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Stephen Lambden. Turn to me and you are saved, all ends of the earth! 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). respecting While that Christology indicates the doctrine 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 and they related are) bypass the very The rich 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 discourse. 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.  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 areas of Bahā’ī scholarship. soteriological-theological
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
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
najā / (II) najjā = "to escape, be delivered" while from the verb is formed the noun
“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). 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.
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 pending “return”. In the oration ascribed to the first Shī`ī Imam and fourth Sunnī Caliph, `Alī son of Abū Ṭālib known as the Khuṭbah alṭutunjiyya (“Sermon of the Gulf”), a distinctly Shī`ī his Christ-like ghaybat (“occultation”) second coming or
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; 18:46).
فأنا المل والمأمول
I am the one who is stationed over the two Gulfs (wāqif `alā al-ṭutunjayn)
انا الواقف على الطتنجين
I am the one who beholds the "two Easts" and the "two Wests" (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 about evangelical sin, Jesus-centered and Christian were
propagated amidst anti-Islamic polemic. Translated early into Persian (1831) and other languages, the latter’s Miftāḥ alasrār (“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.
"salvation" (Ar. najat)
Arabic and Persian words are very much present in the voluminous Arabic and Persian Bābī and Bahā’ī scripture. In
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;10:73 ;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)
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
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
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?”
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
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. calling, in
The this of
Omnipotent Day, and
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 the Apostle denied of God, 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.
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) ADD
■ The Lawḥ-i ibn-i dh'ib Wolf).
(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):
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
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. witness Unto My this beareth 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 (4:1568).
وقولهم إنا قتلنا ٱلمسيح عيسى ٱبن مريم رسول ٱ ّج ومججا قتلججوه ومججا صجلبوه ول ٰججكن ِ َ َ ُ ُ َ َ َ َ ُ َُ َ َ َ ْ َ َ ْ َ َ َ ُ َ ل ِ َ ِ َ ِ َ ْ َ ْ َ َ ّ ِ ْ ِ ِْ َ َ شبه لهم وإن ٱلذين ٱختلفوا فيه لفي شك منه ما لهمْ به من علجم إل ٱتبججاع ٱلظجن ومججا ََ ّ ّ َ َ ّ ّ ِ ٍ ْ ِ ْ ِ ِ ِ ُ َ َ ُ ْ ّ ّ َ ِ َ ِ ِ ْ ُ َ َ ْ َ ِ ّ ّ َِ ْ ُ َ َ ّ ُ ً ِ َ ً ِ َ ُ َ َ َ ِ ْ َ ِ ّ ُ َ َُ ُ َ ِ ً َ ّ َع قتلوه يقينا بل رف َه ٱل إليه وكان ٱ ّ عزيزا حكيما ل ُ
The above somewhat ambiguous verses of the Qur’an (4:1568]) have been translated by Arberry as follows (transliteration added):
unbelief, and their uttering against Mary a mighty calamity,  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 (wa mā him not of a ),
 —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
ْ ُ َ َ ُّ شبه لهم
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. 13).
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).
early (-mid.). Edirne [Adrianople]
Tablet of Bahā'-Allāh written in response to one of the
[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
digar… , pp.
Realities in the
elsewhere. Cole has translated and entitled the 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 alasmā' (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: , 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 XXXVI):
"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 URL
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
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. from ye have I, you verily, the
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 Whose hath hath advent
proclaimed, Muhammad and Whose
Christ Himself hath announced, behold Me standing, ready and defenseless, before you. Deal
desires." (GWB XLVII pp. 100101 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, 4:124).
■ 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
ADD FURTHER PASSAGES
■ 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 AllMerciful to the [Bahā’ī] Orchard of Splendours” even specifically mentioning Jesus’ being nailed upon his beloved cross:
“When he [Jesus] saw the cross (al-ṣalīb), he [willingly] bore it through his own self (binafsihi) (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 GospelsInjīl 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 fervent eschatological, sacrificial yearning: underline his
`And at this moment this Spirit (alrūḥ = 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 (
) once again:
concourse of the Jews (malā' alyahūd) [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 again] on crucifying him [yet 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 you. So
Muhammad carry out
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 ) 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 crucifixion: "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
All-Bounteous, Me glideth the
serpent. Mine eyes have rained down tears I until My bed not is 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:
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)
APPENDICES AND MISCELLANY
“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).
FROM AN ADDRESS BY 'ABDU'L BAHA IN NEW YORK
"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)
■ APPENDIX `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.
ADD TABLETS AND TEXTS
“…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 buried.
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)
Harvey, Van A
London: George Allen and Unwin.
1992 `Soteriology' in Musser, Donald, W. & Joseph L. Price eds. A New Handbook of Christian Theology' Press, 452-456. Cambridge: Lutterworth
1983 A Concordance of the Qur'an. University of California Press : Berkeley, Los Angeles, London.
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