transliterated additions:

First Gleanings XXXVI (36)

In the slightly rewritten-paraphrased translation of Shoghi

Effendi this text reads as follows (as printed in Gleanings


"Know thou that when the Son [of Man or Mary

or God] (al-ibn = Jesus) . . . yielded up His

breath to God the whole creation wept with a

great weeping. By sacrificing Himself, however,

a fresh capacity was infused into all created

things. Its evidences, as witnessed in all the

peoples of the earth, are now manifest before

thee. The deepest wisdom which the sages

have uttered, the profoundest learning which

any mind hath unfolded, the arts which the

ablest hands have produced, the influence

exerted by the most potent of rulers, are but

manifestations of the quickening power

released by His transcendent, His all-pervasive,

and resplendent Spirit" (Baha'u'llah GWB

XXXVII / 85-86; 1892: 93). Cf Cole trans. Add


This important passage does not interpret

the effect of Jesus' crucifixion as an act of

atonement. It does not focus upon the

forgiveness of “sin”. Rather, it presents Jesus'

selfless sacrificial death as an event of

supreme cosmic importance generating earthly

capacity for creativeness on many levels. It is

not merely focused or centered on tokens of

individual salvation but on the consequences of

the global empowerment and regeneration of

all things; through the power of inspiration in

both the areas of the arts and sciences. For

Bahā'-Allāh Jesus died a regenerative sacrificial

death, a kind of martyrdom, the redemptive

power of which regenerated all things. The

"death" of the Son of Man-Mary-God on the

cross so diffused the divine grace that a

greater capacity for progress was universally

realized in accordance with human capacity.

And secondly Gleanings XLVII (47)

In the again slightly rewritten-paraphrased translation of

Shoghi Effendi this text reads (as printed in Gleanings XLVII)

as follows:

O Jews! If ye be intent on

crucifying once again Jesus, the

Spirit [‫ ] تصلبواالروح‬of God, put

Me to death, for He hath once

more, in My person, been made

manifest unto you. Deal with

Me as ye wish, for I have vowed

to lay down My life in the path

of God. I will fear no one,

though the powers of earth and

heaven be leagued against Me.

Followers of the Gospel!

(malā’-al-injīl) If ye cherish the

desire to slay Muhammad, the

Apostle of God, seize Me and

put an end to My life, for I am

He, and My Self is His Self (lit.

`This is his essence (dhāt-ihi).

Do unto Me as ye like, for the

deepest longing of Mine heart

is to attain the presence of My

Best-Beloved in His Kingdom of

Glory. Such is the Divine

decree, if ye know it.

Followers of Muhammad!

If it be your wish to riddle with

your shafts the breast of Him

Who hath caused His Book the

Bayán to be sent down unto

you, lay hands on Me and

persecute Me, for I am His

Well-Beloved, the revelation of

His own Self, though My name

be not His name. I have come

in the shadows of the clouds of

glory, and am invested by God

with invincible sovereignty. He,

verily, is the Truth, the Knower

of things unseen. I, verily,

anticipate from you the

treatment ye have accorded

unto Him that came before Me.

To this all things, verily,

witness, if ye be of those who

hearken. O people of the

Bayán! If ye have resolved to

shed the blood of Him Whose

coming the Báb hath

proclaimed, Whose advent

Muhammad hath prophesied,

and Whose Revelation Jesus

Christ Himself hath announced,

behold Me standing, ready and

defenseless, before you. Deal

with Me after your own

desires." (GWB XLVII pp. 100-

101 trans. SE [original added])

Bahā’-Allāh clearly identifies himself as the return of

Christ ready to suffer as Jesus did the first time.

■ The Sūrat al-rūḥ (The Surah of the Spirit) ( c. 1866).

This medium length Arabic epistle of Bahā'-Allāh to an

as yet unidentified `Alī was written from Edirne (Adrianople)

around the spring of 1866. It takes its name from the mention

of Jesus, al-rūḥ (the Spirit) towards its beginning. Bahā'-Allāh

mentions that which personified "Satan" (al-Shayṭān = Mīrzā

Yaḥyā ?) had cast into the hearts of such as had opposed God,

most likely meaning antagonistic (Azalī inclined) followers of

the Bāb. It appears that he responds in the Sūrat al-rūḥ to

Muslim-Azalī notions about the fate of Jesus twisted so as to

imply that Bahā'-Allāh would be "forgotten" after his death.

"And among the polytheists are

such as assert, `When the Spirit

(al-rūḥ = Jesus) died was his

name perpetuated in the

[earthly] dominion? for it was

reckoned that there existed only

a set number of those who

believed [in him] and were

possessed of manifest certainty.

Say: By God! The Spirit (al-rūḥ =

Jesus) never died! Nay, rather he

bestowed immortality on all such

as entered beneath his shadow.

Thus indeed was this matter if

you are among such as [truly]

comprehend. He [Jesus] never

prided himself about anything of

whatsoever he created betwixt

the heavens and the earth. For

all this was created through his

Logos-Speech (qawl) [ as you

would realize] if you be among

such as judge aright. If he prided

himself over anything it was his

pride over his own Logos-Self

(nafs); not in anything aside

from it. All who dwell within the

kingdoms of the heavens and of

the earth and within the

Omnipotent realm of the

Command and of creation

(jabarūt al-amr wa'l-khalq) took

pride in it (Jesus' Logos-Self, as

you would realize ) should you

be numbered among the truly

wise." (Athar-i qalam-i a`lā,


■ The Sūrat al-mulk (The Surah of the Dominion)

(1866) AQA-K: 1-70.

In the course of an address to the `Inhabitants of

Constantinople' [Istanbul] and elsewhere in his Sūrat al-mulk

(Surah of the Dominion) Bahā'-Allāh expresses his Christ-like

desire to sacrifice himself for the sake of God:

"I have offered up my soul (rūḥī)

and my body (jasadī) [as a

sacrifice] befor God, the Lord of

all the worlds" (S-Muluk, 24 GWB

LXVI: XX adapted).

Cf. S-Muluk: 30

■ The Kitāb-i Badī` (“Wondrous [Revolutionary]

Book”, 1867 CE).

Arguing against an Azalī-Bābī view of the legitimacy of

dissimulation on the part of Jesus and other messengers of

God in his lengthy Persian Kitāb-i Badī` (1867 CE), Bahā’-Allāh

includes the following Arabic words pertinent to Jesus and

the cross that his opponent might progress “from the

Kawthar (Fount) of the Bayān of the Beauty of the All-

Merciful to the [Bahā’ī] Orchard of Splendours” even

specifically mentioning Jesus’ being nailed upon his beloved


“When he [Jesus] saw the cross (al-ṣalīb), he

[willingly] bore it through his own self (bi-

nafsihi) (cf. NT ADD). Then he embraced it,

saying 'Come hither, O my dear cross! I have

awaited thee for thirty and three years,

diligently enquiring after thee for I desire to

die fastened [upon thee] with nails (mufattish

`alayk) out of love for my sheep (ḥubb an li-

aghnāmī).” (K-Badi`, mss. 209)

In his Kitāb-i Badī` Bahā’-Allah states that “the

specific text of the Book” (naṣṣ-i kitāb = Bible-New

Testament) has it that every day in the [Jerusalem] Temple

the Christian “Cause of God” (amr-Allāh) was publicly taught

by a fearless Jesus. In saying this he was evidently attempting

to counter those who were happy with Mīrzā Yaḥyā as one

fearfully hiding away from society. Mīrzā Mihdī Gilānī, Bahā’-

Allāh’s Azalī opponent, as specifically notes in the Kitāb-i

badī`, held that Jesus was secreted away in places of retreat

(maqarrhā). This Bahā’-Allāh regards as a supremely unjust

estimate of Jesus. Hence his writing the above Arabic

paragraph about Jesus and his welcoming of the cross. In a

subsequent paragraph Bahā’-Allāh also continues by

paraphrasing the Arabic into Persian and stating:

“Give ear unto that which he [Jesus] said at

the moment when all the Jews had gathered

to kill that Holy One [Jesus]. When the cross

was presented and the blessed eye fell upon

it he [Jesus] said, `Come! Come! For thirty and

three years I have awaited and yearned for

you”. (mss. 209-210).

In the light of this the Azalī apologist Mīrzā Mihdī Gilānī has

not been able to comprehend the true, elevated station

(maqām) of Jesus. There have been differences of opinion

regarding the implications of the Gospel and other accounts

of the last days of Jesus. Bahā’-Allāh argues that the Gospels-

Injīl have it that Jesus, “that Ancient [Pre-Existent] Guileless

One (sādhij-i qidam), was hung on the cross and that Jesus,

“the Spirit” (al-rūḥ) was resigned to the Will of God. After 36

(3X12 hours or loosely 3 days) Bahā’-Allāh further

summarizes and adds that Jesus “came alive” (zindih shud)

and was lifted up to heaven (ascended to heaven). Islamic

tradition of the “people of the Furqān [=Qur’ān]” (Muslims)

he also notes, assert that Jesus was taken up to heaven

before all of this; before his suffering on the cross. Bahā’-

Allāh claimes that God had informed him of the reality of this

matter. Most of the people, however, remain unaware of the

truth of these events.

In the Kitāb-i badī` Bahā'-Allāh also shows his close

relationship with the ascended, celestial Jesus when he

represents Jesus as addressing him so to underline his

fervent eschatological, sacrificial yearning:

`And at this moment this Spirit (al-

rūḥ = Jesus) addresseth thee

[Bahā'-Allāh] and says [speaking as

you]: `Come! Come ye hence! O

Concourse of deniers [of the truth

of Bahā'-Allāh] with your swords,

your spears and your arrows! I

indeed do ardently yearn [for

death, the cross] just as He [Jesus]

had ardently yearned. By He in

whose hand is the Self of Ḥusayn!

Nay My very Being! exceedingly

strong is my yearning and great

indeed is my expectation [for

sacrificial death] but you fail to

comprehend" (K-Badī` mss, 210).

It is important to note that in the above passage Bahā'-Allāh

equates his Logos-like Being as the Person-Self of Ḥusayn, a

component of his own personal name like that of the

martyred third (Twelver) Imam. Like Jesus Ḥusayn wa a major

Shī`ī Islamic paragon of sacrifice or martyrdom. Like Jesus

and the third Imam Ḥusayn who was martyred at Karbala in

680 CE., Bahā'-Allāh yearned for sacrifical martyrdom, for

"death" upon the cross of this transient, mortal world. In

many scriptural Tablets Bahā'-Allāh equates himself with

Imam Ḥusayn whose eschatological "return" he claimed to be.

In the Kitāb-I badī` we also read of Bahā'-Allāh's claim to

be the return of Jesus and invites the Jews to crucify him (

‫تصلبوه‬ ) once again:

"He [Bahā'-Allāh] at every

moment addresses the

concourse of the Jews (malā' al-

yahūd) [saying]: `O Concourse of

vipers! By God! The Promised

One (al-maw`ūd) hath come

unto you. This is assuredly the

Spirit (al-rūḥ = Jesus). If ye be

intent on crucifying him [yet

again] then accomplish that

which ye desire and be not of

those possessed of patience'

In similar fashion in his Kitāb-i

badī` Bahā'-Allāh also addresses

to Christians and Muslims:

The he [Bahā'-Allāh] addresses

the Concourse of the Gospel

[Christians] (malā' al-injīl) and

says: `If ye be intent on

disputing with Muhammad, the

Apostle of God then this is

assuredly Muhammad among

you. So carry out what you

desire to do to him for he hath

indeed laid down his spirit [life]

in the path of God, the Help in

Peril, the Self-Subsisting.' (Mss.

K-Badī`, 93).

■ The Lawḥ-i Sultān addressed to Naṣir al-Dīn Shāh

In his largely Persian Lawḥ-i Sultān (c. 1868 [70]) addressed

to the Qajar ruler Nāṣir al-Dīn Shāh (d. 1896), Bahā'-Allāh at

one point dwells on the rejection of past prophets. He makes

mention of his suffering and yearning desire for sacrificial


"I have seen, O Sháh, in the

path of God what eye hath not

seen nor ear heard.... How

numerous the tribulations which

have rained, and will soon rain,

upon Me! I advance with My face

set towards Him Who is the

Almighty, the All-Bounteous,

whilst behind Me glideth the

serpent. Mine eyes have rained

down tears until My bed is

drenched. I sorrow not for

Myself, however. By God! Mine

head yearneth for the spear out

of love for its Lord. I never

passed a tree, but Mine heart

addressed it saying: `O would

that thou wert cut down in My

name, and My body crucified

upon thee, in the path of My

Lord!' (text AQA-K: 195 trans. SE

cited PDC:42).


"The Ancient Beauty hath consented to be

bound with chains that mankind may be

released from its bondage, and hath accepted

to be made a prisoner within this most mighty

Stronghold that the whole world may attain

unto true liberty" (GWB:XX).

Among the many soteriologically oriented themes in the

writings of BA* is his identification with the crucified Jesus.

Like Jesus he was “crucified” by the peoples of the world and

their corrupt rulers for the sake of humankind and its

attaining salvation or true eternal life. The following

passages from diverse alwāḥ (scriptural Tablets) express

aspects of this typological soteriology and its present day,

eschatological implications:

`Abd al-Bahā’ taught that all the messengers or

manifestations of God sacrificed themselves for the sake of

humanity. They accepted the “cross” of sacrifice and

persecution for progress and salvation of humankind:

“Consider to what extent the love of God makes itself

manifest. Among the signs of His love which appear in the

world are the dawning points of His Manifestations. What an

infinite degree of love is reflected by the divine

Manifestations toward mankind! For the sake of guiding the

people They have willingly forfeited Their lives to resuscitate

human hearts. They have accepted the cross. To enable

human souls to attain the supreme degree of advancement,

They have suffered during Their limited years extreme

ordeals and difficulties. If Jesus Christ had not possessed love

for the world of humanity, surely He would not have

welcomed the cross. He was crucified for the love of mankind.

Consider the infinite degree of that love. Without love for

humanity John the Baptist would not have offered his life. It

has been likewise with all the Prophets and Holy Souls. If the

Bāb had not manifested love for mankind, surely He would not

have offered His breast for a thousand bullets. If Bahā'u'llāh

had not been aflame with love for humanity, He would not

have willingly accepted forty years' imprisonment… all the

divine Manifestations suffered, offered Their lives and blood,

sacrificed Their existence, comfort and all They possessed for

the sake of mankind.

■ Crucifixion = Martyrdom

“Consider how all the Prophets of God were persecuted and

what hardships they experienced. His Holiness Jesus Christ

endured affliction and accepted martyrdom upon the cross in

order to call men to unity and love. What sacrifice could be

greater? He brought the religion of love and fellowship to the

world. ..” ( AB cited SW, Vol. 17, p. 285)

“Martyrdom makes the spirit of utter dedication to the

service of God so real that it ignites in other hearts a like

flame of divine devotion. The martyrdom of Christ on the

cross conquered and changed the hearts of untold millions.”

(From an Essay of Faḍil-i Mazandarani in SW, Vol. 14, p. 173)


“What an infinite degree of love is reflected by the divine

Manifestations toward mankind! For the sake of guiding the

people they have willingly forfeited their lives to resuscitate

human hearts. They have accepted the cross. To enable

human souls to attain the supreme degree of advancement,

they have suffered during their limited years extreme ordeals

and difficulties. If His Holiness Jesus Christ had not possessed

love for the world of humanity, surely he would not. have

welcomed the cross. He was crucified for the love of mankind.

Consider the infinite degree of that love. Without love for

humanity, John the Baptist would not have offered his life. It

has been likewise with all the prophets and holy souls. If His

Holiness the Bab had not manifested love for mankind, surely

he would not have offered his life for a thousand bullets. If

His Holiness Baha'u'llah had not been aflame with love for
humanity he would not have willingly accepted forty years'

imprisonment.” (AB* cited from SW, Vol. 17, p. 39).

“In the parable of "The Lord of the Vine yard" (Matt. xis 33)

Christ spoke of the prophets of God who were rejected by the

world. He spoke of the coming of 'The Son" who would be

rejected and slain. (Here Jesus was prophesying of His own

rejection by the world and of His crucifixion. Then Jesus

speaks of this "Latter day" coming, saying: "When the Lord,

therefore, of the vineyard carne th what will He do unto those

husband men "They say unto him, lie will miserably destroy

those wicked men and will let out His vineyard unto other

husbandmen, which shall render Him the fruit in their

seasons." This is one of the holy prophecies wherein is

promised the coming of the Mighty Manifestation of God to

the Earth, and the establishment of His Kingdom triumphant

upon earth.” (SW, Vol. 4, p. 269).


"THE DIVINE prophets came to establish the unity of

the Kingdom in human hearts. All of them pro claimed the

glad tidings of the divine bestowals to the world of mankind.

All brought the same message of divine love to the world. His

Holiness Jesus Christ gave his life upon the cross for the unity
of mankind. Those who believed in him likewise sacrificed life,

honor, possessions, family, everything, that this human world

might be released from the hell of discord, enmity and strife.

His foundation was the oneness of humanity. Only a few were

attracted to him. They were not the kings and rulers of his

time. They were not rich and important people. Some of them

were catchers of fishes.” (Star-West, 15:254)


`Abd al-Bahā’ on the discovery of the cross

Several books have recently been written about the claimed

discovery of the `true cross' of the crucifixion by Helena, the

Christian mother of converted Roman Emperor Constantine

(275-337). In a number of talks and tablets AB* commented

on this tradition.


“…But at the time of the departure of the Blessed Beauty

there were at least a hundred thousand souls who would

sacrifice their lives for him. These same thoughts that you

have now were also prevalent in Christ's time and so little did

they care for him that it is not even known where he was

And three hundred years later, when St. Helen [the

mother of Constantine the Great] went to the Holy Land, some

people, thinking of their own personal benefit, went to her

and said, 'We dug the ground here and found the cross on

which they crucified his holiness, Christ This was the

foundation of the tomb of Christ. It is not even known where

the tombs of Mary and the disciples are. The Catholics say

that the tombs of Paul and Peter are in Rome. Others say

that they are in Antioch. (AB* in SW, Vol. 9, p. 23)

Select Bibliography

Harvey, Van A

• 1964 A Handbook of Theological Terms.

London: George Allen and Unwin.

Hopper, Jeffery,

• 1992 `Soteriology' in Musser, Donald, W. &

Joseph L. Price eds. A New Handbook of

Christian Theology' Cambridge: Lutterworth

Press, 452-456.

Kassis, Hanna.
• 1983 A Concordance of the Qur'an. University

of California Press : Berkeley, Los Angeles,